Breaking News: Earthquake in Montana

So I woke up this morning and was reading through my Facebook news feed when I saw this. Wait. What? We had an earthquake?!!


I confronted Frank when he came home from his hike. “Yeah, we did. It woke me up and a couple seconds later I looked over by you. There was another tremor and the bed moved. You almost rolled off! But you never woke up. I got up to see if we should go outside but then the tremors stopped.”

What?!!! Was he messing with me?


I guess not! Even John Mayer felt it!


I asked Frank what it felt like. He said it wasn’t a shake, like what he has experienced before. Could it really have made our bed move?

Jon Fox, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Spokane, said he was at home and felt the earthquake waves moving his house.

“It was like being in a boat,” he said of the ground waves.

After the initial quake were numerous aftershocks listed as magnitude 4.9, 4.5, 3.9 and 4.4, all hitting between 12:35 a.m. and 1:30 a.m., according to the USGS.

People from across Montana reported feeling the earthquake, from Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley, to Helena, Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, as well as east to Billings and north into Alberta, Canada.

So I guess Frank wasn’t kidding. So this one one of the biggest earthquakes to hit Montana in many years. And we were here to experience it. Well, at least one of us experienced it. 😊


This Ain’t My First Rodeo

“This Ain’t My First Rodeo.”

Well, actually, for Frank it was. I went once as a Girl Scout and, if my memory serves me correctly, a cowboy was mortally injured when a bull trampled him! Anyway, when in Rome . . .

Jenny was super excited when she found out we’d be around for the annual Livingston Roundup Rodeo, as it is one of the most anticipated events of a Montana summer. Locals and visitors descend on the small town of 8,000 for the four-day spectacle, held over the 4th of July.

Our group of nine, including Jenny’s sister-in-law and her family, took the short drive over the pass into Livingston. Although it was crowded (the event sells out every night), we were able to find parking (no charge!) and rushed to stake out our seats in the general admission section.

The crowd was a mix of young and old, with a lot of young families. As one would expect, there were cowboy hats and boots everywhere. Adorable kids, dressed in their cowboy best, lined and climbed the fence.

The festivities began with the introduction of the rodeo queens, who speedily rode horses around the ring carrying flags. To compete for that title, young women have to demonstrate public speaking skills, perform interviews, take a rodeo knowledge exam and pass a horsemanship skills test. They aren’t just pretty!

Living in a city and never having been exposed to the rodeo world, it never dawned on me that rodeo is more than just a show. Rodeo athletes train from a young age, just like any other sport. The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, established in 1949, represents over 3,500 student athletes at more than 135 member colleges and universities!

Every year, Livingston hosts the Roundup Rodeo, a professional Rodeo Association event. In 1925, its inaugural year, the Roundup was one of only eight Class A rodeos in the nation; it had a purse of $3,000 ($41,095.89 in today’s dollars). This year, prizes total more than $200,000. In other words, there’s a lot of money “riding” on this rodeo!

The rodeo consists of seven events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie down roping, and barrel racing.

In bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, a cowboy tries to stay on the animal for eight seconds. He is disqualified if he touches it with his free hand. We were amazed to note that not one cowboy was able to stay on a bull for even two seconds!

Steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping are all timed events.

Barrel Racing is the lone ladies event. The object is to complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The fastest time wins. Knocking over a barrel results in a five-second penalty.

The action was fast and the crowds enthusiastic. It was a fun to be there and I am happy to report that, unlike my first rodeo, no one was seriously injured. As for Frank, the next time we go (which we are planning to do), he will surely — and honestly — utter the phrase, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

Slice of Americana

What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than with a traditional parade in a small Western town?!! The crowd was friendly and the down-home feel of historic, downtown Ennis, Montana was the perfect place to experience enthusiastic patriotism — a slice of America at its finest!

Later on in the day, Jenny had us over for a cookout to celebrate the holiday, as well as Aaron’s birthday. Just before dusk, the fireworks began. In Montana, it seems anyone can purchase and light off fireworks that would rival any of the professional displays back home. Everywhere you looked, be it above subdivisions, in town or in wide open fields, colossal, colorful fireworks exploded amongst the starry skies. The blasts and bursts of color lasted long into the night — a fine ending to a perfect holiday celebration!


From Old World to Old West

Summertime in Bozeman, Montana. It couldn’t be more different from a busy European capital but here we are. The main draw, of course, is Jenny and her family, but there’s much more. Bozeman is nestled in the Gallatin Valley, surrounded by mountains. Known for Big Sky and Bridger Bowl skiing and its proximity to Yellowstone, Bozeman is paradise for people who like to spend time outdoors. We’re looking forward to a summer of hiking, float boating, and maybe some fly fishing.

Frank and I have been coming to Bozeman since Jenny and Aaron moved here 17 years ago. Since then, the population has grown by more than 10,000 — traffic is heavier and you’ll find a proliferation of chain stores and strip malls spreading out from the city edges. The center of town, however, remains charming and vibrant. Our apartment is conveniently located on Main Street with its many fun, local shops and countless restaurants. The area hosts a farmers market, art walks and pop-up concerts. Jenny is about 10-15 minutes away.

Other than a short visit back to Milwaukee in July, Bozeman will be our home until mid-September.


Tchau Lisbon!

As we say farewell to Lisbon, here are some things you may not know about Portugal and a few more favorite sights . . .  Muito obrigada Lisboa, até a próxima (Thank you very much Lisbon, see you next time!)

Bedlam at the Bus Station

As impressed as we were by our divine bus trip to Fatima and the heavenly decorum of the religious festivities, we found that all hell broke loose once we got back to the bus station.

Frank and I held pre-purchased, roundtrip tickets identifying our bus and seat numbers. We expected the small-town station to be crowded so we arrived a little early. It was a wall-to-wall madhouse. Frank elbowed his way inside to check the monitor. Was our bus running on time? The monitor was black.

He circled around outside and found three queues along the back wall adjacent to the lot  – Porto, Coimbra, and a wider one for Lisboa – all crammed with people. He came back to get me, “We better get in line.”


We found that, for today, our reserved ticket didn’t mean a reserved time and seat — all it guaranteed was a ride to Lisbon, first come, first served! The queue of hundreds was claustrophobic and slow moving. And then it rained.

As buses flashing their destination arrived, those at the front of the specified line rushed out while the bus backed in and the driver opened the door. There was no bus staff controlling the number. The buses held fifty and those that didn’t make it on remained in the lot.

Another bus marked Lisboa arrived and, all at once, EVERYONE from our queue surged into the lot and pressed to get onboard!!! Soon, there were thousands of people, jammed like sardines, in this tiny parking lot that held maybe six buses!

The hysterical mob blocked and rushed any incoming bus. People were shoving and yelling. Little old ladies were crying.

Bus staff and some National Guard finally muscled their way through and tried to restore order. There was none to be had. Somehow, they were able to clear a tight corridor for a couple buses, but they continued to have them back in! I still can’t believe no one got run over. If you were lucky enough to be by a bus when the driver forced the door open, you might get a seat.


The guards and staff were powerless. Angry ticket-holders were screaming and tempers were flaring on both sides. Buses couldn’t get in or out. It takes a lot to get me panicky but I knew this was going to get MUCH worse before it got better. I looked at Frank, “I don’t care what we have to do, we’re out of here.”

We left the mayhem and viewed a mile+ of empty buses backed up along the street leading into the clogged station. We knew we’d be lucky if we got home by morning!

Frank and I ducked into a nearby hotel. After much effort, the kind staff tracked down a taxi driver who would take us the 80 miles back to Lisbon. It was expensive but so worth it — we were home and safe an hour-and-a-half later.

Note: This post is purposely out of chronological order as I did not want anyone to get the idea that this incident, in any way whatsoever, tarnished our two days in Fatima. In our minds, the two events are completely compartmentalized. That said, it was something we experienced as part of our adventure as a whole. When traveling, you inevitably come across obstacles and challenging situations and you have to make adjustments.


Aquariums are a gill-ty pleasure of mine. Take me to one and I’m happy as a clam. No, sea-riously, if you think there’s somefin cooler, let minnow…