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.

 

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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!

 

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.”

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?!!

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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?

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I guess not! Even John Mayer felt it!

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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. 😊

 

Wow-watosa Pitstop

One key to happy travel is flexibility — things don’t always go as planned. This summer, circumstances dictated an unplanned trip home. Louie and Kelly generously opened up their home (and Jenny’s college-vacated bedroom) to Frank and I for six weeks. We are years removed from the juggling of multiple schedules and the whirlwind of two busy teens flying in and out, but it turned out to be just what we needed!

Louie and Kelly work full time so we did what we could to make ourselves useful. Frank was thrilled to have mouths to feed and a yard in which to putter, not to mention his twice daily walks with their dog Jessie. Louie and Kelly would return from work, always with a smile and, more often that not, with the energy to start a project, walk the dog or go out for a drink! On weekends, they were always up for an adventure.

We really enjoyed our time with Tony and Anna and with Jenny, on her occasional weekends home. Andy visited often and we spent quality time with other family and friends. I even got out to Freiss Lake a couple times to float with mom and dad. Frank and I took the opportunity to explore Wauwatosa — the Busalacchi house is half-way between the Village and lively North Avenue.

Six weeks flew by (at least for us!!) and surprisingly, we found we were not in a big rush to leave. Although unplanned, the trip home was truly delightful. Our time with  Louie and Kelly’s family, and their flexibility, turned an otherwise stressful time into something fun and memorable.

Busy Bozeman

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When your legs ache from all that hiking or skiing, Bozeman is a charming, colorful city with much to offer. Whether your interests lie in unique art spaces, team sports, museums or walkable old neighborhoods, you’ll never be at a loss for something to do.

 

Fires

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This year, the western United States experienced a record number of terrifying and destructive wild fires. We watched the nightly local news as they updated locals on fire conditions, air quality, road closures and cancelled activities. In Bozeman, we could smell the smoke in the air and we saw our mountains disappear in the haze. The fires caused us to revise our travel plans to Glacier National Park. We are leaving later than planned and are choosing an alternative route. The lodge we planned to stay at has closed early for the season due to nearby flames. No doubt, what we will see may be different than what we would have months ago but I’m sure it will still be memorable!

Beautiful Bozeman

Most people associate Bozeman (and Montana, in general) with beauty. Vibrant images of Yellowstone, the gentle grace of fly fishing in “A River Runs Through It” and the thrill of skiing through deep powder at Big Sky bring to mind all this year-round recreation paradise has to offer. I confess to not being a “winter person,” although I’ve been known to enjoy my blue and green runs skiing Bridger and Big Sky and getting lost in a good book while curled up near a roaring lodge fire. But for me, Bozeman is best experienced when the weather turns warmer. From the blooming of the mountain flowers to the harvesting of the golden wheat fields, our summer in Bozeman has left us in a constant state of awe. Each turn of a trail delivered a unique perspective and the proud collapse at the top of a mountain was rewarded with stunning and ever-changing vistas. In closing out our 2017 adventure in Bozeman, I will attempt to share some of what we experienced. Although it’s hard to capture completely, I can best express our journey through some photos. Enjoy!

Glacier Park

“The jewel of the American Park System.” The “Crown of the Continent.” I’ve read and heard so much about Glacier National Park. Would it live up to the accolades?

We postponed our trip to Glacier by a week. We had hoped the cooler weather and precipitation would dampen the tragic fires that had closed much of the park. We tracked the park webcams to gauge visibility. Toward the end of September, we decided to go for it. Because the famed Going To The Sun Road was partially closed, our plan was to go to the west side of the park and then loop around to what we could see on the east.

Glacier National Park was named a national park in 1910. It is in northern Montana near the Canadian border and is the US half of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  The park is massive — 1600 square miles. It is known for spectacular mountains (including 6 peaks over 10,000 feet), lakes, and diverse wildlife. Of course, Glacier is most famous for its namesake — glaciers. But that might not be the case for long. Scientists are saying that the park’s receding glaciers could all disappear by 2030 — if not sooner!

So, did it live up to the accolades? Take a look, and you tell me.