Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cross-Country Skiing: Lolo, MT

I am eager to jump into the outdoor life that living in Montana offers.  Fortunately, one of the only people I know here is the right person for the job.  Diana hikes, cross-country skis, and does many other outdoor things as the seasons permit.  She has invited both David and I on a nighttime cross-country (XC) ski event scheduled for the end of January.  I am concerned about that being my first time for a number of reasons.

  1. You can XC ski at night?
  2. I don't have the right equipment.  I just bought my first real winter coat a few weeks ago.
  3. I am not in good enough shape.
  4. The last time I went skiing it was downhill style and that was around 1982.
  5. You can XC ski at night?
I learn that you can indeed do this at night when there is a full moon.  I woke up a few nights before the official full moon and suddenly understood why this was possible.  It gets dark here and the light coming from the moon is really bright.  I never experienced anything remotely like that when I lived in Texas.  I guess there was too much ambient light.

Probably due to my excess whining about all of the reasons not to go, Diana decides to see if we want to do a short daytime outing to see if we like it.  I think this is a good idea but some of the same problems remain. 

As for being out of shape, she assures me she will take it easy on me.  On the equipment front, it turns out our husbands won't be joining us so that means I can borrow equipment.

See me smiling? This is the before picture.  I suspect I am the only woman Diana knows who can borrow her husbands SHOES and have them fit.  In fact, they fit perfect. Those are his skis to but those are more of a one size fits all.  At least I assume.  The clothes all belong to me and have been acquired very recently.  After about 15 minutes the coat is in my backpack and I am down to the long-sleeve T-shirt and flannel shirt.

The removal of my jacket is only remarkable if you factor in this in.  This is the temperature gauge at the volunteer fire station by my house.  I took this on the way home so it was warmer by then than when we set out.

Diana and I are the only people on the trail.  I mean that quite literally.  Her truck is the only one in the parking lot.  We don't see any other people and there are still no other cars when we return.

This wouldn't concern me but there is no cell phone service here.  This is where the trail really begins for us.  I have heard numerous stories about bears (who are hibernating in theory), moose and mountain lions.  Also, I am clumsy.  I broke my ankle in the flat parking lot of a sporting goods store.  What if one of us (me) falls and breaks something.  No worries Diana assures me.  We would either carry the other out or leave them and go for help.  Yeah, I'm not worried.  Diana better be the one that has to be carried, I outweigh her by quite a lot.

I have to try really hard for this not to be my view the whole time.  It is really beautiful here and I quickly make a nuisance of myself by forcing Diana to stop while I take pictures.

Fortunately, she likes to take pictures too.

Diana takes the lead and I am happy for her to do that.  She has been here before and has done this before so it makes sense for her to stay in front. Plus, if I fall it will be harder for her to get an action shot on her camera.  And I do fall once.  Much to my surprise I manage to only go to my knee on top of the ski.  I don't fall all the way down.  I almost fall several times but all in all, I am proud of my ability to stay upright on my first time.

The only problem with having Diana lead is that I can't hear her when she talks to me.  In my old age I have a hard time hearing if the person is facing away from me.  Diana suggests we talk and generally make some noise so the animals know we are here and we don't surprise one which is apparently when the real problems occur.

And there are animals here.  We see several sets of fresh tracks from various animals of varying sizes.  I have mixed feelings about seeing an animal today.  Deer, bunnies, chipmunks, all okay.  Diana tells me that moose are really aggressive and though I really want to see one in the wild, I hope it is at a safe distance.

Not that I can recognize a moose track (yet) but I know they are nearby since we passed this sign on the way here.

At one point, this is my view.  Beautiful, yes.  The problem is...WHERE IS DIANA??

I generally prefer to keep her in sight.  She would probably prefer I put the camera away and keep up.

Maybe one day I won't be awed by my surroundings.  But truthfully, I hope not.

Diana kindly doesn't work me too hard.  I had real fears about being unable to walk the day after, especially since I have to get on a plane back to Dallas, but though I was sore (all over my body), I am not incapacitated sore.  And we weren't out there long enough for me to want to check out the inside of this building.  I bet it is really cold in there.

Since a picnic is out of the question - yes, that is a picnic table and benches - we go back to her house after a couple of hours.

I would do this again, in fact, we have plans to go this weekend, this time with the boys.  This means David and I will rent equipment and Diana won't have to put up with me leaving the skis in the back of the truck for her to deal with. 

Ultimately, we didn't go on the full moon outing.  Diana's family was under the weather at that time and it turned out to be cloudy anyway.  We will try again next month.  In the meantime, here are some of my favorite photos from that day.  Some of these have obviously been modified from the original.


Stand Out

No Shortage of Trees

The Twins

Purple Mountain Majesty


Here Comes the Sun

Alone in a Crowd


Winter on Mars

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Road Trip: Grapevine, TX to Stevensville, MT

David was gone 3 weeks, off to his new job in Missoula, Montana.  This left me behind to work on packing and finalizing the details for the sale of our house in Texas.  Truthfully, this went pretty smoothly.  Our house was only on the market 2 weeks when we had an offer.  The inspection only turned up 3 things the buyer wanted fixed and all of those were relatively minor.  Packing showed me how much stuff I own, both necessary and not.  I had a hard time imagining moving with all 3 of the kids at home.  I had to make several repeat trips for bubble wrap and boxes.  We haven't moved in 10 years and most of the things in the house were accumulated during that time.  I didn't know how to even estimate what would be needed. 

David returned to Texas on Christmas Eve to pack up his garage and to drive back to Montana with me.  The original plan was for me to stay though the closing of the house on January 7 and drive up by myself with our dog Karma.  But David was not comfortable with that plan for a number of reasons, many of them related to possible weather problems.  We may not have much of a winter in Texas but they do in Montana and other states generally north of us.

Ironically, it snowed on Christmas in Dallas.  This little snowman is about 8 inches tall and is on a small table on our back patio.  He didn't last long.

We spent the last few days visiting with my parents, our daughter and granddaughter and my brother and his family.

Aaron and Ashley at our house playing The Redneck Game of Life.  Highly recommended game.  Just like Life only redneck.  Which is why it is shocking that David has never won.  Aaron won this round forcing his wife Cathy to hand over the trophy:  a large glow in the dark plastic tooth.

You win by having the most teeth left at the end of the game.  As you can see from my scorecard, I am down to 7 teeth.  You end up with a lot of kids named Daryl.  At one time I had 7 but I got to give them all away and was left with only Gene.  This helps my paltry salary as the Monster Truck Announcer since each kid reduces your payday by $10. 
Plus, your rig has to hold all of your young en's.

I have room for 8 (total for both rigs).  One more and I would have had to buy another rig.

David and I also went to the Black & White Play at the Eismann Center in Richardson, TX.  We have gone to this play right after Christmas for the past 3 years.  The first year I correctly guessed who the killer was (a guess based strictly on the name of the character).  Neither of us have gotten it right since.

The main character with a random kid.  The actors clothing, makeup and the scenery are done to look like a 40's film noir.  When they come out to the lobby after the performance it is shocking to see them next to things that are "in color".  This play is a lot of fun and if you are in the Dallas area around the end of the year and enjoy plays, I highly recommend it.
David's plan for the drive up is to follow the same route he drove back in December when he moved.  The only difference is he moved to a motel in Missoula.  This time we are moving to the house David rented 3 days before returning to Texas.  It is about 25 miles outside of Missoula in the small town of Stevensville.

The route will take us north to our first stop in Oklahoma City.  Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with this area, that is about a 3 hour drive from where we lived in Grapevine.  Not a long first day but this is going to be the first stop for 2 reasons. 

The movers are expected to finish emptying our house and leave by around 5 pm.  It seems a little senseless to sit around our empty house or to stay in a local hotel.  It was a little odd to be back where we started, sitting in this house with it totally empty.  David and I did this almost 10 years ago when we bought the house (it was already vacant) on the day of the inspection.  We will miss the 10 year anniversary in this house by one month.  We moved in on February 1, 2003.  We moved out on January 2, 2013.

The second reason for our stop in OKC is that it is free.  David's brother lives there and he and his family kindly let us come stay.  A special thanks to Abby for the use of her bed for the night.

I have to stop here for the one-liners since David started them up less than a block from our old house:
  • Damn, we are packed in here like a &%$@* clown car!
  • My butt is going to get itchy.
  • Look...Elvis and Bigfoot had a kid.
  • Cleaning the bathroom is clearly a loose term here.
  • I am trying to control my weirdos, I don't need them making a hasty exit later.
  • As long as no train comes by while you're doing that, it will be fine.
  • The only panting I want to hear in my ear when my eyes are closed is yours.
  • We'd make it the sweetest little hotel this side of whatever the hell town this is.
  • I better leave the room then so there won't be any witnesses.
  • This is where the deer and the antelope play.
  • I think you are making that shit up as you go.
  • I've got weak-ass fingernails.
  • And just like BOOM, sun's up.
  • I am looking kind of roguish.
  • You still have like half an hour or so to say something ignorant.
I know that's a lot but that isn't even all of them and we were in the car for over 3 days.

The next day we go from OKC to Valentine, Nebraska.  Everyone keeps saying how cold it will be in Montana but right now, I all I know is that it is bitterly cold in Kansas and Nebraska.  And for anyone planning a drive across Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, here is some advice:

Take a nap.  It looks like this most of the way.

When you travel with animals, it makes the hotel situation a little harder - assuming you are honest and don't try to sneak them in where they aren't allowed, which we didn't do.  The difficulty of finding a decent place to stay with your pet is increased in places like Valentine, NE.

I guess David and I will have to make alternate dinner plans.  This is the place that prompted the comment about the lack of bathroom cleanliness.  There was a wad of hair (human?) on the shower wall and some dried blood spots on the wall behind the door.

Karma did really well after the first day.  She got into a routine and did what needed to be done when we stopped.  Mostly she looked out the window.

She was in the back of the clown car.  After OKC, we managed to get her a little more room on the seat.  She did manage to roll the window down in the back once.  I had to lock them to keep her from doing it again.  She's a smart girl.

I was really happy to see this sign but sadly, it doesn't mean we are there yet.  We are on the far east side near South Dakota and our house is on the far west side, almost to Idaho.  We have another night in a hotel to go.  It was worse than the one in Valentine.

This sign, right after the one above, was a little more confusing.

I might need more description than "invasive species".  Maybe there should be a little brochure available at this sign for those of us who don't know what exactly is covered.

Finally after 4 days, 2 crappy hotels, 1 not crappy borrowed bed, and lots of McDonald's over 7 states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana), we arrived at our new home!

David rented this house after seeing it online.  When he came out to see it we connected on Skype so I could see it too.  This is my first time to see it in person and I must say, David did good.  We decided to wait to buy.  It was too hard to do with him in Montana and me in Texas.  Plus, this gives us a chance to get the "lay of the land".

The best part of the house is the view from my office. 

My old view

My new view. 
This was taken outside but it is the same view I have when I am sitting at my desk.  Only with a big sliding glass door between.

I found out from my travels for work that there are some places in the world where you just feel like you belong.  My new friend here, Diana, said, "There are places that make your heart sing".  This is one of those places for me.  I love it here.  And all of those people worried about me and the cold can stop.  It was much colder in Kansas than it is here.  I can already see though that I am going to have to invest in a lot more moisturizer and lotion because it is so much drier here than back in Texas. 

I only have one disappointment so far...

The snowmen.  I expected lots of fantastic snowmen here but this specimen from the Lowe's garden center in Missoula is pretty typical of what I have seen.  The snow here is very powdery and not conducive to packing.

I also learned one more thing about snow people in general, courtesy of someone who shall remain anonymous.  Do you know how to tell the difference between a snowman and a snowwoman?