Goodness, it is already Tuesday, July 20! Guess that time got away from us! After Murdo, SD last Wednesday night (July 14) we drove to the Rafter J Bar Resort near Hill City, SD where we were fortunate to score a tent camping site for the staggering price of $30. (It was a resort though, so we had great amenities). We kept tabs with John and Karen throughout the morning as to their whereabouts since ironically we were only 70 miles apart longitudinally the night before. Steve and I set up camp and were eating our usual PB&J sandwich lunch when we saw John and Karen pulling into the resort. Within an hour the four of us were on our bikes on the Mickelson Bike Trail. The Resort’s entrances intersect with the trail so there was no need to calculate an involved plan for getting there. We all rode together until the 5.2 mile spot when Karen and I decided that the grade of the old rails-to-trails was taxing our legs for the day. So the gals managed a 10.4 ride whereas the guys managed closer to a 13 mile ride. Our efforts made the dip in the resort’s pool and hot tub a great way to end the afternoon.
John and Karen invited us to dinner at their campsite: hotdogs, baked beans, and tossed salad. Later we roasted marshmallows for s’mores while watching the crescent moon descend over the Black Hills and the night’s canvas of stars take form. The evening cooled off nicely making for a perfect night’s sleep in our little tent. The next morning John treated us to the pancake breakfast that the resort has each morning. It was a delicious way to begin our day.
On Friday morning Steve and I took off for Montana City, MT, about 6 miles outside of Helena. It ended up being around 600 miles and 11 hours of driving. My sister Laurie and brother-in-law Tom recently moved to rural Montana City from Bozeman. The temperatures that day hovered around 95 and with the “dry” heat, the day was a scorcher. We knew that the Midwest and East Coast were suffering from the heat, too, and with the high humidity, they dealt with a dangerously high heat index and warnings.
We spent two wonderful days and nights with Laurie and Tom. Laurie grilled some chicken breasts and asparagus to a “tee”, making for a lovely dinner out on their deck. On Saturday we went into Helena, ate a fish taco lunch at Taco del Sol before climbing aboard The Last Chance “train”. This is actually a truck chassis fitted with a train engine for the body, and it pulled several train cars. It resembled the trams that we’ve taken at Brookfield Zoo. The conductor was our tour guide and she drove us around Helena, providing an introduction to the city’s rich history and its current status as a university town, the Montana State capital, and ease of exploring the lands beyond for recreation. During the day we heard about the Symphony under the Stars being featured that night.
With images of a previous Ravinia Park outing in Highland Park, IL on my mind, I couldn’t help but imagine us dining on a picnic while listening to wonderful music. So Laurie and I shopped for a finger-food type of picnic. The event was held at Carroll College in Helena with the Helena Symphony playing a delightful repertoire of “Spanish Nights” for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect as the heat gave way to the cool mountain air while the sunset evolved into a beautiful evening sky. As an encore, a fireworks display went off in tandem with the symphony’s last piece. On Sunday we drove to Gates at the Mountains Recreation Area, which was carefully journaled by Meriwether Lewis as he explored the Missouri River during his expedition. We opted to take the Sacajawea Tour Boat. Since no vehicles are allowed in the protected lands surrounding this area, it was the only way to see the Gates. It was intriguing to listen to the guide tell stories of Lewis’ account, to learn about the geology of the limestone cliffs, to appreciate the Native American history (including pictographs that can still be seen), and to see some wildlife.
Sunday afternoon we headed off to Bozeman to spend several days with John and Karen since they arrived back home earlier in the day. During our stay with them we’ve enjoyed a dinner at the Ale Works, a hike at Drinking Horse Mountain, a dinner gathering at their home with Laurie, Tom, and our nephew, Sean. Last night our nephew, Allan, arrived in Bozeman from Wichita Falls, TX for a 10 day vacation from his air force training. It was wonderful to be at the Bozeman airport last night to provide a warm welcome home to him. He leaves next for Okinawa, Japan for 24 months. Today has been low-key. We grabbed a cup of coffee with all of them in Bozeman and visited. We appreciate the time to get reacquainted with Sean and Allan, since we do not see them often. They are awesome young men and we are so proud of them.
Steve and I are truly blessed to have family and friends who along the trek these last two weeks have been so gracious with their hospitality. Tomorrow we’ll leave towards Denver and hope to stumble across either a reasonably priced motel or tent site. It is our hope to be in Denver at Mom’s by sometime on Thursday. We are ready to begin looking for our next abode in Denver. Next week should be an adventure in itself as we negotiate the light-rail and bus systems to see where potential housing options might lie along those routes. Stay tuned!
May you enjoy the remainder of your July. It seems like the summer is flying.