Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 12, Jackson Hole to Bozeman through Idaho

I have a Swedish sausage with my breakfast, because of Swedish descent as I am, I have never had a Swedish sausage. I like the taste, but not the consistency, which is kind of loose and crumbly. Great coffee, great muesli and love those berries. 

Very hazy day, trouble with allergies and breathing due to particulate matter from raging forest fires

Gas leaving Jackson Hole is $3.99 a gallon at the cheapest station.

I take a photo of the motel we stayed more than forty years ago, just outside Jackson Hole, when we were traveling across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus en route to Monterey, CA for grad school and language school and knew we couldn’t afford to stay inside Jackson Hole. We were right across from the Elk reserve, and once we got our little baby to sleep, we sat outside and watched the enormous herd of elk as they munched and wandered. It isn’t so far outside Jackson Hole, now, and I am glad it is still there. 

This is the second day where we experience haze. We drive up over the mountains into Idaho, and spend a couple hours on very rural highways sharing the road with large combines, harvesters and all kinds of farm equipment. 

The scenery starts to change when we near Big Sky and the Gallatin River. Lunch was apples with peanut butter alongside a road with trucks whizzing by.

Marriott Residence Inn

Once again, our hotel room is not ready. As we wait, another man gets the same response and also that he will not be on his requested floor. He is very angry, says he reserved a month ago (!) and wants to be accommodated. Later I ask the desk clerk if they are having problems with finding people to work and she says yes, that it is a problem everywhere in Bozeman. I suspect that they have closed off the top floor and are also limiting the number of people they can serve until they can guarantee the ability to take care of them. 

I am thinking that this has a lot to do with demographics, and problems with finding good, reliable, safe child care, and finding jobs which will protect their workers and also provide benefits. We can see that many of the hotels are now offering health insurance and educational benefits to the people they hire. I am thinking the labor market has a little leverage, and they are using it to better their conditions. 

And yes, that may inconvenience business owners and managers, and inconvenience customers, like us, but for the greater good, perhaps we can find a balance where everyone wins?

Our room is lovely, and quiet, and spacious. 

We have reservations for dinner at Blacksmith Italian, a restaurant we both found intriguing. Bossy Lady totally screwed up getting us there, sometimes she doesn’t really know everything, but she got us close enough and we figured out the rest. 

The minute we walked in, we knew we were in the right place. It was full of local people. The plates coming out looked very fine. The smells were delicious.

We split a platter of meats and cheeses; it was full of delicate tidbits, duck and Italian sausage and tiny pickled peppers filled with ricotta, etc. This came with crispy tasty triangular bread, a little salty, very tasty. AdventureMan had mussels and a side of pasta as his main course, and I had calamari with a Putenesca sauce and a side of pasta. The sauce was fabulous; I didn’t even need the calamari, the sauce was so engaging. The wines were equally good; I had a Barbera and AdventureMan has a Lacryma Cristi white wine which was so good, I ordered it the next night.

Calimari with Puttanesca Sauce
Side order of pasta

Yes. It was so good we reserved for the next night, too. It would be our last night in Bozeman, might as well end on a high note.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 11, Mammoth Hot Springs to The Tetons and Jackson Hole

It is COLD! It is sunny! It is gorgeous! It is one of the prettiest days of our trip as we leave Mammoth Springs. I make AdventureMan stop several times, trying to capture how beautiful is the frost in the shadows between Mammoth Springs and Old Faithful. 

I’m trying to show you frost in the fields . . .
Can you see the white frost?
There it is! It shows up better in the shadows! (AdventureMan is very patient with me)
It is August 29th, and this field is still with thick white frost!
The heat of the volcanic fissures show up particularly well on cold days

We come to a traffic clog – buffalo crossing. We are patient, it is entirely possible on this route that these are people who have never seen bison before. They are jumping out of their cars and seem a little wild with excitement. 

I can never get enough of Roaring Mountain. AdventureMan is being a good-sport; see the halo of light spotlighting him?

We crossed the Continental Divide at least three times.

The drive is just breathtaking.

Lewis Falls

Around noon, we leave Yellowstone and are immediately in the Tetons, which we begin to see to the West.

We find the Flagg Ranch Lodge on our right, just in time for lunch. It is a lovely lodge, but you can see that the season is already lagging; the express shop is open but the gift shop is closed.

See the Pay Phone?

AdventureMan stops to get a map of the area and I see an oddity, a pay phone. When was the last time you saw a working public pay phone? After lunch, we try to call our son and discover we are in an area with zero bars. Now the pay phone makes all kinds of sense.

I have soup, and the Prismatic Salad, AdventureMan has the Pig Whistle Salad, and lunch is delicious. We talk with our servers; one is a trucker who works during the season with his partner at Flagg Ranch. Off-season, they go back to California.

Great Prismatic Salad
Pig Whistle Salad

We stop several places to take in Lake Jackson; we can see it has been greatly depleted by the drought, but also replenished somewhat by the heavy rains tamping down the forest fires. Near Lake Jackson, the air starts to get a little hazier from forest fire related particulate matter. 

Look at those gorgeous blues and greens!

The Tetons are grand. Impressive. Awe-inspiring. We can’t get enough. 

Coming in, we are directed by the Bossy Lady to Moose Wilson Road, isn’t that a great name? There is a large parking lot, and multiple signs warning people that this little dirt road is only for cars, no getting out of cars, no walking and no stopping. There is a ranger in the parking lot – in fact, every time we take this road, which is like four different times because the Bossy Lady sent us over this road to get to different places. In spite of the signs, inspire of the ranger presence, people were . . . stopping. Getting out of their cars. Walking. This is a protected wildlife track, bear, moose, deer. 

Alpenhof Hotel

We arrive shortly at The Alpenhof, in Teton Village, and our room is ready. It looks very German to me, but it is actually very Swiss, German Swiss I suppose. Our room makes me smile; it has so many familiar German touches. It is a nice large room, opening out to a balcony shielded by fresh smelling pines. We can hear the funicular in the background, squeaking now and then as the little carriers round the bend coming down and going up. 

Great reading lights 😉
Funicular going up mountain

We walk around, take a sweet nap and have dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. AdventureMan and I met in Germany; we still have a weakness for German food. Reservations are strictly required, we must be masked, and we see people turned away who do not have reservations. 

As we are waiting, a couple comes in and asks the Maitre d’ if they have “Sloshies.” The Maitre d’ says no, but they can find them in the Bodega at the nearby filling station. The couple tell us that Jackson Hole is famous for “Sloshies” and exit to go find them. They also start a tirade against masking, social distancing and young people who won’t work because they are getting unemployment. If you’ve ever worked with the poor, you know that unemployment doesn’t do it. It is just a supplement.

Dining Room: The Alpen Rose
I really liked this beer, like beer with fruit on a hot summer day in Germany

We are seated, and the menu is lovely. We both decide on salad and a Jaegerschnitzel. If we had known how large they were, we might have thought to share one, but we didn’t, and in truth, while they appeared huge, they were pounded thin, and deliciously prepared with a wine-mushroom sauce. We each ate our entire schnitzels with no problem. We also shared a dessert they called Heisse Liebe, (Hot Love!) but we used to eat along the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg and it was called Heiss und Eis, vanilla ice cream with a hot sauce made of fresh raspberries and a little liqueur poured over the ice cream. Divine. Heaven. 

We took another walk around the village and called it a night, glad we also have reservations the next night at the same restaurant. 

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 6, Helena to Livingston and Chico Hot Springs

Breakfast was lovely. There were beautiful hot scones waiting on the table for us, light and fluffy scones, not the crusty tough kind. The hostess, Pat, baked them herself, as well as the breakfast frittata, served with sausages and hot pots of coffee and cream. It was a great way to start the day. 

Carolina B&B Breakfast Room
Coffee and Tea Service
Sun Porch/Reading Room
Carolina Frittata, Sausage and Fruit
Pat’s Famous Scones

At breakfast we met Dave and Carol, from Everett, WA, who were married five years ago at The Carolina and who come back every year to celebrate their anniversary there, they love it so much. 

We drive towards our next stop, Chico Hot Springs, but we stop once again in Townsend. We have been looking for a car wash, our time in Glacier National Park has left us mud-stained and mud splashed; we have dead bugs on our windshield and every time I lean on the car to take a photo, I end up with mud on my legs.

We have MUD everywhere

We really like Townsend. We love the sign in the car wash. I love that while I am reading some Montana mysteries, Townsend is mentioned here and there, and I have a photo of the Commercial Bar, notorious among alcoholic cops and people who start drinking early in the morning. 

The Great Wide Open
“You know those are not real horses don’t you?” No. I didn’t recognize it was an art installation.

It is a beautiful day. 

On every trip, I try to schedule a wild card. A wild card means I don’t really know if we are going to like this or not, it might be out of our comfort zone, but we might also stretch and find we enjoy it. I had found Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, another place frequently mentioned in Montana detective series, and had reserved a rustic cabin, which happened to be all they had left that looked like what we might like. I was making reservations early in December, so I thought it odd that so much was already reserved.

So on our drive, I experience a few little anxieties, like did I make sure this “rustic cabin” has it’s own bathroom? What if it has a musty smell? What if this is some kind of tawdry experience that we might find distasteful?

We stop in Livingston en route; we want to visit the Railroad Museum and to have lunch at the Murray Hotel, where we had reservations last year we had to cancel when COVID overturned everyone’s lives.

Livingston, MT
Murray Hotel, where we would have stayed

The railroad museum was fabulous. AdventureMan loves history and loves railroads. I found some really cool movies, one in particular, Invisible Boundaries which tracks Yellowstone’s Great Animal Migrations. The film was gorgeous. Some of was filmed from helicopters, some by an independent filmmaker who trekked with wildlife specialists and a wildlife artist. The film is lush with color and action; the still shots and the artwork are breathtaking. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

The Cashier at the Railroad Museum told us many people come to Livingston to visit Dan Bailey’s, famous for angling outfitting

We had thought we would eat at the Murray, but saw Fiesta de Jalisco and had a craving for Mexican food, so we ate there. It was another restaurant which was careful – seating was separated, people were masked (not while eating). Best of all, the food was really good. I had a chicken mole’ and AdventureMan had a tamale and taco. 

“You have to see the rest room!” AdventureMan tells me

(We were greatly surprised that in all the tourist spots, prices were so reasonable. We think Pensacola has a reasonable cost-of-living; the places we found in Montana and Wyoming – OUTSIDE the national parks – were not more expensive than Pensacola.)

We walked after lunch, and found a cute gift shop where I asked if they had any cherry juice from the Flathead valley, and the woman running the shop looked at me and said “We don’t have it here, but I think I know someone who does” and called a friend. “Yes! She has it!” she told me, so we walked to the Copper Moose where we found the cherry juice and all kinds of wonderful Montana specialties, and some great conversation. We love bringing back local treasures to our family when we travel, and we found some really great treasures at the Copper Moose. We bough the large bottle of cherry juice; we should have bought two bottles, we love it so much. It is tasty, without being too sweet. It mixes well with water or with gin or tonic or seltzer. We were looking for a liqueur to pour over ice cream, like Chambord, but we never found it.

Chico Hot Springs was just a short drive down Paradise Valley from Livingston. Chico Hot Springs was really fun. Our cabin was not ready, but they checked us in, gave us wrist bands to use for the hot springs, and towels and said they would call when the cabin was ready. Just as we had parked, our cabin was ready, so we quickly drove up the hill to our cabin, dropped our gear, (checked to make sure there was a bathroom, and there was) and headed back to the springs.

C.J.Box, in his Highway Series, refers to the old Chico Springs as a former Sanitarium.

AdventureMan had told me he would just sit in the sun; not me! Hot Springs are natural! They have minerals! We used to live in Wiesbaden where people came from miles away and paid a lot to “take the waters.” I hadn’t been in ten minutes when AdventureMan came and joined me. I was delighted. It’s out of his comfort zone. We need experiences out of our comfort zone, we are still capable of growth and new experiences.

After a short while, we headed back to the room for a short nap before dinner. I caught up on my trip notes while AdventureMan went deep into sleep. By dinnertime, we were both relaxed, refreshed and ready.

View toward mountains
Dining Room at Chico Hot Springs

Reservations were a must. The Hotel had contacted me a couple months before and notified me that because of COVID, and employee shortages, and a requirement to socially distance, and the high volume of people wanting to eat in their dining room, if we wanted to eat there, we really needed to make a reservation, which I had made. 

We had an isolated table. Everyone there did. We had a delightful server, Purity, who really knew the menu and the wines. I discovered they had a very large wine tasting room just off the nearby bar, with a lovely selection of amazing wines.

Everything I ordered was off the evening specials menu – they had me at Butternut squash soup and Alaskan halibut. AdventureMan had Prince Edward Island Mussels and the Alaskan halibut, we both had white Bordeaux to drink and ended the meal by sharing a creme brûlée. The meal was magnificent, one of the best on our trip, probably because the wine was so perfect with the meals.

It was nearing sunset. We decided to take a drive along an unpaved road leading out of the hot springs area down into a valley area. We saw a mother deer with two fawns, and we watched the sun set behind a mountain. When we got back to the cabin, there was a fowl – a grouse (?) without fear, waiting to greet us. AdventureMan said he heard coyotes yipping nearby during the night; I slept through it. Our cabin was isolated from the main part of the hot springs complex, and very quiet. We had a wonderful sleep in this rustic cabin. 

One of the things AdventureMan says he loved about these rustic cabins was that they had great lights for reading. We don’t understand why hotels and inns have beautiful nightstands, and even maybe beautiful lights, but the bulbs are puny and they don’t put out enough light by which to read. Chico Hot Springs rustic cabins had good lighting to read by, and lots of hooks to hang up our clothes. We also had all the privacy in the world; the rustic cabins were relatively remote. 

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Local Lore, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 5 East Glacier to Helena

AdventureMan and I have different perspectives on this day. He thinks it wasn’t so bad. I think it was the worst day of our trip.

It started off great. We slept in – well, until 0730, which for my body time is 0830. We ate breakfast, packed out, thoroughly appreciating our three nights at Traveler’s Rest and the spaciousness and convenience of our beautiful cabin there. 

View of Traveler’s Rest From SR2

AdventureMan suggested one last drive to Two Medicine, and it was beautiful, a totally different day from our first drive.

On the way back, we stopped at the glorious Glacier Park Lodge, and then for our last time at the Glacier Trading Post and picked up two pieces of huckleberry pie for the road. The crust on these pies is as delicious as their fillings!

Glacier Park Lodge

As we head out of Browning, AdventureMan says “We can turn off the Bossy Lady now; we have been on this road so often we know the way without her, and you can turn her back on when we get near Helena.”

This wind farm went on for miles!

Long story short, an hour or so down the road, AdventureMan says “None of this looks familiar!” I say sure it does, because it’s all rural stuff, grain and storage for grain, railroad tracks, but it nags at me that AdventureMan might be right. 

When I check, we are on A road but not the road we had intended. This road takes us to Great Falls and the interstate. We near Great Falls around lunch, find the Bear Diner and have what we agree is the most forgettable meal of our entire trip. 

Cute place, large menu

AdventureMan is right, it wasn’t a bad place, the service was good, I was just grumpy to be in Great Falls and eating calories that didn’t thrill me.

It is August, and nearly 80°F and this is at the entrance of the Bear Diner. It gave me a chill knowing winter can arrive suddenly, and it is best to be prepared.

This is also a day when there is a lot of haze, and I am a little nervous about breathing the particulate matter from the burning wildfires.

Carolina Bed and Breakfast, Helena, MT

We get back on the road and arrive in Helena at 2:00, early for our B & B reservation. Fortunately for us, the room at The Carolina B&B is ready, and the hostess is very gracious, welcomes us, shows us to our room, The Anisette, and shows us around the beautiful mansion, full of beautiful furniture, carefully gathered, curated with care, and china, and exotic curios, full of artistic works and models and framed art. Everywhere you look is something of interest. 

Our room, the Anisette, which has a bathroom behind the mirrored door
Bathroom next door to our room; not all rooms had their own bathrooms
A gathering room on the top floor
Bedroom on top floor
Another bedroom

Tonight AdventureMan chooses a place for dinner, and we head downtown to one of the trendiest restaurants in town, Hokkaido, where we feast on Japanese cuisine. They specialize in Ramen and sushi, so I order some broth and a poke’ salad and a sushi roll, AdventureMan orders a seaweed salad and a couple rolls, and we share a large pot of green tea. Every table around us is filled with happy customers, old and young. It was the most varied demographic I have experienced, old and young, foreign and domestic, all economic levels, and the food was delicious, the service efficient and also friendly and helpful. 

After dinner we explored Helena in the glowing late evening sunlight. We found a “mosque” which turned out to be the civic center, and AdventureMan found a statue of Theodore Roosevelt which turned out to be a statue of someone else in front of the Capitol building. We were staying in a very old neighborhood full of spectacular houses and a gorgeous old Catholic church, so we were able to spend some time walking before we turned in. 

Helena Civic Center
Cathedral of Saint Helena, in the last gleams of the day’s sunlight

We were so glad to have chosen a room with its own bathroom. All through the night we could hear doors opening and closing, people using the bathrooms next door to our room. You could hear couples whispering to each other, which warned us to be careful because if we could hear them, they could also hear us.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Geography / Maps, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 7, Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone National Park

Chico Hot Springs is a mere 40 minutes from Gardiner, our favorite town just north of Mammoth Hot Springs where we will be spending the next four nights. We head straight for Tumbleweeds, a bookstore that also is semi-bakery and has breakfasts and lunch. But, as it turns out, only Thursday – Friday – Saturday these days, so we have to find someplace else. There is a long line outside the Antler Grill and there is something of a line at the Cowboy Bar and Grill, where we have never eaten but would like to give it a try.

There is a sign on the door saying help wanted, and several people seated outside. We missed those clues. We got inside, and the only person we could see who looked like she worked there totally ignored us. The sign said “please wait to be seated” so we waited. And waited. And waited a little more. It could have been annoying, but we had seen this same situation in Glacier and had a good idea what was going on. 

Eventually, the waitress – who was also cashier, and hostess, asked if we wanted to be on the wait list, and we said yes. She called the names of the people outside, and then, at the end, called our name, too, so we only had to wait about 40 minutes. 

For me, it was worth it. I ordered something called the sausage scramble, and one of the choices for sides was “greens.” I am wired to have a hunger for greens, so I ordered greens and I also ordered a side of jalapeño huckleberry sauce to go with my egg scramble. 

Breakfast actually came fairly quickly, even though everyone else in front of us got served first. The cook was quick and the server was also quick. My “greens” turned out to be a nice big bowl of mixed greens, covered with sunflower seeds, which I love, and dressed with an orange vinaigrette that was out of this world. It might have been that I was really hungry by then, but I remembered that bowl of salad as one of the best taste-treats of the trip. I also really loved the jalapeño huckleberry sauce.

AventureMan had the bacon scramble and focaccia bread, and the bread was also delicious. Things had slowed down and we had a chance to talk with the cashier/waitress/hostess and discovered she is Jamaican, a business student, and in a couple weeks she will be back at university. She is doing this as a summer job, and has worked very hard all summer, short-handed the entire time.

The hardest working people we found as we travelled were foreign workers and people as old as we are.

We shopped for dinner at this traveler friendly Gardiner Grocery Store
All traffic stops for bison

By this time it is maybe ten-thirty, we drive into Mammoth Springs and we don’t even stop because there is no way our cabin will be ready. We head straight out to one of our happy places, Lamar Valley. Near Tower junction there is a group of bison blocking traffic, just tarrying along, and people are going wild taking photos. We are patient, and head first for Roosevelt Lodge, which has never been open when we have visited Yellowstone previously. 

Probably the best Bison shot I’ve ever had, and it’s through a side window, no composition, just pure luck.

Nice clean restrooms. Roosevelt Lodge has the reputation of being a good place to stop for lunch, but they are not serving meals. They have a Grab n Go sign, and then entire lobby area is EMPTY. We headed on to Slough Creek, one of our favorite spots to tarry, and Lamar Valley.

There are restrooms at the entrance to Slough Creek, but we pass them by. We know there is also a restroom at the end of the road, but today we get a thrill – at the end of the road is a gate. The gate is open. There is no sign saying Do Not Enter, so that means you can enter, right?

The truth is, probably 90% of the people who visit Lamar Valley never go down this bumpy unpaved road to Slough Creek. Even fewer know that through the gate is the entrance to the Slough Creek Campground, one of the sweetest, most private camping areas in Yellowstone, right on the bank of Slough Creek. 

There is a hiking trail which goes beyond the campground. We hike out for a while, and we spot otter! Off in the distance, we spot a couple men riding out on horses, maybe they are rangers, although there is also a horse rental operation back at the area where we went through the gate. 

The are is so beautiful, so quiet and so peaceful that we settle for a while and watch the otter play, and the water ripple by in the large creek. We talk a little with people coming to camp there. There is also a nice clean restroom there, actually several in different parts of the campground. It is a serene and awe-inspiring place to just be.

As we headed back into Mammoth Springs to sign into our room, we passed a large group of cars parked desperately along both sides of the highway, watching a tiny bear walk along a path on a nearby hill. We understand this might be the only bear these people ever see, and we also wish they would be more respectful. Stay in your cars! Don’t whistle or call to the bear trying to attract his attention! Let the bear just do his bear thing. We drove by as quickly as we could, we just wanted to get away.

AdventureMan is edgy, he wants more walking. I assure him tomorrow will be full of walking. We check into our cabin, and AdventureMan insists it is bigger than the last cabin we had. I don’t think so. I think they moved some of the furniture out and it seemed more spacious, but it looks the same size to me. All these cabins were built about the same time, probably a WPA project. We have a bathroom; some of the cabins don’t. They use the group toilet and shower facilities in the cabin area.

As we walk around the cabin area, we see that many of the cabins are empty, which is puzzling, because when I reserved, back in December, the cabins were mostly sold out. We speculated that it was again, a demographics problem, too few people willing to take a chance of remote working conditions during COVID. People our age are retiring and, like us, traveling. Younger people may not want to expose themselves, or don’t have child care so that they can work. As we got to know the housekeepers, they confirmed our suspicious. This was the hardest they have ever worked, too much work to do, cleaning, laundry, maintenance of cabins, and too few people to do the work. 

We drove to the upper terrace road near sunset, and walked to Canary Springs. It was a beautiful time of day to be there for some dramatic photos, but not so dramatic as the cold mornings, when the steam would billow out of the hot springs.

Dinner was on our front porch, with a view of the Mammoth Springs terraces. We had picked it up in Gardiner at Gardiner groceries, where they had wonderful sandwiches, wraps and all kinds of condiments. I had my chicken wrap with Salsa Verde, and it was delicious.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 4 Many Glacier

Many Glacier

Today we head for Many Glacier, another reason we love staying on the East Side of Glacier National Park. It is a beautiful drive, sunshine and shadows, rays and clouds, at the same time.

The drive was a symphony of blues and greens, mountain, valley, lakes and sky. As a quilter, I am color-sensitive, especially to greens and blues, so this drive was thrilling to me, just experiencing all the varieties of blues and greens, and mixtures of blues and greens accented with blacks and greys.

Begin early morning drive to Babb / Many Glacier Road

Entrance to Many Glacier

Many Glacier Lodge Interior

We find a really good parking place and head for the lodge; I separate from AdventureMan to find the ladies room, which is down one of two intertwining staircases.

Excursion Boat

Many Glacier Lodge is beautiful. I have a real weakness for the old, sturdy, long built lodges, but many times the rooms small and the spaces crowded. Many Glacier Lodge had a couple tour groups waiting to catch the excursion boat, and many die-hard hikers, headed for the beautiful hikes available. It turned cold, and an icy rain began to fall heavily. Even though I was raised hiking in rain, I don’t much like it, especially when I end up cold and wet. I have turned into a total wuss. 

We took our time driving back and began to look for a place to have brunch. We had thought the Lodge, but it did not offer breakfast to people who were not guests. In Babb, nothing was open. In St. Mary’s, nothing was open. In Browning, nothing was open, I had an idea in East Glacier, but it was also closed. 

Looks delightful, but closed

Nearby was the Whistle Stop restaurant, and this is not untypical of our entire trip, when we stepped up to the counter to be seated, the lady told us it would be a wait, they could only serve so many people at a time with their limited staff and breakfast was just finishing and lunch was about to begin.

And, again, it was a demographic. The cook staff seemed to be mainly men in their thirties and forties; the waitstaff seemed to be women in their sixties and seventies. The young people are non-existent. We wait, first in line, as couples and groups come in behind us and get on the list. “Why wait?” you may ask. We scoped out the options, from Saint Mary’s to Browning to East Glacier – everything we found was closed this Sunday morning; The Whistle Stop is open. It’s the only open restaurant we found. 

In spite of being on the Blackfeet reservation, in spite of the sign on the door, the staff is not wearing masks.

After half an hour, we were seated.

Now the good news. The food we ordered turned out to be really good, and even better, they had wonderful pies.

I had a zucchini soup that knocked my socks off. I ordered the salmon dinner (you can take the girl out of Alaska, but you can’t take the Alaska out of the girl) which turned out to have a LOT of food – corn on the cob, rice, and a baked potato. After the soup, which was really really good, I could only eat a little of the salmon, so I took the rest with me in a box to warm up for dinner. AdventureMan had a salad and chili, and he ordered a stuffed baked potato to-go which he could warm up for dinner. Their stuffed baked potatoes had a whole menu of items to choose from; AdventureMan choose chili, cheese and sour cream and couldn’t finish it at dinner. 

Zucchini soup
The pies were really, really good

Next to us in the restaurant sat Paul and Bonnie, from upstate New York, continuing their quest to visit every capitol in every state of the United States. They had just come from Helena, to which we are headed the next day, so we had a great conversation. They had not yet visited Alaska or Washington, so we were able to give them some hints, too, mainly about the Alaska Maritime Highway System, which is our secret to visiting the real Alaska.

Next door to Whistle Stop is a laundry where you can also shower; we saw this arrangement often

We take the afternoon off. AdventureMan is coughing, and the one thing we really do not want to do is to get sick. We have books with us, we have our cozy cabin, we are happy to catch up on rest and relaxation. We have dinner ready to warm up. It’s a great day.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open (Montana and Wyoming) Day 3

Going to the Sun Road

We’ve been in Glacier National Park before, but I have never been here when Going-to-the-Sun road has been open. We tend to travel in Spring, before school gets out and we want to be available over the summer to help with care of our grandchildren. The last time we were here, it was early June, and Going-to-the-Sun road wasn’t open, would not be open until June 20th. Some bicyclists has been caught in a Spring avalanche, and disaster crews were busy trying to find them, and rescue them before they perished. These mountains are nothing to fool with.

It’s a cloudy day, and AdventureMan is grumping at me about getting up so early. I want to be there for the morning light, and we are about 30 miles away from the entrance. We take a twisty-turny road, have a lovely sunrise, then get to the entrance. I had gone to a lot of trouble to get a reservation; Going-to-the-Sun road went reservation only for the summer, but when we get to the gate, there is no one there to look at our pass, so we drive along. There is no rain, but there are dramatic clouds. The scenery is spectacular. We have the road to ourselves, for the most part, up to Logan Pass.

We intended to hike some of the trails at Logan Pass, but at 0753 at Logan Pass, every parking lot is full, there isn’t a parking spot to be had. Just after the pass, which was the only crowded place we found on the entire drive, we stopped at a lookout on the other side. It was very cold, snow was in pockets where little sun reaches and the air had the sharp clean smell of pine trees. We did a short hike starting on a frosty, slick boardwalk to overlook a valley, then headed back. The smell of the fresh clean pine was intoxicating.

We head down toward Lake MacDonald, stopping where we can to walk and to take photos of scenery and waterfalls. It is a spectacular, memorable morning altogether, but we are freezing cold. Clothing that was adequate for the high elevation at the entrance is pathetically not suitable for the high elevation and the bone-chilling winds. We walk anyway. There is snow. It is beautiful.

When we finally get back down to the Lake MacDonald Road, once again, all the parking spots are taken. We love the lodge at Lake MacDonald and had thought to stop there for breakfast on our way to Kalispell, but we could see that would not be possible.

We love Kalispell, Montana, and one of our major plans was to hit the Kalispell Farmer’s Market and pick up some Flathead Cherry Juice, which we love drinking. We had also thought we would see if anyone brews a Flathead Cherry Juice liqueur, so we headed on towards Kalispell with the help of the Bossy Lady.

AdventureMan gets short tempered with me when I am navigating. Sometimes I don’t communicate clearly, sometimes not quickly enough. So for several years now, ever since I discovered Google Maps, I have been getting directions, and putting them on speaker phone. It works like a charm. AdventureMan gets SO annoyed, but not with me, with the Bossy Lady! She doesn’t take any of his annoyance seriously, she just carries on with aplomb. We can laugh about it.

The closer we get to the market, the quieter we get. It started sprinkling on the way to Kalispell, but as we enter Kalispell, it is pouring rain. We carry on to the market, and there are about ten hard-core vendors there, none of which are the Flathead Cherry Juice vendors. 

We visit a couple sports stores in the area, looking for a long sleeved “performance layer” or “basic layer” because AdventureMan just brought one, and it is COLD. We don’t find what he needs. 

We head into Kalispell to dry off and warm up, and find the Ceres Bakery, on Main Street, and it is just what we need. We have gorgeous, tasty pastries; I have a Mocha cafe and a brioche like ball that has cinnamon sugar on the top and a croissant like interior. AdventureMan has a Pain au Chocolat and a cup of hot chocolate. It is delightful, with a mouthwatering display of breads available in addition to the pastries.

The Bossy Lady takes us on some back roads to get us back to Highway 2, which will take us back to the East Glacier Park side. It is very rural, but also avoids all the traffic of the major roads. 

East Glacier Park has a glorious big timber lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, which unfortunately, is not serving meals but doing take out only. Meal options in East Glacier are limited, even the Mexican restaurant is closed until dinner. On our way in, AdventureMan sees a sign for the Isaak Walton Inn and asks me what it is. I tell him I am not entirely sure, but I know it has a good reputation and has something to do with railroads. We decide if they have a restaurant open, we will stop there for lunch. 

Black and White print over our table, loved the First Nation and Snow

The Izaak Walton Inn was an old railroad stop for visitors to the Glacier National Park, famous for it’s atmosphere and food. In this time of COVID, they were still serving meals, although the menu is more limited. 

We are happy to have a booth in an unpopulated part of the restaurant. Our meals are good, above average, not great. No photos, can’t even remember what we ate. As we finish, a large group with a guide comes in to take a large table right next to our booth, so we put our masks back on and exit as quickly and graciously as possible.

We are tired and still wet and cold when we get back to our cabin, but AdventureMan makes a wonderful discovery – the gas fireplace we have not been able to figure out how to turn on is operated by the thermostat on an opposite wall. Now we have a beautiful gas fire and a toasty cabin to warm up in.

For dinner, we go into Browning, on the Blackfeet Reservation, where there are two grocery stores and I find Ramen and AdventureMan finds Campbells Vegetable Soup, which suits us both just fine. The grocery store is clean and well organized, and there is a man at the door, masked, who takes our temperatures as we enter. The Blackfeet Nation is taking COVID very seriously. Did you know of all the ethnic groups, the First Nation peoples have the highest rate of vaccination in the country? We feel very safe staying in East Glacier Park. We have a microwave and refrigerator in the cabin, hot soup is the perfect ending to a chilly day.

Going into Browning

September 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out in the Great Wide Open: Montana and Wyoming Day 1

Our first major trip since the beginning of COVID had an ambiguous start. AdventureMan and I over prepare, we always do. So the day before we are scheduled to leave for Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, we are actually pretty relaxed. We are all packed – actually packed, and then re-evaluated when the weather suddenly turned from the high 90’s to much lower, and we scrambled to add some cold weather gear to the mix. We are enjoying some down time when AdventureMan calls from his office to mine – “Hey, we just got a letter from Viking you need to look at.”

AdventureMan is a big picture kind of guy. He gets right away that our trip in May 2022 is being cancelled. I capture the details – that we either apply the money we have paid in full to a future trip or we call immediately to tell them we want a full refund. This is the second time we have had this particular trip cancel and we look at each other and agree that two cancellations are enough.

There is an incentive to putting the money forward – a 10% reduction in the cost of the trip. We already have another trip booked with them, but for less money, so we wanted to keep it clean. We needed to call right away, because the deadline was during the middle of this trip which we are about to take, and our lack of internet connections in the remote locations we seek could prevent us from getting our refund. AdventureMan got right on it, the representative answered, encouraged us to book the trip again (we declined) and worked it out so that our refund will arrive shortly.

Crisis averted. Don’t you hate it when things happen at the last minute?

The following morning we were up at 0345 and Patrick, our taxi driver, arrived exactly on the dot of 4:15. For me, it was a scramble. Morning feeding of the two indoor cats and the one outdoor cat is my responsibility, plus getting dressed. I scrambled. I was finished just in time, we got to the airport, checked in and went through security. No problems, except I forgot I had my Fitbit on and had to be searched. 

One other problem. For this trip I had really tried to manage with a carry on bag, which preparing for two weeks is problematic. I had really thought things through, had clothes with multiple purposes, got it all in the one bag and my purse – and then they wouldn’t let me take the bag on board, they valet’ed it. I have a large handbag, large enough for my computer and meds and rental car paperwork, so all was well, but it was annoying to follow all the rules and then not to be able to take it with me. We call this a first world problem – in the greater scheme of things, it was small stuff. 

Our first flight was to Charlotte, and there was some passenger having a problem about wearing the masks over both mouth and nose, and about whether the female flight attendant had the authority to require full coverage. No problem, they had a big male flight safety monitor who explained his choices to him – cover, or get off the flight. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has had more than 4200 reports of unruly passengers since the beginning of 2021. More than 3000 of these reports were due to refusals to wear masks, in spite of clear guidance from every airline that this is a mandate. 

We were close to where the flight attendants were chatting during take-off, laughing that a man would refuse to believe a woman had the authority to instruct him to wear a mask. Welcome to 2021. 

In Charlotte, we had just enough time to stop at the Farmer’s Market and pick us sandwiches and chips for the next leg of the flight. There were huge lines at all the other places, for Biscuits and Eggs, for McDonalds, for Starbucks. The second flight also departed on time. We don’t take these blessings for granted.

We arrived in Bozeman on time, 50 degrees F. outside and raining. We were delighted. There have been forest fires sending waves of particulate matter towards Bozeman for weeks, and now the winds have shifted, and the rain has helped tamp down the pollution. Again, we feel blessed.

AdventureMan had to wait for his bag so I went to pick up the rental car. Things got weird. Not in a hard way, just in an unusual way. There was no one at my rental agency’s counter, but there was a sign to check in with another rental agency. There was no line, so I checked in. The guy offered me an upgrade for a pittance to a Rav4, a car we really like anyway. Then he handed me the keys and told me how to return it when we were done. 

“Wait!” I said. “Don’t we have to sign a rental contract and talk about filling the tank and stuff?”

“Our printer isn’t working,” he stated, and I didn’t believe him for a heartbeat. “I can send you an e-mail copy if you wish” and yes, I so wished. I had my own copy of the initial agreement, but it was for a different kind of car. I’m glad I had it with me because the entire two weeks we drove this rental car, I never received a copy of the new rental agreement. A couple hours after I returned the car, I received the updated rental agreement. 

But the car was a beautiful turquoise blue, and close enough to the cars we drive to be easy, even better than AdventureMan’s 2010 version. It was an easy drive to our hotel, the Spring Hill Inn, which had our room waiting for us, a large, serene and quiet room, close to everything. Then off to the nearby Walmart, our usual Bozeman outfitter, for what we call car foods, and insect repellant (which we never had to use) and other small items of convenience.

There is a lot of construction going on in Bozeman, and we are told by many we talk with that the problem is trying to find an affordable place to live in Bozeman. Outside our window, we can see new housing going up, and we can also see the solution the construction workers have found to deal with the housing affordability problem.

We parked downtown when we found a place that looked wonderful and had a smoker out front, but it turned out to be a fine food purveyor, not a restaurant. We asked her for a recommendation, and she said ‘You have to go to the Rocking R” so we did. The Rocking R is actually a bar, a great cowboy bar, and the restaurant is called Hail Mary. We both had elk burgers – hey, we’re in Bozeman – and they were delicious. I think mine was called something like the Outlaw, and my beer was a Maverick Mary; it tasted good and because I don’t drink much, half a beer and I was buzzed. I also had roasted shaved brussel sprouts to salve my conscience. We had a great time. We are happy just to be back in Bozeman. 

We had time to take a walk along the main street – woo hooo, lots of fun stores, a rug store for AdventureMan and a book store for me. 

We couldn’t ask for a better first day. No delays, no negative events. Hardest part of the day was trying to keep myself awake until 8 p.m.

September 12, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Financial Issues, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Restaurant, sunrise series, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Kids Eat Healthy in New Orleans

There are times when AdventureMan and I take a grown-ups trip to New Orleans, and at those times, we eat in restaurants where the food is too rich and we come back hating ourselves. On occasion, rich is tasty, wonderful and delicious and you can’t resist.

Fortunately for us, most of the time when we head for New Orleans we have our grandchildren with us, and we have to behave ourselves.

A good friend told us about The Parkview – a historic inn, perfect for us in so many ways. We buy an annual membership to the Audubon Zoo, which is almost next door. There is a really cool park for children just across the street. There is parking on the street, and cookies every day late in the afternoon. The St. Charles streetcar stops right in front of the hotel, going in both directions. The lobby is full of fascinating exotica – stuffed peacocks, antique furniture and countless clocks. Their brochure welcomes “well-behaved children” and our grandchildren take that to heart – they want to be welcome at this hotel!

We are not always adults who behave responsibly, but when we are entrusted with our grandchildren, we are on our best behavior.

We have been delighted to find that there are places in New Orleans which welcome children, treat them respectfully and offer some healthy options.

While we have (after some hilariously awkward situations) learned to avoid the French Quarter with children, we have found some work arounds that make it a more acceptable adventure.

Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria

301 N. Peters Street New Orleans, LA 70130

This is not a fancy place, not at all. This is a place where you order at the counter, and carry food to a condiments stand and then to your table. There are no tablecloths. It is full of French Quarter workers finishing their shift providing hospitality for New Orleans visitors, tired, hungry and knowing where to find a good meal at a reasonable price, and a glass or two or three of beer. Chips and salsa, tacos, burritos, beans and rice – the basics, done well. Our grandchildren can always find something or order, no one cares if something spills, it is a little noisy and chaotic – a great place to take kids, and enough on the edge of the French Quarter as not to be a problem.

Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, French Quarter

95 French Market Pl, New Orleans, LA 70116

There are several Louisiana Pizza Kitchens, and this is the one we really like. It has so much more than pizza, and it has raw brick walls, a fun vibe, and you can take the trolley from the end of Canal street all the way to the French Market Station and avoid a lot of the FQ tawdry experience. Our grandson ordered a calimari dish that knocked our socks off, and the desserts were fabulous. When you add it all up, it’s not a cheap meal but we had a refrigerator and the kids loved having pizza for breakfast, too.

So much for the French Quarter. We don’t spend a lot of time there with children.

Two Chicks Cafe

two locations:

901 Convention Center Boulevard

or

920 Gravier Street

You can see both Two Chicks Cafe’s on the map above. The one at the convention center, near the WWII Museum, has better parking. At the one on Gravier, you will probably have to pay to park in a lot or on the street, if you can find a place. It is handy from several of the hotels. The line forms early! They have unhealthy food, but they also have fresh juices, fruit, crepes, eggs in a variety of ways to your command; you can eat healthy if you wish. The kids find this place fascinating, and more than a little French.

La Madeleine, Carrolton

Just as St. Charles turns right into Carrolton, La Madeleine is on your right, just on the corner. There are other locations, one up in Metairie near Drago’s. It is a sort of French-ish cafe that also serves meals, cafeteria style ordering offering a large variety of salads, soups, chicken, salmon, small sandwiches, you can eat healthy. Once ordered, cooked meals are delivered to your table, salads and soups are prepared as you wait in line. Of course, we always ruin it by allowing the children to choose a French pastry for dessert, but eh! We are in New Orleans! One time my granddaughter went to wash her hands and didn’t come back; I found her speaking French along with the language tape playing in the restroom. Not fancy, but a very comfortable place with children.

Superior Seafood

4338 St. Charles Avenue

Our grandchildren love this place. So do their parents. So do we. Great food choices for grown-ups and for kids, some of them healthy. We started going there where we found their name on an article written for parents bringing children to NOLA; Superior Seafoods was a top listed restaurant for kindness to children. We have been there many times and the wait staff is unfailingly courteous and patient, and we are unfailingly grateful. Here, they learned to love grilled oysters. And profiterole. Huge fish sandwiches. And they don’t even realize they are learning a whole lot about how to behave in a restaurant which will, we hope, be handy for them later in life.

On the same map, above, you can also see Saba, on Magazine Street, La Boulangerie, also on Magazine, and Shaya. These are also options if your children are accepting of less familiar foods. Saba and Shaya are both “Mediterranian” or Israeli, offering Middle Eastern foods – rice, plain meats, flat bread, dips – most children can find something to eat while the grown-ups enjoy more sophisticated taste treats.

Drago’s Metairie: Home of the Charbroiled Oyster

While last, Drago’s is not least. Metairie is not that far if you have a car, literally minutes. The chargrilled oysters make this restaurant worth a trip. Children are everywhere, this is a huge restaurant, and very much a family gathering place. They have all the rich Southern and Cajun staples, and a few salads and gumbo soups and bisque, not particularly healthy choices. They do offer some non-fried fish dishes, entree’ salads and vegetable sides.

Creole Creamery

You’ve been so good! Creole Creamery is not a healthy option, but you can order a very small scoop, or you can order a sorbet, or you can tell yourself it is a reward for good behavior with all the healthy eating you have been doing 😉 The children will love this place – and so will you!

June 6, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Food, Geography / Maps, New Orleans, Restaurant, Travel | , | 1 Comment

Pilgrimage to St. George Island from Apalachicola

A very short drive from Apalachicola, but a whole different world. Cross two amazing bridges/causeways which are an adventure in themselves, so beautiful, so wonderfully engineered. We are always in awe of what it takes to connect dry land over a lot of water, and how really smart people can also figure out how to generate electricity, maintain the equipment, and bring it to far flung locations.

Moody sunrise

Headed out of Eastpoint toward St. Georges

Coming into St. Georges

We drove all through St. Georges; we stayed her once when our son was a student at FSU but it all looks entirely different now. Finally, we get to our favorite part, the beach at the far eastern end of the island. You can park and walk even further east, or west, or whatever you like. There are few people there on this sunny cool day, and it is a glorious day for a long walk.

Day tripper friendly

Shell heaven! Piles of shells everywhere!

Wind patterns on the sand

What is the beach without some surf?

Surf, sand, shells and sun; we are as happy as we can be. No masks on the beach, no need, few people and far apart. It is a glorious day.

More wind/sand patterns because I am a dork who cares about these things . . .

This was a great part of our get-away.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , | Leave a comment