Friday, August 31, 2007

Bigfork, Montana

Flowers in Bigfork, MT.
Kim is at the bottom right of the pic.
A cute bear statue.
Me winning the annual Bigfork bear wrestling championship. OK, it is a statue. That's as close as I'll get to wrestling one of these things.
Cool license plate.

We spent the day shopping in Bigfork, MT and other than our meal, didn’t buy a thing. Bigfork is a nice little town that isn’t trying to be a big town. It is somewhat like Shipshewana with all its shops, yet maintains its dignity and isn’t too commercialized. There are lots of art and artist shops with paintings, sculptures, carvings and some very pretty home decorating shops. Mary Garber would like J. Moore Galleries. It has some really beautiful pieces for home decorating. A $150,000.00 home in northern Indiana brings about 350 – 400 thousand here. The big reason is the climate. Chuck Garber said there are areas in Montana that are great to live in and areas that are just miserable due to the weather. We met a lady today from West Virginia that moved here a year ago and says she likes the mountains and the weather. She said the winters in Bigfork are about the same as West Virginia. This is a surprise to me. I always thought Montana would be a miserable place in the winter but not so. There are some areas here on the west side of the state that are tucked between the mountains that have a nice climate all year. Montana only has one telephone area code (406) for the whole state.

Huckleberries (or ‘hucks’ as the locals call them) are a big thing here. We stopped and got some jam, cider, milkshakes and several other things made from them. They are like blackberries to me. Anyway, they are good. We also have an elk farm half a mile down the road and we sometimes see them out by the road when we pass by. We signed up for a helicopter ride over Glacier national Park and will go when the guy calls and has two others to share the ride and expense with us. I think the tourist season is winding down fast here. The smoke that is present in the mountains from the fires doesn’t help tourism any. The fires are about out but they still put off a lot of smoke.

Pickup trucks sold in Montana must come with one or two big dogs in the back (or front). These people really like their dogs!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Montana - A Great Place to Be

You just don't find signs like this at home.

There are 47 U.S. cities more populated than the state of Montana (just under one million). The speed limits here are intriguing. You can be on a two lane highway with a 70 MPH speed limit. You might go through a town and have to slow only to 55. The people are friendly and common. Most people will look at you and say hello.

Today we went into Glacier National Park from the west. We took our binoculars and stopped at many of the pull-offs and just took some time to scour the mountains. We also stopped to check out a helicopter ride over Glacier national Park. We have tentatively set it up for Friday morning.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Glacier National Park - A Day Off from Doing Nothing

Kim reading in our hammock. We brought it in the trailer and it feels good. Picture me in the chair beside her on my computer with my legs on the hammock.
Glacier National Park
Beautiful waterfalls at the park
"Heaven's Peak"
Cows on the open range along the road. This was cool.
You may notice a few new things in our blog. After some prompting by my good friend Keith Chapman we now have a map of our journeys on a tab at the right. Also, I made it easy for you to click on a comment tab at the bottom of each post to comment.

Traveling is tiring and at the altitudes we've been at lately, we took today off to veg out and just rest. Kim is reading a book by our good friend, Joe Goeglein and I’m working on the blog between naps. Yesterday was a big day in Glacier National Park. We drove the Miata and saw some very beautiful scenery. Once again, the pictures just don’t do it justice. We hiked on the Sun Rift Gorge and Bearing Falls trails. They were pretty but the water levels are down so the falls are somewhat diminished or not flowing at all.

At the campground we are staying at I spoke with a local man last night and he was talking about how people don’t understand the danger of wild animals. He said one guy wanted to get a picture standing by a wild bison and it was lying down, so he went up to it and grabbed it by the horns and shook it. Not a good move as bison can run 35 MPH and we can only run 15. He said another guy walked up to a grizzly bear with his video camera and tripod. Not smart. Yet another guy told his small child to walk over beside a bull moose so he could get his picture with it.

On the brighter side, he said David Letterman has a home out here in Montana and the locals don’t bother him. He said people just don’t care. To show his appreciation, David hired Willie Nelson to play at their county fair and gave away 3500 free tickets.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fire and Water

Fire burned area.
"Incident Base"
Helecopter Base
Sideroll irrigations

There are lots of fires going on here in the West due to the lack of rain. Chuck and Mary Garber said it sounds like a train coming when the fires come down over the mountain. They said the trees “explode” because of the heat. This sounds scary. I have read that when a fire gets large enough, it takes on its own identity. Things just explode into flames because of the heat. This is called “firestorm”. I think in house fires – something like 1300 degrees causes many things to catch on fire just because of the heat. I think tissue paper is around 300 degrees. People used to think of fires as catastrophic to the forest. Now they are beginning to realize it is a process of nature. In Yellowstone, a naturally caused fire is now allowed to burn out on its own. There are still times when the fire should be put out. Every year there are fires that need to be fought. The “Incident Bases” as they are called are somber to pass by (see picture). There seem to be general incident bases and then the air bases where the helicopters fly out of. We also saw two very large planes scoop up the water on the go to take and apply where needed. I’ve been told that the “tree huggers” (conservationist beyond reason) fight any logging in the mountains and have succeeded in some areas to do so. Consequently when a fire does occur it is fueled by wood that wouldn’t be there if it were logged. Ironic, isn’t it. It seems wasteful to me that rather than log the land and use the timber, they wait for a fire to ultimately waste it. This is new and interesting to us.
There are many irrigation systems here in MT. Without them the grass is brown. It is interesting and very pretty to round a bend of a mountain from brown plants to a lush green valley – always irrigated. The water is regulated and divided by an extensive canal system. It is interesting to see. Mostly the ranchers use the sideroll irrigations (pictured above) due to lower purchasing cost and flexibility. There are many irregular shaped fields because of the mountains and rivers and the farmer simply disconnects unneeded lengths when an obstacle presents itself. There are some center pivots, but not many. Farmers say flood irrigation is a thing of the past.

They Call the Thing Rodeo

Kim outside as we were grilling Buffalo Steaks for dinner at Polson, MT. Yep, they were good!
This is the "Bull Thing" (name of the event) in Eureka, MT
A couple of demonstrations on how NOT to leave a bull. The Bullfighters (look like clowns) were really gutsy and saved several cowboys from harm. And I think I have a tough time getting health insurance.

Hang on man!
Last night (Sat.) we attended the “Bull Thing” as it is called in Eureka, MT. It is the annual bull ride at the country fair. It is the largest bull ride in Montana. It was good in that all they had was bull riding. It started at 7 in the evening and ended around 11. I got some good pics. Today when I got on my blogger they said they had added video. I wish I’d known that and I would have done some digital video at the rodeo. They had 30 tough young guys and a lot of good bulls. Every guy rode twice then the ten with the highest score rode for the championship. It was a great night. They also have a session of “Bull Poker” where four of the dumbest guys in Montana sit at a card table playing cards while they let a bull out into the ring and the last guy sitting on the chair wins. They played it differently last night and made a big circle with lime (about 25’ in diameter) and the last guy still in the circle wins.
The clown had a lot of witty things to say, such as: “There were two gals with false eyelashes and fingernails, dyed hair and they were talking about how there are no “real men” left. He also commented on a bull rider wearing a helmet. He said it is a “device designed to protect the brain of a man that thinks it’s OK to ride a Brahma bull”. We had a great time and moved to West Glacier today and plan to be here 2 weeks. According to Tammy Moser, my cousin Jim was chased by a bear here while hiking. I guess I’ll have to send Kim down the trails ahead of me.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Polson, MT

We stopped the night at a KOA in Polson, MT and parked in front of us was Doug Smith. He was a pro bull rider for 14 years and had lots of good things to say - such as, "Riding bull is like doing the jitterbug with a big lady. If you get out of rythem you're gonna get hurt." He is headed to Eureka, MT today to judge a BIG bullride tonight. It is just 5 miles from Canada. He said there will be 35 riders and they will all ride at least twice. We decided to go. It should be fun. We'll let you know more tomorrow. Weather has been great - 80's during the day and 50's at night. Good sleeping weather.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hamilton, MT

Yesterday we spent the day with Chuck and Mary Garber and their two daughters Kristin and Laurie. Chuck built our home in Goshen in 1993. I rode around with Chuck in his truck and ran errands and Kim spent time with Mary at their home and in town. On the way to their home Chuck stopped by a farmer friend and introduced me. His name is Bob and he had a bale loading truck. Bob was headed to the field and Chuck and I followed him to watch it work. He can load the unit in 6 minutes. It is quite an interesting piece of engineering. It was nice to talk with Bob. Being a farmer, we just connect and talk about things that are of interest to us both.
Chuck and Mary own Garber Construction and placed their personal home in the Parade of Homes last weekend. They won 8 of 9 awards. We went to their home to visit and eat with them last night. It has just been so nice to spend time with them. Their daughters just sit around and talk and they remind us of being with our kids. It made me miss Ben, Hannah and Silas. The Garber’s home is just so beautiful. I should have taken some pictures for you. Chuck and Mary just pay attention to detail. They have lived here 11 years and had a slow start for a few years and now have enjoyed a large measure of success. They are strong Christians and have been very encouraging to be with.
Tomorrow we leave for Glacier National Park. Tammy Moser emailed and said her and Tom were there last year. She gave us some recommendations of things to see and we appreciate that. We miss them. They have been good friends.
Something interesting happened yesterday. While in the hay field in Montana with Chuck Garber, his son Matt called from the Goshen, IN area and said that Doug Moore and Vincy of WFRN Radio in Elkhart were talking about Kim and I and our travels on the radio a few days ago. Technology is amazing. I am in the middle of a hayfield in Montana talking with Chuck’s son and learning that I was on the radio. Interesting. Doug has become a very close friend and is a real brother in Christ. Sometimes when I see or hear a Christian on the TV or radio I wonder if they are authentic. Let me tell you that Doug is just that. I miss being with him. We met weekly for over a year for discipling. Speaking of technology, I am listening to Doug on WFRN on my computer via Internet while I am writing this. Vincy had a baby girl named Zaiah this AM. Congratulations Vincy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sawtooth Mountains and the Garbers

Chuck and Mary Garber and a huge desert they ordered "for Kim". The three of them shared it.
The beautiful river in the Sawtooth Mountains. We traveled beside this for a day and a half.

We spent two days traveling from Arco, ID to Hamilton, MT. The mountains were beautiful and pictures just don’t do them justice. Most of the drive we paralleled a beautiful river. I’ve never fished but it looks like a lot of fun and a great hobby. We crossed the 45th parallel which is halfway between the equator and the North Pole. We passed a creek named “Up the Creek Creek”. Here in Hamilton we met with Chuck and Mary Garber. Chuck built our home in Indiana 14 years ago. We went out to eat and had a great time. They have invited us to their home to eat tonight. We will be here three nights and then move on to Glacier National Park. We hope to spend some time there.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dust Storms in Idaho

White potato building and the sod potato building on the right. The sod buildings are hard to see. They just have steel ends but other than that they are camoflaged with the plains.
See the dirt on the road? It is blowing like waves of snow.
Billings MT and Idaho seem to allow ATVs on the road. We were at a stoplight in Billings and an ATV pulled up beside us. Our son Ben would love it! Here's a picture of some parked in the town of West Yellowstone. This was very common.
Here's a little electric cart we bought and I don't think I told you about it. It's called a Cricket. It goes 12 MPH, travels 15 miles before needing recharged and charges in 8 hours. We use it in large campgrounds to meet people and also could have driven it around town in some places. It fits in the side door of the trailer nicely.
Today we traveled from West Yellowstone MT to Arco, ID. About 70 miles west of Arco we started to see dust in the air ahead and in about 20 miles we ran into the worst dust storm we’ve ever seen. The dirt was actually blowing across the road like snow. We slowed to 30 MPH as visibility was only a few hundred feet at the worst point. At the Arco campground the owner said 5000 acres had burned recently and that is what allowed the dust to get started blowing. We have been parked here at the “Landing Zone” campground for a few hours with winds 25 gusting to 45. At least the air is 95% cleaner than when we were traveling. Visibility here is a mile or so. We were going to go to the Craters of the Moon National Monument but the campground owner said if it is blowing dust here; it will be blowing rocks there. Traveling does make one tired so we took a nap and we are eating in tonight. Tomorrow we plan on driving west then north through the Sawtooth Mountain area. We have a campground reserved for tomorrow night then plan to travel north into Montana to Corvallis to see Chuck and Mary Garber. Chuck built our home in Indiana 14years ago and then moved to Montana to get away from us but we have tracked him down. Actually I had never met Chuck till we built and I wasn’t working then and helped build the home. I really enjoyed getting to know him and his crew. Kim made lots of cookies and brownies and fattened them up. It will be good to see them again.

Beartooth Pass - Yellowstone

Kim got upset that I was posting all pictures of her. Here's a shot of me so you know I'm still on the trip with her.

Snow on the mountains in August. The literature said it never leaves.
Saturday we traveled from Billings, MT to West Yellowstone, MT. We spent most of the day in Wyoming though in the Yellowstone Park. We took what Charles Kuralt calls the most beautiful road in America – Beartooth Pass. It is truly beautiful road to travel. Pictures just don’t do justice to the beauty there. Beartooth Pass is Highway 212 south of Red Lodge MT. There are sections on the map that look pretty difficult to maneuver. The turns are worse than they look when you are driving a 40’ motorhome pulling a 20’ trailer and the whole rig stretches 65’. It was tight, but we made it OK. There are a lot of hairpin turns and there just isn’t room for our rig and a car. We looked in all the directories before we set out and there were no cautions about rig length. Anyway we made it fine and the campground office workers were amazed we did it in our rig. I guess it doesn’t hurt to be a farm kid who grew up running machinery. We saw a lot of Bison again today and had to stop several times for the herds to cross the road. I would estimate we saw at least 500 bison today. They are a magnificent animal weighing some 2000 pounds and when they snort it gets your attention. It is like a low pitched snort and growl put together.
We were above the snow line and the directory said to dress warm as it could snow any month at that at that altitude. We crested the mountains at 10,947 feet. There were lots of motorcycles and the riders were all bundled up. Some even had full faced ski masks with just a small opening to see out. It brought back memories of our traveling by cycle days. We traveled with our front vent windows open to let the fresh air in and so we could hear the water dashing the rocks in the streams. It is amazing how many miles we traveled beside streams that were clear and flowing rapidly. It was good to stop and get out a lot. This trip is so different than our other “vacations” because we aren’t ever in a hurry. We talk to other travelers who are hurrying through their trip to get home and we realize we used to do that. We even stopped at one scenic outlook and took a one hour nap and then I woke up and made a root beer float. Yep, we like the motorhome.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Here are a few more pics of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. These pics are of our hike. We went to a cowboy museum this evening. One of the most interesting and saddest things was how we destroyed the buffalo to defeat the Native Americans. The railroads gave the white men a way to get the pelts back east and from there they could be shipped to Europe.
The American Indians needed the buffalo to sustain life. They used all of the buffalo and nothing was wasted. They only killed what they needed and there were much more buffalo that they could use. Congressman James Throckmorton from Texas stated, “It would be a great step forward in the civilization of the Indians and the preservation of peace on the border if there was not a buffalo in existence.” The destruction of the buffalo had its desired effect. In three years alone, buffalo hunters killed between 4 and 5 million buffalo. Many were killed and not even used for the skin. Native people of the plains were moved to reservations or reserves. In some cases they were forced to move to avoid starvation. Their primary food source, the buffalo was no longer in existence. By 1883, only 300 buffalo in North America and Canada survived the slaughter. One general believed that the buffalo hunters “did more to defeat the Indian nations in a few years than soldiers did in 50.”

Medora, ND – Roosevelt National Park

The steaks on a pitchfork at the Medora Musical
Here's our rig at the campground in Medora

Raw steaks to be cooked on the pitchforks

Medora Musical
Prairie Dogs

We arrived in Medora Wednesday and went to the musical. The Medora Musical is ND’s #1 attraction drawing over 100,000 people each year. The show features a good band and a country, patriotic and gospel segment. The singers are talented and the show is pretty good. The show is built around Theodore Roosevelt because he lived in the area before he became president and claims that the time spent here prepared him for the presidency and also inspired him to start the National Parks system. He started land conservation here in the states.
Today we went to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park encompasses 70,477 acres. We saw about 100 bison and a lot of prairie dogs. The prairie dogs have “towns” that are just feet from the road. We stopped and took a lot of time and just watched them. I read one time that people at the zoo spend only 20 seconds looking at each exhibit. This is the first time I had nowhere to go except back to the RV. We really took our time and enjoyed the park. We hiked and had a picnic on a cliff above a river where bison were sunbathing just below us. The badlands are just too beautiful to explain. We bought a national parks yearly pass. It allows us into any national parks in the country.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hannah has been with us at Bismarck, ND since Saturday evening. It has been good to see her and hear about her trip to Uganda. We have just been spending a lot of time together. Last night we went to Applebee’s and then to see the movie Ratatouille. In a bit we will go and see “Underdog” in the theatre. Kim and I saw it and it was funny so we are taking Hannah. We take Hannah back to the airport tonight (Tues) and then leave tomorrow and stop in Medora ND to see the Medora Musical.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Going to the fields with Holland Harvesting

Ben and me with "Little Hoss", one of Ben's favorite guys the Christian Motorcyclists minister to.
Sue and Rob Holland, owners of Holland Harvesting and really, really nice people.
Three combines dumping at once. The elevator was slow so it slowed things a bit in the field too.
Thys and his grain cart.

Supper Time. Sue brings a welcome hot meal in the evening. the workers are very appreciative of the evening meal. They all speak highly of Rob and Sue.

Today is our son Ben’s 24th birthday. I miss him a lot. It brings back memories of being in the delivery room with Kim when he was born. What a wonderful experience! Happy Birthday Ben!
When I left Indiana, I never thought I’d get to spend some time with the guys on the wheat harvest. Yesterday I went out and rode with several of the truckers and Rob in the combine, all with the Holland Harvesting group. I also spent some time at the elevator waiting for a driver to pick me up and take me to the field. It was very enjoyable. Here’s some statistics I picked up from Rob. They hope to harvest 2 million bushels of grain in six months. Their combines have 36 foot platforms that are made in Canada. Some of their other header attachments stay with the farmers in certain areas that need them. The platforms float and have a lot of design and engineering. They also fold to go down the road sideways on a few minutes. Rob’s wife Sue has a degree in agronomy. Their grain carts hold 1100 bushels – more than enough to fill a semi. They have 7 combines, 2 grain carts with tractors, 2 maintenance trucks, several housing trailers and a cook trailer and I don’t even know what else. I’m sure they have several picks and the trailers that hold the tractor and grain cart hooked up. The longest Thys (Tise) from Holland, who runs one of the grain carts said he drove the tractor 185 miles without trailering once. He said it took 9.5 hours. He has a scale on the cart and logs how much is harvested and also can load a truck legally (or illegally) using the scale. I rode with Thys in the grain cart, “Patty” from Ireland and BJ from Australia in semis and Rob in the combine. It takes some concentration to understand Patty, but I love to hear him talk. Patty said Rob has trouble understanding him on the radios. Patty also said that the first time he ever drove on the right side of the road is when he took his CDL license test. Sue said some of the guys who work for them and then go back to their countries where they drive on the left say it is harder to adjust back to left than it was to adjust to right hand driving. When I left for the day, BJ (Australia), I shook his hand and thanked him. He said, “No worries”. It made me thing of Crocodile Dundee. He always said that. It was a truly good day.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Holland Harvesting

Holland Harvesting
From left to right Benjamin “BJ” Prosser (Australia), Travis McFadden (Canada), Oliver Smith (England), Henry Goose (England) Andrew “Patty” Armstrong (Ireland), Jeremy Opdahl (Minnesota), Thys Roost (Holland) and Nathan Hill (Australia)
Heading out to the fields
One of their two service trucks

We got to Swensen’s RV in Minot, ND this AM and there are several custom harvesting crews parked here in this campground. They were sitting around waiting for the heavy dew from the morning fog to leave the crops and so we walked over and spoke with them. The crew we met is from Holland Harvesting owned by Rob and Sue Holland (see their web page at They had some interesting facts (if I got them right). They have 7 trucks and 7 combines. They can harvest 1000 acres of wheat in a good day. They buy new combines each year and the second combine they buy next year will be their 100th combine. Rob’s wife Sue travels with them and cooks (and I suspect she does a lot of the things no one notices but need to be done to keep this show on the road). Everyone we talked to were so nice. The guys were polite and interesting to talk to. I told them I would treat them to Root Beer Floats and this may require a trip to the grocery store.