July 30, 2009

Just Truckin'

I've not been blogging simply because there hasn't been much to tell. We've just been truckin'. We delivered in Great Falls, and then took a load from there to Billings. Loaded sulfur in Billings and took it to northern Iowa. Its used as fertilizer. And then we took a short load from southern Minnesota to just south of Minneapolis, and then drove 270 miles to Mentor, MN where we load sunflower seeds. That brings you up to date. We loaded a little while ago, and these sunflower seeds are California bound. We'll deliver Monday morning to Ceres, CA, somewhere between San Fran. and Sacramento.
Obviously its not going to take us four days to get to Ceres. So we'll stop at the house tonight and stay till Sunday morning. It will be nice to be home again. Malcolm still has some things to do on his truck before the new truck gets here, which should be in a couple weeks!
Also, Malcolm's youngest sister, Justine, just got back home from summer classes in Spain! She and Rachelle are coming to Billings tomorrow to ship some poodle puppies so we'll get to spend some time with them. I don't think we've seen Justine since....Christmas? She goes to boarding school in Denver, so she's not always home when we go to visit. She'll be a Senior this year! That's awesome. I can't wait to see her, and Rachelle too, and also to hear all about Spain. She was there for 6 weeks and had tons of adventures I'm sure!
Here's a few snap shots for you. It rained on our way to Great Falls last Sunday. It was really pretty. Unfortunately it didn't go down to Billings and our house, but I'm thankful for what the got up north. Actually they got about 4 inches and a lot of places sopping up extra water out of their buildings, so they got a little too much.

Paris and Carlie Jean learned how to get themselves under the covers a long time ago. They go back in the sleeper and burrow in and sleep. Ella, still the baby, hasn't figured it out yet, so she just sleeps on top of the covers and shivers, unless I go help her get under them.

I went back in the sleeper yesterday to get something and sat down next to Ella. She was so groggy from sleep. Of course Carlie Jean had to poke her head out and see if there was anything going on worth leaving her cozy nest. There wasn't apparently, because she never showed more than her head. That's kind of unusual for her. She is usually the first to come bounding out from beneath the covers. She must have been really enjoying her nap and the warmth.

July 28, 2009

The Wild Side

I'm sitting here in Billings and its barely 7:00 in the morning. We are at a grain elevator waiting our turn to deliver the winter wheat we brought down from Great Falls last night.

As I sat here checking email, I glanced up and noticed a bunny rabbit over by the dumpster. He's a big one! He's just checking things out this morning, hopping around the dumpster. Perhaps they discard grain into the dumpster, spilling some, and he comes every morning for breakfast. I don't know. But he's very busy exploring the area, and now he has just hopped off between two of the grain bins and I can no longer see him.

My visit with the bunny this morning reminds me of all the animals I've seen in Billings. And when I say "in" Billings, I mean in downtown among all the buildings, offices, and houses. Lets start on the wild side:
There was a groundhog that lived under a stack of wood next to Steve Nelson's parking lot. I used to watch him when we were switching trailers.
There are a number of multi-colored rabbits out by the WarBonnet Hotel. They must have been released, and stayed there. They are always out on the lawn nibbling grass.
One day driving down Grand Ave, we had to slow up for a flock of about 5 turkeys to cross the road.
And last summer there was a doe and her twin fawns that grazed on the shoulder of the interstate, which I realize isn't exactly "in" town, but it was more or less exactly that. She wasn't on the outskirts of town like most of them are, but grazing happy as you please right by the 27th street exit, which is the main downtown access from the interstate. (Sadly her fawns disappeared one by one and then she too was seen no more...I blame her for being so foolish as to graze there.)
Seems like there was something else that was odd for being downtown, but I can't think of it now.
And then of course there was the pig that went running past when we were getting our tires changed a few weeks ago, and I've seen people riding horses almost in the heart of the city.

Needless to say it's a little different here than in the Chattanooga, TN area where I grew up. Billings is the largest city in Montana, with a whopping population of around 89,900 (according to the 2000 census). I'm pretty sure they didn't count the turkey and deer that play downtown, but I think that's uncommon enough that perhaps they should be included.

July 26, 2009

Sunday Stills: Toys

I'm trying something new. I followed the link on a blog I check occasionally and discovered Sunday Stills. Every week a topic is posted and the challenge is to take a photograph that week that represents the topic. And from what I gather, it can be a literal or imaginative interpretation of the topic. I thought it would be fun. So I'm joining in for a spell to see how it goes.

So this weeks topic was "toys." Here's one of mine, and all of hers.

Meagan, this sounded like something you might like to do too!

July 24, 2009

The Heat Is On...

...but the AC is working!
Arriving at home Wednesday evening around 6:00, Malcolm went straight to work on the truck's AC in the sleeper. He always amazes me with what he can do, and if he doesn't know how to do something, it doesn't take him long to figure it out. He had the sleeper AC running by 8:30, and it wasn't just running, but blowing harder than before! That is a very good thing! At home on Thursday it was hot, in the mid-90's. We left around 2:00 and driving down through Wyoming it was 98 degrees. Even with the AC working so well, it was still stuffy in the back.
Thought you'd enjoy this. This grain elevator is located north of Idaho Falls. I've driven past it many times, but usually Malcolm is asleep, so there isn't any photography work going on. This time he was driving, so I finally get to share the view with you. In the winter, these fields were snow covered, and the mountains in the background were snow covered, and the picture has snow covered mountains in the background behind the horses....it was very picturesque. But its also neat in the summer. Ok, there are mountains behind it, but it was apparently hazy so they didn't show up.
Not into beer? How about a coke?

Not quite as picturesque as the Budweiser elevator, but still amusing. These are at the service station at the exit for the Bud place.

We delivered and loaded in Great Falls, MT. After numerous trips to Great Falls, I've begun to wonder, "what falls?" I see the Missouri River, but the surrounding area is fairly flat. I haven't taken the time to look it up online. Kept putting that off. But this time, as we drove across the northern bypass along the river, we pulled off at a "scenic view" and voila....falls.

Not the dam, but the little falls in front of it. Maybe they aren't exactly "great," but they were pretty. I'm not sure these are the falls that Great Falls was named for. I still need to look it up.

And this is looking down river as the Missouri River flows east.

We delivered this morning in Fort Collins and are now in Wiggins, CO loading organic corn, which happens to go back to Great Falls. We can't deliver till Monday morning, so we'll be stopping at the house for a couple of days, probably leaving Sunday evening. Great Falls is only about 3 hours from home. That will give us time to get some things done. We need to pick up the new flooring from the lumber store, and Malcolm's been wanting to clean up his shop, so maybe we'll work on that. Hopefully it will be a little cooler, so we won't die of heat stroke!

July 21, 2009

Hodgepodge and Heat

Its hot! Since leaving the house Saturday evening, we've been to Mattoon, IL to St. Louis, MO to Ogden, UT and now are loading in Pocatello, ID. We've covered a few miles, and half the country.

It seems our truck finally realized we were serious about getting rid of it and moving into a newer model, and so, with only a handful of weeks to go, its retaliating. Its decided to make life miserable for the duration of its life with us. Just before we got home, the AC in the sleeper started acting up. We had to beat on it to make it work. And yesterday evening it finally went out completely. We're beating a dead horse so to speak. It won't come on. And so we've got both our portable fans running, both windows opened in the back, and sleeping with out blankets. Its miserable. You try sleeping in a black fiberglass box in 95 degree heat. It doesn't work. We were going to limp along till we get the new truck, but now we're running by the house on Thursday and Malcolm's going to see if he can get the thing to run for us a few more weeks. Let's hope and pray. Neither of us slept worth a flip last night, and because its hot back there, its making the cab hot too, even with the AC cranked all the way up. Paris is enjoying it though! She loves the heat! She's back there right now sprawled out on the bed, soaking it all in.
OK, this is just a hodgepodge of things. First:
I meant to post this past spring when Meagan, my sister, sent me the picture. This is the quilt I made for her a couple years ago. It was my second quilt attempt.

She's got it hanging on the wall in her office/craft/everything room and it worked really well with her pretty yellow walls.

Second: Last week on our way to Clarkston, WA, before we drove along the Clearwater River, we spent the night at a rest area on the ID/MT line. I took pictures of these flowers, which were growing all over the mountains down there. Then I ended up getting all those pictures of the river, which overshadowed my flower pictures. So they are getting a late post. I don't know what they are, but they were really pretty. Little points of light nestled into the dark mountain forests.

And Last:

My girls. This was also taken last week, down in Idaho. Sisterly love...who can beat it? Ella hero worships Carlie Jean. She is her shadow. They love to play. I'd like to say that Jeanie loves Ella just as much, and I really think she does...most of the time. But then she gets looks on her face like this, at moments like this, and all I can think is...what goes around comes around. When Carlie was the baby, she tormented Paris with her "worship" style, which was beating up on fragile petite Paris. It was love, Carlie style, but Paris wasn't impressed. So Carlie loves Ella, but she gets tired of her, and I tell her she's just getting a taste of what she used to dish out.

July 19, 2009

Blind Your Ponies

I just finished this book a few days ago. It's one of those I picked up off the bookstore shelf as a random act, primarily because I liked the picture, the title, and then found that it was set in Montana. It was a very worthy impulse buy, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
Blind Your Ponies, by Stanley Gordon West, is a heartwarming story set in Willow Creek, MT. Its a broken down town, full of broken hearted people who have either come there or stayed there to hide from the world's pain and disappointments. The high school, possibly in its last year before being consolidated with a larger school district, is composed of a handful of students who, for the most part, seem to be falling into the town's pattern for failure. Even the school basketball team is on a 5 year loosing streak. But this year, things start to turn around. When the 6'11" foreign exchange student steps off the plane in Bozeman, people start to speculate. And when the team wins a game after more than 90 losses, the players, their coach, and the town's residents find a spark of hope for their chances in basketball and in life.
Its amazing what a spark can do. Given time to smolder, it can start a raging fire.
I can honestly say, this was a great book. Even if you don't get into the story, though I don't know how you couldn't, West's use of descriptive writing is wonderful to read. He even turns the basketball games into poetry, and that's coming from someone who has little to no interest in the sport and no concept of the rules. Read it for the story of the underdog getting on top, always a "feel good" story line, or read it for the authors beautiful use of language. Either way, you can't go wrong.

July 16, 2009

My Sister, Meagan

My sister, who inspired me to start my blog in the first place, has reopened her blog to the public. Go check it out. Her life is so much fun. She's so social and always has stories to tell of her adventures with her friends, her teaching job, coaching cheer, not to mention she dabbles in photography and cooking and is great at both.
Go check her out.
And then check out the post below about our really fun morning on the Clearwater River.

The Clearwater

Yesterday and Today we traveled US12 through Idaho, going west yesterday and then today going east. It's a beautiful drive either direction. US12 is a lightly traveled two lane that winds its way between mountains of the Bitteroot and Clearwater Mountains and is accompanied practically the entire route by the Clearwater River. It is roughly a 200 mile trip from Lolo, MT to Lewiston, ID, but plan on it taking you at least 5 hours, and that's without stopping for scenic views. Its a 50 mph zone almost the entire trip, and the sign at the beginning states "curvy roads next 196 miles." Its not exaggerating. But its a trip worth the time.

The river isn't a deep river, and you can see straight to the bottom with only a handful of exceptionally deep pools. There are just a handful of small towns once you head east before you hit wilderness. We stopped at the last one, Lowell, at a cafe for breakfast. We sat at a window table, and outside the window was a hummingbird feeder that was quite popular. I went back to the truck to get my camera. I just couldn't resist.
It was the best breakfast entertainment we've had in quite some time!

Too many sights to enjoy. Here is a shot of two I got of a mountain stream dumping into the river.

Then the highlight of the day. After so much beautiful scenery and glorious weather, one would think that would be the highlight. But Malcolm spotted a pullout area that had a staircase leading down to a little sandy beach by the river. He pulled off and we hiked down to the river, rolled up our pants legs, and went wading in the rather chilly water. It was cold, but refreshing. There were little minnows swimming, and butterflies landing on the rocks.

And still that wasn't exactly the highlight. When we got out of the truck to go wading, Malcolm decided to bring Carlie Jean along for some one-on-one time. To our surprise, Jeanie, who hates baths, plodded into the river right behind us. Well, she did hesitate a little when she felt the cold water on her toes, but then she rock hopped and waded her way to us.

She had fun splashing and snooping around. And then she invented her own game. She'd wade out to Malcolm and climb up on his rock.

Then try to leap from the rock to the shore.

She never quite made it, too much of a leap for her.
And after she splashed into the pool, she'd plunge to the shore, then race as fast as she could around the sandy beach, returning to start all over again...and again....and again! It was hilarious, and we had so much fun playing with her in the water.

July 13, 2009

Water Works

Our water works! I forgot to mention this little detail of our two weeks at home.

Having returned from Tennessee, and having been inspired as always by all of Mom's plants and her garden and everything she does, I was feeling all "green thumby"...though I think mine is half brown. Anyway we worked in the yard, which I mentioned, and it was so much fun, especially doing so together.

We are one of the few fortunates in the Shepherd area to have a well. Most people have cisterns and buy their water by the truck load. Though we are very grateful for our well, it is a slow producing one. Because it is a slow one, it is set up to pump into a cistern that stores the water for our use.

Though most of Shepherd lies down by the Yellowstone River, and has lots of irrigation, thanks to the Huntley Irrigation Project of 1907, our area is up in the "hills" and is dry as a bone. If you want green, you have to water profusely and frequently, as my neighbors on both sides do. They have beautiful lawns and gardens, though they are small yards and gardens.

Thursday Malcolm decided to give our two favorite, and only hardwood, trees some water to help them along. Its been terribly dry in our area so far. The trees loved it...they didn't say so out loud but I'm assuming it was the highlight of their week.

Thursday evening, while prowling around, I noticed that two of the lilac bushes in front looked kind of wilted. So Friday morning Malcolm moved the hoses and watered them as well. I turned it off after a while, but later he went out and moved the hoses to another bush or two and turned it back on.

And then he decided he needed to run to town, and I decided to ride along. We were gone a couple hours or so.

And when we got home, we went to sit on our porch and I went in to get a glass of ice water. I love our water. Nothing like cold clear Montana well water....at least ours is great. I know not all wells are great (my in-laws have very mineraly water), but we are blessed with some great tasting water. Except all I got this time was a faucet hissing air at me.

You can imagine my sinking heart and how I was overcome with a really bad feeling in my gut. It was at this point that Malcolm realized he'd forgotten to turn off the hoses.

Yep, upon closer inspection of cistern and well, Malcolm announced that we were out of water. We'd drained them dry! The pumps were shut off, and he was worried that they might have burned up because he couldn't get them to come back on. Talk about a sickening feeling. I don't have lots of well experience, but I've heard enough from my in -laws, who had a run of bad luck with theirs this spring, to know that well issues are pricey! And I'm standing there thinking about leaving in a day and a half, wanting to shower in the morning, thinking about at least two loads of laundry that I need wash and take with us, and looking at a sink full of dirty dishes that I had neglected earlier in the day. Great!

There's good and bad news in this story.

Good news: We found a well drilling guy who would answer his phone, and then actually come out on a Saturday. He looked things over and determined that all that was needed was to push the restart button on the pump (the one Malcolm couldn't locate) because the emergency shut off had cut it off when the well went dry.

Bad News: For pushing the button....he made $380.00.

Malcolm watched very carefully to make sure he knew where that button is for next time, should there ever be a next time, and lets hope there isn't!

At the Close of the Day

We've spent the day, and yesterday evening too, skirting around the edges of storms. Its just by pure luck, not deliberately going out of route, that we are missing them. Last night as I drove from Casper, WY through Scottsblufff, NE and on to Ogallala, NE I watched an incredible show of God's fire works on all horizons. The lightening was constant, illuminating the clouds, and yet it never stormed on us.

Today after loading under beautiful sunny skies, Malcolm went to bed, and I took off from eastern CO to Laramie, WY, narrowly escaping the clutches of two nasty, though beautiful storms. There was a narrow opening of blue sky between them, and the road turned into the opening just as I thought I was going to enter the deluge I'd been watching for miles.

And now we are in Wyoming. Malcolm is driving, and I'll be turning in soon. There are still storms all around, and if there is anything more beautiful than a horizon full of glorious storm clouds, its those storm clouds illuminated by a Wyoming sunset. If not for the blurred for ground of this picture, it would probably be one of my favorite and best to date!

July 12, 2009

In A Nut Shell

You should all know me well enough to know that I'm long winded enough that I'll never get two weeks of stuff written down in a nut shell. But I promise to try. After all, you have other things to do today than read my blog. Things like eat a meal or two, go to work, and possibly even get some sleep tonight. So I'll try to keep it in a nut shell.

I've been off the road since June 27th and its been great! I had three days before leaving for Tennessee and Malcolm and I had a blast. I went shopping one day, and then the other two days we played in our yard. We mowed, weeded, and set up bird feeders and my bird bath that had been in storage for months. And also hung up my American Flag I had purchased. I'd had a bee in my bonnet for weeks wanting to get a flag up, and it finally happened just in time for the 4th of July! We were highly impressed with how much a flag, birdbath, and feeder totally changed the look of our house! It was so plain in front before. Now it looks so much more inviting!

Wednesday I flew to Nashville, arriving early in the afternoon. My sister lives in Murfreesboro, south of Nashville, and my Mom had driven up so they were both there for a tearful welcome. I think we had all promised ourselves we wouldn't cry, but since it had been over a year....well we didn't quite manage to stay dry eyed.

We shopped briefly, then met Meagan's boyfriend, Chris, and went to the golf course. It was an unbelievably cool afternoon (I had prepared to be miserable having adjusted to living in mostly zero humidity) and wonderful, so we couldn't bare to not be outside. Chris and Meagan both golf.

I do not, but Meagan let me swing her club a time or two.
I took out a nice chunk of turf, and managed to hit the ball, but it didn't go anywhere near where it was supposed to, and if we'd been playing softball....well lets just say it was as close as you can get to a "foul ball" in golf. But I did make contact, so that was something I was proud of. Mostly Mom and I just had fun driving our golf cart, giggling, and completely distracting Meagan and Chris from their game.

After a dinner of pizza, and sitting up late visiting, we got a good night's sleep and then hit Franklin, TN to shop some more. I've always loved the little shops on the square and so we make it a point to go when we can. Actually I just have to say that shopping in Murfreesboro and Franklin is always so much fun! Probably its just because I'm doing it with Mom and Meagan, but they do have some great stores, and after my shopping in Montana experiences (and I don't mean to criticize Montana here, but its seriously lacking for shopping when you compare it to Nashville) I had a hard time restraining myself and being frugal.

Thursday night it was off to Ooltewah and "home." Dinner at my Dad's restaurant, Couch's BBQ. I didn't get a picture, but if you get to the Chattanooga area, its worth the little drive to Ooltewah to eat there! Email me for directions if you need them! Its been in our family since 1946 and one of my favorite places to eat, not just because I'm partial to it for obvious reasons, but because its that good!

Friday I met my friend Angela for breakfast and got to meet her little girl Rachel finally. She's almost a year old and I'd not introduced myself to her yet. What a doll! Check out Angela's blog here for a look at this precious family and their Life in Northern Kentucky.

Afterwards, I met Mom and Meagan for an errand running trip, and then we went to Ringgold, GA, just across the border from Chattanooga, and met my sister-in-law (also named Sarah) and niece, Bentlee, for tea. Nothing like a ladies tea party....always so much fun!

Chris and his daughter, Lily, arrived in Ooltewah Friday evening just in time for dinner, again at Couch's BBQ of course. I had to stock up on it! Then we all went home and the little girls played in the pool while we visited and watched them play.
These two silly girls are both 5, just 6 months apart, and hit it off as great friends the first time they met. This visit, they spontaneously nick named each other "Lil" and "Bent," and the names stuck.

Saturday, the 4th of July! What a great day! I only wish there was more done to emphasize why we celebrate the 4th. Its turned into a party day, but so little attention is given to why we even get to party! So....Happy Birthday America...just a few days late. I visited with my grandparents that morning, then we hung out at the pool ALL day long. I got burned of course. These poor legs haven't seen much of the sun since moving to the Big Sky country! But...it was worth it! That afternoon family and friends started trickling in. I got to see just about everyone without having to travel from place to place. It was great. Dad grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. My uncle fried fish he and Dad had caught on a fishing trip, and there was SO much food! Well it wouldn't be a southern get together if there wasn't enough food to make everyone sick! And then we topped it all off with three flavors of home made ice cream not to mention several pies, etc, etc! There was fishing, horse shoe throwing, bad mitten, swimming, visiting, laughing, and then fireworks! Dad had stocked up, and then my cousin and his friend came from Oklahoma City with a trunk full! We had quite a show in our own yard! It was great!

I thought the two princesses needed glow in the dark bracelets and sparkly 4th of July tierras for the special event. Not the most flattering picture of me...sunburned and all....but the girls were so cute, I decided to post it anyway.

Sunday we relaxed and visited. My brother and his wife stayed till afternoon then had to go to a pool party. Meagan, Chris and Lily headed back to Murfreesboro that evening, and Mom, Dad, and I cleaned up a little and then kicked back some more.

Monday Mom and I headed north to Murfreesboro where we met Meagan for lunch and did a little more shopping. Then it was off to the airport and back to Montana where I arrived at 10:30 at night, tired, but fulfilled and happy to be home, wishing that everyone had come with me!

While I was partying in TN, Malcolm was in Baker with his parents and sister. They had their own celebration at some friends house and then went to Buffalo, SD for the fireworks out at the lake. The mares have started foaling, so Malcolm took a few pictures for me so I could see the new babies.

Since Monday we've been doing more yard work. Its been so fun. And for an anniversary gift to each other we bought some porch furniture. It arrived Friday and we've spent every spare moment out there sitting. Its great!

Back to work this morning. We left a couple hours ago, and are loading in Billings. How convenient! We're delivering in Nebraska, near Kearney, in the morning.

It was a great two week celebration. I so much enjoyed the special time with my family, and it was so hard to leave, even knowing I was coming home to Malcolm and the girls. My heart continues to be torn in two directions. When I left Nashville I was convinced that we needed to move back. But as soon as I landed in Billings and walked out into the cool sage infused wind, I was overcome with love for this place too! So the internal war wages on...how to choose one over the other!

Four weeks out, and then we have to come home mid-August to pick up the new truck! That will be exciting. And then we will be coming back in a few more weeks because my parents are coming to visit the first week of October! I am really really pumped about that! Can't wait to share Montana with them!

Obviously this was one heck of a nut shell! I tend to like the larger nut shells...hope you don't mind!

July 1, 2009

Catching Up

Sorry for now posting. We got home Saturday night and I had intended to blog from home, but then didnt' have internet signal.
Anyway, I'm not in Murfreesboro, TN at my sister's. I'll be here through the 6th, and then home again for a couple of days.
So a little blogging break....please don't think I quit blogging. Just check back in a few days.
Till then....Happy Fourth!