Hello Big Sky

Hello Big Sky

(… Sorry for the delay in getting this up. Half of it didn’t save, so I was dragging my feet for rewriting.)

I’ll first off state that on this trip I think I tasted a drop of the midnight sun. (A teensy drop, and I may be hooked).

I headed to Montana for the Fourth of July.  A little business and pleasure, if you will.

A few months back, I was talking to a friend and mentor about long (… long) term goals. The actual goal, we’ll save for another time, but she said I should look at Livingston, MT. From her knowledge, it has a good arts community, and it is about an hour north of Yellowstone’s Gardiner entrance. Check and check.

So I sifted around the internet and found that there was an Arts Festival, applied and got in.

A lot of what I have been doing the last 2 months has been a total crap shoot. Sight unseen for these campsites, no idea what these little towns might have to offer with their arts fairs.

I started to look for a campsite in Livingston. National Forest, nope. Local sites, full. I did end up blindly submitting a request to a private campground, and had an enlightening conversation – this was a BIG weekend for the townsfolks of Livingston, as there’s a big rodeo that spans 3 days. The art fair coincides with the rodeo. Outlook good. This particular campground, Osen’s, happened to have a spot. It was too short for both the trailer and the truck, would I mind parking and walking? Well, heck no, if that means I have a spot with all this activity.

I started my trek up through Wyoming on Wednesday the 28th of June. Since this is the longest trip i’ve taken with Sylvia, I figured I would get used to driving the “rig” (ugh) a distance over a few days than really needed.

Driving. I have a love affair with driving.

Born from my parents, and vacation road trips to Vermont, or Florida (all the other families flew to Disney, not us), or the ultimate 3 week circuit that we made in 5th grade hitting 20 or so states, going out to Idaho via Yellowstone, dipping a toe into Washington, and across South Dakota, then down through Colorado and home.

Post high school, me behind the wheel driving back and forth to college in Boston back home to Maryland, then living in New Hampshire, the I-95 corridor became very familiar.

Pulling a trailer is totally different.

The first two days I think I got in about 4 hours in each stretch. Parked, proceeded to zone out with a movie; then zonked out.

As noted, I obviously stress myself out with driving this thing, and generally going forward is fine. But then you need gas, or to pull over for a potty break, or a boat inspection (which the kayak needed when I crossed the Montana boarder – NO INVASIVES!) Some gas stations aren’t big enough, or you just don’t know what is going to accommodate large turns.

And there is Wyoming, which is the large mass between Denver and Livingston. I drove through Wyoming recently to spend Christmas in Yellowstone. A mere 6 months ago seems like a lifetime. The drive from Denver northwest to Jackson isn’t that exciting, or impressive. Mostly: boring.

Little Big Horn.

The drive through Wyoming due north on I-25 isn’t as boring. Exciting, blow your hair back, maybe not, but I did enjoy the rolling hills of the prairie, and for the most part the Rockies stayed to my left. I also was able to drive through Little Big Horn. There wasn’t a parking space, so I couldn’t go in to the visitor center to hear a ranger talk (or get my passport stamp), but there was a 5 mile road through the battlegrounds which really was thought provoking. Wasi’chu. Despite it being the one of the last victories of Native Peoples to preserve their way of life, Indian Warriors were not memorialized until only recently.

My first stay in WY was in a KOA. I thought it was shit… a place to park for the night, and a long hot shower that wasn’t fed by quarters. A place for Kioko to actually be off leash. Which she really wasn’t interested in; she secured the perimeter of the fenced in dog run area, all was safe.  Too many mice. In comparison, that KOA location in Douglas was a five star resort next to where I stayed at my last night in WY (Casper, WY). More on that in a bit.

The second night was at Peter’s RV Park in Sheridan, WY. A whistle stop to pull in, and pull out 12 hours later. It was quiet, they backed up to land with cows and horses, a bit more bucolic, we had a nice walk in the grass. I zonked out again.

Then I realized that I was going to get to Livingston a day earlier than my reservation. Luckily the park I was going to had one opening. I won this round.

Lesson learned, I stayed up late at Peter’s and made campground bookings for most every night from here to September. Come September, I plan to get myself a permanent spot at an RV park, as I am signed up to teach a fall course, and most all of my shows will be in Denver. One less hassle. Am I happy about being in an RV park? No. But it’s the most sane thing.

While traveling, I can’t find my iPod. I didn’t “lose” it, but I remembering putting it somewhere I wouldn’t forget where it was. Damn it. So I have been scanning the channels. Came across this tidbit from a local WY radio station: There are more fireworks outlets in the state than Starbucks. We’re talking a huge land mass with a whopping 18 fireworks outlets, compared to 13 Starbucks. In fact, there are more fireworks places than there are McFrickinDonalds, weighing in at 17 locations. Hel-lo, (said A-la Mike Myers).

Montana/Wyoming boarder crossing.

Crossing the boarder form WY to MT, I had a bit of a moment. 440 Miles north of Denver, 2 months into this adventure, and alone. Not alone, woe is me, but “I did this all by myself,” alone.

It’s scary. Not “I’m scared for my person,” but, I’m scared to fuck up. (And as you know, I have.) Maybe not scary, but nerve wracking, anxiety ridden, what the hell am I doing? I may have mentioned elsewhere that I am working on digging deep in my personal life about the difference between “permission” and “validation” but have also realized that I have to unpack some stuff about forgiveness. In my life a lot of growing up revolved around cause and effect. Not much though about forgiveness and being human.

Luckily, this trip reinforced that I am OK, I got this, and it’s all going to be fine. Whatever. (Not that I need to back into another boulder, but shit happens.) Not only that, but I feel I have a better handle for what may happen after the spring of next year. [another post].

So. Montana. There’s a lot of oil refineries in Billings. Pass. Livingston is in a valley, the Paradise Valley. While the surrounding area was lovely, the Valley didn’t really do it for me. I need pine trees. I need the pines to wash over me.

With my early arrival, I was able to relax a little, make more magnets. Always magnets, sleep in, then set up the booth. I heard from the locals about the parade. And I drove through the rodeo grounds. I have never seen such a thing. There were trailers and trucks all parked catawampus, horses everywhere, what a sight. The parade happens on the first day of the rodeo and arts fair, at 3pm, but you are allowed to put out your chairs at 6am. A fella told me that by 6:20 all the shady spots were already taken. They are still upset that the rules changed and you’re not allowed to put your chairs out the night before.

The show was slow, to say the least, but I did end up making good contacts, and better plans for shows next year.

Pine Creek Campground

My favorite part was after packing up and returning to the campground, Mike the owner directed me to an awesome hike. My original plan was to pop down to Yellowstone and “dip my toe in,” but he said that I would be happier going down the road a little ways for a hike to the waterfalls at Pine Creek Campground  in the Gallatin National Forest. He was so right! It was a gorgeous hike, and helped to tucker Kioko out, as she is not a fan of fireworks or loud noises. She’d been getting a dose of valium as the locals had been shooting guns and launching fireworks each day beginning around 5pm.

Montana truly still is the wild west. People drive their ATVs down the streets, and anyone and their grandmother can shoot off fireworks. At dusk, which was 9:30, we headed back to camp to see another show that Mike gave me a heads up on. There’s a millionaire who throws a party on the 4th when he’s in town and has a professional pyrotechnics team set up. The general schedule was for them to go off at 10:30. Along the way back fireworks were going off all through the valley, it was lovely set off from the outlines of the mountains and clear sky. I did get back to see the professional fireworks, which were lovely, from the spot being launched up the mountain.

The next morning, I battened the hatches and rolled back to Wyoming. I was originally planning to stay in Buffalo, WY, but wanted to push it further so that Thursday’s driving day would be a little shorter. I was able to change my reservation at the Buffalo KOA to Casper’s KOA. Wow… what a difference between the two KOA’s I had stayed in. The Dillon location was a classy joint compared to Casper. Dillon had a cute dog run, a gazebo where I sat and got a few things accomplished, some cute touches, and a coffee service! You could pre-order coffee and it was ready at my designated time of 7:30! Casper was like a rock covered swath of land without any character. I was hoping to take a dip in the pool, but it was enclosed in a metal building and of course it was blazing hot. Hard pass.

All in all, it was a good trip with a few lessons learned about traveling and better idea of what I need to target for my shows. I promptly made an appointment with the Denver Public Library’s Bizboost research librarians to research a little more.

Next up, my first try at Boondocking.

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