Saturday, December 27, 2014

Game of Thrones

My new literary obsession--Game of Thrones (aka Song of Ice an Fire).  I am totally loving it!  The story is so detailed the world so complete and the characters are so well written they come to life as I am reading about them, good or evil.  The only thing I don't like about the series is that the view and treatment of woman isn't great.  I suppose that is because of the type of world it is, that doesn't mean that I have to like it.  I have read the first three books.  After each book, I watch the corresponding HBO season of the show on DVD.  I haven't been this excited about books since The Sookie Stackhouse books (and they ended terrible, hopefully this series will have a better conclusion).  I am waiting for the 4th book to come in at the library.  I hope it comes in before winter break at work is over while I still have time to immerse myself in a book!

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book One)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Montana Vacation - Day 10 - The Last Day

Day 10 - The Road Home

After a nice night sleeping in real beds, we were up and headed home at a reasonable time.  The kids, who are wonderful travelers, settled back for another day of driving.  Unfortunately, we timed our return trip home for a Sunday afternoon and we ran into traffic around the Wisconsin Dells.  Faced with the possibility of spending hours stuck in stop-and-go traffic, we decided to take the scenic route home through the Wisconsin countryside.  It was slow going (who knows if it was faster than the interstate), but it was beautiful; a fitting end to our vacation.  The country route also allowed us a stop in Monroe, Wisconsin home to the famous Baumgartner's.  One of Hubby's favorite places ever!

Baumgartner's is a cheese store and tavern, operating since 1931.  The area was settled by Swiss and German Immigrants and still is a strong cheese making area.  This is the only place in the United States where Limburger cheese is still produced, among many others.  It is famous for its cheese sandwiches--large slices of perfectly stored cheese served on brown bread with onion and mustard--delicious!  Also available is summer sausage and chili served with locally brewed beer.  
After enjoying our cheese sandwiches, we hit the road again, for the last leg of our journey.  We stopped and saw Hubby's sister and husband (Uncle Mister, as #1 daughter calls him) for a quick visit. 
It was a wonderful trip and we have lots of fond memories to last us until next year's vacation. 
Click on the slide!
Click on the slide!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Montana Vacation - Day 9

Day 9

We continued to drive throughout the night, by midmorning, we in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We decided to stop for the rest of the day/night and stay in a hotel!  We found a room and checked in, but we had several hours to kill before we could actually get into the room.  So we headed to Loring Park downtown for Belgium Brewing's Tour De Fat.  Hubby had heard of the festival and was excited to get the chance to go. 

Event Logo
It was a wacky time.  Environmentally friendly with a carnival atmosphere and, of course, beer!
We stayed for a few hours and then headed for our room for a much needed shower.  Hubby and son went for a swim in the pool while daughter and I read and showered.  We wanted to have one of Minneapolis' famous Juicy Lucy burgers, but the waits were way too long.  Hubby suggested we head to the Mall of America to eat.  We had a great dinner at Famous Dave's, but by now #1 son was almost insane.  He went into excitement overdrive at the splendor that was the Mall of America.  We hit the LEGO store, of course.  I counted myself lucky to get out of there after spending only $41.00.
Build your own Minifigures!

#1 decided he LOVED the Mall of America and wants to go back there for a vacation.  We all were exhausted after our long drive and busy day, so we headed back to the hotel to crash.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Montana Vacation Day 8

Day 8

It was a cold, windy night, but dry and we slept fairly well in the tent.  The kids reported sleeping well in the car also.  We were up and packed up and ready to hit the road by 8:30.  We were a bit sad to the leave the beautiful Glacier National Park, but it was time to go.  We packed in and waved good by.  Hubby's friend was leaving to go back to his home and we were, again, on our own.  We decided to take the more rural route 2 all the way from the park so we could follow the Dinosaur Trail.  It was a beautiful, rural road with idyllic, pastoral landscapes and infrequent traffic.  We stopped at The Depot Museum in Rudyard.  Many dinosaurs on display at the Museum of the Rockies have been found near this small community.  The museum has a fully articulated Gryposaurus found near by. 
Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT

In addition to the dinosaur display, the museum was a really cool time capsule of the town's history, with lots of donated memorabilia including farm implements, a school house, a settler's cottage, and an intact blacksmith shop found abandoned on a farm. 

Our second stop on the Dinosaur trail was at the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station in Malta.  There we saw several dinosaurs found near by and an active lab.  We were the only ones in the small museum and the worker spent a lot of time showing Trevor things at the museum and in the lab.  It was a really worthwhile stop.

Our beautiful day started to go south as we got into eastern Montana.  There we got considerably delayed behind a wide load so big and long it took TWO semitrailer trucks to pull it at the average of 35 mph it went.  After probably an hour of driving behind it at 35 mph, it finally stopped and let us and the other 15 cars go around it.  Then the campground we planned to stay at was full and so was our back-up campground.  After that, we decided to just keep on trucking east.  We drove most of the night stopping for breaks and to switch drivers briefly (Hubby is really great about doing most of the driving!).  We felt a bit like homeless people as we took our toothbrushes into the rest stop bathroom to brush our teeth, but we made the best of it, kept in good spirits, and got a lot of miles in.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Montana Vacation - Day 7

Day 7

Our second night sleeping in the tent at Glacier National Park was bear free (Thank God!), but was, again, wet.  I retightened the tent and laid everything out so it would dry.  We slept better, but still not great. 

Today, we decided to drive the "Going to the Sun Road."  From the National Parks website:  "One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park's wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana."  It was amazing.  We took our time, made many stops, and got lots of pictures.

It was COLD that day.  Highs probably only in the 50's and we did see 40's.

The guys hiked the Highline trail.  It was very cold and windy that day, so the kids and I declined the hike and boy were we glad we did.  The guys decided to hike for an hour--they would go 1/2 hour out and then turn around and come back, but after 1/2 hour it started raining/sleeting/freezing rain.  In addition to the nasty weather, the hike itself is treacherous, it is a narrow trail following the side of a mountain with shear drop offs on one side!  While we were waiting, we explored the Logan Pass visitor's center and relaxed in the car.

Yep, that's a snow bridge.  Snow in July!

More of the snow bridge and an icy mountain stream.

What a view!

The Weeping Wall.

Glacier National Park's famous bear grass.

After a day of beautiful views and scenic driving, we went to our campsite for our last night in the park.  The wind had picked up and was gusting to probably 40+mph, but we still managed a careful fire and sat outside.  The kids decided to sleep in the car and have a dry, warm night for a change.  They like to curl up in a big puppy pile together in the backseat.  I covered them with a sleeping bag and they were all set.  Troy and I slept in the tent and hoped for the best since the winds were gusting and the temperatures were in the low 40's. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Montana Vacation - Day 6

Day 6

We had a wet night in the tent.  Being in the mountains, it rains pretty much every night and as we discovered, our tent can't really handle it.  In the morning, I tightened up the fly and laid out our sleeping bags to dry, but we really need a tent made to handle a lot of rain. 
We drove to the Many Glacier area of the park.  We parked at the Many Glacier hotel, a beautiful structure build in a Swiss Chalet style, which opened in 1915.  We hiked around Swiftcurrent Lake.  It was an easy 3 mile hike.  It was a wonderful hike with lots of wildflowers and stunning views. 

Yes, this is living.  I could have sat here all day!
After our hike, the kids and I were hungry and tired.  We didn't sleep well and just needed to refuel and relax.  The guys, of course, were all set to go on a longer, more strenuous hike.  We parted ways.  The kids and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the hotel.  We ate lunch, read in lounge, checked out the gift shop (note to self--don't forget the stocking caps next time.  It gets COLD at night here.  I found a really cute, wool, Sherpa cap for Morgan.), and sat on the balcony and just enjoyed the view. 

After we met back up with the guys, we headed to our favorite, reservation taco stand for dinner.  After eating, Hubby's friend, again, went back to the camp site and the rest of us headed to the St. Mary's visitors center for an evening program. We watched members of the local Blackfeet Indian tribe sharing their culture, dancing, and singing.  It was amazing!  Hearing a recording or video of these events is NOTHING like seeing them in person.  The beat of the drum and the singing really speaks to you on a very basic, emotional level.  Add the beautiful costumes and amazing dancing and it was spectacular.  I didn't take any pictures, I didn't want to miss a moment of it, plus it seemed to me to be disrespectful to do so, but I found this picture on line.  This is similar to what a 6 year old boy wore when we did the chicken dance.  He was amazing!

Another day flew by.  It was late when we got back to the campsite, but not too late for a fire and s'mores.  Having food outside made the nervous, but we were very careful and cleaned everything up.  For #1 son, it just wouldn't be a camping event without them.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Montana Vacation Day 5

Day 5

Yea!  Glacier National Park!  We made it!
Some of our first views of the park.
It was pretty much a four hour drive from Helena to Glacier National Park, but the scenery was gorgeous so we didn't mind the drive.  GNP has many first-come-first-serve campgrounds and after scouting out the situation, we found the last two campsites at Cut Bank campground.  It is about 15 miles from the St. Mary's visitors center and then 5 miles down a dirt/rock road.  It was a beautiful, rustic site near a mountain stream. 

The road to our camp ground.
We set up camp and then headed to the nearest place for dinner.  There are lots of bears in GNP and as a rule, I do not have ANY food at the campsite.  All snacks and even water stay in the car.  Something as small as a food spill on the ground or your cloths could attract a bear to your campsite and I, for one, do not wish to be awakened by a hungry bear sniffing around! 
The area just to the East of GNP is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.  We constantly crossed in and out of the Reservation and the Park.  We ate at a taco stand just outside the St. Mary's visitor's center.  It was surprisingly good!

We hung out at the taco stand for a while, planning our next move and just relaxing!

After dinner, Hubby's Friend headed back to the campground, while Hubby, the kids, and me hung out and waited for dark so we could attend the stargazing program at the visitor's center. 
The night sky is spectacular at GNP!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Montana Day 4

Day 4

This was to be our last day in civilization before we left to explore Glacier National Park.  We decided to drive to Missoula so #1 Daughter could check out the University of Montana.  If we are near a University and have time, we always visit.  We drove on a road that ran along the continental divide.  This is the area where to the East water runs into the Atlantic ocean and to the West the Water runs into the Pacific ocean. 

A roadside spring.
Hubby and friend were itching for a hike, so after a few minutes of campus exploration, they took off for a Mt. Sentinel hike.  The common hike is up 800 feet up to a big "M" then the hike to the peak is another 1200 feet beyond that.  I think after that hike, Hubby was cured of wanting to hike up mountains for quite a while. 

Mt. Sentinel and the "M"
Meanwhile, the kids and I had a great time exploring the campus, eating at the student union, exploring downtown Missoula, and riding on a hand carved, wooden carousel. 
It is a truly beautiful campus!

The Student Union
Of course there are new books in that bag!

Before leaving Missoula, we stopped at Bayern Brewery, the only German, Bavarian style microbrewery in the Rocky Mountains for a beer and a brat. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Montana Day 3

 Day 3--Morning

We enjoyed a dry night sleeping inside.  After a short relaxing morning, we were off to experience a Gates of the Mountains boat tour.  The tour runs on Holter

lake 20 miles north of Helena between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  Lewis and Clark passes through the area and it was they who named the area Gates of the Rocky Mountains.  It was a really nice tour.  There were beautiful views and we even saw the local Bald Eagles.  We also saw the infamous "Mann Gulch" site of the wild fire that killed 13 smoke jumpers in 1949.

The Gates to the Rocky Mountains.


Mann Gulch

Just hanging out enjoying the view.

After the tour, it was off to lunch at one of Hubby's favorite restaurants--Buffalo Wild Wings.  We had a nice lunch and after drove around and saw a bit more of the Helena area. 

Day 3--Afternoon/Evening

I'm going to subtitle this as "The day my husband tried to kill me or The hike from Hell."  He really wanted me to hike up Mount Helena.  A local landmark and near by high peak.  He had been up once before with his friend and wanted to experience it with the family.  I was willing to try, but right away, I could tell I was in for a difficult time.  We hiked the 1906 Trail which is about 1.5 miles and climbs about 1,100 feet up.  I had to stop and catch my breath A LOT and at one point I didn't think I was going to make it.

The trail head. 

 This picture looks relatively flat, let me assure you, it was not!

About 1/2 way up resting in the "Devil's Kitchen"
It was a beautiful view from the top!

We took the Powerline trail down.  What took 1.5 miles to go up now took only .85 miles to go down the 1,100 feet.  It was steep and rocky and by the time I was finished my knees were screaming.  Ice helped and they were fine the next day.  I had such a difficult time that I didn't really get to enjoy the scenery, but it was a beautiful hike and view from the top. 

After my harrowing hike we were treated to Buffalo Wild Wings part duex!  Yes, Hubby and friend wanted to eat lunch and dinner at the same restaurant on the same day.  The kids and I were happy the staff was turned over by then!  The guys enjoyed a second helping of wings and beer!