We’ve always centered our lives together around the natural world and doing things in it. For living, travel, exercise, for solitude, for company. It gives us the biggest buzz. Now that we’re over a half a century old and have a good chunk of time to look back on, we realize that the highlights of doing most of the things we love to do outside or under water have actually been the people we’ve done those things with. They make our life rich & sweet. And the memories we have of all those times crack us up when we think of them.
We’ve been in Kalispell Montana for the 4th of July weekend. How did we get here?! Well, after we left Bend, OR, we made our way toward Mary’s via the John Day Fossil Beds national monument in eastern Oregon. We visited last Fall but we wanted Ivan to see it and it was on the way. His mom was a paleontologist and he did his share of digging for fossils to help her. The John Day fossil beds are one of few places on the planet where 40 million years of evolutionary change are preserved in the same area. From volcanic geology, geography, climate and the evolution of living things, it is all wrapped up in the layers and colors of eroded rock. A lot to contemplate but they have an excellent museum that was actually open this time so we got to go in. We camped nearby and walked the painted hills and the blue hills (or green for some) at sunset too.
I like Eastern Oregon, something about the hues of the fields, the rolling hills and the light. I finally started pulling my weight driving the Vermonster so now Jon gets to look out the window at the passing scenery while I drive the bus. It isn’t hard to drive, as long as you don’t forget you’re driving a truck. And you never forget your clearance. At least I hope it’s never!
We continued on to Summerville, OR to visit Mary & David and we’d planned a rendezvous with Sandie & Karsten there too. We hadn’t seen them since March in the Baja. We snuggled the three trucks in front of the barn and had a big party. Mary’s is such a great place to be and the menagerie of animals like cats, dogs, sheep and this time, a pair of barn owls nesting in the barn make it fun. They’d had about 6 chicks who hadn’t fledged yet so the barn was alive at night with crazy calls and screeches that woke us up but how often do you witness something like that? I was admittedly happy when they quieted down near the end so I could not be awakened so much. A very friendly orange cat appeared while we were there, no one knows from where but he kept us company the whole time and Jon named him Pumpkin. So we did a lot of catching up, morning runs in the neighborhood, we each worked on our trucks knocking off a few projects and we made group dinners, sometimes using produce out of Mary & David’s garden. One night Ivan made paella and since we were such a big group, we each had a pan going in our respective trucks so he ran between all three and still it turned out great. It was hot, but we had clear weather and beautiful sunsets.
Christmas came and we collected all of our packages, among them a subwoofer, dash cam and fixed 2M radio for the truck cab (we used our handheld radios a lot with Ivan and really liked them except charging them) and most importantly, a pair of new leaves for the truck springs. What happened is in the Baja, we were driving down the road one day and heard a clunk and then a plink and something fell off the truck. So we pulled over, scanned the pavement and peered at the undersides trying to figure out what it was. And then along came a car with a nice Mexican guy in it who walked over to us bearing the rounded wrap of the front leaf spring that had broken off. Because they are custom springs, the wrap hadn’t fit perfectly and it was pressing on the chassis so eventually it just broke. It didn’t cause any other issue so we could keep driving but it needed to be corrected and so we received 2 new leaves to Mary’s from Germany with a tighter wrap that needed to be installed. Jon was dreading that project since it required disassembling both leaf packs completely, just like he’d done last Fall but in reality, he knocked it off in a day. It was a huge relief.
Then it came time to part ways again. Uhhh! I know you have to say goodbye to say hello again but after over 4 months of continuous side by side travel with Ivan and another month previous to that together with Sandie & Karsten, it was hard to do. I get attached to people. We realize that we’ve traveled tightly for months with good friends several times over the years and leaving is always hard. It feels like a hole in your life for a bit. But we always meet up again. And we have so many funny memories to carry us over. But still…
Fortunately, we were at Mary & David’s and two of her sons joined us too. So we had more good times together & tossed some brewery beers & burgers in too. It felt novel to be in a restaurant. And it felt good to get out of the heat. Plus playing in the sprinklers is a way to cool off. We did an incredibly beautiful hike in the Eagle Caps to 3 mountain lakes and swam in every one. We were hoping the highest one would still have big icebergs but we only had some floating ice. It was a great day and we never got hot since we were always just out of the water from swimming! We got a flat tire that day at the trailhead but the girls changed it for practice.
We said another goodbye to Mary, David & her sons (until next time) and headed to Montana during the hottest of the heatwave. On the way through Oregon to Spokane, we passed through beautiful but cumbustion ready wheat fields for hours. The temp topped out at 115 and we feared that if we broke down we would surely die in that heat. For once, it felt good when we finally got to civilization. We swung in to REI in Spokane and found some perfect camp chairs to go with the table we got so now we feel much better set up. Its all a work in progress, figuring out what we need in here and what works. We found a great campspot in the National Forest on the way in Idaho at the Cedar Creek trailhead. The stream makes its own cool breeze and being camped next to it, we were using a blanket that night. Sweet! We did a great hike up to another mountain lake and took a swim, then stayed another night in that lovely temp.
The reason for heading to Montana was for the Soggy Bottom Fly-in. Because we’ve gotten to share camping trips with Mark & Anne at backcountry airstrips, we’ve gotten to know several of their friends with planes. And Robert hosts his famous Soggy Bottom party each summer at his house (which has a bit of marsh around it, hence the name) on the Flathead River which we missed last year because of the antifreeze leak we had on the truck. Of the 12 of us, we were the only ones without a plane but we were made to feel very welcome and we certainly have a lot of support for the eventual day we get one of our own to build and oh yeah, learn to fly it! I’m not ready for another project yet but it is good to plan ahead and we’re like sponges trying to absorb what knowledge & advice we can. And maybe one of them will consider a truck like ours now that they’ve seen it. If they want to slow down….
We had a great time floating the river around the peninsula of Robert’s land where the put-in & finish was only a few yards apart. We made nice meals together, had long happy hours, plenty of homemade chocolate chip cookies and rounded out the night with silly games involving whipped cream, quarters, balloons and a potato gun! Haha, I’ve never even heard of much less fired one of the these before but it is hilarious especially with Mark as the target sitting on a yellow duck float in the river. A whole bag of potatoes later, we still hadn’t come close to hitting him. Even though we’d practiced with another bag the previous evening. It definitely isn’t a precision weapon. We even had team shirts for the event. It was such a great weekend full of fun stuff and good company. Montana is beautiful. Fields that stretch forever and all the gold of the canola flowers, the river, the lakes, we like it here.
Everyone flew away this morning and we started covering the ground to Idaho. So it seems like we’re moving in the right direction for speed- first slow sailing on boats, now 55mph in the truck and maybe someday buzzing along at twice that by plane?? Could happen. But we hopefully have many driving miles ahead of us in many countries in the Vermonster if only the world’s borders would open up and covid would go away.
In the meantime, Jon & I would like to backpack the White Cloud Loop outside Stanley before heading to McCall. It might be the only backpacking we do for the rest of the summer. For the month of August, we’re planning to fly to the east coast to visit our loved ones. We’ve got a list of fun things we’d like to fit in with Mark & Anne, whom we’ve traveled with together for months before, and also the truck will need a little more TLC before we leave it.
So its been fun and we’re having a good summer even though we’re just one truck now. We appreciate all the people in our lives and the time we spend together. It’s what means the most to us and we cherish the memories.