Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yellowstone & Bozeman

If it weren't for the winter, I could live in Montana for a lifetime.
Where to begin?.... We’ve done sooooo much it’s hard to believe there is still more to see and that we’ll be able to muster up enough energy to see it. Yesterday our house crossed the Continental Divide. No small task for a man of the swamps to maneuver a bus over the tallest mountain range in the country. There were some white knuckles and a few “Holy *&%#”, but we made it. Rather, Torben made it; I was just the ancillary cheerleader (I think I actually gave a few spirit fingers on the way down).
We spent the last week and a half in Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman has to be one of the most livable cities in the country, at least by our standards. Home to 10,000 hippies and 20,000 dogs, it was awesome! It is truly the only town that hosts as many dog parks as kiddie parks. HEAVEN! We spent our days roaming around with our heads looking up and our mouths agape just in awe of the mountains. The first day we pulled into our site a fellow camper showed us through binoculars a herd of 90 elk roaming over the hills. Can you say AWESOME?! This was the view from our campground:
(Gosh, doncha just feel so sorry for us?)
They are so friendly and accommodating in Bozeman that Wal-Mart has the first five rows of parking behind the handicapped spaces dedicated to “senior parking”. If you know Torben and his driving/parking quirks, you know he will search for 20 minutes for the” best” (closest) spot. As we pulled in he did the usual drive-by scout-out and eventually succumbed to a space further out. “I guess this is middle age parking,” he jested. I thought that was totally funny until I realized he was including me in that! (OH, the horror!)
Life has really changed for us. We were driving down the road the other day and Torben laughed out loud, catching himself doing 45 miles per hour, on the highway, not in the RV, in the Honda! I know, hard to believe. I’ve actually been able to relax my grip of the O.S. handle
(I said relax, not remove).
I’d like to thank our dear friend Carson Robinson for some valuable pre-trip advice. He said “Remember, the people you meet today won’t know what you wore yesterday.” God bless you Carson for totally getting it. It is true that life on the road allows for a little more, shall we say, leniency in our grooming and presentation. Many of you may have noticed by the pictures that Torben is freeing himself by letting the 20 years of lawyer in his hair grow out. It’s a little unruly, but it keeps us entertained trying to find a way to style it (we are taking suggestions). Just now he scratched is head and pulled out some leaves and a twig. Souvenirs? We’ve also been experimenting with how long one can stretch out a shower. I won’t freak you city folks out, but let’s just say, it’s impressive and probably not in a good way. Thus, Carson’s advice is well played in our lifestyle. Long live febreeze. Torben is a little fearful that we will end up in one of those Wal-Mart emails full of freaky dressed (and undressed) individuals.
I told him there is a possibility we already are!
Keeping ourselves entertained is not hard.
HELLO, we’ve been living with Yellowstone National Park in our backyard!
Seriously guys, if you have never been, this is a Must See on your bucket list. For Torben and me it was like a trip to wildlife Mecca. Unfortunately in my eagerness to go, I forgot to pack the camera. Don’t ask. Anyway, it served a great purpose in forcing a repeat trip to capture some of the world’s greatest scenery. The geothermals are incredible and the colors are so striking it is almost as if someone painted the earth.
We attended the obligatory rising of Old Faithful, along with all the other park attendees.
That was really the only time we felt crowded in the park. We searched and searched for grizzly bears, found scat of all shapes and sizes, spotted more elk, boson after bison,
but no grizzly. Alas, on our last day of touring the park, as we headed for home, when we had given up hope of seeing the elusive bear, she graced us with her presence by foraging in a valley near the road. She caused quite a traffic jam, but it was totally worth the delay. Unfortunately, the pics were too distant for a good focus.
Yellowstone is not the only treasure in the Bozeman area.
We spent several days hiking Hyalite state park.
This really is God’s country. Gorgeous, and so alive, the trees sway and talk loudly with the breeze, the water flows swiftly and echoes through the canyons. The kids enjoyed hiking, swimming and making new friends.
Blaze’s leg is healing well but he can’t quite keep up as he used to. The little guy gave quite an effort on our hike to the falls, and was rewarded with a lift out from Papa T (much to his liking and Torben’s aching).
The next day we got a stroller! I feel like such a sporty mom now! All you ladies with your double wide strollers and twin seats….look out here comes Mama Madson and the senior K-9 clan! The assembly on this sucker required a few good engineers, hence ours is still missing the all essential braking mechanism (but hey, who wants to stop?) Blaze was appreciative of the ride, but Rodeo has advised us that she has changed her name from Rodeo (the cowboy name) to Rod-ay-o (the L.A. name). She stepped inside and it was as if she had found the throne that has been awaiting her all these years. She barked at passersby, held her head out the side, and even draped and crossed her paws out the front window panel. Geesh, the life of luxury. Seriously though, it makes our trekking soo much more enjoyable.
We’ve also really enjoyed meeting new people on our travels. Especially the woman parked next to us at our last camp. She was thoughtful enough to open her window and thank us loudly for letting our dogs pee within visual of her motor home. She was kind to us, not once, not twice, but three, maybe even four times. We were so appreciative of her gratitude and the big scene she made that we showed her a little love, noMadson style: good ol’ Papa T waited until she was mid-grill on her steaks to go out and drain the black water, he even went the extra mile and cleaned the sewer tank, the hose and the storage bay within sight and *gag* smell of her grilling du jour. Oh, southern gentlemen play dirty, kind of funny, but dirty.

And, last but certainly not least, I want to welcome little Beau James Sieve to the family. My sister Jen is a hero among heroes. She has done three times what I fear doing even once. But if he is anything like his older sister and brother, he’s already on his way to earning angel wings. In Italian the words for giving birth are “dar a luz”, the literal translation being “to give to the light.” Welcome to the light man. Let me know if you need any sunglasses.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The story not told

I knew coming on this trip would provide me the opportunity of an education I could gain no where else. I am being educated, but unfortunately I do not always like what I am being taught. Shiloh, Wounded Knee, Tatanka, Little Big Horn...They say the truth is sometimes painful, so I would being doing myself and you, my fellow countrymen, a huge disservice if I did not present this voyage as authentically as I am living it. So, here it goes: I want to wave the B.S flag, high, none of this half-mast stuff, but full sail and flying in the breeze, because that is what I think has been done in so many ways. We have traveled to many historic sites, monuments, battlefields, etc., you name it - we've found it. Time and time again I am more than modestly insulted at the flamboyancy with which the victors have re-written history (or erased some perspectives). Mt. Rushmore, for example, is supposed to be this awe-inspiring creation in tribute to our country's growth and perseverance. Ok, I get that, but let's be real, its just a bunch of faces carved into a sacred rock that never belonged to our government in the first place! Twelve million (that's: 12,000,000!) people lived on this land before my European ancestors even stepped foot on its soil. In the name of our democracy we invaded land that was not ours, we set up fences to keep the original inhabitants out. We killed their food sources as a way of starving them into oblivion, we punished the practice of their ancestral history, forced them into submission and we call ourselves the Land of the Free? My stomach turns when I visit a beautiful State or National Park that is named after a wretched person in wartime history. I debated on writing this entry, being cautious that it may offend some people, then I laughed at my own trepidation. Am I missing something? I have learned, from several credible sources, that the Native Americans lived in symbiotic harmony with the land for hundreds of years before the white man came in and pillaged the land of its resources. Native American tribes, specifically those of the Lakotas, were cognizant to use only what they needed and protect the rest. They believed in leaving little trace. For all of our modern day glory I cannot help but wonder when I pass a landfill seeping with plastic bottles or turn on the news and hear more about the BP disaster, are we really all that advanced? Maybe those people to whom our ancestors turned up their noses actually knew a thing or two about the preservation of life on this earth. Maybe the cognitive myopathy was ours. So this year as I prepare for the festivities related to the Fourth of July, I will also be giving thanks to those that lived on and took care of the land that I now travel. I cannot erase the twinge of guilt or disgust that accompanies my "education" on this trip, but I can use my voice so that you as well will remember that there are ALWAYS multiple sides to the stories that make up history. Just because we have learned one, doesn't mean it is the whole truth, seek out the complete story, then make your own assessment. I will now dismount my horse, thanks for listening.