048 - USA - Montana
Closing the circle in Montana
04/09/09 - 04/18/09
Life comes in circles. Montana marked the closure of three highly personal phases of our trip and of our lives. To begin with, this was Hannah’s first time back in her native state as a visiting adult (she flew back a couple of years ago for a funeral but didn’t spend significant time there). This was also the first time we were able to see our dear friend Leslie Morningstar since the tragic events that brought us together in Cambodia. Finally, besides visiting a few friends and family on the way back to San Diego, this was the end of our trip. No more traveling, no more Do It Like The Locals, time to settle down… well, almost! The Original Hannah Montana
As you may know, Hannah was born and raised in Montana. Prior to ‘getting out of Dodge’ at the age of 17, Hannah was a true bred Montana girl. She had a 4x4 truck, rode horses competitively, submitted her pigs at the country fair, and even chewed tobacco like a champ! She could shoot gophers just as easily as milking a cow
in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) stables. If you know Hannah like I do, it’s no surprise that her dreams and ambitions couldn’t be contained with the simple country lifestyle she was headed towards. She needed to get out and spread her wings; big cities, beaches, world traveling, (ME!), all waiting for her to discover!
Understandably, returning to Montana was an emotional experience. Seeing the pages of chapters closed years past, some good, others better left unread, is tough for anyone. Luckily, being a successful professional who is loved by friends and family around the world did bring an “I got out, and I made it” satisfaction that Hannah wore with a subtle smile while showing off her old stomping ground.
Hannah’s family history in Montana dates back to the middle of the 19th century when her family migrated there via wagon trail across the United States. Her great-uncle Ray (Webb) is currently recording the family history into a manuscript format. He sent us a copy of the draft and we read it aloud while driving around parts of the area. It was amazing visiting the places lived in by Hannah’s great-great-great grandparents! Miley Ray Cyrus ain’t
got nothin’ on this Montana girl! From Cambodia to Montana
If you remember, we had quite the experience in Cambodia many months ago when we encountered Leslie Morningstar and her late-husband John (Star) on a trail in Siem Reap. (click here
for the old blog). The experience was life-changing for both of us, and we vowed to visit Leslie in Montana as soon as the world portion of our trip was complete.
Leslie has a fantastic house on a hill in Bozeman with an amazing view of the city. Together with her son Madison, they were fantastic hosts, showing us the area, and making us feel like family (her daughter Annie was caught up with school obligations). They even took us to their second home in Virginia City (Montana) and showed us Star’s extensive motorcycle collection.
Virginia City is a one street town (population of 130 during the 2000 census) that was formed during the gold rush of the 1860s. The town only has one bar, and lucky for us, it was open on the night of Easter Sunday when we went to have a couple of drinks. A few of the Morningstar’s friends met us at
the bar (knowing of our previous experiences by reading the Siem Reap blog) and conversed with us about life, death, and the extended family you inevitably gain when you live in a place like Virginia City.
I gotta tell you, there’s something about Virginia City that is hard to explain. The city has an ‘it’ factor that draws you in like a warm embrace from a distant relative: a bit awkward at first, but refreshingly familiar once all preconceptions are dropped. Perhaps it’s the simple lifestyle, in God’s mountains, with folks that don’t care about BMWs, bank accounts, or board room meetings. People that understand the fragility of life, or rather, are blissfully unbothered by the superficialness that consumes us in corporate America. After all, you only get one shot my friend… so buy another round, sing another song, and enjoy every minute you have with each other: good, bad, or indifferent, you’re in it together. Winding down the trip
En route to Montana we stopped by Rapid City, South Dakota to visit the uber-impressive mountain/sculpture of Mt. Rushmore. What is the rest of South Dakota like? Well, there are billboards on the side of the highway that
literally read: ‘We reject animal rights activists!’ Hmmm, really? Also, stopping by a tourist information center just outside Rushmore, I jokingly commented to the National Park clerk, ‘Hey, did they leave some space on the mountain for Obama?!? Ha ha ha!’ Stone cold silence. No smile, no sympathy laugh, nothing. Just a stare that shouted: take your left-wing, tree hugging, 2x4 Suburban while it’s snowing outside, ass off our premises!
Brushing the right-wing dust off our shoulders we stopped by Sturgis, South Dakota and checked out the spot for the famous Bike Week motorcycle rally. Over half a million HOG riders from around the world pilgrimage to Sturgis every year for seven days of partying, nudity, and burn-out competitions! We didn’t catch it during the actual Bike Week, but scoped out the area for future reference!
We spent about week in Montana visiting Hannah’s old friends and family: Drew and his parents Anne & Add Clarke, Karen and Dale Walker, Rebeka and Apollo, Amy, and Papa Mike. Drew explained to us the finer aspects of blowing stuff up in the woods while not breaking the law; Anne and her husband showed us their model airplane and kayak collection;
Karen and Dale Walker herded their 300 sheep around hundreds of acres of land; Rebeka and Apollo let us play with their daughter and bulldog around gorgeous Flathead Lake; and Papa Mike (an avid hunter) displayed the most impressive taxidermy exhibits I have ever seen!
We also stopped by Sandpoint, Idaho and visited our friends William and Diane Heller that we met in Bariloche, Argentina a few months back. Diane has quite the green thumb and shared some gardening tips with Hannah, while William threw me on his tractor (at my request!) and taught me how to clear trees like a real man!
All good things must come to an end, and sadly, our trip is no exception. Next, we head towards the coast and visit Hannah’s family in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, before getting back down to San Diego.
We only have ONE BLOG LEFT as we end our adventure and settle back into the real world. Stay tuned for our final blog, the trip finale, the end of Do It Like The Locals…
Next stop, home sweet home, San Diego!
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