Another Retama Village reunion

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  Rain on and off.  Cooler.  High 80 (for about a minute)

We enjoyed a delightful get-together with friends from our South Texas community – Sarah and Richard Shong.  Coincidentally, they are in Missoula for a few days and are heading to Dillon, where we are going next week.  They joined us for a cup of coffee and some chatty conversation.

In the afternoon, we stopped by the US Federal Forest Service Visitor Center.  It was a nice outdoor museum, telling us the history of the Forest Service.  We had the place to ourselves…

Then, on to conquer yet another of Missoula’s 11 breweries.  #7 was Highlanders.  It is a beautiful, huge building located right on a creek.  Normally, they would be having concerts and would be about town with their food truck.

We sat along the creek.  George took advantage of me being the designated driver and enjoyed a 10.5% stout aged in whiskey barrels.

DINNER:  I invented a new dish….First, I thawed the remaining piece of naan from a long-ago Indian meal.  George toasted it on the propane grill in our iron skillet.  I made a topping of sauteed chicken (last of the rotisserie chicken I bought awhile ago and had frozen), onions, and mushrooms.  The assembly was the naan, a layer of cream cheese, some dabs of pesto, the chicken/onion/mushroom mix, and some oregano and parmesan sprinkled on the top.  I will do this one again!

A day at the Chevy dealership

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  Didn’t cool off like usual.  High 89, low 65

We had a thunderstorm during the night.  It is always cool to listen to the thunder and rain while we are tucked warmly and safely in bed.  We have a Fantastic Fan on the top of Joy.  (Really – that is its name!).  We had left the fan open to enjoy the cool, night air.  It has sensors so when it feels a drop of rain, it closes itself.  That is a great feature. 

Today wasn’t too exciting…..our pick-up had an appointment for an oil-change and check-up.  We had arranged for it to be done in a Chevy dealership here. 

The building was decorated in true Montana decor….

The short oil-change turned into a 4-hour deal as they fixed some sort of recall, and had to break for lunch! 

So, their courtesy van took us to brewery #6  (out of 11) called Conflux.  The brewer, a woman, was busy brewing something good-smelling.

We shared a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and salad.  Really really good. 

Back at the RV park, we picked up our August mail, which we had arranged to be sent to the RV park.  It is always exciting to get the monthly mail pouch, although usually, like this month, there isn’t too much to it.

DINNER:  Blackened shrimp tacos.  George did the cooking for me on the propane grill outside to keep Joy smelling fresh inside.  First, he sauteed some mushrooms and onions.  Then, some nice big shrimp that I had seasoned with cumin and lime.  Then, I had him toast the tortillas for just a minute.  Then I assembled…..tortilla, shrimp, mushrooms, onions, just a bit of cheese, jalapenos, finely sliced cabbage,  thin slices of radishes, lime juice, and salsa.  Muy bueno, and a good way to use up some of that cabbage! 

A Day in Paradise – Literally and Figuratively!

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  Another hot one.  High 98

Since we knew it was going to be another sweltering day, we planned a day trip.  I had seen on the map an area called one of the most scenic drives in Montana.  So, off we went!

First we drove by the National Bison Range.  We had toured this before, so passed this time.  Our road followed the Flathead River.  Pretty desolate territory – looked perfect for a cowboy-Western movie film spot.  Speaking of that – the movie “A River Runs Through It” portrayed Missoula and was filmed here.  The TV show “Yellowstone” is being filmed in nearby Darby.  We had planned to go there, to a Harvest Host winery where we have visited before, but the owner is out of wine! 

Back to today…

At the junction of the Flathead River and the Clark Fork River is Paradise.  Yep- we arrived in Paradise!

Paradise was the start of the scenic highway, and scenic it is indeed.  It was built back in the 1930s by the CCC. Interesting. We stopped at a pull-out for a picnic lunch, right next to some rapids…

The scenic highway ended in St. Regis which is along I-90 so has a big travel center.  They advertised “the best huckleberry milkshake in Montana” so George had to get one.  As he sipped, he said he was indeed in Paradise.

From St. Regis, we took off on our own.  We continued past the dreaded “Pavement End” sign and drove on a washboard-bumpy road for about 10 miles.  Finally, it turned back to pavement.  It also offered very pretty scenery, following the Clark Fork River

We were able to get back to St. Regis (after about an hour on backroads) and took the scenic highway the other way, back to Paradise.  Paradise again! 

We really hit Paradise as we returned toward the edge of Missoula….#5 of our Missoula brewery to-do list.  This one was called the Old Bull.

I had an IPA; George had a good porter.  The beer server is named Alexis (like our daughter) and the brewer named a beer after her.  Must be a good employee!

DINNER:  Asian theme tonight.  I thawed some frozen pork steaks and chopped up the pork along with the cabbage (cabbage again), peas, onions, garlic, and ginger.  Served with soba.  Ooishi!

Hotsy-totsy Missoula

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPING:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  HOT!  What a swing – low 50; high 100!

To beat the heat, we hit the trail early this morning.  We parked at one of the many city parks downtown and hiked the Clark Fork River (part of the great Columbia)  on both sides, through downtown and parts of the Univ of Montana campus.  The well-utilized bike/hike trail flows through 6 different parks.  The City has really done a nice job.  The downtown central  area was sadly closed down, due to the virus.  A big carousel, an amphitheater for concerts,  and venue for food trucks were all closed.  I saw photos of what the downtown usually looks like on a sunny, summer day – very vibrant and quite different from today.

After getting our 10,000 steps in, we returned to the RV park and I worked more on camping reservations.  Working with the US government’s reservation website (for national parks, national forests, COE) can be frustrating.  After about 2 hours trying to get the only 2-day stay I could find near the Tetons, we had to call.  That was equally frustrating.  In the end, we locked in it.

After that frustration, we headed to #4  of the 11 breweries on our to-do list here in the Missoula area.  This one was Draughtworks, a neat old renovated warehouse in an older part of town.  As the designated driver, I enjoyed two glasses of cool, refreshing Montana tap water.  George had one of their IPAs and a stout.  Both good. 

It is interesting to see the Covid-19 precautions.  One of the reasons we selected Montana as our summer destination is because the number of cases here is quite low.  In the rural areas, where they have had virtually no cases, precautions are understandably pretty lax.  Here in Missoula, like most of the bigger cities, precautions are tight.  Masks are required in all indoor spaces.  At the brewery today, the bar stools and about half of the tables  were removed. There were signs telling you to let the hostess seat you and that once you were seated to stay at your table, only allowing a trip to the restroom.  George, especially,  enjoyed watching the wait staff deal with all of this, because they were cute girls in darling sundresses and cowboy boots.

Back at the RV park in the late afternoon still with 100-degree temps, we enjoyed Joy’s air-conditioned comfort and watched the Democratic convention.

DINNER:  This is one of my fall-back recipes, easy to do and with ingredients I typically have on hand.  Pasta in a cream sauce (just melted cream cheese) with a dab of horseradish and some capers.  I dot it  with slices of smoked salmon.  Sides were a chicken/bulgher salad that needed to be consumed, and sauteed cabbage.  I bought the smallest cabbage I could find at Saturday’s farmers’ market, but it is still huge. You will see cabbage on our menu for the next several days! 

Sweet Sunday in Missoula

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  Cool all AM.  Warm, 85 for about an hour, then cool again.  Nice!

This was a bit of a slow day.  That’s what Sundays are for, right? 

We watched CBS Sunday Morning, about the only non-PBS show we watch any more.  This was accompanied by George’s Sunday breakfast special – grits, eggs, and bacon.  Yum!

We took a nice walk around the RV park, admiring the flowers.  One sad off-shoot of Covid-19 is camper interaction.  Before the virus, campers would congregate, get to know each other, share travel stories, and even check out each other’s RVs.  Now, people keep their distance.  Many stay inside their RVs, not even venturing out to eat at the picnic table.  Sad….

Lunch was another brewpub.  Tamarack Brewing Company checks off #3 of the 11 breweries we are challenged with here in Missoula. 

We shared a fish taco, and tried two different IPAs.  Since I was driving, George had their stout, too.  He said it was about the best one he has ever had.  (Too often they are too sweet).

Back at the RV park, I spent most of the afternoon with maps trying to finalize our next two weeks on the road.  So many places are all booked up, especially around the Tetons, where we plan to go.  And…they are very expensive – $100 or more.  So far, I have snagged a few Harvest Host sites, two commercial parks (one with a saloon!), and one national forest service park. 

George made us a new drink….We had “scored” at the farmers’ market yesterday, finding fresh huckleberries.  He mulled the berries with mint and lime,  then added gin and just a bit of tonic.  They were very tasty!

DINNER:  BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes, and arugula/heirloom tomato salad. 

To the reader who asked about last night’s meatballs…..The meatballs simmer in the sauce, absorbing the tomato sauce while the meat/parmesan/herb flavors flow back into the sauce.  After you cook the meatballs for about 35 minutes, most of the sauce has been absorbed into the meatballs, leaving just a little, thick/rich sauce.  I will do that recipe again!

Missoula Saturday Fun

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  Cool all morning.  Warming to 90 in late PM

We found the Missoula Saturday Farmers’ Market in a historic part of downtown.  We bought lots of veg, had a breakfast sandwich, and scored by finding fresh huckleberries.  Yay!

This RV park is just about the prettiest we have ever stayed in.  This is the office…

Flower beds dot the park.

Most sites, including ours, have nice shady trees.

I spent some time using the RV park’s wifi by planning our route and stays after we leave here.  A bit worrisome is Labor Day weekend – will need to get that locked in soon.

While I was doing that, George enjoyed puttering around.  He did some hitch repairs.  He is always happy doing things like this…

Then, back to town to check off another one of the 11 local greweries off our list.  This one is called the Great Burn, named after the many fires they have here.  We have been lucky this year not to encounter fires or smoke. 

DINNER:  Really spectacular — I had watched a TV cooking show with Nick Stollino where he prepared his “famous” authentic Italian meatballs.  I decided to make them tonight.  I used his online recipe (below) but I could not find veal.  Grocers told me they couldn’t get it due to Covid.  Not sure how Covid would affect veal distribution?  It really turned out well.  I baked some take&bake ciabatta bread, and since I had the oven going, I roasted some sweet corn we bought at the farmers’ market.

Meatballs cooking on the propane grill…

Finished product…

And here is the “borrowed” recipe….

Next adventure: Missoula

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana, in west central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park.  Just beautiful!  More like a nursery with flowers everywhere.  We have a nice, shaded and flat site.  Full hook-ups.  Great laundry, bathrooms, showers, wifi, and cable.  No firepit.  For a commercial park, this is top knotch.  At $41/night, it is high, but that seems to be the going rate around here.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Very cool in the AM (40s) warming up to a sunny  80
DRIVE:  3 hours

We have been off-grid for 5 nights, so this has been a test about how well we can do.  We don’t have solar panels or a generator, but don’t seem to need one.  Since we have been doing Harvest Hosts sites and staying with a friend, we have not had water for 5 days.  Our fresh tank is still half-full.  Yay!  We have been conservative with water usage.  Our grey tank is only 13% full, and the black tank 31%.  Our battery is completely charged as it charges itself when we drive each day.  We even watched a little TV using the inverter when we were without electricity.  This proves that we can go even longer next time.

We took a long hike in the forest at the state park where we stayed last night.  Just beautiful, but no wildlife to be seen.

Then, we packed up and headed about 110 miles toward Missoula.  We found a very nice “scenic viewpoint” looking out to Mission Mountains for a lunch picnic.

We limped into Missoula with 1/10 gallon left in our tank, as George hadn’t wanted to pay the higher gas prices in the towns we went through.  Urrgh!

This RV park is beautiful – probably the nicest commercial park we have stayed in.  Photos with flowers that are everywhere will follow.  We got settled, then George wanted to head into town to start checking off one of the 11 breweries in the area!  We went to the most famous one first – Big Sky Brewing.  I had an IPA (for only $2) and George had a different IPA for free – as the keg was almost empty.  He filled our growler with stout for only $8 – a very reasonal price.

Back at the RV park……showers, glorious showers!  Not having nice showers when we dry-camp (also called boondocking) is a downside.  This one today felt marvelous!!!

DINNER:  Blackened  tuna steak.  Sides were rice and steamed peas.  George did the tuna on the propane grill in an iron skillet (thanks, Alexis for the skillet!)

Next adventure: Missoula

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana, in west central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park.  Just beautiful!  More like a nursery with flowers everywhere.  We have a nice, shaded and flat site.  Full hook-ups.  Great laundry, bathrooms, showers, wifi, and cable.  No firepit.  For a commercial park, this is top knotch.  At $41/night, it is high, but that seems to be the going rate around here.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Very cool in the AM (40s) warming up to a sunny  80
DRIVE:  3 hours

We have been off-grid for 5 nights, so this has been a test about how well we can do.  We don’t have solar panels or a generator, but don’t seem to need one.  Since we have been doing Harvest Hosts sites and staying with a friend, we have not had water for 5 days.  Our fresh tank is still half-full.  Yay!  We have been conservative with water usage.  Our grey tank is only 13% full, and the black tank 31%.  Our battery is completely charged as it charges itself when we drive each day.  We even watched a little TV using the inverter when we were without electricity.  This proves that we can go even longer next time.

We took a long hike in the forest at the state park where we stayed last night.  Just beautiful, but no wildlife to be seen.

Then, we packed up and headed about 110 miles toward Missoula.  We found a very nice “scenic viewpoint” looking out to Mission Mountains for a lunch picnic.

We limped into Missoula with 1/10 gallon left in our tank, as George hadn’t wanted to pay the higher gas prices in the towns we went through.  Urrgh!

This RV park is beautiful – probably the nicest commercial park we have stayed in.  Photos with flowers that are everywhere will follow.  We got settled, then George wanted to head into town to start checking off one of the 11 breweries in the area!  We went to the most famous one first – Big Sky Brewing.  I had an IPA (for only $2) and George had a different IPA for free – as the keg was almost empty.  He filled our growler with stout for only $8 – a very reasonal price.

PHOTO

Back at the RV park……showers, glorious showers!  Not having nice showers when we dry-camp (also called boondocking) is a downside.  This one today felt marvelous!!!

DINNER:  Blackened  tuna steak.  Sides were rice and steamed peas.  George did the tuna on the propane grill in an iron skillet (thanks, Alexis for the skillet!)

Now this is REAL camping!

LOCATION:  100 miles north of Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Mary Ronan State Park.  Very nice paved sites.  Firepit with grill, picnic table, and 50 amp electricity.  Nice pit toilets (is that an oxymoron?). No water, no shower, and no dump station – ok for a few nights.  At $44/night, too expensive.  It is beautiful and peaceful here, however, with a view of the lake from our site.  So, 4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Really chilly!  High 68
DRIVE:  3 hours

It was a beautiful morning at the Iron Springs Golf Course where we spent last night through Harvest Hosts.  It was nice to be able to use their good bathrooms and wifi.  In addition to a golf course, they are building attractive houses around the course and have another area where they are selling RV lots.  We are surprised that they didn’t ask us to go on a tour or something.

We had a nice drive through the Kootenai National Forest. Sometimes our GPS gives us TOO much information.  Today, for example, twice it told us to take a turn, when it was just a curve in the road.  The first time this resulted in getting off the main road and driving down a gravel road for about 8 miles.  The second time, it turned us into an RV park.  Thank goodness there was plenty of room to turn around.  Did I mention who was driving?

Sometimes we are lucky to find nice lunch spots, like yesterday.  Today, all we could find was a cell phone turn-out parking area.  Not too bad, as there was a view of Flathead Lake in the distance.

We stopped along the way at a Flathead cherry stand.  This one had a row of old bikes as a fence…

They told us that this is the last week of the cherries, so we stocked up.  We checked out their yak, buffalo, and elk products in their store, too.

Our home tonight is a small state park – only about 20 sites.  Very quiet with sites far apart.  We took a hike down to the lake and then in the woods.  Blueberries that will be ripening soon filled the forest.  I thought it looked like a good place to spot a bear…

We got the campfire going and it actually felt good to sit around it to get warm.  Amazing! 

Our site has a view of the lake, through the trees.  We are thrilled to be back in the woods with a campfire! This is camping! 

DINNER:  George grilled a steak.  He tried a slow-cook method, and it turned out really tender and tasty.  Side was cheese grits, and a medley of zucchini, onion, and mushrooms.  I am not going to buy more zucchini for a while – unless I can figure out something else to do with it. 

Almost to the Forbidden Land …..Canada, that is…

LOCATION:  North of Eureka, Montana – about 3 miles from British Columbia border
CAMPGROUND:  Another Harvest Host site – Indian Springs Golf Club.  Spacious, level parking lot.  Beautiful scenery.  Nice bathroom on the nearby 10th tee!  5 stars out of 5.
DRIVE:  1.5 hours

This morning, we were awakened gently by the mowers and sprinklers on the golf course in Libby.  Very nice.  I made some breakfast for us…

We opened our door and enjoyed this view of the golf course.

We bought a breakfast sandwich from the golf course’s grill as a tiny way to support them, since our stay was free.  I took a walk around the small golf course community while George did his AM exercises.

Kootenai Falls outside of Libby was a must-see.  It was a  beautiful hike, rewarded by stunning views of the wild waterfalls.

We crossed the swinging bridge (and it DID swing) and observed the falls from the other side.

Passing  back through Libby,  we stopped at the Cabinet Mountain Brewery for a quick one.

The drive today is one of the most beautiful scenic highways in all of the USA.  It follows the Kootenai River which becomes Lake Kookanusa  (a name combining the words Kootenai, Canada, and USA –  as the Kootenai Rver flows in both countries).   A boat ramp/picnic area was our scenic lunch spot.

We easily found our golf course Harvest Host site.  A nice young caddie hopped on his golf cart and showed us where to park Joy.  This is another beautiful golf course.  We walked around the course, admiring the new homes and the lush greens. The un-irrigated brown fairways contrast with the dark green greens.  You can see Joy below….

We moseyed over to the golf course’s outdoor bar & grill and had a sandwich for dinner on their patio.  We watched golfers and guys practicing on the driving range.  The mountains make a great backdrop.  We can only get Canada cell service here – we are that close!

BOOK:  “Home to Italy” bu Peter Pezzelli.  A bit sappy, but I enjoyed it as it takes place in Abruzzo, where we did 2 terrific housesitting assignments.  Very light and easy reading.   4 stars out of 5.