Tuesday, August 28

Highlights of Today

  1. fresh baked chocolate chip cookies
  2. small twist ice cream cone
  3. 2 games of Settlers of Catan
  4. laughable moments with Calli (that girl cracks me up)
  5. staring up at the underbelly of a B-52 bomber at the Air Force Academy

Give me an E!

The exciting moment of today: Calli and I summited Mt. Elbert today at 9:15 am.


  • Mt. Elbert stands a whopping 14,433 ft above sea level

  • Mt. Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains

  • Mt. Elbert is the second highest peak in the lower 48 states (second to Mt. Whitney in California)

  • The air is thin up there

  • I couldn't breathe like a normal human being from 11,000 ft - 14,433 ft

  • I thought we would never make it

  • Calli was kind enough to wait for me every 35 seconds when I was taking a critical oxygen resupply break (I was nearly wheezing like an asthmatic)

The summit was amazing. The Lord held off the rain while we took four hours to hike up that massive rock! It only took us two hours to run down!

Rocky Top

After finishing my Americorps term in Billings, I packed up my Jimmy and headed south to Colorado for a spontaneous vacation before moving to Bozeman at the end of this week. I was fortunate enough to meet up with two of my college buddies, Melissa and Merilee in Rocky Mountain National Park to do a three day backpacking trip. All three of us headed down to Colorado Springs then, after the backpacking trip commenced.

I've been in C. Springs hanging out with some former IWU grads and Calli (who can only wish she was an IWU grad). It has been great catching up with college friends, acquaintances, and meeting local folks.

Crazy but true: I went on a walk today to Old Colorado City, just down the road from where Calli is living. And I stumbled into a friend I had met on the Appalachian Trail last year during the thru-hike. Her trail name was Grits and she was the one who told me about Americorps. The information she gave me about Americorps last year is the reason I'm living in Montana today. Intense!

Merilee, Melissa, Me

Saturday, August 18

Climbing the Rimrocks

Noah, Jon, Don and myself went rock climbing Wednesday evening after work. Noah, Jon, and Don all live together along with two other guys. That house of guys is pretty amazing. They all have a wide variety of interests and passions. Noah is super passionate about hunting and fishing. Don is the expert rock climber. Jon rides BMX bikes and loves his video games (he has three different game systems). Tyler, another roommate, whitewater rafts and kayaks. And John John, the last of the five, is in to panning and mining for gold in his spare time.
So Don offered to take us rock climbing, which is very selfless, because we are much less skilled than he is. Therefore, he ends up spending a majority of the time belaying for us and setting up climbs that are super easy for him, but challenging for us. We each attempted a pretty crazy climb, of which we all failed, except Don. And then he set up a climb that was much more manageable for us.
Fun way to watch the day turn into night.

Here is Noah beginning one of the crack climbs. This crack stopped us all, except for Don, that is. Pictured below you can see Don resting in an indentation in the rock wall, before continuing on to the top.

Jon and I are reading as the sun sets behind us.

Montana Fair

The State Fair came to Billings this week, and I finally found time to head on over to the Metra to see how Montana's Fair compared to Indiana's. The fair itself was much smaller than the Indiana State Fair - that seemed logical being that Montana's state population can fit inside the city of Indianapolis. Though Montana Fair was smaller than I remember the Indiana State Fair being, there were definitely some Montana gems here in the Treasure State. First of all, if you are in to gambling there was a bingo barn, and a Montana State Lottery booth. Secondly, the big event on Friday night was the Northern Rodeo Championships vs. a concert or some such thing that you might find in the Hoosier land. The variety of vendors was surprising. Vendors serving deep fried snickers, twinkies, oreos, and Pepsi. Vendors selling deep fat fried sausage on a stick, cheese on a stick, pickles on a stick. Vendors peddling tacos, gyros, black angus beef, pizza, corn dogs, you name it. And of course there were the traditional lemonade shake-ups, ice cream bars, and sodas that would break an individual if one should attempt to buy more than one or two. I indulged in a huckleberry shake after attending the rodeo.

But the one thing that I could pin down as being totally unique to Montana's Fair was the food choice of Rocky Mountain Oysters. And for all of you non-native westerners, these are not oysters at all, in fact they have nothing to do with seafood. Rocky Mountain Oysters, my friends, are deep fat fried bull testicles. I don't know many hoosiers that would go for that particular fair food. This hoosier, I can happily say, did not!

Partaking in the sweet delicacy of funnel cake heaven!

Extreme Canine Show: All stunt dogs were rescued from animal shelters across the U.S.

Calf Roping at the NRA (Northern Rodeo Association) Championship. I have a few rodeo videos that I took with my digital camera that I am hoping to put on the blog in the next week or so, once I figure out how to do it.

Friday, August 17

Brooke's Wedding

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel east a few thousand miles to Indiana three weekends ago to stand in Brooke's wedding. Brooke and I have known each other since 1998, where we met at Indiana Wesleyan University and spent a few years playing softball, camping, playing pranks, and enjoying life before cell phones and ipods came into the picture. It was refreshing to reconnect with college friends that I hadn't seen since my graduation in 2001.

Pictured above: Me, Megan, Brooke, Krystal, and Lisa

Wednesday, August 15

Danger in the Museum

Like a frightening story from a book, the words come to life. And here I was in the jaws of a T-Rex!

Okay maybe not quite Jurassic Park, but...this is the largest T-Rex skull to have ever been discovered. It measures five feet from tip of nose to back of the skull. Crazy huge!

One of my youth crews spent a day at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT today. It has the finest collaboration of dino bones that I've ever seen in a museum. And the great thing about it is that almost all of the bones displayed were found within Montana, Wyoming, or Alberta, Canada.

Fun fact I learned today: In 2000 at the Fort Peck Reservoir (central Montana), five T-Rex skeletons were discovered and excavated. The most excavations in one place at one time in the history of dino digging! Talk about hitting the jackpot! I would imagine there are better odds in the everpresent casinos around here.

Still a Teacher at Heart

Who says I'm not going back to teaching? Lookie here. I still "Gotts - Chalk".

Monday, August 13

Words I Don't Care to Hear Again

"Oh, there were 11 Grizzlies and 2 Wolves feasting on a Bison carcass in the valley that you just passed through".

- Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Ranger

Back to Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is ablaze. There are at least three large forest fires burning in the park right now. One of the fires is 90% contained according to a parks worker that I ran into on Saturday. A large fire near Yellowstone Lake burst to life a few days ago and in the words of a fire specialist in Wyoming, "it is 0% contained", at least that was the word on the street this morning at 8:00am.

Even with the fires looming, a group of five of us headed for the park Saturday to hike into the backcountry for a night. The central section of the park is far enough from the fire that it was safe to hike and camp, however I did wake up to smells of smoke, and views of a thick haze that blocked the southern horizon.

Saturday night, one of the members of our party suggested that we get up before dawn and hike to the summit of Observation Peak for the sunrise. We all agreed to do it, some of us less enthusiastically than others, setting our alarms for 3:30am. I have to admit I was tardy, crawling out of my sleeping bag at 4 am. It didn't take me long to realize that myself and my tent partner were the only ones getting up. The predawn hike wasn't even our idea! We grabbed a bite to eat in the pitch black morning, saw a few shooting stars, and inquired with our snoozing adventurers whether they were going to get up. They promptly informed us that it was too late to see the sunrise from the top of the peak since it was a three mile hike, and were back to snoring in no time. Mike and I looked at each other, irritated at the situation, crawled back into our sleeping bags and finished our night's sleep. Observation Peak will still be there when the sun rises, I suppose. I wish we would have thought of that before I stuck my contacts in at 4 am!
Observation Peak @ 11 am, instead of 5:30 am

Remnants of an Elk near Cascade Lake

Friday, August 10

Vanity Plates

This blog might offend a certain sector of people, but I'm going to "go there" anyway. Vanity plates irk me. They always have. I don't know if it is Montana, or maybe nationally they are becoming more popular, but I've been seeing hordes of vanity plates with ridiculous little quips on them. A few I've spotted recently:


The "BACKOFF" plate was on a burgundy, four door Ford Focus with a woman driving who appeared to be in her late fifties or early sixties. Really, Lady?

I just don't get it.

Friday, August 3

Me and Jimmy

It hasn't taken long for me to realize that my vehicle is aging right along side of me. Since the Jimmy I drive has only had me as it's owner, I've been witness to all of its successes and failures. Definitely more successes than failures in the last eight years, but I fear the next eight years might not be so kind to the Jimmy.
Somehow the miles keep adding up. I looked down at the odometer the other day and was shocked to see that Jimmy and I had gone over 107,000 miles together. Now honestly, I don't know why I was shocked, because I've been watching the miles tick by fairly quickly out here in the vast state of Montana. Just because the speed limit is above 70 mph doesn't mean the miles are disappearing. Though admittedly, that is what it feels like at times.
In the midst of driving home from one of my hitches (extended camping trips with the MCC) the other day, my rearview mirror detaches from my windshield, hits the dash, and lies there lifeless like it never had a service that it provided me for the past eight years. I haven't been able to revive my rearview mirror yet, therefore my side mirrors are getting quite the workout. I'm just hoping they don't feel overworked and decide to jump ship!
I guess it has been a couple years now, but I distinctly remember the moment when the cover on the sunvisor mirror decided it didn't need to be connected to the mirror anymore. That resulted in a bruise on the bridge of my nose when it came sliding down the visor like a luge on an icy hill straight into my face! And every so often, I forget that it is not attached, and that I've only set it on top of my mirror to keep the little light from burning out, and the mirror cover ambushes me again at the same moment that the sun is searing my eyeballs, and all I want is a little repreive from the deadly glare, but instead I'm left with a smarting wound on my face.
I've had to replace the brakes on the Jimmy twice, fix the bearings in the left front tire twice, replace two flats, replace the bushing around the pin in the door hinge, and do the regular maintenance type upkeeps in the past eight years. And I've honestly counted myself lucky that I haven't had any major work that needed to be done to the Jimmy. But i'm beginning to have this foreboding feeling that this is only the beginning. I've developed a supersensitivity to any strange noises that I hear as I am enroute. And those strange noises are popping up at every increasing intervals.
To my loyal but aging vehicle, this haiku is for you:

Hang in there Jimmy.
I may need another eight years,
of service from you.