Montana Friends Reunion

The decision was made earlier in the year that we would have a friends reunion at Tom and Sarah Foster home outside Bozeman, MT. Those making the trip were Joyce Sheldon from Arkansas, Barb and Bill Knapp from northern California, Phil Sheldon from Wyoming, and Carol Patterson along with myself from Iowa. Joyce came to my house the night of Friday, July 5th. We spent Saturday having lunch with friends in Cedar Rapids, Mary and Larry Nelson; while at lunch, perspective buyers of my 1991 Mazda Miata were taking a test run. We ate at a new restaurant called Rodina’s in Czech Village and it was very good.

Since we were leaving early the next day for Phil’s in Gillette, WY. Carol spent the night at my place. There was nothing to note regarding our first day except lots of construction happening on I90; we arrived in Gillette about 6:00 p.m., checked into our rooms at the Best Western where we had reservations, Phil came to our hotel, and we had dinner at Wyoming’s Rib and Chop House a short distance from the hotel. Good food, good wine, and good conversation. It was a short evening with lights being out early; we planned on being on the road by 7:00 the next day.

On the road again; since he had to leave Fosters late Wednesday afternoon, Phil drove his own car and Joyce rode with him. While on the road, I got a message from the folks who test drove my Miata; they made an offer, I gave a counter offer, and the car was sold…what a relief! Because we were going to arrive around 12:30 or so in Bozeman, we contacted the Fosters to see if they wanted to meet for lunch which they thought was a great idea. We met up at Biankini’s right off of I90 in Bozeman. After lunch, we settled in at Fosters with Joyce and I taking the beds in the basement. The Knapps arrived around 5:00 p.m. Tom had fixed his famous BBQ ribs; after appetizers and a few drinks, we had dinner which included the sweet corn we had brought with us. It was so great to be together again!!

The gang is all here!

On Tuesday, the 9th, we went to the Museum of the Rockies located on the campus of Montana State University which resides not too far from the Fosters. It was an excellent day exploring the museum plus seeing a showing the first man to step on the Moon in the theater. We had lunch from a food truck outside the entrance. And I could not pass up visiting the museum gift shop although I did not make any purchase. That evening we had steaks that we had brought from Iowa. After dinner, we went to the Community Band concert in a local park; Carol’s brother, who lives in Bozeman, played the tuba in the band so it gave her an opportunity to visit briefly with him.

Live Performance at Museum; Beautiful Costume
Gathering for Lunch
Community Band

We ate breakfast out on Wednesday with Barb and Bill treating us at The Coffee Pot Cafe; as we waited for our orders, I journeyed thru the pottery shop that is part of the cafe and, of course, made a purchase of tiny bowls that go well with my dinnerware. After breakfast, the ladies shopped downtown while the men went to beer tastings at a couple local breweries. Good time was had by all! Phil took off about 3:30 or so to return to Gillette and, after our good byes, we sat outside on the patio visiting. That evening we had pizza at MacKenzie River Pizza Co; while there, I got a text from my brother who was in Bozeman picking up a new camping trailer. Bob and Linda were going to stay at the WalMart parking lot for the evening so, after we ate pizza, we went there to view their new trailer. Very nice and very big! Back at the Fosters, we visited for awhile and then departed for our respective rooms.

Pizza Cheer

After a leisurely morning, we loaded into Carol’s van and headed to the Spanish Creek Trailhead which is part of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness; we were having a picnic lunch and taking a hike. It was a hot but beautiful day. The picnic was delicious and everyone, except Barb who was having some leg problems, went hiking. About mid-afternoon, we decided to head back to Bozeman but we stopped at Stacey’s Bar in Gallatin Gateway on the way for some liquid refreshment. That evening, after eating leftovers, the boys were busy in Tom’s workshop with the laser while the rest of us relaxed. However, for some reason, my stomach became quite upset and I rushed to Fosters bathroom but did not quite make it in time. After getting sick, I went to bed because of feeling very tired and weak; went to sleep quite early which was good because the next morning we were leaving quite early for home.

Where the Buffalo Roam
Preparing for Lunch
On the Trail

Beautiful Wildflowers
The Peaks
Our hostess and host crossing creek

Got up at 5:00 a.m., got dressed, packed our luggage in our vehicle, gave everyone a good bye hug, and we were on our way back to Iowa by 5:30 a.m. That evening we checked into Baymont Inn and Suites at Oacoma, SD. After settling into our room, we walked to Al’s Oasis Restaurant which was located right next to our lodging. My stomach was feeling slightly off so had ordered a shrimp cocktail for my meal. After we ate, we ventured to the gift shop and grocery stores attached to the restaurant. At the grocery store, I purchased some food items for home the next day; this avoided my having to go food shopping once I got there. The drive on Saturday was uneventful with the major excitement was purchasing a blizzard at a Dairy Queen. Got home around 3:00 in the afternoon; after unloading our luggage, Carol took off for her home in Marion. Joyce was attending a conference in St. Louis but it did not start until Wednesday so she did not leave my place until after lunch on Tuesday. Good time was had by all and it was animous decision that we would meet again next year in Arkansas.

Visiting Tom’s Family

My sister-in-law, Sarah, arranged for me to join them for a performance of the musical, Hamilton, in Chicago during May so I decided to visit both sisters at their respective homes before heading to Chicago. On Friday, May 17th, I left home early in the morning to drive to sister-in-law, Lynda, and her husband’s place outside Stryker, OH. Arrived at their place around 4:00 in the afternoon; the drive was uneventful and traffic not very bad. That evening, Lynda fixed hamburgers on the grill; we spent the evening catching up with each other’s lives. The next day we went shopping in Defiance, OH. Because the weather was much colder than the forecast had shown, I needed to purchase some warm clothing so ended up finding a sweatshirt and pair of dressy knit pants. Lynda had pulled a pair of jeans she was giving to Goodwill out of her box and gave them to me. That evening, we ate at “Mom’s” Restaurant in Archbold.

Lynda and Jim
Barnes Residence

On Sunday, the 19th, we drove to Sarah and Mike’s place in Adrian, MI. Once there, we loaded into their vehicle for a drive to Chelsea, MI where we were having a family dinner at nephew, Jason, home. What a beautiful home, nestled among the trees, with design similar to Frank Lloyd Wright. It was an afternoon of delicious food, and great conversations. We arrived back in Adrian around 5:15; Lynda and Jim left for their home while we drove to niece, Jana’s, and her family home. Spent a couple hours talking to Jana, Mark, and the kids. Went back to Sarah and Mike’s where we settled in for the night.

Sarah and Mike
The Family
Lots of Good Food

The next day Sarah and I drove to a new garden nursery she had been wanting to explore. After that, we drove into Tecumseh where we visited a few shops, including one winery where I purchased a bottle of local wine, and had lunch at a real cool place called British Tea Garden. Once we arrived back in Adrian, Sarah and I walked the downtown area where I saw many changes. We also stopped in the Croswell Opera House, an historic theater, that Sarah and Mike support; it is a beautiful place. Mike was playing on a golf league so Sarah and I had pizza at the Pizza Bucket. Since we were leaving early the next morning to catch a train in Jackson for downtown Chicago, we got our bags organized and ready to go.

Early, early, early is the best way to describe the over hour drive to Jackson the next morning. Got on the train for downtown Chicago; because of some delay on the tracks, it took about 5 hours to get to Chicago’s downtown station. Upon arrival, we grabbed a taxi for a ride to the hotel, Hilton Garden Inn, that we had reserved. After checking in and taking luggage to our rooms, we met downstairs and walked to Grand Lux Cafe, a place Sarah and Mike had experienced before and really liked, for lunch. More walking familiarized us with the area. Back at the hotel, we got ready for the evening performance of the musical Hamilton. Before the performance, we met up with the gal who was raised in Adrian and worked at the supervisor of the Costume Department for the theater company; she was able to get us very good seats close to the stage. We met at the bar/restaurant, the Grillroom, across from the theater. After she left to get the cast ready for the performance, we stayed for a bite to eat. When it was time, we walked across the street to the theater where we experienced a fantastic performance; it was very, very enjoyable! After the performance, we were able to go on stage and meet one of the major actors. And then a walk back to the hotel where we settled in for the night.

Train Station @ Jackson
Outside Theater
In front of stage

Wednesday found us, after breakfast at the hotel, heading to Millennium Park which is an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design. The last time I was in downtown Chicago, I did not have a chance to visit the park so really wanted to see it this visit. And it was very enjoyable to walk around and see all the sculptures. We grabbed a taxi for Northerly Island where Hamilton The Exhibition was located. A very detailed, informative exhibit in which we spent close to three hours exploring. And, like many visitors, I had a buy a souvenir at their gift shop. We returned to downtown Chicago where we had lunch at the Weber Grill Restaurant. We then walked down the Miracle Mile; stopped and purchased popcorn at Garrett’s which is well known in Chicago for their caramel popcorn. Back at the hotel, we went to our respective rooms for a few hours of relaxation. That evening we had dinner at an Italian place called Pizzeria Due. After dinner, we stumbled upon a place that had restaurants, gourmet food, deli, and merchandise all rolled into one. It was a great place to explore…even though I cannot remember the name of it. Back to the hotel for the rest of the evening.

Statue in Park
The Bean
Reflection Pool
Hamilton Exhibit

Skyline Downtown Chicago

Thursday was our last day in Chicago before our catching the train back to Jackson at 5:45 that evening. We were checked out of the hotel but left our luggage in storage and took off to explore some shops. There was a Canadian store called Roots that was having a grand opening of a new store in Chicago; Sarah was familiar with the store from their many visits to Canada so she wanted to see what the new store had to offer. And I wanted to find Patagonia for another shopping experience. First, we found Roots but it was not opening for another hour; however, the manager let us into the store and gave us free leather passport handlers that we could have engraved when the store officially opened later in the morning. We proceeded to the address of Patagonia; I found a pair of lightweight sweatpants that I purchased. By the time I completed browsing and made a purchase, Roots was open so we went back to the store. All of us had our leather passport holders engraved with name and design. Purchases were made and we walked back to the hotel. It was mid-afternoon, so we decided to find a lunch/early dinner spot; we went to Rock Bottom Brewery down the street from the hotel. After having a drink and appetizer, we spent time in the lobby of the hotel. Around 4:00, we retrieved our luggage and found a taxi to take us to the train station. Because of the traffic, it took about an hour to arrive at the station. Our train arrived and we were on our way to Jackson. Dinner was a glass of wine from the dining car and the bag of cheesy popcorn I had purchased the day before. We got there around 10:30; found the car and drove back to Adrian where we arrived around 11:45; all of us off to bed.

On Friday, the 24th, I got up at 5:00 in order to be on the road by 5:30. Filled my traveling mugs with coffee and water. Because it was the start of a holiday week end, I wanted to be around Chicago by 11:00 in order to avoid traffic. Made very good time; got around Chicago with no problems and arrived home around 3:30 pm Iowa time. Another successful adventure; it was good to spend time with Tom’s family and being able to see Hamilton at the same time.