Busy in Billings

The Drive from H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

*sigh* As much as I’d like to forget this drive, I’ll put it in here as part of showing ‘real life’ and not just the happy or exciting things.

On our drive to Billings from Sheridan, Wyoming, (about two hours), we still had the 5th wheel, which means the cats were still riding in the truck. This was their third ride and we’d hoped they’d start getting used to it. The first two drives, they calmed down after about 45 minutes to an hour; so we were hoping for calm within that time or sooner. Not so much.

We’d started them out in their carriers, which created a feline frenzy of howling, scratching, digging, etc. After about 30 minutes, we released them and they spent the rest of the drive continuing to howl, yowl, and crawl all over us and the truck. At the fifth deep gash in my skin, I just lost it. I couldn’t handle their stress, the worry of them getting out every time we stopped for gas, and being flayed alive. I. Just. Couldn’t.

After a bit of a cry, I checked out for the rest of that drive. I would normally pet them and try to soothe them, but I just sat there. Not good. Brian asked me later that day if I was okay. Nope. Not hardly.

So that was sort of the beginning of the end of the 5th wheel. From there the cats got worse and worse each time we moved – eventually never settling down even on four or five hour drives. That’s all I’m going to say about it here. I go into more detail in Moving Back for Sanity.

There was a bright spot that day – going out for dinner at Montana Brewing. Being keto and diabetic, I don’t often get pizza; but these guys have an awesome cauliflower crust Greek pizza – goat cheese, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, fresh basil. Mmm…so good! It seriously tasted like a normal thin crust pizza. In fact, their food is good enough that we went back again before leaving Billings and I had the same exact thing. 😉

Back to Business

Most of our first week in Billings was spent working and running errands. We started an online course and did a lot of work on our social media platforms too. Bor-ing. I was also working extra hours that week and early the next week to make up time for a trip I was taking.

Tornado Watch!

Our second week in Billings started with a bang! Or maybe more like a train? We had a tornado watch in the area and were at least expecting to see some very high winds; so we battened down the hatches, prepped the cat carriers, and waited for the storm.

It hit around dinner time – pouring rain, hail, and definitely high winds rocking the 5th wheel. At the dining table I sat facing the back window. We heard that sort of roaring train noise you expect during tornadoes and felt a huge microburst. I looked up just in time to see the neighbor’s awning flip up and over onto the top of their rig. Oh crap!!!

Brian went out into the storm to help them, and eventually they had to just cut the awning off of the frame. I felt so bad. If we’d realized they had their awning out, we could have warned them of the tornado watch. I know. I know. They should be watching the weather too. Doesn’t make me feel better about it.

It turns out the winds were reporting in at 70 mph, but no tornadoes were actually spotted. Phew! The next day, our neighbor came over to thank Brian again and gave us a jar of homemade pickles. Nice!

Bachelor Brian and Julie’s Side Trip

Mid-week, I drove from Billings to Lolo Hot Springs (near Missoula) to meet up with some friends. We hung out there for a day, tent camped near a creek for four days, then spent our last day back at the hot springs. Ahh…so nice to enjoy the company of good friends and hot, healing mineral waters!

Near Lolo Hot Springs, Montana

While I was there (about a 5 1/2 hour drive away), Brian was in the RV all by his lonesome and without a car. Aww. Don’t feel too sorry for him, folks. He worked most of the time and probably watched YouTube or movies the rest of the time, plus he had a/c and a shower. Billings also has Lyft and he used that when he needed it. Full bachelorhood enjoyment. I’m sure. 😉

YAM and Rims

After I returned from my gathering, Brian and I had only a few days before we’d be on the road toward North Dakota and still had so much we wanted to see in Billings! We squeezed in two really nice trips: The Yellowstone Art Museum and the Rimrocks.

I was told about YAM by an artist friend who grew up in Billings and still has an art piece in the museum. Shameless plug here, Jennifer Hawke is an amazing artist using all kinds of media – found objects, metalwork, and watercolors (my fav.) Her found objects often come in as trash she picks up on the beach near her home – win/win! Here’s her piece at YAM. Check out more on her new Etsy store!

As to the rest of YAM, it’s really a great gallery filled with a variety of permanent and short-term exhibits. Brian and I don’t typically go to art museums and thought we might just run in, see our friend’s piece and whatever else was along the way, then leave. We ended up spending more than two hours there and went through each exhibit! We skimmed by some pieces that didn’t catch our eye because it was getting late, but took our time on the ones we really enjoyed. Here are three of my favorites.

The horse is ‘Leona’ by Deborah Butterfield. She actually seemed to have a soul. It was amazing! The ‘Native American Patchwork Blanket’ by Penny Jenkins is really fused glass, and the ‘Blooming Basket’ by Sandy Dingman is made from pine needles. You can see more of the art in The Wandering Gants Instagram or Facebook page.

We’d noticed these huge sandstone cliffs overlooking part of Billings and I, of course, wanted to go check out the rocks. We’d heard from others that it’s a ‘must see’ place, so we made sure to do it. One problem. We couldn’t find anything that said “Rimrocks is here”, so we just decided to drive toward the area and figure it out as we got closer. What we later discovered is that there isn’t just a specific spot to park and walk along the cliffs because they cover such a large area.

We found Zimmerman Park, though, and we spent most of our time there. I suggest making that your destination at least to start out. They have signs posted to beware of rattlesnakes. I did hear one off in the grass, but there were none on the trails. Still, wear appropriate shoes – unlike me. (I was very careful when walking!) We took the easy trails out to the cliffs and were treated to beautiful rock formations and some fantastic views of Billings. (Again, more pics on Instagram and Facebook.)

Even though Billings was busy for us, and we didn’t get to do nearly as many things as we wanted. We definitely enjoyed ourselves and hope to be back again soon to explore the rest of the places on our list. Next up – Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

Thanks for joining us as we live our journey…