The most uncomfortable part of getting out to walk the dog in the 15 degree morning was the inevitability of my feet becoming wet as the snow melted through the mesh tops on my running shoes. Speaking of cold feet, Cali doesn’t quite know what to do about sniffing out a place to relieve herself so she wandered extra long in the frozen RV park. After a while she was limping and trying to pick up all four feet at once because her paws were getting too cold. We had to abandon the mission and return to the RV to warm up.
I asked the good folks at Osen’s RV Park if we could check out a little late and they were cool with it. Linda showed me how to access the Montana Department of Transportation app and get real time information on conditions over the passes we have to cross today. PJ and I headed into town to hunt down the Yellowstone Gateway Museum so we could pay a visit to the Urbach School.
The school was originally erected in 1898 by my great grandfather and a group of other early ranchers in the area just outside Livingston. They were German immigrants who deeply valued education and wanted to make sure that there was the opportunity for all the farm families to attend. At its peak it had 24 students in all different grades from first through eighth. My grandmother taught there for a while in the latter years. In the early 2000s my dad, his brother, his cousin, my sister and several other descendants of the original students and locals, disassembled the old log building that was sitting in disrepair and moved it over to its current location at the museum and restored it on the site.
When we got to the museum, the outside exhibits were closed due to the build up of snow. We explained why we were there and they eventually agreed to open the school up and let us have a look inside. The docent even took our picture outside. There were newspaper articles on the wall about the restoration and an old story about the 1922 murder of my great grandparents when somebody dynamited their home as they slept. It was a trip back in time and an opportunity to learn more about my family history. As we were passing back through the basement area that led out to the back, a curator named Jay took an interest in our visit and pulled up some old pictures and gave us a set of reference cards to look up articles on the archives at the library. Unfortunately, we were running late for our check out and still had a few errands to tend to.
We took a walk through the museum to have a quick look at the exhibits. Some early history, a lot of Lewis and Clark items, Native American culture and a more recent section on local veterans from twentieth century wars.
I wanted to have a quick look at the house where my grandparents had lived for as long as I can remember. But first, we made a quick stop at the local thrift store where I sniffed out a pair of used waterproof boots for $5.50. One size too big, but I can’t complain for the price. We picked up some thick socks later at Murdoch’s to fill them up.
Then it was over to Grandma’s. When I was a child, my family would drive up nearly every summer to visit and camp all along the way. The house didn’t look much different. I would play whiffle ball with my cousin out in front. Dad’s Aunt Olive lived in the little garage apartment out back and you could hear her T.V. cranked all the way up clear out to the street because she couldn’t hear. Grandma would preserve anything from blackberries to pickles and we would wade into the water soaked basement to get the chokecherry syrup off the shelf to sweeten our morning pancakes.
We didn’t want to stand around too long and creep out the current residents so we took a few pictures and were on our way. Back at Osen’s, we knocked off as much excess ice from the RV as we could and hit the road. We re-evaluated our route and scuttled our plans to drive up through the heavy snows of Glacier Park to Waterton Lakes and turned west towards Missoula instead. We heard the snow hadn’t hit them and although slightly below freezing at night, it would be up into the 50s during the day. We still had two mountain passes to navigate or as my Dad said “you have to cross the Continental Divide somewhere”. We retraced yesterday’s climb over the Bozeman pass and the sun had done a decent job of melting most of the snow on the road, just some icy areas on bridges and in shaded areas to look out for.
The big question was the longer pass through Butte where the highway went over the divide. Some snowy and sketchy patches but overall not too bad, just take it slow. The scenery was post card quality snow covered mountains and pine trees. Chunks of melting ice would occasionally fall in a crunchy explosion off the undercarriage of the RV.
As we dropped down to the 3200 foot elevation of Missoula, the snow disappeared and some deciduous trees with changing colors started to dot the landscape. The sun was shining and it was good to get settled at Jim & Mary’s RV campground on the outskirts of the city. We’ll spend a few days here taking care of some projects and letting the road ahead warm up a bit