Sunday, July 26, 2020

Big Sky Country

In mid-July, we flew to Billings, Montana to visit Dan's sister, Robin, and her family!  They moved from Virginia to Montana last summer when Robin's husband, Rob, accepted a pastor position at Rocky Mountain Community Church. We've missed them so much. Dan's parents made the trip to Montana with us, too, which was awesome!

We loved visiting with Robin, Rob, their little girls, Naomi and Miriam, and their college-aged son, Nate. Rob and Robin are working with a church planting committee at Rocky Mountain Community.  Rob will become the full-time pastor of the new church plant in Billings, and I *think* Robin will organize and lead the music.  Naomi, Miriam, Emma, and Hallie were so happy to see each other again, and had a blast doing anything as long as they were together.  Nate is living with Rob and Robin and working as a summer intern for Raytheon between his semesters at Virginia Tech, so we mainly saw him at dinnertime each evening.

Everything was pretty normal during our trip except the face mask requirements at the airport and inside the airplanes.  The airlines didn't provide anything to eat or drink on the flights, either, so we had to carry on any food we wanted.  We were able to remove our masks if we could stay 6 feet from others, or if we were eating and drinking. 

We were thankful to arrive safely in Billings!

And when we got to the baggage claim area, we saw this beautiful sight.

We arrived during the afternoon and had the rest of the day to see Robin and Rob's house and neighborhood.  We did some grocery shopping and let the kids play in the back yard before dinnertime. Unfortunately, Emma began our visit with a face plant on some rocks!

She had a painful cut and some swelling, but nothing that wouldn't heal on its own.

The next morning Robin introduced us to Pioneer Park and its awesome playground. They have a spectacular climbing structure and some other unique play equipment that the girls enjoyed.  We revisited that park at least twice during our stay.

Emma and Naomi climbing high

They had a double swing, a round swing that several kids could fit on, seats that spun around, some miniature play houses, and other equipment I haven't seen at typical playgrounds.

Hallie and I spent a lot of time on the double swing since it's all she wanted to do.

It took them a couple of days, but Hallie and Miriam really hit it off this visit. Emma and Naomi have always been like peas in a pod, but Hallie was a little too young in the past to keep up with Miriam or the bigger girls. She's grown up a lot in the past year, and now she and Miriam enjoy many of the same games and activities.

There was another new, fun playmate at Robin and Rob's house. His name is Bridger, and he's a labradoodle puppy.  This was how he looked most of the time - tail wildly wagging, and so excited about anyone who would pet him.  

Dan and I took a drive around Billings one afternoon to get the lay of the land. We were rewarded with this awesome view above the city from the rimrock where their airport is located.

Dan and I met and got married in Denver, CO, and the scenery and climate in Billings reminded us of Denver.  It brought back a lot of fond memories and made us miss living in the west!

It's 90 degrees outside, but Dan's not sweating! A little different from humid Virginia!

Lake Elmo is just a few miles north of Billings, where there's beach access for swimming. We spent one 90+ degree day there and had a great time.

The water was still a little on the chilly side, but it didn't slow the girls down at all!

We took one major excursion from Billings and visited Yellowstone National Park. It takes 2.5 hours to drive to the northern entrance of Yellowstone, and we only had time to explore the northern section of the park.  But the scenery along the way was gorgeous and Yellowstone was absolutely breathtaking! 

One of the beautiful views on the way to Yellowstone. There was a long line of cars waiting to enter the park when we arrived, so once we made it inside, we stopped to stretch our legs and have a picnic lunch.  The weather had cooled down to the low 80s, which felt perfect.

The only major site we had time to explore was the hot springs area. We followed a wooden walkway across the sulfur springs and saw stretches of land that resembled the surface of the moon. The colors were fascinating!  

From the springs, we drove on to look for wildlife.  We saw several fearless elk near the roadways and in the visitor center area.  We had to drive for a while to find them, but we eventually saw hundreds of bison, too. We didn't see a lot of small wildlife, but we watched one chipmunk scramble over rocks near a hot spring and stop to drink from it!

We stopped beside the road to see one bison (the girls are pointing to the brown lump in the grass far behind them), and took a short trail down to a beautiful river.

It was late afternoon, so we hopped back in the car and drove along the Beartooth Pass to get to the town of Red Lodge for dinner.  The Beartooth Pass is not for the faint of heart or stomach! It's marked in red on the map below.  

I had taken some anti-nausea medicine, so I was fine during the drive. But poor Hallie learned what "carsick" feels like.  She never threw up, but felt miserable for part of the drive.

We took a short break from the road to snap a photo by the Montana state sign.

The scenery along the pass was incredible. 

Hallie felt much better after a few minutes out of the car.

 We enjoyed seeing different areas of Billings during the last days of our visit. Robin and Rob took us downtown for lunch at The Burger Dive and then we had ice cream at The Big Dipper.

Another day, we stopped at Candy Town USA, where they had an ice cream parlor and bins of every candy imaginable. 

We went inside Scheels outdoor recreation store. Inside, they had a huge (floor to ceiling) aquarium, a ferris wheel, and several displays of stuffed wild animals.  Emma found herself in peril underneath a mountain lion!

 She wasn't afraid of the giant grizzly bear, though.

Pioneer Park had a public kids' pool, and we took the girls there to play one afternoon.  It was only about a foot deep and there were two lifeguards on duty, so we could relax while they splashed and played.

All too soon, it was time for us to gear up in our face masks and fly home. We miss having Robin & Rob and their family in Virginia, but we loved seeing where God has placed them and how he's using them in Billings.

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