Greetings from Montana!
My posts are bit more scrunched together this week since I was actually a week behind, so enjoy!
Well, Meem has been gone for a little over a week now, so it’s been back to the ole’ Taco & Tristen lifestyle, which admittedly isn’t a bad one. While Yellowstone was definitely the highlight of Meem’s visit, we did some other things as well and even had a good time right up until she left. In fact we even got in a hike/walk the night before she had to fly out – we went to the Cherry River trail area, which connects to the larger East Gallatin Recreation Area via trail.
A train even wanted to go hiking with us.
It was a wonderful day for hiking, it was a little on the chilly side, but out in the sun it felt fine.
It had been a little rainy, so it was nice to get out and enjoy some blue skies.
It was a really pretty area and what’s nice is that it’s only about a 10 minute drive from my house!
Since it’s so close to town, it’s a very well maintained trail system. In fact it’s part of their larger planned “Main Street to the Mountains” trail network.
We even saw a deer friend when we were out, or as Meem calls them “giant rats.”
All in all it was a great low-intensity hike and since I’d gotten off work about an hour early (for Meem’s last night in town) we had plenty of time to do it before dinner.
We’d made 8pm reservations at a place called The Blackbird Kitchen, which is my boss’s favorite place to eat in town. While there Meem had a wine named after Valentino!
Tristen and I had some “ramb ricken” while Meem had “rish ricken.” Both were very tasty.
The next day Meem flew out and then I was off to work and thus resumed my regularly scheduled Montana life – which is pretty much what this post is going to be about.
Much of what I’ve blogged about so far has been one adventure or another, such as that time I met a bear friend, or the time Tristen met some Montana dinosaurs. So, as a change of pace I’m going to share some insight into what my day-to-day existence is like out here, you know, mundane things that are somehow made interesting by the fact that you aren’t doing them but I am.
For starters, this is where I live.
Yep, that’s my house!
No not really, that’s where my landlord lives.
This is where I live.
Yep, a garage. But as the photos from an earlier post show it’s not really a garage. Ok, well part of it is, but the part where I live is actually a little apartment which was built inside of the garage. It’s pretty nice, and most importantly it’s a place to sleep. In fact I quite like my little sleeping-cubby, at least when it’s not too hot.
In fact, after nearly seven weeks of living here my only real complaints involve the crappy air conditioner and the (increasingly) bad internet, but I’ll whine about the internet in a moment.
Of course that isn’t to say that those are my only complaints. I have a swarm of lesser complaints, such as the stupid shower.
What’s wrong with it? Well the shower itself is fine other than the fact that the whole apartment has bad water pressure if someone is running a hose outside. It’s really the door that I hate. That stupid, STUPID door – it was made for people 4 feet tall and I hit my head on the frame nearly every other day, and, because it has a track for the sliding door, it really digs into my scalp.
Also that bear photo (which I actually like) on the wall has a tendency to fall off randomly since it’s just sitting on a nail. This is made worse by the fact that if I have both my front and back door open my apartment turns into a wind vortex. I may or may not have used glue to “fix” that problem.
But, by and large, life is swell with Tristen.
We are creatures of habit, so we have a fairly rock-solid routine and we both have no qualms with such an existence.
During the weekdays life starts at 6:25am – nope, not 6:30, 6:25. We then get up and around and head over to the landlord’s house for some exercise. On our way we pass through the garage, where this Sentry Light follows us.
It’s a good idea, and I’ve since come to like it when the garage is dark, but when I first arrived I did not like that light following me, not one bit. It just follows you, flooding you in a bath of white, unwelcoming light. In fact half the time it just shines right into your eyes because it can. It has a 180 degree range of motion, so really there’s only a tiny sliver of the garage where it won’t find you, and watch you, silently.
Once outside we take in the (often – but not always) gorgeous Montana mornings.
And then we go into the main house.
Their house actually contains an apartment in addition to the house. When you first come in, you can either go right into the main house or up the stairs to your left which leads to an apartment above the garage.
My landlord has a few rental properties (and really seems just to have a lot of properties in general), but three rental units are located right there on their personal property/home. There is my unit in the garage [medium], the unit above the garage in the main house [small], and then a big unit above their barn [large]. The “niceness” of the unit kind of corresponds to its size, with the above-garage unit being the cheapest and lowest on features, while the above-barn unit being large and fancy. Mine’s right in the middle.
Anyways, I’ve never been up to the above-garage unit, I just know about it from when I was considering renting it. Tristen and I always turn right to proceed into the main house.
As you can see, it’s kind of a shabby run down place.
It’s kind of old and decrepit.
Honestly I have no idea how they live there.
I mean, look at this in-home theater they have; so small.
And their “fully-stocked” snack bar only has Red Vines and not Twizzlers.
Plus there are wild animals just running loose in the house.
So yeah, obviously I’m being sarcastic and they have a very nice house. In addition to all of the above (which is honestly only about 1/2 of the house – I haven’t seen the rest as I don’t tend to just go explore people’s homes) they have a pretty decent gym in the basement.
In fact the gym actually played a pretty big role in my decision to rent with them, that and the fact that it was a good bit cheaper to stay out in the boonies rather than closer to or in town.
It’s pretty nice; I’ve got a schedule worked out with my landlords where I have the gym all to myself from around 6:40am through 7:40am, seven days a week. Of course they don’t tend to get up until around 8am, so that was an easy sell.
The only issue with the gym has been that a few weeks in the treadmill broke, but it’s since been fixed – though I’m now paranoid about using it after it almost threw me through the wall once. Also, once or twice my landlords have had guests, which meant teeny toddlers in the house who visited me in the gym at 6:45am, and if you know me then that wasn’t happening. Fortunately, I’m so #swag that I even have a “backup” gym out in the garage that I can use if the main house is a bit too “peoplely.”
The downside to this “gym” is that it’s much colder in the mornings, has far less equipment, and the machine isn’t bolted down, so I’ve had to use some clever scrap wood to keep it from tipping too much. Also, when I first arrived it was covered in dust and bird shit, and since then the birds have proceeded to shit on it at every opportunity, so that’s an ongoing process. Also, since the garage obviously has no free-weights, I use water jugs and bottles of bleach to make due – that said, the water jugs get real heavy real fast. That kind of takes me back to my earlier weight days, where I used milk bottles filled with water before I had real weights.
As for running when the toddlers have occupied the gym, I’m surrounded by 50 bajillion acres of land, so that’s no issue.
Once on my way to work I pass a Moo-cow traffic control box.
It’s hard to make out in that photo, but trust me it’s a cow. Many of the traffic control boxes in the Bozeman area have artwork on them, from cows to cultural murals to landscapes.
Now that I’ve found a consistent parking area (it was a pain the first two days) my drive into work usually isn’t that bad. Sometimes I even see weird/cool stuff like this.
House Moose has a very particular parking spot that they like:
It has to be that particular tree on that particular street, otherwise House Moose gets upset – though sometimes being close to that tree is good enough. In that photo parking was easy, but some days that street is oddly packed. It’s about 2 blocks from my work, so not a bad walk at all, plus it’s far better than paying to park .5 block away.
Once at work, I spend all day eating European chocolate.
In reality I much prefer what I actually do to eating chocolate all day, which is kind of saying something.
As for what I do at work, well, it’s a huge range of stuff. But basically I do what you would expect an environmental lawyer to do. I protect the environment.
I essentially have three main focus areas and each main area has its own sub-topics. They are:
“The Wild” (Wildlife, Wild Lands, The Ocean Ecosystem, The Arctic)
“Healthy Communities” (Clean Air, Clean Water, Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals)
“Climate and Energy” (Climate Change, Oil and Gas Drilling, Coal, Clean Energy)
Thus far I have focused heavily on the Wildlife and Oil and Gas Drilling side of things, though it looks like I might have some Wild Lands work coming down the pipeline and possibly some Coal stuff as well. In all of these major and sub-categories, you can pretty much assume that I fall solely on the “Protect” or “Enforce” side of things.
As some real examples: if someone wants to put a mine inside a national park – I say “Nope.” If someone wants to kill off critically low grizzly bear populations – I say “Nope.” If someone wants to take more land from a tribe – I say “Nope.” If someone wants to exceed their authority and pass unconstitutional local land-use ordinances – I say “Nope.” If someone wants to dump toxic waste into a river because it will “Only effect a low-income population” [actual quote] – I say “Nope.” If the government doesn’t want to enforce its own environmental laws – I say “Yep, you will and you’ll like it.”
Stuff like that, you get the gist. Basically I’ve become a massive thorn in the side of Capitalism, “Muh Freedoms”, State Governments, and the Federal Government (namely EPA, DOJ, DOE, DOI, and far-right Republicans in general), and I love it. Of course if you like clean air and clean water then you should probably love it too.
After I’m done being a “Tree Hugger” who needs to “go fuck themselves” [also an actual quote – made directly to me] for the day, Tristen and I head home. Unfortunately the drive home is not as pleasant as the drive in. Basically Bozeman is one of those towns that have grown too quickly and thus traffic can be pretty bad during rush hour. Thankfully it’s not as god awful as Denver was, but it’s still bad. That said, I eventually figured out a “back door” to getting out of town, but then this started happening.
It’s to see in that photo, but there is a Bakken oil train (yet again) that has been coming through town right in the 5:00 – 5:20pm range. As it is an oil train, and they’ve been exploding left and right these days because we are absolutely morons when it comes to our rail systems, it has to slow way down when in populated areas. This is a good thing. It means that stuff like Lac-Mégantic will be less likely to happen again. Of course this is also a bad thing if the train schedule is stupid, and 5pm is stupid. Sooooo, essentially this train, from a traffic standpoint, cripples the entire northeastern portion of Bozeman while it rolls through town. IF, and I mean IF I can beat it, then my drive home via my “back door” is mostly smooth sailing, but if I don’t beat it, then yeah, the drive sucks.
But when I do beat it (which comes down to minutes), and so long as I avoid 19th and 7th, a lot of my in town drive is pretty much stuff like this.
I even have a nice landmark on the turn off to my road, which helps me find it in the middle of the vast expanse the main highway goes through:
Once home for the weeknights, it’s mostly just chilling for Tristen and I. Well, chilling and becoming enraged at the internet [HMM NOTICE A THEME, DENMARK? DENVER? SANTA FE? BOZEMAN? WHY DO YOU FORSAKE ME INTERNET GODS]. But, still, mostly chilling.
We normally keep it simple for dinner, and three-ingredient chowder is about as complicated as our menu has gotten.
Sometimes we just eat Puffins. The cereal, not the bird.
Like always, Jeopardy remains a staple at the Taco household – Tristen would “rick my rass” otherwise.
Side-note: As it is near election time there are obviously lots of local political ads, I find it funny that the major platform for one of the front-runners for MT Governor seems to revolve around the fact that he kills lots of animals and has their body parts mounted to his wall (seriously, not even joking, the entire premise of the ad is about his hunting skills).
Oh, and of course there is also beer at the Taco house, lots of beer. I generally drink one beer per night during the summers (and often two on weekend nights).
You could say I enjoy exploring new beers just as much as I do exploring new places.
Why yes, I do use one of my two mini-refrigerators almost solely for beer, don’t judge.
One thing I like about a lot of Montana beer is the western theme, and by that I mean wildlife, and by that I mean bears! 😀
Although our bear beers haven’t entirely limited to Montana:
Though in fairness not all of the beers are bear-related, others maintain the western theme in different ways:
Aside from eating, watching Jeopardy, and drinking alcohol, a big way for Tristen and I to pass the time has been to watch Game of Thrones.
People had been saying I should watch it for at least one or two years, so we figured that absent business classes (thank God), we’d start it this summer. I abhor people who casually spoil things, so for this post I’ll restrict my coverage of GoT to saying that it is very, very good. As of writing this I’m nearly half-way through season 5, so I’m still about 1.5 seasons from being caught up, though the show isn’t over so I’ll have to wait 400 years to actually finish it, but I managed that with Breaking Bad so I know I can likely survive.
What hasn’t been good is the freaking interwebs. To be fair, when I first arrived, my internet wasn’t horrible – it wasn’t good, or even decent, but it wasn’t unusable either. Well, in the past week something has changed and I’m now rocking internet speeds of ~1999. The result is that for every two minutes of GoT I am able to watch, I spend the next 1.5 minutes buffering it, AND it looks like crap on top of it. Of course this happens after my free trial of HBO Now expires and I pay for a month.
Anyways, enough complaining about that for the moment, and – to be positive for a change – it’s not been every night, so maybe this is just a phase and I’ll be able to return to watching streaming media without pulling my hair out soon.
So, that is pretty much what my weekdays look like. Weekends are fairly similar, except I sleep in on Saturdays and go on a longer outdoor run, while on Sunday I just go lift weights for an hour but still get up at 6:25am (In order to conform to the gym schedule). I also tend to make a little fancier breakfasts, which isn’t hard since I normally just eat cereal.
The weekends are my exploring time, as made evident by pretty much every post thus far in the Bozeman Check-in series. So, I won’t recount those adventures here, other than to say that you can come across some weird signs on Montana’s back-roads.
Speaking of exploring, I returned Moose to his home on June 29th. It was kind of a sad day.
But the good news is that when Moose (2016 Toyota Corolla) departed, Moose II – Son of Moose (2016 Ford Focus) came home with us.
One thing I thought was funny about Moose II is that the car rental guy made it seem like it was “super kewl” that I got two keys, though what he failed to mention is that the keys are sealed together.
So useful having two keys, yep.
Aside from exploring with House Moose, we also fill our weekends with odds and ends, such as replacing light bulbs.
Sure the landlord could have done it for us, but Tristen wants to be manlies. Plus we had 4 light-bulbs burn out in the course of 24 hours, so I kind of just took the bulbs and ladder from the garage and did it myself rather than have the landlord come over 4 times.
Speaking of light, the power tends to go out here when it gets windy. Fortunately my landlord let me borrow a flashlight.
It’s actually like a pet wee spotter, I looked it up. It has a flashlight and a black light and comes in some kit with pet wee remover. So, I took a huge gamble and took the black light around my apartment one night expecting to find the 7th circle of hell, but fortunately (and thankfully) the apartment was actually really clean – no hidden horrors were revealed by the black light. In fact the dirtiest thing was probably Tristen’s toes (SB will know what I’m talking about).
As I’ve poked around my apartment over the past several weeks, I’ve found a couple of cool things, such as this mining first aid kit from the 1960s.
MSA stands for “Mine Safety Appliances” (which is actually still around). I don’t know the exact year for the kit, but online research pins it down as a version from the 60s. Some of the original supplies are even still in there, but about 1/2 of it is “newer” stuff.
As for why a 1960s mining first aid kit was under my kitchen sink, the world may never know.
I also found a rather tattered copy of “Pelt – The Trapper’s Magazine” from January 1935.
From everything I can tell it’s an original and not a reprint.
Speaking of hunting, despite my “Tree Hugger” status, I’ve done a lot of hunting since coming to Montana – insect hunting that is.
See, one thing about taking a garage and putting an apartment in it, is that no matter how nice the apartment is, it’s probably not going to be sealed as well as a house. So,
pretty much every day I get bug “friends.” These range from hilariously enormous house flies, to horrifyingly enormous hornets, to annoying gnats, to friendly spiders, to evil spiders, to happy little beetles, to black ants, to demon ants from hell. It’s an endless swarm, I could an hour each night just hunting them if I wanted (as soon as you kill one another seems to replace it), and sometimes I have stand-offs with them right at bedtime.
I tend to kill them all if they won’t leave; Insect God will know his own.
That said, some of them leave peacefully and are just being insect bros that don’t want to eat me in my sleep, such as this little grasshopper.
Other than the insects, the only other “threat” to my well-being (aside from self-induced aneurysm over the internet) is getting woken up in the middle of the night by a hailstorm.
As much as I love my metal roof when it comes to rain, it sounds like the Olympians and Titans have resumed their war when it hails – and since my sleeping-cubby puts my head about 3 feet from the roof, it can be a startling experience at 2am. Plus, since it hails a decent amount out here, this hasn’t been a one-time occurrence. Other than the hail the storms haven’t been too bad, though that doesn’t mean there haven’t been storms.
That said, on the whole the weather has been rather pleasant.
It’s been easy to see why “Big Sky Country” got its name – though it is kind of odd, it gets dark-dark here quite late. In fact when I got to bed at 10 – 10:30pm it’s still not really that dark out, so I haven’t really seen much of the “Big Starry Sky.”
But during the long daylight hours, this is usually what I see when I step outside.
Of course we’ve also had a few mid 90s heat-waves which kind of sucked given my crappy ac, and on the opposite side of the fence we’ve even had snow in July.
Yeah seriously, snow in July.
Tristen’s mountain hidden behind snow clouds.
But, as mentioned, things have been pretty good on the weather front all things considered. The extremes (e.g. 95 degrees or snowing in July) have been just that, extremes. The constant seems to be partially cloudy skies and temperatures around 78-83, with low humidity and cool nights and hot days. Very livable.
So that’s that, those are the general kinds of things that I do during my more mundane non-blog-worthy moments. Of course I just wrote a post about them, so I guess they are blog-worthy after all! If nothing else this proves that I’m not out hiking all the time, though that would be a sweet job.
Until next time,
P.S. Go watch the bear camera, it’s Valentino (and Meem, and Taco) approved!