Off to the Wild Wild West!

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In a few short days we are off to here…

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but there are so many more things we will do that are WAY better and WAY more interesting than Sturgis! It’s an experience all on it’s own but I can’t wait to hit the road with my sweetie and friends to the Wild Wild West!

It’s kind of funny to me that we say “we are going to Sturgis” but in reality the time we actually spend there is minimal compared to all our activities. We may not do all of these but to me, this trip is really about the following:

  • The Ferry
  • Wisconsin Dells
  • Crossing the Mississippi River
  • Albert Lea, Minnesota (even though is seems to take FOREVER to get through MN!!!)
  • Mitchell, South Dakota
  • Pronghorn Antelope
  • Prairie Dogs
  • The Badlands
  • Wall, South Dakota (Wall Drug of course!)
  • Hill City, South Dakota
  • Needles Highway
  • Iron Mountain Road
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Crazy Horse
  • Custer, South Dakota
  • Custer State Park
  • The beautiful Black Hills
  • The Big Horn Mountains
  • Cody, Wyoming
  • The Beartooth Mountains
  • Cooke City, Montana
  • Yellowstone

The West will definitely feed my soul!

 


2017 Finishes

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In an effort to bust out my quilting UFO’s I’m going to make a blog post with my finishes and add to it as I finish more (being optimistic here….). I can’t seem to blog regularly, maybe I’ll keep this up to date!

FWO (For Women Only Snowmobile Ride) Raffle Quilt

I made a quilt once again to be raffled off during the 2017 FWO ride. I used my last snowmobile fabric that I could find which may be ironic because this may be the last year the ride takes place. The colors are much richer than the picture – it just doesn’t photograph very well. This is a pattern I found on Craftsy.

FWO Wallhanging

I made a wall hanging for my door at the hotel to hang during the FWO. I purchased the kit at Shabby Fabrics – one of my favorite online quilt shops. The fabric is all flannel. I made the little banner and then removed it after I got home and hung it on the wall in my bedroom.


A New Age BOM

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I said I was NOT going to sign up for any more Block of the Month (BOM) programs – ah, famous last words…

I was quilting last fall with a friend at Attic Window Quilt Shop and Chris, the owner started showing us the BOM’s that were coming up in the new year. One totally caught my eye – A New Age by Nancy Rink. I have completed both Amish with a Twist 1 & 2 (the aren’t quilted yet) and this is another one using the same designer’s pattern and fabrics. The colors and design grabbed me as well as this specially dyed fabric for this quilt called Aged Muslin. It started in February and I am actually caught up! I’m using the dark background and really love how the colors pop. Amazing. Really looking forward to see this one come together.

She does have Amish with a Twist 3. hummmmm……..

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The fabric isn’t wrinkled – it’s actually printed that way.

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Back on 2 wheels

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It’s hard to believe we were flying across snow not so many days ago and today we are cruising down the road on 2 wheels. We took advantage of the nice day and headed out on the Harley. It was in the 50’s, a little cool but good leather made it bearable. We made the rounds at our normal spots and even had some luck at Keno. As much fun as we had in West, I’m now ready for spring! We ended this great day with a bonfire – another first of 2016.

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The Ride Home and Reflection

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We headed out Friday morning around 9:30 am. It was a sunny day and the sad ride out of West was absolutely beautiful. It was cold as we climbed and the area through Yellowstone National Park was actually slick and icy. It warmed up as we headed toward Bozeman.

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We saw quite a bit of wildlife on the drive from West to Bismarck, North Dakota, stopping at the old Holiday Inn Express again. We did get one of the brand new rooms and besides having to smell new carpet and paint it was great to be in a room that no one had ever slept in.

We saw eagles, deer, bison and my favorite – pronghorn antelope. There are a lot of cattle in the fields along side the highway and we noticed quite a few babies – we saw no babies last weekend. We saw a few that had definitely been walking only minutes. They were adorable.

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Pronghorn!

We stopped on Saturday in Janesville, Wisconsin as we did on the way out and had dinner at Quaker Steak and Lube – this time Scott enjoyed the food and we watched part of the Supercross there. We really liked the place. There used to be one in GR that closed a few years ago. It was on 28th Street in a weird location – I think the location killed them because the food was really good. Scott worked his bargaining magic and we ended up in a 2 room suite at the Holiday Inn Express. It was huge! He’s really good at getting upgraded rooms!

We headed out of Janesville early Sunday morning and got home around 2:30. We were very happy to see our Madison – we missed her so much but were so sad that this incredible vacation had come to an end. We WILL be back next winter for sure – possibly sooner.

Thinking back on our week I’ve made some observations and conclusions:

  • I really didn’t know what to expect on this trip at all and I was blown away with everything we did – on the snow and off.
  • Snowmobiling out west is much different than snowmobiling in Michigan in MANY ways – you don’t ride to put on miles. You ride to see what’s around you. I don’t think we ever rode 100 miles in a day but it felt like we were on long rides. There is just so much to see there.
  • We did not ride all the trails. We left some for the next trip. The trail loops are short but have so many stops along the way to see something beautiful.
  • It’s still a great day snowmobiling if you only ride for a few hours.
  • I can learn to ride a mountain sled with more practice – it doesn’t have to be scary to me.
  • Be aware of when to keep your safety strap on the handle of your ABS pack!
  • I like the 2017 Ski-doo Freeride – a lot!
  • I’m old but I’m not going to ever stop.
  • That safety strap on your ABS pack has a purpose.
  • The BC Link radios are a very handy thing – even though I can’t push the darn talk button with my gloves on – GRRR.
  • The white handle on your ABS pack can get caught on something and deploy your air bag – it really can!!!

Making the most of our last day

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We made the most of our last day in West as we are heading out first thing Friday morning. We had a few destinations in mind today and after a beautiful sunrise and quick breakfast we headed out. We decided to go back to Two Top so that Scott could get some drone footage. The hard case that holds the drone ended up fitting perfectly on the back of his long track sled. We tried to take in as much of the scenery as we could along the way. We stopped at the river to snap a few pictures and just couldn’t believe it was our last day seeing all this.

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We rounded the corner at Rea’s Pass (a popular place to stop) and saw a familiar cluster of snowmobiles parked in the meadow – it was the 2017 Ski-doo’s! We found them – and couldn’t believe it. There were also 3 new Polaris sleds with them and they were all stopped and talking to each other. We pulled along beside them and started taking pictures of them. They acknowledged us and started to leave. One of them on the new Polaris mountain sled came over our way and said hello and asked if we had seen this new sled. We said no and he began to show us all the features. He was very very nice. It was interesting to talk to him and see the new sled in person on the trail. We couldn’t believe what had just happened – crazy!

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We made it back to the top of Two Top and were surprised to see how different it looked. No new snow had fallen there since Monday and many of the trees had lost a lot of their snow. It was still beautiful – just different. IMG_0361 IMG_0359

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Scott got out the drone and took some footage of me riding along the top and then decided to get some footage of himself using the “follow me” feature. We had used it in that mode many times before with no problems. I stayed back in a safe area while he took off. He knew he didn’t have a full battery but should have enough to get a few minutes of video. He buzzed around me and the drone went with him. He was gone only a few minutes and he came back shaking his head and one arm in the air – NEVER a good sign! The drone had stopped following him when he was on his way back toward me and was no where to be found. He saw it during most of his ride (and I saw it when he left) so we knew it was working properly at that time. It is designed to come “home” if the battery gets low or there is any issue at all. He established “home” when he turned it on before starting to film me. He did it all correct – he always does. He was devastated as was I. The only thing we could do was go look for it. It truly was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I stayed back and he took off and came back with nothing. He looked over all the data on his iPad and could find nothing that would help – there was nothing that SHOULD be there. There was definitely a malfunction. We decided he should just go look again – he didn’t go that far away from me on that ride but for all we know it fell out of the sky over the mountain – there was a very high possibility of that happening. I said a prayer and off he went. A few minutes later I got the message on the radio – he found it! Sitting in the snow – lights flashing,  close to a peak.  A miracle for sure! He grabbed it, packed it up and we headed off that mountain. It really is a miracle that he found it. It’s hard to describe the size of this place or even the pictures showing how big it is up on that mountain and how many ledges there are – it could have been in a tree or over a cliff or anywhere.

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There it is – sitting in the snow with the lights on.

Note: he did figure out the problem after doing some research tonight. A recent software update caused the “return to home” function not to work. The bug was discovered THIS week. We were VERY lucky to say the least.

We headed off into Idaho to loop back to West and found a perfect place to have lunch. We made a fantastic fire and roasted our hot dogs – delicious (lots of hot dogs were eaten on this trip!!!). The heat felt great and after the drone incident we just needed to sit for a while! As we were sitting around our fire the 2017 Ski-Doo’s went buzzing by again.

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We packed up and headed back to town and drove over to the trailer to load the snowmobiles for the final time. In the parking lot was a pickup and trailer with 20 sled dogs tied up next to it. There was a sled dog race going on around West during the week and we had seen signs on the trail to watch for them but we had not seen any on the trail. The dogs were so cute and their owner, Rick Larson, finally came over and started talking to us. He was very nice and we found out he races in the UP with his dogs. He will be racing in 2 years there -we will be looking for him for sure. Cool story and such cute dogs! Made us miss our Madison even more!

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We got back to the cabin and decided we would do a mini pub crawl before dinner – make the most of our last night! After cleaning up, we went back to Bullwinklles and then to the Slippery Otter – a new place which we loved. We will be back here for sure. Why break tradition so we had dinner at Madison Crossing again – this time getting something different. We’ve pretty much eaten the menu now! After our meal we walked back to the cabin for a final campfire and s’mores. Can’t believe this incredible trip has come to an end!

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An easy day on the trails – and no airbag deployment!

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After our fantastic (and eventful) day in the backcountry we decided to take it a bit easier today. We definitely were going to ride, just not as much as other days. We also wanted to spend some more time in town and do some shopping so this was the perfect day to do it. After breakfast at Running Bear again (we drove this time!!!) we decided to head out to the West Yellowstone Airport. It is officially closed but we found out from Elliott yesterday that Snow Shoot is going on out there. Snow Shoot is where the snowmobile manufacturers let the press see and ride the newly released sleds before the public sees them. THAT is why we saw Carl Kuster and the guys from Snowtrax TV at Madison Crossing on Sunday. Turns out, the media and companies that have anything to do with snowmobiling are there this week to experience all the new stuff. We picked a perfect week to come to West!!!

 

 

We drove out to the airport like we were supposed to be there and sure enough, the terminal (and everything else there) was closed up but behind huge tall and long piles of snow were semi trailers and flags from each of the manufacturers as well as press trailers, tents and all kinds of things – all behind the snow piles and a fence. Well, that didn’t stop us – Scott climbed the snow piles and started taking pictures! I was sure we were going to get thrown out – thankfully we didn’t hang around long – just long enough to get a peek at everything and take some pictures. The whole Carl Kuster and other sightings made perfect sense now.

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Coming down off the “sneak peek” snow pile was not easy!

We headed back to the cabin, stopping at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park and after getting back lounged around a bit to rest our old bodies. We even roasted the rest of our hot dogs on the fire pit at the cabin for lunch (not on the healthy plan this week!!!). After lunch we geared up (I made sure my safety strap on my airbag handle was in place when it should be!!!) and headed out for a ride. We headed down a trail we had not been on and made our way to Hebgen Lake. Really pretty place and the trails were great there. Just past the Hebgen Lake Resort we rode through a large burn area that was a little curvy but nice and flat. It was pretty windy but a great ride through there and the views were beautiful. We made our way around the loop, stopping at some beautiful spots (there are so many!!) and ended up coming back around on the trail by the airport. Scott wound through the woods while I rode along on the trail. He had some eventful turns and carves through the woods!

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After putting away the sleds and changing we headed to town to see what we could find. We stopped in an awesome t-shirt shop and made some purchases. I’d never seen so many snowmobile shirts and sweatshirts – it was hard to pick what I wanted! We has passed a bar earlier in the week that had a Packer’s banner on the outside so we had to go check it out. Turns out that Bullwinkles is owned by someone from Green Bay and she has her love for the Packers everywhere in it. Really neat place! They also had several slot machines there (which is pretty much the scene in all bars in West) and I decided to put $10 in one and cashed out $44.95 – not bad! We paid our bar tab with my winnings and bought some cool Moose Drool glasses there (Scott’s favorite beer out west) and headed over to Madison Crossing for dinner – again. No snowmobiling celebrity spottings but a wonderful meal.

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It was CLOSED FOR THE SEASON!!!

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More Moose Drool at Madison Crossing.

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Cabin Creek – riding in the backcountry

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Scott has arranged a guide for us and rented a mountain sled for me on Tuesday for riding in the backcountry (GULP). We headed down to High Country after breakfast at McDonalds (a CLOSE walk from the cabin!) to meet our guide and get things going. Our guide, Elliott, who was SUPER talked to us about what we wanted to do and my coo coo concerns and we decided to trailer outside of town to a parking area to save us having to ride through the bare streets and get where we wanted to be a bit faster. Our destination was Cabin Creek. We headed back to our cabin to get my pink sled out of the trailer so we could put the rented Summit in the trailer and we would all go out to the trailhead together. We stopped at the grocery store and picked up hot dogs and buns and ketchup as Elliott said we would have a fire and roast hot dogs at some point – how cool is THAT?  After meeting back at High Country, Elliott had his sled on a sled deck which was cool to see in person and we loaded the Summit into our trailer with Scott’s Summit.  The sled decks scare me to death but you see TONS of them around West Yellowstone – probably more than trailers. Scott and I followed Elliott out to the parking area and we got unloaded and took off. We rode the trail for about 7 miles up a beautiful mountain. The views were incredible but I was getting used to this long-track and trying to feel somewhat comfortable so I didn’t take any pictures. We turned off trail at one point to head to the backcountry and then I got a bit nervous. I was in the middle with Elliott in the lead. He fully understood my concerns and was very good with this old woman! We made our way over TONS of bumps – the result of lots of traffic on an ungroomed backcountry trail into these beautiful meadows and over mountains. We came across a cabin that is actually rentable from the forest service. It was occupied by some snowboarders and a cute lab. Made us miss Madison even more! We made our way over more mountains, stopping in some meadows for Scott and Elliott to ride around in. He took Scott up and helped him with carving. I putzed around trying to feel more comfortable on a somewhat narrower sled, hoping not to fall off!

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Remember those airbags in my backpack????

Well, we made our way up a little hill to the edge of some trees to stop to eat. Elliott and Scott started making a fire. I got off my sled and started taking off my helmet, etc.   NOTE –  THIS IS IMPORTANT:  : )  The Ski-doo Summit snowmobile I was riding has VERY tall handlebars (especially for short people like me) – it’s designed to really spend most of your time on it standing up. There is a loop in the middle of the handlebars to hang on to when you are standing and carving big turns. I kind of look like I am on a motorcycle with Ape Hangers when I ‘m sitting on it – they are that tall for my short frame. Sooooooooo, I stepped off my sled, took off my helmet and reached into the glove box that is in front of the handlebars to get my camera to start taking pictures and like an IDIOT, forgot to put the safety strap over the handle on my backpack that is used to deploy the airbag I’m wearing. AND THEN I suddenly hear this INCREDIBLY LOUD noise that scares us all. IT’S MY AIRBAGS!! I got the handle caught on the loop in the handlebars and deployed the darn thing when I stood up straight! SERIOUSLY! We all got a big laugh for sure – poor Scott had to deflate it and pack it back up. If Elliott was already thinking I was some silly old woman he had to KNOW IT BY NOW!  I could not believe what had just happened. Scott kept saying don’t worry about it but it was incredibly embarrassing. We did have a spare tank and handle at the cabin so he could load it up again but I didn’t expect to be this big of a bone head!! I will say it made us HYPER AWARE the rest of the week to make sure to put the safety strap over the handle when not on the snowmobile!

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After that “incident” we roasted our hot dogs and had a fantastic lunch. The rest of the time was uneventful – THANKFULLY – just fun. It started to snow when we stopped to eat and it just kept snowing harder and harder. We made our way to another meadow where Scott and Elliott went to find some deep powder along the edge. I rode around the meadow a bit and then stopped to take pictures. By the time we left that area there was at least 4-6 inches of fresh snow so the ride back was fun for sure. By the time we were finished I was much more comfortable with the Summit. I’m not going to ride like I do the GSX after one day but I’m sure I would be fine with a few more days on one.

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Our day in the backcountry was SUPER, despite my bonehead move – hey it gave us something to talk (laugh) about for sure! It wore these old people out! We headed back and dropped off the sled. We went back to the cabin and ended up ordering dinner from Pete’s – no walking into town for these two!! Pete’s delivered right to the cabin and some great pasta hit the spot! We had some hot toddy’s by the fire and were in bed early that night!

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We be snowmobiling in West

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We woke up to a perfect clear and cold morning with some fresh snow. We could hear the wolves howling from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center across the street from the cabins. It was such a neat experience to hear them. Scott got out the drone and got some sweet footage around the cabin and town. We decided to go get a decent breakfast and headed out on foot to a recommended place, Running Bear Pancake House. It was a longer walk than we thought we were getting ourselves into but the food was delicious. We would be back! We definitely walked off the pancakes on our trip there and back! Shew!

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Before we could hit the trails we had to go buy trail permits for Montana and Idaho. We headed back to the cabin, stickers the sleds up to be legal and got geared up to head out on our sleds. Scott had gotten us both ABS packs which contain tools and airbags and trackers in case we are caught in an avalanche so I had to wear several pounds of gear in a backpack that I was not used to wearing. More on those tools in another post!!!!  I can’t say I was a fan of the weight on my back or the tracker around my waist but I understand their purpose and need so I tolerated it!  We finally took off and after winding through town on basically bare roads, and we were at the trail. Scott’s sled got a little hot bumping through town on mostly bare pavement but he was able to cool it back down once we got going. Wow – it was a clear day and every where you looked around you was something beautiful – little did I know what we would be seeing. I just followed as I always do and we wound through the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen on my snowmobile. This wasn’t my first time riding in the west, we honeymooned at Togwotee in 2002 but I didn’t remember it looking like this around the Tetons.

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We made our way through the fabulous trail system through Rea’s Pass to a mountain top called Two Top. H O L Y  C O W. I had never in my life seen anything like it. I didn’t know anything like this existed. We were at the TOP OF A MOUNTAIN – not hill but MOUNTAIN. I was having a minor freak out moment when we got there, however. Scott wanted to stop immediately and take a picture beside the trees which are called Snow Ghosts (fitting name), but I was certain we were going to fall off the side of the mountain. Turns out, what I was freaked about was a DRIFT, not an EDGE – duh. It was all just a bit overwhelming at first!!! He has to put up with my wackiness sometimes and I was having a moment for sure. After figuring out you could ride around up there and deciding that we weren’t going to fall off the side I started having fun and was able to see the incredible scenery around me. Scott wanted to go play in the trees so I found a great spot to take some photos and take it all in. If we had driven all this way and only got to see this I would have been happy – it was that breath-taking and beautiful.

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We left Two Top via a different way than we arrived and headed down the mountain. I will say there are some steep parts that made me a little nervous but I kept telling myself that this was a TRAIL – it was safe. I was glad to have my tree-hugging, 4 stroke 900 ACE with 3 different engine modes to at least make me feel safer climbing and decending steep grades. Standard Mode is perfect for going down – the machine really holds well on grades and doesn’t feel like it’s getting away from you at all. At least it makes me feel better!

Our next stop ended up at Meadow Creek Lodge – a restaurant outside Island Park, Idaho. It is in the woods, only accessible in winter by snowmobile. It was a GREAT place to stop and I’m so glad he brought me there. It’s basically bar food but the french fries are made fresh and were delicious. It was packed as expected and we had a great time there.

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We left Meadow Creek, I followed Scott, not knowing where our next stop would be. A few miles down the trail we came around a curve to a bridge over open water called Big Springs. The spring water is clear and beautiful and very large rainbow trout stay right near the bridge. We also saw a muskrat swimming around. It’s a popular stop for snowmobilers so I think the muscat must be used to being fed by visitors.

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After lunch we headed back toward West, stopping at a warming hut on the side of the trail. We didn’t need to warm up today but its there if necessary.

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After getting back we showered and took off on foot to The Buffalo Bar for dinner – another recommended place by the hotel and a little hike – again. It was perfect though and I had a delicious pot roast sandwich. Such a cool place. We were pretty much dead after eating and walking back and tomorrow’s adventure is BACKCOUNTRY so we needed sleep! These old people went to bed real early!

 


We are in West!

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After a 9 hour day in the car we pulled into West Yellowstone, Montana around 6:00 pm. The drive from Bismarck to West was much more interesting than the previous day. The terrain changes which makes the drive much more interesting and there is much to see. You go from wide open prairies as far as you can see to pine trees to winding rivers to finally seeing snow. The actual drive time was basically the same but it felt much shorter. We did not see snow until we were deep into Montana and I was beginning to wonder if there was any snow at all! The terrain and mountains are just beautiful along this way.

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This large sculpture is one of many along a highway in North Dakota. This one happens to also be close to the freeway. It was a little odd but huge.

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Love the speed limit in Montana!

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Finally in Montana!

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We finally pulled off I-90 at Bozeman to make our way south via US 191 into West Yellowstone. The drive to West from downtown Bozeman is beautiful. It’s about 80 miles and you wind your way through valleys with mountains on all sides just beside the river – just breath taking. You actually pass through a part of Yellowstone National Park. After passing through the ski town, Big Sky, Montana, we finally stated to see real snow. The closer we got to West the deeper it got and I finally felt like we were going to actually snowmobile!

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We arrived in town to see HUGE snow piles and a lot of snowmobiles. The streets were bare to the pavement and we could see that getting around town was not going to be fun but we would manage. We checked into our cabin and were blown away at how nice it was. It was going to be perfect for the week. There was even a fire pit right outside our door with the fire already made each day. The cabins supplied a s’more kit each day. We had to park the truck and trailer in the hotel parking lot across the street. At first we were concerned about this but it ended up working out just fine.

After unloading the truck and trailer and unpacking a bit we decided to head out to find something to eat. We needed to stretch our legs so we took the advice of Katie at check-in and headed out on foot for a restaurant called Madison Crossing Lounge. With a name like that it HAD to be good ; ) . It was pretty close to the cabin and as we walked through town we could see that the snowmobilers outnumbered the other tourists. We were in in the right place for sure! We got one of the 2 tables remaining at Madison Crossing and one glance at the menu we knew we were in a great place. We happened to be sitting a table over from a large group of people. Scott’s back was to them and he got up to go visit the bathroom. After he left I glanced over at them and thought some of them looked familiar but could not put my finger on a name. After Scott got back I had him look over and he recognized them right away. One of them was Carl Kuster who is a “celebrity” spokesperson for Ski-Doo and 2 of them were the hosts from Snowtrax TV. That got us real excited because Ski-Doo had just released their 2017 models to the public a few weeks before – would we see them in person sometime this week? This, added to the excellent food and wine started off our vacation in West with a BANG! We headed back to the cabin to prepare to hit the trails tomorrow.

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