What a ride it was!

Picture of Al & Kathe
Happy in our new home

It has been quite a while since we’ve written. We hope that you and those close to you continue to be well. We’re thankful that 2020 is over; the vaccines are starting to rollout, and we’re hopeful that 2021 will be a better year all around.

We are approaching our four month anniversary in our new house in East Helena, Montana. It seems unbelievable that it has been that long since we were living in Rhett, our 36 foot fifth wheel RV. And yet at the same time, our two-year adventure exploring America and Canada is starting to seem almost like a dream. Did we really do that? Yes! We’re really glad that we created the Lobsters on the Loose blog, so that we can go back and remind ourselves of all that we have done.

We arrived in Helena a few days before our house closing, and stayed at the county fairgrounds. This was right at the height of the western wildfires, and the air was very smoky.

September 18, 7:34 in the morning. Very dim light, with a red fireball sun!

The first few days we were in our new house, there was a group of “antelope” (or so we were told) in our back yard. Antelope only live in Africa; these are actually pronghorn sheep… known locally as antelope. I was surprised to learn that their closest living relative is the giraffe. Sure! I can see that resemblance! Uh-huh.

Pronghorn, a.k.a., “antelope” in our back yard.

After a few days, they moved on. We saw them a few weeks ago in a field about 5 miles away, and we hope they return next year.

We are settling into our new life here in East Helena Montana. We’re making our home “ours” with furnishings, decorations, and projects like upgrading the lighting to suit our aging eyes.

Flag of Montana with outline of the state
We have to learn the symbolism in the state seal!

We’re learning the layout of nearby Helena, the state capital, where we do most of our errands when we have to go out. We’re still isolating as much as possible and we remain healthy although dealing with some of the vicissitudes of aging. We’re establishing relationships with some doctors and we’re becoming Montanans by getting our drivers’ licenses and registering to vote.

Several of our specialists are located in Missoula which is two hours away. Luckily, it’s a beautiful ride through a pass in the Rockies; our car knows the way well. I’ve (Kathe) had more glaucoma surgery and am forever grateful that I’ve found a glaucoma specialist who is really terrific. And it looks like, finally, after ten months, my back pain is largely under control thanks to a pain specialist in Missoula. Getting old is NOT for sissies!

I’m thoroughly enjoying plenty of quilting time in my sewing room. Al set me up with some very bright track lighting and it’s a joy to work on the projects I have going. The views out the sewing room windows are gorgeous! I especially love hearing the train go by — even though it’s several miles away, we can see it in the distance. Trains here are different than we’re used to from the east coast. Many (most?) are well over a mile long!

Most of the land around us is agricultural; there are lots of cattle in Montana! Cowboy boots? Check. Cowboy hat? Have to get them. Chaps and spurs? Hmmm… We’ll have to think about those.

Picture of nearby cattle
Some of our neighbors!

Since it is January and we’re writing about living in Montana, you can correctly assume that we decided to not return to the Arizona desert this winter. It was not a difficult decision to make. While we still have to isolate ourselves, it is easier in a house than in an RV. It still feels a little strange to us that sometimes we have to search for each other in the house, after both being in the same room for two years. We joke about now having to use our ham radio walkie-talkies to find each other.

Covid-19 has changed the RVing world. For us, it made the RV life less desirable. One of the things we enjoyed most about RVing was being able to meet other people and learn about their backgrounds and experiences. Covid ruled that out, so part of the impetus was gone. While we were in Quartzsite, Kathe most enjoyed her Quartzsite Quilters group and the activities at the Gem and Mineral club. While both of those continue to meet (why?), due to virus concerns Kathe would not have attended either this winter had we gone down.

For others, Covid has made RVing more attractive, offering the ability to vacation and travel while maintaining distance and isolation. No hotels, no airplanes, no restaurants needed. RV sales are booming, with many dealers’ lots empty and manufacturing backlogged by parts shortages. It was difficult before to find campground or RV park sites, especially near popular attractions such as National Parks; reservations had to be made well in advance. It will be interesting to see how much this boom in RV sales will make that problem worse, and whether the effect will be long lasting—or will many of those new RVs quickly become rarely-used lawn ornaments?

It looks like many others are also deciding to not go to Quartzsite this winter. A friend who did go to Q this winter said recently that there were about one-quarter of the rigs there, compared to what he remembers from last year at this time. The big influx into Quartzsite is usually the first two weeks of January, so it will be interesting to see whether the large crowds materialize.

So we’re staying in Montana. We have prepared for winter: heavy coats, a snow blower, and a Subaru Outback. Just as in Maine, it seems that Subaru is the state car of Montana—if you exclude the pickup trucks! The mileage that Scarlet, our F350 dually truck got (14 – 15 mpg), and the difficulty of finding parking in town for such a large (24′ long) vehicle made us decide to get other transportation. But so far Montana’s winter has been milder than usual, with less snow. We had one 10″ snowfall in mid October, but only flurries since; the ground is currently bare, and until this week the high temps have been in the high 30s / low 40s.

Helena is surrounded by mountain ranges; it is in the “eastern front” of the Rockies (we’re about 20 miles east of the Continental Divide “as the crow flies”). We can see mountains in all directions and those mountains do have snow. We are at about 3900′ elevation; according to the weather service, most of the snow has been above 5000′.

Our back yard toward the southwest, taken before the arrival of snow in the mountains. Much of the open area is common land for our development.
Another view, this time looking north.

A few mornings ago we were finally greeted by real winter; it was two degrees and 90% humidity. Perfect conditions for the formation of hoar frost on neighboring trees and even our door’s Christmas wreath.

Early morning Montana looking north out our front door. Oh, yes. The morning brought about an inch of snow as well…
Up close and personal, such delicate formations.

The next day was in the 40s, and we have bare ground once again. Of course!

So what does the future hold? While we plan to continue traveling in Rhett, it is unlikely that we will be full-timers again—but one thing this year has taught us is that you can’t predict the future, so maybe. During the spring, summer, and fall, we hope to do more exploring but probably in trips measured in multiple weeks, not multiple months. And hopefully, we will be able to return to wintering in the Quartzsite area or elsewhere warm! As we do have more adventures, we will continue this blog, but it may be quiet for a while until the spring.

By the way, we can still end blog posts with pictures of beautiful sunsets (or in this case, a sunrise), now from here in Montana…

The snow was from a flurry, and gone within a day… That’s Rhett, parked in our side yard.

We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe, healthy, and warm this winter.

-Kathe & Al, a.k.a. “The Lobsters”

15 thoughts on “What a ride it was!”

  1. Great to see the pictures of beautiful Montana and to know what your plans might be. I think this past year has taught us all that all plans are maybe we will… The views out your windows are spectacular! These past few months that we have been home have enabled be to become a real “beginner” weaver. Instead of 20 minutes a day it was often a few hours. Think of you often Kathe as you were my weaver adviser. Experience is a good teacher! Take care and hopefully we will all get vaccinated and will be able to move about more freely by late spring.

  2. Thank you for sharing the beautiful views where you live. Those types of views are certainly soul refreshing! I look forward to seeing what your new adventures will bring.


  3. It is wonderful that things are working out so well for you and that life is good in Montana! Peter wonders if you are keeping your side by side, Clark? He has been considering a Polaris Ranger 570 Deluxe, but after I showed him your post from last year, he is rethinking! Can you say green with envy😳😊😳😊

    1. Yes, we’re keeping Clark! Our intention was that as soon as we closed on the house, I’d make a bounce trip back to AZ to get Clark and his trailer. However, a pinched nerve in my neck kept me from doing that. Now with the uncertainties of winter roads, Clark will stay in AZ until the spring at which time I’ll go get him.

      Montana has a huge amount of public land, and an extensive trail system. Montana is actually where I had my first side-by-side ride, in the summer of 2019. We chose the RZR over the Ranger due to the better off-road capabilities, such as greater ground clearance and shock travel. And boy, have we made use of that!


  4. Al & Kathe,

    Great to see the post and the updates. Mild winter here, too. Im gonna be knocking on the front door when this COVID mess is over!

  5. I would hire the Missoula Children’s Theater to do workshops at the Youth Center in Maine and they would rave about how much they loved living in Montana. I’m glad that you are settled (for now) and enjoying your hobbies and amazing sunsets. What did you name your Subaru? I hope you maintain your eyesight and both stay healthy. Continue to enjoy life and know you are still missed in Maine!

  6. Welcome to the west. Montana is a great state. Enjoy the great, wide open spaces of the west.
    Best wishes to you both,

  7. Wonderful to hear how things are working out for you in the prairie. Amazing having antelopes in Montana. Like you, we’re looking forward to get past COVID and hook up with you. Love from the Oolders

  8. Nice review and preview of your lives ‘out west’. Glad to know your eyes, Kathe, are being taken care of successfully.
    Nice to know you have hobbies to keep you busy and enjoy.
    We are at Sugarloaf for the winter. Skiing is good even with lack of natural snow. We did get 8” plus over the weekend which refreshed the mountain. I have skied 3 days only. I like sunny and warm best so can wait. Bob out most days but not weekends. ( lift lines too crowded for Covid concerns) Ankle, shoulder issues also a bit bothersome for him at times. We saw friends yesterday for beer at a fire pit gathering late afternoon. First gathering for us of any kind here. We dressed for it so it was fun.

  9. So glad to hear from you. We liked the pictures. Glad to hear that you are both doing well.
    We are well and hanging in there. We should get our vaccine shots shortly-we are in the old group over 75

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