Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Quick Trip to Montana

We left on Wednesday morning, by car, to go to Montana for Lauretta's funeral. We drove 558 miles that day, to Provo, Utah, where we spent the night. On Thursday we finished the northbound portion of the trip, with another 568 miles from Provo to Missoula. The journey north was enjoyable. The southern Utah area was amazing and beautiful, and the stretch going north in Montana provided us with grand vistas of green valleys and far-off mountain ranges.

At 11:00 on Friday we met up with family, who drove in from Bozeman, for lunch at Cracker Barrel. It was wonderful to visit with all of them, some whom we hadn't seen in many years.

The funeral was at 1:00 at the Higgins Avenue church, where Wiley and Lauretta had worshipped when they lived in Missoula. It was a small gathering of, maybe, 75 people. So many of the folks who were near and dear to Wiley and Lauretta have also passed on. And many of the people now attending that congregation were not there during the Wiley and Lauretta years. But the ones who came were very dear friends, whose lives had been touched by Lauretta in so many ways.

Lauretta's son-in-law, Mike (Kathy's husband), spoke, and two of her grandsons, Caleb and Jacob, led the congregational singing. After the graveside service, we all came back to the church building for some desserts provided by the congregation and a time of visiting.

That evening Dan and I met up with eight other family members for dinner at MacKenzie River Pizza (more about that later).

The next morning - Saturday - we started our 1126-mile trip back to Albuquerque, stopping that evening, once again, in Provo. That day of driving was the most difficult. We were both very tired, and I ended up driving more that day than any other, so that Dan could rest a bit. Then, on Sunday morning, we left Provo on our last leg of the trip, heading back to Albuquerque. Unfortunately, the next day would be Monday, so it was back to work without a day to rest up.

The trip was pretty demanding, but we are so grateful that we were able to be there. Lauretta was very special in our lives, and we'd have always regretted it had we not made the effort to be there.

And, now, here are some random memories of the trip, itself:

I had never before seen Shiprock, which is in the Four Corners area of New Mexico. It's visible from the road, although it is far off in the distance; it is an impressive chunk of natural rock. I may have to re-read Tony Hillerman's mystery novel, The Fallen Man, which centers on the discovery of a long-dead climber found atop Shiprock. (Tony Hillerman is one of Albuquerque's home-town authors.)

Driving through Utah, especially the Provo and Salt Lake City area, provided a few grins at the expense of the area's predominant religion. Have you ever wondered how all of those "missionaries" who knock on your door find suits that are enough alike to seem like uniforms? We figured it out. Alongside I-15, between Salt Lake City and Provo, stands a large billboard, advertising "Missionary Mall" (and it's on-line version, where these young men can purchase their missionary suits, with a "two year guarantee." Another billboard encouraged, "Nominate an elder." It directed the reader to a website: If you go there, you will see that you can nominate an "elder" of your choice, whose face will be in the running to be featured on that billboard and on the website itself. Interesting.

We found eastern Idaho to be rather boring. Maybe our opinion would have been different had we taken in the Potato Museum, which was advertised on billboards alongside Interstate 15, between Pocatello and Idaho Falls.

Since moving away from the northwest, I've been craving Nalley's chili and Nalley's baby dills; that brand is not available in New Mexico. I smiled all the way home, knowing that I brought back a private stash of both!

And, speaking of food . . . when it comes to pizza, there's nothing in Albuquerque to compare with the pizza made in the pizza parlors of the Northwest. While in Missoula, we ate at MacKenzie River Pizza. Now THAT was great pizza! Don't miss it, if you ever go through Missoula.

Driving back through Montana, we saw a huge heard of buffalo. There were a lot of calves with their mothers. I didn't get a picture.

Alongside the road in Montana was a warning sign: "There may be more cows than cops in Montana, but we still give tickets." Likewise, upon entering Farmington, New Mexico, from either direction, we were met by a large electronic reader board that proclaimed, "COPS EVERYWHERE!!!"

I'll be posting some pictures from the trip -- maybe Monday evening.

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