Mama Nomad and I met about 20 years ago. Then, about 19 years ago we began our adventure as husband and wife. This Tuesday (July 12, 2016) marks our 19th Anniversary! That’s right! We will have been happily married for 19 whole years. However, we decided to spend the day together on Saturday and celebrate a little early. Forewarning, this is going to be a loooong post. We had a full day.
Last year Mama Nomad and I did a road trip to Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and brought the boys with us. This year we left the boys at home and we decided to venture out by ourselves. And what a venture it was.
We began our anniversary with a brunch at a local cafe. It was a nice little two-story cafe called The Main Street Grind. It serves coffee (of course), breakfast sandwiches and breakfast wraps, pastries and an assortment of lunch items. They had inside and outside seating. We grabbed a cup of coffee each. I had a Grindwich and 1/2 of a breakfast wrap. Mama Nomad had a cinnamon roll and the other 1/2 of the breakfast wrap. The staff was super friendly and they made our food quickly. We ate and chatted about our plans for the day. Once we finished, we cleaned up and headed out.
Our next destination? It is a place called Strawberry Hill. No, it is not the same one that the wine is named for. It’s full name is actually the Strawberry Hill Recreation Area. The area is aptly named because of the unique way that the caps of the hillsides are colored. The tops of them are strawberry colored and the rest is yellowish. The Strawberry Hill Recreation Area is located about 12 miles from Miles City, Montana on Highway 12 (also referred to as the Baker Highway).
We arrived and we were both amazed at the formations and bewildered about where we were supposed to go. This is actually quite comical. There is a parking area (gravel and dirt). It is clearly marked as such. Then, there is a dirt road that traverses across a cattle guard and downhill. Within a few yards after the cattle guard there are some signs that discuss what you can and cannot do along with a map of the area. A note of warning, the map is not very detailed at all. After a quick glimpse, we decided to head on down the dirt road and it became rougher. We were not sure that this was the right thing to do. So, we headed back to the parking area.
We parked the car, put our hiking gear on and decided to hike the road. We went back to the map and signs and figured out that the Strawberry Hill Recreation Area was on the other side of the state land. And that the state land was used as open grazing land for cattle. We looked down the road again and saw a herd of cattle across it. However, we became convinced that the crude dirt road was definitely the path to take to the Strawberry Hill Recreation Area. We did not want to walk through the herd of cows, so we jumped back into Ebony and headed back down the dirt road.
We came to the herd, which by now had moved to one side of the road, and they just began to moo at us. That was, except for one. It seemed to charge towards us and buck a little bit. I said, “Just because our vehicle is black does not mean we are part of the herd.” The whole herd was black. I honestly think it thought we were bringing feed.
We passed the herd and began to go up and down hillsides until we reached a fence and gate. It had a sign on it that said something to the effect of “Keep Gate Closed – Livestock.” If I recalled the map correctly, this was the end of the state land and the beginning of the Strawberry Hill Recreation Area. We opened the gate, drove through and closed the gate (like the sign asked). We decided to park and scout ahead on foot first. That was a great idea because the down angle was about 45° on a sharp turn. It really looked like a place you would take dirt bikes and ATVs, not 2015 Extended Edition Expeditions. So, we turned back around and headed back to the parking area.
Once we got back, we found a foot path and decided to hike along it for a while. We came across ponds of water, grasshoppers that made popping sounds, evergreen trees, craggy rocks and lots of hillsides with strawberry caps. We hiked for about an hour and decided to head back. The scenery was beautiful. However, it seemed to be the same thing over and over so we felt we had soaked up (visually) what the area had to offer. We are accustomed to National and State Parks with clearly marked pathways. This was definitely a different, yet fun, experience.
We left, decided to road trip it a little bit in the opposite direction and do some sight-seeing. Along the way we came up to a Historic Marker sign. We pulled over and saw nothing. Commonly there are plaques that say why it is historic. Nope. Nada. Nothing. So, back in Ebony we jumped and away we went. We came across an interesting, old metal bridge that was not in use any longer. It spanned the Powder River. The river had almost no water in it. We guessed it was named for the powdery dirt that made up the riverbed. We turned around and headed back. On the way back I saw a rock formation off in the distance. It looked like a pyramid! No joke! I joked and told Mama Nomad that they didn’t just build pyramids in Mexico and South America, they also did so in Montana.
We were dusty from head to toe as was Ebony. So, we went into the nearby town and took some time to vacuum Ebony out and give her a good washing. Shortly after that, we moseyed back to home base and Mama Nomad and I rinsed the dust off of us as well because the day was not over.
We left home base for our next stop on our anniversary journey. It was called the Tongue River Winery. We learned that they were having an Italian Art Show and Wine Tasting at the Winery in front of the Vineyard. We drove on paved roads until about the last mile where we hit a dirt road. I drove slowly because we did just wash Ebony. And, I began to think, “What kind of winery are we going to find at the end of this dirt road?” We turned a corner and saw the Tongue River Winery. It was a nice building in front of their vineyard. The parking lot was quite packed. We parked and went in.
We were greeted at the door and told that we would be able to pick out a print and get a glass of wine with our entrance fee. I had never been to a wine tasting and art show that were combined in one event. So, this was new to me. We headed for the wine table to do the wine tasting. We thought “we will drink our glass of wine and look at the art.” We were met at the table by Bob and Marilyn Thaden. They were the owners of the Winery and Vineyard. They are absolutely some of the nicest people you will ever meet. We stood there and tasted every wine they had on the table while Bob explained the difference of each wine, how they were named and their development. We were happy to learn that they do not use any pesticides at all on their grapes. Score! We actually stood there so long that a line of 10 to 12 people backed up behind us so we decided to take our glass of wine and go look around at the art.
We took our wine, grabbed some of the finger food and began to peruse the artwork while listening to guitar and flute music being played in the background by live musicians. The visual art (paintings, pictures and drawings) were all Italian themed. And, even though one artist did them all, they seemed like different styles from different artists. It was quite unique. As luck would have it, we were able to meet the artists. Their names are Pearl Hamano and Vida Landa. Pearl’s picture on the entrance table had the sign that said WRITER/artist and Vida’s picture said ARTIST/writer. We spoke with the ladies about their art and about us being Nomads. We had a great conversation. And, once again we were causing a traffic jam so we decided to move on.
We finished perusing the rest of the art work and made our way back to the testing table because we wanted to buy some wine. We picked two bottles that we really liked (they were all good but 2 of them were our favorites) and bought them. Right after that, we struck up a conversation with Bob again and we were granted a back room tour of one of the rooms in the winery and he also told us the history of the Tongue River Winery, including stories about how his son Josh became the Master Wine Maker. What a fantastic story.
We told Bob and Marilyn thank you for all of their hospitality and left the building. We placed our bottles of wine in Ebony and decided to walk the vineyard. We were granted permission to do so by Bob. We never saw a vineyard up close and personal. We checked out the different types of grapes and other fruits they grew. And I had to examine his unique way to keep the birds out of the vineyard. I am not going to give away his secrets. But, he has no loss due to birds and it is a passive system that works and is ingenious. After meandering among the grapes for a while, we jumped into Ebony for our next stop.
It was getting close to dinner time so we headed on over to the Montana Rib & Chop House. We ate there for Father’s Day and liked the food and the atmosphere. We were immediately seated and our server, who was new, is named Molly. We had an appetizer of one of Mama Nomad’s favorites, Fried Green Tomatoes. This place does it a little fancy. But they were delicious. Mama Nomad had a Buffalo Chicken Salad and I had BBQ Shrimp. Molly came over and we struck up a discussion with her. This time, no lines or traffic jams formed. She learned, during the conversation, that it was our anniversary. So, she actually bought us dessert. We had never had creme brulee so we chose it. It, like our food was delicious. We paid, thanked Molly and left.
Now we were headed to our last stop, home base. We had been out and about all day long. It was time to do some relaxing. And that relaxing entailed showering all of the dust from the day off, getting some comfy clothes on, popping the corks on the wine we bought and sitting back enjoying each other’s company for the remainder of the evening.
After 19 years, I am so thoroughly happy that Mama Nomad and I can have so much fun just being together. As the years go on, it seems like we only want to be with each other more and more. I am blessed to have a wife who is also my best friend and is tolerant and patient enough to love an ornery guy like me. Safe Travels!