Every time we head into Montana, St. Regis is a perfect place to stop. About seven hours from Tacoma, it’s a nice break from the road and a safe and familiar place to stay for the night. The gas station/diner/souvenir store boasts a huge “Indoor Aquarium” that we have NEVER stopped to view, even the Rudy was with us! This time, we decided to take an additional few minutes in the morning, while we drank our coffee, to visit with the trout. There was a little hidey-hole that invites children (and child-like adults….don’t judge!) to crawl inside and become part of the aquarium. OBVIOUSLY we HAD to experience this. The fish may have still been asleep since it was early and we really didn’t see a lot of movement from them, or they were having a contest to see which one could do the best Don Knotts impersonation…but not from The Incredible Mr. Limpit, from The Andy Griffith show.

After a very mature morning, we made our way to Gardner, Montana, the “Gateway to Yellowstone National Park”! One of the coolest things about this kind of tour that is sponsored by the different arts commissions in these small towns, is that these are places that Jared and I probably wouldn’t seek out on our own, thus leading us into so many beautiful places we’ve never been to or thought to go. I mean, Yellowstone is a place we all grew up hearing about, and, if given the time and opportunity, would love to see, but it’s just never been on the “must do” list. Well, not any more!!! We will DEFINITELY be bringing Rudy back to this town to experience the park!

Our lodging was sponsored by a woman named Stacy, a business owner of the Wonderland Cafe and Lodge, big into community involvement, and giant supporter of the arts. As we stayed there, we saw construction going on across the street that she shared with us was a re-build of a couple bars with stages that had burnt down during COVID. The music scene is important to her and the community, and we got to witness it that evening.

Hello? A crossword? You know it! It’s officially tour baby!!!

Enjoying some local musical flavor. This artist played some lovely folk and Americana covers and was supported by staff and other local musicians.

After the show, Stacy invited us over to hang out. Everyone was excitedly trying out the stand up bass. It was a loner bass for the musician, and the owner encouraged anyone to play it who wanted to.

I asked Jared to try it on for size! He looks good…but I still like him on his Takamine, right next to me on stage! He said it was fun, but weird.

The next morning, we had to perform for the local high school (and K-8th joined as well). The show began at 8:00 am, so we had to be there nice and early to be ready. These pics were taken out the east-facing window (sunrise), and the west-facing window (moon still up). What you can’t see are all the elk on the football field. The janitor said that sometimes there are upwards to forty elk on the field that they have to shoo off in order to play football!

Our concert was outrageously well-received by both students and staff alike! An unbelievable response of cheers, compliments, and even some unexpected tears from a teacher who said, “We needed that so badly. Thank you.” The students asked thoughtful questions about Jared’s gear, the songwriting process, our band name, and many others. We all laughed when I pointed out how impressed I was at the energy level of the kids for 8:00 in the morning, right as a young lady near the front was releasing a huge yawn! Hahaha! I said she represented how we all felt, but we were in it together and having a ball. The kids were so bummed to go back to class, and as we were around on and off throughout the day, we heard nothing but lovely things from all who saw the show.

Later that day, the next portion of our outreach included a workshop with the high school and Jr. high choir students. This was my time to shine, and we had so much fun! I led them through a series of tips, tricks, and exercises that I had in my arsenal, collected over the years from vocal coaches, choir teachers, theater instructors and my own bit of crazy tossed in. The kids were hungry for instruction and so receptive and willing. There were some that appeared to feel silly at the beginning, but since I’m a bigger dork than all of those brilliant young adults combined, they felt relaxed and at ease in no time. Their teacher accompanied them on guitar and Jared jumped right into the piano role. Before you knew it, we had ourselves a bonafide choir concert by noon! It was joyful, informative, and most of all, FUN! I mean, just LOOk at these faces!!!

We returned to the school auditorium later that night for our concert for the community. Some students returned with their parents, some staff showed up, and curious community members came out to see what this “glam folk” duo from Tacoma, WA was all about. Although lightly attended (maybe forty-five people), we still had an amazing time and were wildly well-received. The president of the Electric Peak Arts board (our sponsors for the show) loved us and gifted us free admission to Yellowstone the next day! Many attendees made sure to offer encouragement and share how the show affected them. It is ALWAYS humbling and touching when someone reveals how our music, stories, love for each other, made them feel. I’ll say it a thousand times, we NEVER take it for granted.

Amped up and full of adrenaline, we treated ourselves to a beer (I mean, it DOES say in Leather Life “we’ve got six more beers to go!”), gabbed with some locals, and got to know them a bit better. What a darling, close-knit family, this community is! Several people commented that (even though it hadn’t been two hours since the show yet – but it is a small town and news travels fast) they had heard our show was awesome, and we were asked to come back for their Summer music concerts and such. A really fun ending to an incredibly full AND fulfilling day!

THIS is the entrance to Yellowstone National Park (quite literally, a hefty stone’s throw away from the school). I’ve decided it should also be the entrance to our house. I will let our kitchen contractor know about the changes immediately.

I could literally go on and on and on about how this place made me feel, what we talked about, the smells of the sulfur and the air, the majestic scenery, frozen in time and waiting for the thaw to reanimate…but there are few phrases or words worthy and/or appropriate. I will leave you with this before I add some pictures for you to drool over.

We almost DID NOT go. Why? Literally NO REASON. We had to get on the road? Sure, but there was no absolute time set that we needed to be at our next destination. We didn’t have a whole day to dedicate, sure, but we still had at least two hours we could devote to it. We were a little tired. So what? When would we be this close or get this opportunity again? Maybe next Summer. Maybe never. You never know what the future holds so DO THE THING NOW. Don’t Wait! I felt so strongly about this that, despite several lame reasons to pass on the opportunity, I convinced Jared (which wasn’t difficult, btw) to just take a drive with me into this “Wonderland” and see what happened. These pictures are a fraction of what we saw, and we have no regrets.

After that unreal departure from our plan, we made the five-and-a-half-hour journey towards Hamilton, where our dear friends, Gretchen and her daughter, Lily, welcomed us with craft “Apple Pie” cocktails and a birthday cake surprise. My wishes have already come true, so I just blew out the candle with a silent “I’m grateful” puff, and committed to keep going one more year on this outrageous journey of life.

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