Gearing Up

This year promises to be a busy one for sure.

We finalized the 2-month rental in Montana last week, and Andy is nearly finished prepping the Jeep. We ordered and installed a weatherproof mat for the cargo area, and Andy swapped out half of the spark plugs on his own. The firewall and some other engine components prohibited him from replacing the ones on the driver’s side, so we ended up taking it in for service to finish the job. The shop was also able to complete a recall at the same time. The tires were just rotated in January, so the final to-dos include flushing and replacing the fluids and replacing the brake pads and rotors.

Mail Update

After a quite a bit of research regarding how to handle our mail when we’re gone, we settled on temporarily changing our address to a trusted friends’ residence. Even though there are several reputable virtual mailbox services out there, there were a number of reasons we decided to do it this way. I could probably write a book on the different services and our reasoning, but it simmers down to peace of mind and simplicity.

I wasn’t sure I could put complete trust in strangers opening, forwarding, destroying, and scanning our mail. I felt it was safer and easier to just forward our mail to friends for safekeeping. In the event that we need something forwarded to us, it can either be scanned and emailed to us, or mailed to our rental address. I plan to provide our friends with a stack of addressed envelopes and stamps. I set up the USPS mail forward online, which was super easy to do. I also have ‘Informed Delivery’ through USPS, which makes it easy for us to keep track of daily mail. Each morning, subscribers receive exterior envelope image scans of daily mail. You also get a list of tracking codes for any packages due. If you haven’t signed up for Informed Delivery yet, it’s worthwhile (and free!); you can do it here.

Just for curiosity’s sake, I started tracking how much first-class mail we actually receive in a given month. I wanted a number for future knowledge because monthly rates for some virtual mailboxes is dependent on volume. I’ve only been tallying first class, express, and priority mail though because junk, bulk, second class, and standard mail are not forwarded. We also reviewed all of our bank, investment, and service provider accounts to ensure that everything is paperless. By the way, when Andy called our ISP because he couldn’t find the option to go paperless on their site, they offered us a pretty great discounted rate on our service plan. Annual calls to providers, while annoying, may save you some money.

More on Montana

I began doing research on the Kalispell and Big Fork area last night. Specifically, I looked up nearby veterinarian hospitals, dog-friendly recreation areas, hiking spots, restaurants (I’ll be honest that food was the first thing I looked up), and shopping. I still need to make note of nearby hospitals and urgent care facilities. Our hostess must be on the same wavelength because she emailed me this morning with detailed check-in instructions and a list of favorite restaurants and scenic areas. I removed the recreation areas that were specified as only really known to locals, however, if you’re planning to visit Montana, send me a note.

Recreation Areas:

Serenity Falls/little Bitterroot Falls: 3-tiered waterfall you can walk behind; you can park at the dropped pin and you will see a gate that you can walk through, follow the trail downhill less than half a mile. 

Ashley Lake: the pin will take you to the public boat launch. If you keep driving past the launch, there is a campground. This is one of the most beautiful lakes with Caribbean blue water.

Hungry Horse Dam and Reservoir: the pin will take you to the Dam, which at 564 feet high. Hungry Horse is one of the largest concrete arch dams in the US; its morning-glory spillway, with water cascading over the rim and dropping 490 feet, is the highest in the world. There are many beautiful spots along the reservoir to stop and check out the lake (about 50 miles of a dirt road that follows the lake).

Kootenai Falls: one of the most beautiful spots in Northwest Montana. There is a cable suspended swinging bridge, and the waterfalls are breathtaking (same waterfalls as seen in the movies The Revenant and The River Wild).

Everything Else

Trips

We still need to finalize dates for our annual trip to visit family in northern Michigan, but I’m thinking we’ll go in August or September. August is normally pretty hot in humid at home, so it may be a nice reprieve to go to then. We also have weddings to attend during the first two weekends of October, and I am so excited for both! Shout-out to the almost newlyweds!

Staying Active

This month we switched up our workout routine to improve conditioning with skiing in mind. We also continue to walk Stevie Mix in our neighborhood about 2 miles total each day, but over the past month or so we started to take her on weekly adventures, exploring different trails and parks. Depending on the weather and our plans for the day, we walk anywhere from 3 to 5 miles. So far we’ve visited: South Shore Trail, Patapsco State Park, Bacon Ridge Natural Area, Downs Park, and Fort Smallwood Park. I have a list of other state and local parks to check out, but suggestions are welcome!

Other Activities

Aside from that, we’ve been going through and shredding stacks of old documents, boxing up, and donating household goods and clothing. We’re getting medical appointments taken care of and on the books; Stevie Mix’s vet appointments have been scheduled. We’ve also been trying out new food spots and visiting old ones. Early in the month, we visited the Baltimore Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which had been on my list of places to see in Maryland for quite some time. We also got to spend a little bit of time with our Montana friends, who were in town for a quick visit. Last week, I was also able to meet with a friend for brunch that spilled over to a long conversation at a nearby Starbucks. Now that weather has cleared, we have plans to fly later this week. All and all, it has been productive month, but also filled with much appreciated downtime.

I hope you’re having a wonderful first month of 2020!

xo

Baltimore Conservatory:
*Additional photos here and here
Stevie Mix at Downs Park

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