WEEK 3: Last Leg of the Wholesome Beef Western States Delivery Trip
(Photos follow at the bottom of the page.)
“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” ~John Steinbeck
As we have officially landed back home after the last leg of our beef delivery run, we can’t help but sympathize with Mr. Steinbeck for his infatuation with our home state. We really do live in the greatest country in the world, this America, and maybe it’s just an affinity for the familiar but to us Montana still shines like a diamond of the western side. Regardless, it’s important to leave home occasionally so you can appreciate coming back. This big wide world out there has so much to see, learn and do. And that is exactly what we have done on this trip – to the max!
At the conclusion of the last blog we were headed toward New Mexico. After a brief hour-long stop checking out Roswell’s tourist scene, we stayed the night in Ruidoso and had dinner with family from Cloudcroft who made the short drive up to meet us and returned homeward with a carload of beef. Ruidoso was a beautiful place, and we definitely plan to return there someday. Ruidoso Downs and our cousins Mike and Irene are calling us to come back! The next day we meandered through Alamogordo, NM on our way to Willcox, Arizona where we connected with our dear friends Allan and Carol Crocket, their daughter Carly, and their grandchildren who were visiting from across the mountain. We enjoyed a brief tour of the region by Allan followed by dinner at Big T’s Barbecue with his family. The miles between Ruidoso and Willcox were stereotypical desert country, but irrigation and warm temps have made Willcox a bit of an agricultural oasis. Yuma was the next destination and involved a two-day stay with our friends Doug and Fran from the Big Flat in their beautiful little casita. We were surprised how many people we knew there within a few blocks radius, and Doug and Fran fixed up a great barbecue for a bit of fun and camaraderie. After dropping off beef the last morning, we headed toward Palm Springs, California and enjoyed even more beautiful summer weather (in March – amazing!) with the Thane and Kerri Russell family from Alberta, Canada at their winter “home away from home”. They treated us like royalty, and we even had a little musical jam session that evening by the pool. Next stop was St. George, Utah on our way to Park City. Being newcomers, we made the fatal mistake of driving on the Interstate through Las Vegas at rush hour on a Friday night. Let’s just say there was NO rushing after that; instead we got a really good look at the place for 3.5 hours from our place in line in the traffic jam. I can think of much better ways to spend 3.5 hours in Vegas, but lesson learned, and we eventually laid over at St. George. We made it to Park City, Utah the next day and were hosted very graciously by our fellow Montana ranchers Mike and Allison Florance. We’ve known Mike and Allison for a few years now, but finally got to meet their kids and their kids’ spouses, which was a gem of a time. Such great people! The weather changed immensely from Palm Springs to Park City, by about 40* and several feet of snow. Luckily, us Montana natives were well-prepared with all our cold-weather gear. The days following that were mostly travel back north with a stop-over in Butte, Montana on our way to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We stopped off for coffee with our close friend Melissa in Anaconda, Montana on Monday morning then made our way up to northern Idaho for the last beef delivery stop of the trip. My cousin Jim and his wife Chrisdee are huge fans of our beef and have brought lots of friends on as our customers, as well. We always look forward to seeing them all and spending some good family time together, even if it’s usually too brief. Tuesday night we pulled off of Highway 241 onto our snowy, gravel road home, just as the trip odometer rolled over 5,000 mile mark.
In all, we have visited 14 states (some more than once), stayed in 6 hotels, one Airbnb (owned by our friends the Hamiltons), and were graciously hosted and entertained by countless family and friends across the west. It’s hard to believe this can be called “work”, but we connected with repeat beef customers along the way and gained a few new friends and customers too. The little beef freezer traveled like a champ, and we hit nearly perfect weather all the way with a beautiful gift of heavy, wet snow to return home to. We are beyond blessed.
Speaking of snow, or rather, water–of all the treasured natural resources found in the west, we were reminded how water is by far the most important (right behind the people, that is). Whether it comes frozen from the sky, in torrential rains filling creeks and reservoirs, or wells drilled deep underground, the ability to capture the water we’re given is an intricate skill that agriculturalists across the world must hone to successfully steward our farms and ranches. It is glaringly evident that food security in the U.S. will hinge on this one key ability. It doesn’t matter how much precipitation a piece of land receives in a given year; what matters is being able to infiltrate it and retain it where it lands. We hang our hat on this concept in our own operation, but now, after a lengthy drought and upon exploring the backroads of agriculture these past weeks, we are more committed than ever before to the soil health principles we’ve adopted.
Our journey has been a priceless educational experience. The fire within us to do better today than yesterday – for the folks who depend on our beef and for the generations of ranchers who will come after us and walk where we’ve walked – is now a raging blaze. Exciting times are ahead and our gears are turning. We have so many new things to implement now that we’re back in Turner. Come visit the ranch sometime to check it out!