Now that we had established that we would likely stay within the U.S., we started turning our attention to which region of the country would best fit our wish list. I knew from the get-go that, whether we dropped anchor within the U.S. or ended up overseas, living by one of the coasts was at the top of my list. However, LCB was more open-minded, and both of us did want to go down the path of exploring all the options, if nothing else than for the sake of really, really knowing. We didn’t want this to be a decision based on any assumptions.
Among the things we examined were the pros and cons of desserts, mountains, plains, and coastal areas. As we continued our search, we found ourselves gravitating toward the mountains, and began entertaining serious thoughts about moving there, narrowing it down to either somewhere in the U. S. Rockies or some of the mountainous areas in the Pacific Northwest. We did scads of research and traveled out west, where the largest part of our time was spent in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon. We found several places we could see ourselves living in, but above all, we absolutely loved Montana. During an extensive cross-country driving trip, we visited many of its cities, including Helena, Missoula and Kalispell.
In fact, Kalispell really jump-started our interest in the mountains and in Montana, albeit from afar. It’s a beautiful city with a large lake sandwiched between the mountains. Somehow, during our internet searching, we found this little ranch with a few acres and a house on it that, once it entered my mind, it refused to leave. The two pictures we had, one of the entrance to the ranch and the other of a mid-sized log house, swirled in my head for months before our trip. Once we arrived in Kalispell during our trip that summer, we drove around for a long time, without a GPS or an address, but with a couple of clues and LCB’s instincts, which eventually brought us to the ranch.
We pulled over and just stared at it for a few minutes. We were both silent. Eventually, not wanting to appear stalker-like but at the same time not wanting to let go of the moment or the ranch, we got out of the car and stood by the fence at the entrance, to get a closer look. As it happened, the owners saw us, came out, and graciously offered us a tour once they heard our strange story.
It’s a peculiar and surreal thing to come face to face with something that’s lived in your mind for so long. When you set something up in your head like that, letting it simmer and grow, nurturing your own fine details for it, for months on end, the odds are the real thing, when you finally face it, will never be able to live up to the thing that’s spent so long evolving in your mind.
The property in its entirety was lovely, everything a Montana ranch should be, but, through no fault of its own, it was not much like the house and land my mind had created, nor the one LCB had created in his mind either, he later confessed. It was a solemn moment as we left the house and Kalispell and headed north. Again, we were both silent for a time. It felt almost like a blow, this disappointment that was so unreasonable on our part, but was, nevertheless, there. We left, fairly sure that this was not the “move for place” place for us. But part of that was also because, at this point in the trip, we thought maybe we knew what was.
Bozeman, Montana was the city that captured our imagination. Size-wise, it offered a fair amount of conveniences while still feeling rather small to our Chicago standards, and the mountains, well. Well. Those were just beyond anything I’d ever known.
As we were learning, digging deep in these ventures paid off. We didn’t want the tourists’ vantage point; we wanted the real deal. We spoke with everyone we could, grilling our servers at restaurants and our gas station attendants while filling up, and talking at length with the owner of the B&B where we were staying. We attended a local church service and combed the streets of Bozeman, scrutinizing area schools, neighborhoods, plots of land, and small ranches.
The more we saw of Bozeman, the more we liked it. We starting thinking that maybe Bozeman was our “move for place” place. So, we made a list of properties and plans for a return trip.
Then, we called a realtor.