Our Last Days in Bozeman

Leaving Bozeman at Sunrise

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

We will miss Bozeman, and everything about it. We spent nearly 7 months there…renewing our minds and our bodies and taking a much needed rest. Even as I write this and look back through the photos, I feel a twinge of homesickness. We felt very much at home there and fell in love with the culture of the city. People have asked us if we will go back there to live after the tour, but it’s hard to say at this point. Our road is yet unknown…but it’s a possibility!

There are so many things that we loved about Bozeman. Our friends, the amazing local coffee shops, our church, downtown, the coop, but especially our family. Matt’s sister, Mindy, and her husband, Ryan, live there and run Lions Ridge, a retreat center just outside of town. Their camp is located way up in the mountains…with gorgeous views from every direction. We enjoyed taking long walks, picking wildflowers, and playing in the cold mountain stream that ran right behind our RV. The wildlife was abundant. On one occasion, I looked out the front of the RV and saw a deer grazing in the grass about 10 feet away. On another day, I was just about to come out of the main cabin, and was startled to see five large black cows staring back at me. Apparently it was free range season and they come up every year. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough…and as soon as I moved they stampeded up the mountain pretty quickly! Matt and Bella saw marmot and other deer when they went out exploring, and when we were leaving in the early morning to head out, we saw a baby moose on the side of the road.

We were constantly in awe of God’s creation while we were there. Every day we would wake up to perfect stillness…and a sun that was just peeking above the pines. As we would walk up to the lodge at night to see the sunset, we would touch the wildflowers and recall their names (homeschooling on the road!). When you stand in the shadow of the mountains, you can’t help but feel the awesome power of God. And the same power that is at work in those mountains is at work in our lives at all times. When things get rough…I always know that if God can create all of this, He has the power to handle my everyday life!

It was also a great reminder of why I feel so strongly about being a good steward of God’s creation. I worship a Saviour who entrusted this earth to us… to take care of and to be wise with it’s resources. Being wasteful and using harmful chemicals does not being honor to Him…being wise in using what He has given us does. Christians should be the most RADICAL environmentalists out there as we care for HIS creation. And although you may not share my faith, we do share a common bond. Our children and grandchildren will suffer the effects of our laziness and careless attitudes about where the earth is headed. Let’s all take our own little steps towards a more hopeful future for them.

Lions Ridge will always hold special meaning for us. Several years ago, we were visiting there during a very challenging time in our life. We felt that God was prompting us to move to Bozeman…away from the busy life that we were leading. Moving there eventually became a reality…one that was wonderful and unexpected. As we left Bozeman last week, we stayed at Lions Ridge again while we closed that short chapter in our life…moving on to our next adventure. It was bittersweet driving down the mountain that last time…leaving dear friends and family behind. But so much lies ahead of us right now. And who knows…maybe we WILL head back to the West after the tour. It’s amazing there! But even more amazing is staying right in the center of God’s will, and that is where we are right now.

For more photos and explanations of our last days in Bozeman, click here.
For more photos of Lions Ridge in the winter, click here.

Do You Smell Sunflower Seeds?

Dakota Burl Renovations
Yes! That’s because Matt just created and installed our new counter top and table. They are made from Dakota Burl, which is compressed sunflower seed shells held together by a soy-based resin. It’s an incredibly renewable resource, as it can be re-grown in four months. I’m so thrilled to have these beautiful and functional new surfaces. I love to cook…so having 2/3 more counter space makes me a very happy girl. He also replaced all of the old, deteriorating plumbing and put in new drains. I am constantly in awe of Matt and his craftsmanship. He did such a great job! There are a few more photos of the process in our “Renovations” photo set here.

We purchased the Burl from the Refuge Sustainable Building Center in Bozeman. It was fun to look at all of the different types of alternative materials available. Here is more information about this particular eco-friendly option:

What Is Dakota Burl®?

  • A unique composite material that utilizes a bio-based technology and exhibits the beauty and elegance of traditional burled woods.

How Does Dakota Burl® Benefit Our Environment?

  • Manufactured from a rapidly renewable agricultural fiber product.
  • No out-gassing solvents are added during the manufacturing process, thus the material emits no VOCs into the atmosphere.

What Does Dakota Burl® Look Like?

  • The defined black outlining complements the natural yellow and brown tones of the fibers creating a distinctive pattern.
  • Natural or stained, the material resembles authentic burled woods, giving a wide range of color options.
  • The burled pattern and natural appearance run throughout the thickness of the material.

How Does Dakota Burl® Work?

  • The material cuts, sands and routes with standard woodworking tools.
  • Traditional wood staining and finishing techniques can be used on the material to create a wide range of appearances.
  • Four foot by eight foot panels are manufactured in 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″ thicknesses.

How Can I Use Dakota Burl®

  • Superior panel properties allow for a variety of applications.
  • Table Surfaces, Horizontal and Vertical Surfaces (transaction surfaces and interior decorative wall applications), Cabinetry, Furniture and Architectural Applications are all excellent uses for Dakota Burl®.

Edited to add: We have had some trouble with water damage already on the countertop…and after researching a bit more, we found that it’s not recommended near water sources. So….we will be sanding and sealing it more and hoping for the best!

Sustainability Fair: Livingston, MT

The Yurt
Last weekend we attended the Sustainability Fair in gorgeous Livingston, MT. We had initially wanted to display our RV, but the remodeling came down to the wire and we decided to be spectators instead. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed talking to all the interesting people there.

Some highlights:

  • We met a delightful couple who remodeled their Airstream travel trailer to be completely off the grid (even a composting toilet…yay!) …pulled by their biodiesel-fueled truck.
  • We chatted with Paul House of Bozeman Biofuels…who has been spreading the biofuel love in the Gallatin Valley for nearly 3 years now.
  • We laughed at the adorable alpacas.
  • We stood in the yurt. Yurt = Love.
  • We saw Kermit the Pod.
  • I drooled over a really cool Dutch bicycle.
  • I played a little game called “Count the Chacos“. It seems to be the national shoe of the Bozeman area. Don’t get me wrong…you won’t catch me without my trusty Chacos. Best shoes ever. It’s just a fun game.

You can see photos of all of these things and more by clicking here.

Home Sweet Home

The Completed RV
After 10 straight days of painting, hammering, sawing, and praying…we have officially “moved in” to the RV. You can see the entire renovation process and the final photos HERE. We are really happy with how everything turned out…it truly feels like home. It should…because we were able to use all of the same colors and decor as we had in our previous apartment. It was great not buying anything…and yet having a totally new space. We re-used it all…curtains, photos, hardware, lamps, etc.

It’s quite an odd, yet wonderful thing to have a house on wheels. We have all the comforts and familiarities of our favorite things…but we can choose to change what we see outside of our windows in a moments notice! What fun!

Many of you have asked questions about the RV itself…here is a rundown of the specs:

  • 1994 Fleetwood Flair
  • 32′ long, 8′ wide
  • Diesel “Pusher” (engine is located in the rear, under the bed)
  • GMC 6.5 liter V8 Engine
  • 90 gallon veggie oil tank/20 gallon diesel tank (system installed by GFS)
  • Roof-top solar panels
  • Flexsteel couch/seating
  • King bed in rear/Dinette and Couch both convert to beds
  • 3 burner gas stove with oven (and it fits my stoneware muffin pan! hooray!)
  • 6 cubic sq. ft fridge/freezer (new)
  • TV in front and rear for watching DVD’s…equipped with DirectTV (not activated)
  • Cabin air conditioner/Roof-top air in front and rear
  • Large enclosed roof-top luggage carrier

Here is a list of what we have updated so far:

  • Painted cupboards and walls with AFM Safecoat paint
  • Installed bamboo flooring throughout
  • Changed hardware from gold to silver
  • Took out the microwave and created a “tea/cookbook nook”
  • Hung “real” curtains
  • Installed entertainment system with surround sound
  • Installed iPod player in the kitchen area
  • Modified bedroom to add our own king-sized bed (which created more storage under the bed)
  • Added more storage (baskets, hooks, etc)

Future Updates:

  • Inverter and more batteries to increase solar capabilities
  • Stabilizer jacks
  • Composting toilet (Ecolet)

So there you have it. We’ve been living in the RV for 5 days and we’ve loved every moment of it. It does have it’s own unique challenges…but it brings unique joys as well. We’re looking forward to welcoming you into our new home!

Back to Bozeman

We left Des Moines for Bozeman on Sunday morning around 8:00 a.m. and drove straight through until about 11:30 p.m. It was a LONG day! But driving in the RV as opposed to a car is like night and day. It’s still such a novelty to be able to get up and go to the restroom without stopping…and being able to make meals on the go is a big time saver. We headed across Iowa and into South Dakota. In Murdo, SD, we stopped to look for some grease and found LOTS of it at a little diner there. While Matt was filling up, I was able to snag a wi-fi connection and catch up on some emails. While I was sitting there, I noticed that there was a gentleman looking at our rig intently and also at Matt. I wandered over there with Bella because he had two small children…and we started to chat. Turns out that he was curious about using veggie oil as fuel, because he has a horse trailer that he pulls with a diesel semi. We chatted for quite a while and told gave him a card…directing him to check out Golden Fuel Systems’ website…because they are one of the few companies doing larger vehicle conversions.

Back on the road again, we hit a big storm…complete with a little hail. We heard one of our awnings flapping in the wind, so we pulled off on a scenic outlook. It was there that we met a friendly couple from Ann Arbor who just happened to be heading to Montana…near Bozeman to be exact! Small world. I have a feeling there will be a lot of small world moments during our travels. We talked to them at length about our tour and about veggie oil. It’s always fun to spread the love :). It was super windy, but the sky was gorgeous. Bella loved running around the prairie with her hair blowing in the wind. There was even a rainbow! It was a wonderful blessing to stop and experience God’s creation in that way.

We ended up hitting Rapid City at 10:00 p.m. We were getting pretty tired at that point and decided to stop for coffee. Betty told us where to go for a cup of joe…but what we didn’t know was that it was the city-wide fireworks show that night, and we drove right into the middle of it. Oops. But we got our coffee and made it out ok…despite the thousands of people milling about and celebrating. We headed to Gillette, WY, where we parked for the night in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I don’t like Wal-Mart or their practices, but if they want to loan their slab of cement to me for FREE so I sleep…it’s ok with me.

At around 6 a.m. the next morning, we woke up and hit the road. We located some more coffee and while I was ordering, Matt went to find some grease. We found some at a little Mexican restaurant next door (why they were there before 7 a.m. is beyond me). While Matt pumped, I made some scrambled eggs for everyone.

It was another long day on the road, but we finally pulled into Bozeman around 5:00 p.m. and we were greeted by Mindy, Matt’s sister, as soon as we pulled in. She works just a block away from our place, and she was just getting done for the day. It was great to see her smiling face and to be “home” again after 2 months. We were a little worried about parking the RV, because we only have street parking available. Luckily, our neighbor offered to move his car and that created the perfect place for us to park.

We were so excited to get back so we could begin all the renovations on the RV and wrap up all the loose ends. It’s been wonderful seeing our friends and connecting again. We’ll be checking out of our apartment this week and we’ll head up into the mountains to stay with Mindy and her husband, Ryan at Lion’s Ridge. More about their camp here. We’re looking forward to helping out at camp and also enjoying the gorgeous scenery. We LOVE Montana…and will miss it dearly. Our time here, although short, has been wonderful. It’s pristine waters and majestic mountains…be sure to add it to your list of places to visit!

Check out more photos of our trip back to Bozeman here.

Renovations & Refuge


Overall, our RV is in GREAT condition for it’s age (1994). But, because this is going to be our HOME…we wanted to make it our own. Our goal is to make cosmetic changes to the interior of the RV using earth-friendly materials, so that when you tour our RV, you’ll be able to see different “green” options for your OWN home.

There is a fabulous sustainable building center in Bozeman called Refuge. After talking to them about our tour, they generously donated all of the paint we needed (low-VOC, non-toxic), and also some beautiful bamboo flooring for the entire RV. A HUGE thanks to Dave, Dan, and Mary for taking time to help us with this project. They are a great asset to the community! I’ll be posting more info about the paint, flooring, etc. in a future blog…stay tuned!

You can see ongoing photos of the renovations here. We’ve ripped out all of the existing flooring, repaired water damage in the floor, repaired the tub, modified cupboards, painted everything, and will be putting in new flooring and window coverings next. We hope to have most of it completed sometime next week. We’re excited to finally MOVE IN to the RV!


We call her Betty. I honestly don’t know how we lived without her. She’s amazing. Sometimes she has some emotional issues…but we still love her. Yes folks, I’m talking about our Garmin Nuvi 350. Roadtrips will never be the same. Before Betty, we would use our Blackberries to get online with Google Maps. This worked great, except when we didn’t have service. Then we were out of luck. Betty is much more advanced. She gets her information from a satellite. Let’s just say I love the inventor of GPS.

Betty can find ANYTHING, it seems. For example, when we are driving down the interstate and need to check on grease possibilites, we just tell her to find restaurants and she lists them in order of distance. If we want Chinese restaurants specifically, she’s glad to refine the list. My favorite search, of course, is for the nearest coffeeshop. Now, if somehow I could just get her to taste test and review each one, that would be perfection.

She will calculate our speed while we’re driving, our average speed, total time on the road, moving time, moving average, stopped time, stopped average and overall average. It tells us how many miles we’ve gone and also how many miles until our destination. She also tells us the our estimated time of arrival. These are all very important things, as Matt is the ultimate trip planner. We can also install a language update with translations for French and Spanish (but we won’t be). She’s a very cultured GPS. AND, she’s an MP3 player too.

But, like any electronic device, she isn’t perfect. Betty doesn’t really care that we are an RV. In fact, we might as well be a little racecar for all she cares. She will sometimes take us on a route that doesn’t take our HUGENESS into account. She will also take the most direct route…even if it’s not logical. So sometimes we opt for a “Betty Override”. The other little glitch is that development happens so fast that she needs an update every once in awhile so she knows where the new roads, new restaurants,new campgrounds, etc. are located.

Bella heard me talking about Betty…so I tried to explain.

Bella: “Who is Betty?”
Me: “Betty tells us where to go when we’re driving.”
Bella: “Where is she?”
Me: “She is kind of in that little computer (pointing to the dashboard).”
Bella: “Why ?”
Me: “Well…she’s a pretend person who helps us while we drive”.
Bella: “Why is Betty in there?”
Me: “She’s pretend.”
Bella: “Why?”
Me: “Betty is like a map”.
Bella: “Ohhhhhhh. Ok.”
Me: “We love Betty.”