IN THE BEGINNING

Dave and I have always known that we wanted to retire “out west” if it were at all possible. It started back in the days of family vacations to Colorado when we would go to various places and imagine retirement life there. As time went on and our vacations took us to new destinations we opened ourselves up to other possibilities. Colorado seemed to be growing at too fast of a pace for us so we extended our search to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

I will always remember my first trip to Montana. Dave and his two younger brothers were backpacking the Hell Raising Trail in northern Yellowstone National Park in 2004 while my two sister-in-laws, along with our nephew, our two youngest children and myself had a couple of days to do our own thing. Being the History nerd that I am and particularly a lover of the American West, I knew I wanted to visit the Little Bighorn National Battlefield. So set was I in doing this that I told my two sister-in-laws that they were more than welcome to do this with me but if they didn’t, I was going anyway. They decided to join me!

Our little caravan of three vehicles exited Yellowstone, after dropping the fellas off at their Trailhead and we headed east towards Billings, Montana where we did laundry and spent the night at a motel.  The next morning we swung south and made our way to the Battlefield. As I was driving I soaked in the vast scenery around me as best I could; the rolling hills, the prairies, the history, that “big sky” that they always talk when suddenly a feeling like none other swept over me. Later I would come to call it “a spiritual experience”. It was as if I had always been a part of this land and it was somehow calling me back home…

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(Fairview Peak as seen from I-90 heading east towards Billings.)

Our quest for our retirement home began about 5 years ago. I began researching different areas, signing up for real estate e-mail notifications and subscribing to two different Log Home magazines. We were entertaining the possibility of building a log home but decided to keep our options open. I have to admit, I grew weary after a while and would set the project off to the back burner. Since we had decided to leave our options open, I was also looking at homes for sale. We had specific criteria: a little bit of land, reasonable proximity to hospitals, doctors and amenities, lots of trees, fireplace/woodstove, good views, about 2000 square feet and a certain price range. Inevitably, I would find something that I liked but Dave wouldn’t and vice-versa.

Two years ago, I came across a listing in Idaho that we both liked. I contacted the Realtor and in spite of the great location, the home as well as the junky neighbors made it a blatant no. Back to the drawing board…

Exactly a year ago I came across a listing in Columbia Falls, Montana that had lots of potential. We were somewhat familiar with the area since Glacier National Park is one of our favorite vacation spots. We did some quick research and we liked what we saw as far as the demographics went. Kalispell is a nice sized town with lots of services and only about a 25 minute drive away!

I contacted the Realtor and made the decision to immediately book a flight and take a look. The flight was booked at the last minute and in order to save some money, I flew from Dallas to Los Angeles, transferred planes and flew to Denver. From Denver I caught a third plane and flew into Missoula, Montana-three time zones in one day! I picked up a rental car, spent the night in Missoula and made the drive north the next morning.

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(Flathead Lake, driving north towards Columbia Falls.)

The drive was so incredibly beautiful that I didn’t even mind that it was over 2 hours. I met with the Realtor, we looked at the house, I called Dave and we made an offer. We didn’t get the house because the other interested party waived an inspection on the house. I was disappointed and I hated the thought of the money we had spent, all for nothing, or so it seemed. Dave and I decided that the trip actually had some benefits: we had hooked up with a great Realtor and it confirmed to us that this is where we wanted to live. Still, it was back to the drawing board once again…

Last summer, we had a trip planned to Glacier National Park when shortly before we left, our Realtor suggested we take a look at a house just south of Kalispell while we were up. We reserved a day out of our trip and did just that. The house was really nice but it was at the high end of our price range and it would set us over our budget by the time we tweaked it to our own taste. You guessed it, back to the drawing board…

Ten days after coming back to Texas from our vacation to Glacier, our Realtor contacted us about another house, a foreclosure being sold “as is”. I wasn’t too enthused, not because of the house itself but because we had JUST gotten back from vacation and we were moving Charlie back up to OU for the Fall semester. Dave looked at the listing and was immediately interested so I decided to do some follow up. Another last minute plane ticket (only 2 flights this time!) and I was on my way!

As soon as I got to town we went to see the house. When we drove into the driveway and I stepped out of the car, I had that funny feeling, that “This could be it” kind of feeling! After walking around the property we went inside and I just KNEW that this was meant to be our house!!! I called Dave and told him we needed to make an offer immediately since someone else was pretty interested. The next day, we were Montana home owners!!

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