Bucket List: Equine Vacations

Elephants

A riding safari in South Africa promises animal sightings of all kinds

 

If you haven’t seen the April issue of Western Horse Review yet, you must! In it we have reinvigorated our Getaways column, a regular feature that highlights adventurous equine-related travel ideas. With insight from Travel Professionals International consultant, Patricia Blanchard, this month’s installment features a riding safari in South Africa for the trip of a lifetime.

“There are many beneficial reasons to use a travel agent vs. booking online,” says Blanchard.

Primarily, a professional agent should be with you (theoretically) from the minute you step out the door until you return home safe with your luggage intact.

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A desert riding experience in Arizona? Yes please!

 

There are no real hard-and-fast timelines for booking specific vacations but it stands to reason that most things are based on availability.

“If you have a group that is traveling together, the earlier you book is better than later. There are people who book last minute too and in this case, we can usually find something wonderful for those clients as well. If you have something specific you want to do however, then waiting for last minute could leave you disappointed and settling for something else,” she says.

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“There are many things we can help clients with – we can assist with all types of travel. If a client wanted to book a trip to a dude ranch in Canada for example, I could help with that and help to cultivate the very best experience possible.”

 

"Glamping" at Paws Up in Greenough, MT.

“Glamping” at Paws Up in Greenough, MT.

 

Or if a client wanted to book a destination wedding with horses involved in some way, that’s possible too.

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A travel professional has first-hand knowledge of the places you are wanting to go. He or she has also likely been there in person, or has a friend who has. Here are a few more reasons why a professional can help you with your next vacation:

1) Convenience and Time Savings – You can surf the internet all night or you can make one call to a professional to source the best deal. This way,  you can spend your time on more important things.
2) Peace of Mind – A professional has your back and works for you! And actually cares about you having a wonderful holiday / vacation. “We are here and  are available to assist you throughout your vacation,” says Blanchard. “If you book on the internet there may not be anyone to assist you in an emergency. To them, you are just ‘data.'”
3) Expert Advice – A professional has invaluable knowledge and expertise about destinations, documentation, immunization, insurance, etc. They also have access to a multitude of airlines, hotels, tour companies and cruise lines to provide you with the best value!
4) No Cost – “Not only does it not cost more to book through me, I can also usually save you money with my Virtuoso worldwide travel connections,” Blanchard states.

5) Insurance – Travel insurance should be the first thing you pack when going on vacation. It’s the #1 item you can take with you and a professional can guide you to obtaining the best coverage for your situation, before you head out.

“Unfortunate things can happen to good travelers and they can happen anytime or anywhere. They can be also be expensive to deal with, especially if you need unexpected medical care. Travel insurance can pick up where your government plans or credit card coverage leave off, and offer up to $10 million to get you back in the saddle, (so to speak!)”

A baby giraffe sighting on a riding safari.

A baby giraffe sighting on a riding safari.

Whatever your fancy, there are many benefits to utilizing a professional on your next holiday. A pro can help you achieve that once-in-a-lifetime experience because everyone knows – memories, “Me-Time” and mental tranquility are precious commodities.

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A ride in the water in Jamaica.

BIO – Thank-you to Patricia Blanchard for providing us with the research and details for this trip. Blanchard is an independent advisor with Travel Professionals International. She moved to Calgary in 1993 from Newfoundland and has always had a passion for travel and helping others. She made the leap to being a travel agent and is now doing travel full-time from Chestermere, AB. Blanchard has contended in both reining and western pleasure since moving to Alberta but now has just one retired horse. She loves to ride her Harley and travels at any opportunity. For more info please visit: tpi.ca/PatriciaBlanchardTPI/

A Visit to Spirit Ridge

Pic by Jenn Webster.

Pic by Jenn Webster.

This past Friday through Sunday, I had a lovely (and might I add, a much-needed) opportunity for a girl’s weekend away. The destination? Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa in Osoyoos, BC. Spirit Ridge is unique in many ways and for this weary cowgirl, I found lots of reasons to fall in love with Canada’s only full-service destination resort in Canada’s only desert. (Yes, there were even cacti!)

To be perfectly honest, I missed my family the entire time but it was nice to have some girl time too. (With our busy operation and nearly 45 head of horses, 6 buffalo, 10 cats and a soon-to-be-arriving donkey, there’s not much opportunity for down-time.) However, I can definitely see the Webster family putting Spirit Ridge on the itinerary for a family holiday in the future! This place is a Canadian Staycation with all the luxuries of a tropical resort – in the middle of wine country.

Need I say more?

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Spirit Ridge is truly a Canadian success story and the partnership between Spirit Ridge and the Osoyoos Indian Band creates a one of a kind cultural experience. As one of the original First Nations luxury resorts in Canada, it has garnered international attention.

Check out Osoyoos Indian Band Raises the Bar in Aboriginal Tourism if you have a few minutes. This place has made numerous headlines.

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My sister (on the right) stands with one of our closest friends near the horse sculpture in the Marketplace courtyard.

I went there to visit my beautiful sister. I loved the 5-star accommodations, but I also took a trip over to the spa and pool. A few times. <Grin.>

The Solterra Desert Spa was featured on the Canadian version of Undercover Boss. And as their website so eloquently put its, a massage can feel good but it can also be an excellent tool to help take charge of your health and well-being. After a hot stone massage and a pedicure, I felt like a Queen.

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It’s interesting how things change when you become a mother. I tend pick the color of polish for my pedicure based largely on what my three-old-daughter would approve of…

Bright red with confetti sparkles and stars, it was!

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The cuisine at Spirit Ridge was pretty fantastic too. We first hit the Bistro for some snacks and a drink. With an original margarita recipe that featured a strawberry sugar rim and an ambiance fresh out of a Mexican cantina, we were in a virtual paradise.

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Later on, a dinner at Talon’s Restaurant overlooking Osoyoos Lake and the vineyards of Spirit Ridge offered a culinary experience that paired wine country with comfort food. I had the pan seared wild BC salmon atop a ginger and sweet pea risotto cake, complimented by Indian spiced confit fennel, spicy tomato coulis and sweet pea sauce.

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Nk’Mip Cellars Winery, an Aboriginal-owned and operated winery and vineyard, is located right next to the resort. The winery offers year-round wine tasting, award winning wines, a restaurant with a patio, a wine shop and winery tours.

Of course, there is also an entire arsenal of wineries in the area, should you so desire. <Another grin.>

However there are also all kinds of activities that would appeal to young children too. (I took note). In addition to a kid’s pool complete with waterslide at Spirit Ridge, Rattlesnake Canyon is an amusement park located one block away from Lake Osoyoos. And the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad houses the largest Marklin model train layout in Canada. With a miniature track that includes 30 computer-operated trains, more than 15,000 hand-painted toy people and 1,600 houses spread throughout a 4,000-square foot museum-like attraction – our son would be in heaven!

If you want to just get away to ride a horse, Spirit Ridge offers this too! Take in the sights and sounds of Canada’s only desert from a horseback vantage point. The Indian Grove Riding Stable offers guided morning and afternoon horseback rides for children and adults. Other activities include pony rides, cattle drives, riding lessons, and beach rides along Lake Osoyoos Lake. The stables are located walking distance from the resort.

I hope y’all had a fantastic weekend too! It was nice to return to Alberta to see some sun. But with future summer weekends in mind, if you were looking at a cowgirl getaway of your own – I want to know where you’d go?

*****

Disclaimer – Unless otherwise noted, products, services or places featured on My Stable Life have been paid for out of pocket.

May In Photos

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May was an awesome month. With the promise of warmer weather on the way, our family took to the spring days like bears thankful to be out of hibernation.

May was also an absolute whirlwind. It began with a clinic hosted by my husband and at our ranch with Teddy Robinson, a legendary working cow horse World Champion. A number of people took Ted’s instruction in over the three-day period to better their boxing and fence skills. My house started (somewhat) clean. I gave up on Day 3.

I also learned how truly expensive cattle are right now.

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The kids and I got a chance to meet 2014 Road to the Horse World Champion Jimmy Anderson’s new partner, “Smoky.” Thanks Dainya Sapergia Western Lifestyle Photography for snapping this shot!

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Then our dear friends, the Hickey family, took us on an impromptu tour of Calgary’s newest fire station. Pictured below is Tyler, Baby Saydee and Jen Hickey. Tyler serves on the Calgary Fire Department and you might also recognize Jen as one of the Santangelos – the family who works tirelessly nearly every weekend of the year to host western competition events at their Silver Slate Arena.

My kids had a brilliant chance to sit in a fire truck, push alarm buttons, hold a fire hose… you name it. We had a great time!

Hickey-Family

We took the kids to an evening performance of Odysseo and they loved every minute of it. With so much action, music and horses, this show by Cavalia is an absolute feast for the eyes. Our twins were clapping and squealing almost entirely to the end. And they loved the VIP treatment which included cookies and ice cream during intermission. (So did the Big Kids, grin).

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May brought us the last foal of our foaling season. Healthy and bay, this one was a filly. Thanks to Natalie Jackman of have-dog.com for this shot.

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Tired of losing precious hay bales to the elements, we started the excavating / building process on a new hay shed. More to come on this one.

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Hubby put together some presents Grandma bought the twins a while ago, that have been sitting in the garage until the kids were old enough. Let me tell you… having two 3-year-olds who drive is enough to make you lose all your hair. And it’s quite the science experiment!

As you can see, our little man is a John Deere fan. He has taken to driving like a duck to water.

Our little girl, on the other hand, can often be spotted looking down at the radio.

Hope it’s not like that when she’s 16!

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And finally, May ended for us with a bang. Tired of the long winter we decided to venture out on a vacation. As many of you with livestock may know, it’s hard enough to leave your property and horses for horse shows, let alone a vacation. You must put all of your trust and the care of your animals in the hands of someone else, take a deep breath and actually step away to make a vacation happen.

Because of these reasons (and the fact that we were busy raising two little babies), it’s been several years since our last one. My hubby drug his heels a bit and my kids battled a virus and an ear infection on the departure, but we finally did it!

The Webster family vacation 2014 took place at Atlantis in the Bahamas. Sugar white sands, endless swimming pools, turtles, sharks (in tanks), piña coladas. Life is good :)

Atlantis

By a chance meeting, we even ran into the rock group Paramore in our hotel lobby.

Obviously my kids don’t know who Hayley Williams is just yet, but they will. Because Mommy is a big fan.

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Atlantis features so much. Activities outdoors, kiddie pools, up-close-and-personal encounters with sharks, dolphins, stingrays, pottery classes, fine dining, make your own stuffed animal adventures, movies under the stars, or the chance to just be a family again… That’s what we found – and that’s what we took from Atlantis.

Walking-bridge

May also held some other great thrills for us as well, but those are things I can’t share with you just yet – not until a future issue of Western Horse Review! Stay tuned to My Stable Life!!

The Year of the Horse has been shaping up nicely. I hope May was wonderful for you too!

The Road to Arizona – Route 1

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Jim Greendyk operates West Coast Training and Horsemanship – a full-service equine program, offering reining, cow horse, and horsemanship clinics and training. Along with a handful of his clients, Jim’s been travelling to the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show for several years now, showing his part-bred and full-bred Arabian horses, and enjoying a bit of the “road-to” scenery on the way.

I caught up with Jim earlier in the year to ask him about his route for our Road to Arizona piece in the Jan/Feb Snowbirds Guide to Riding in Arizona feature, wherein we featured three possible routes to the state from various take-off points in Canada. I kicked it off last week with a familiar route for Albertans.

Here is Jim’s route, along with a few tips from the well-travelled horseman. By the way, this year’s edition of the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show – its 59th edition – runs Feb. 13-23. Believe me, you don’t have to have an Arabian in your barn to love this show. If you’re in the state, be sure to make it a part of your plans. If not look for Jim and other Canadian riders through Iequine’s excellent feed of the show.

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Abbottsford, BC to Phoenix, AZ, with an overnight in Bakersfield, CA.

Border Crossing: Huntingdon, BC/Sumas, WA
Total time: 25 hours (Day One: 17.5 hours to Bakersfield. Day 2: 7.5 hours to Phoenix
Distance: 2,637 kilometers
Road Conditions: Interstate all the way. It seldom happens but occasionally the Siskiyou Mountain Range Pass may close for snow, in which case be prepared to stop in Medford, or Yreka, Oregon.

Jim’s Trip Tips
• Try not to hit the Siskiyou – the mountain range between southern Oregon and northern California at night.
• If a nearly 18 hour drive is more than you’re hankering for in one leg, plan for a two night overnight – one night in Medford, Oregon (fairgrounds will stall overnight), then Bakersfield the second night. Besides the easier drive, you’ll land a stunning view of Mount Shasta on the morning of day two, just past Yreka, CA.
• Fuel up before the Mojave Desert and drive the speed limit in California.

BAKERSFIELD 
To Stay: The Bakersfield Fairgrounds offers overnight stabling. Find the Triple C Ranch Horse Hotel on Facebook or (661) 845-6937. They offer indoor box stalls, indoor and outdoor arenas, alfalfa for sale, parking and hook-ups for big rigs and campers. Close to motels.

To Do: Visit Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace and Museum – a combination theater/museum housing memorabilia spanning Buck Owens’ 40 year career in country music. See what’s playing at the Fox Theatre, an historical 1930’s theatre with extraordinaire acoustics in an intimate setting.

Food & Drink: Named “Best Basque Food Restaurant of 2013” stop by the Wool Growers Restaurant where pickled tongue is the house specialty. After a long haul, a margarita is in order – enjoy Mexican food and drink at Mexicali. Fill up with a good breakfast before hitting the last leg of your trip at the local favorite – 24th Street Cafe.

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The Road Less Saddled

My husband hit the road recently to attend a little event you may have heard of – the AQHA World Championship Show held in Oklahoma City, OK. With his steed safely tucked into the trailer, his luggage plunked on the back seat and his hat carefully placed in a hat can, Clay set out for the 2,785 kilometer drive.

This year, he took a buddy with him as well.

(L to R) Glenn Stewart, our assistant Brooke and Clay discuss training strategies over dinner.

Some of you might recognize the fellow on the left as Glenn Stewart, a professional in the horse industry with over 25 years of experience teaching students across the globe. Both Glenn and Clay come from different walks of life in the horse industry but both men have a common view on horsemanship in general.

Knowing Glenn is always up for experiencing something new in the horse world, Clay asked him if we would like to come along on a road trip to attend the AQHA World Championship Show held at the Oklahoma City State Fair Park.

Glenn jumped at the opportunity. He then jumped on a plane from Fort St. John, BC, and flew down to meet my hubby in Calgary, AB.

Glenn arrived on time for their journey to begin. His luggage, did not.

 

The next morning, both men were up early to get Clay’s horse loaded up and to hit the road. Glenn’s suitcase still had not caught up with him, but luckily the airline he had flown with offered him a consolation payment to help replace his required jeans, clothes and personal goods needed immediately. His luggage was promised within the next day or so.

Fast forward to 4 days later – Nov. 13. Glenn’s luggage has still not arrived.

However, Clay and Glenn (and the 2 pairs of pants that said airline “allowed” him to purchase in lieu of a suitcase) – are making the most of their time touring around the area and seeing the sights. So far, they’ve eaten at Trappers Fishcamp & Grill. An absolute must if you’re ever nearby the Oklahoma State Fair Park! Trappers has become the “Horsemen’s and Horsewomen’s Headquarters” for over a decade. Fan favorite dishes include their signature mesquite grilled seafood, blackened prime rib, mesquite grilled steaks, quail, and prime pork chops.

Trappers features a dining room dining room filled with game trophies, authentic Indian canoes and a live alligator tank.

At Trappers, a 12-foot tall Kodiak bear greets customers as they enter. Glenn sent me a picture of the bear:

Glenn and Clay have also visited Pieper Ranch in Marietta, OK.

Playgun stands quietly with Brenda Pieper.

If you ever get the chance to see Pieper Ranch, it’s beautiful. And Brenda is a walking encyclopaedia of horse knowledge. You might also get a glimpse of one of these…

(Glenn sent me the following image he snapped while they were there:)

What IS that…? Came my text in response.

“A funny cow,” Glenn wrote back.

Of course, the two guys have had several opportunities to take in some sights at the World Show too…

Whether it’s watching a warm-up pen or contestants in the big arena, Glenn and Clay have been soaking it all up.

“I’m really enjoying all of it so far,” reported Glenn. “The different styles of Quarter Horses are as varied as the styles of riding.”

Some of the magnificent stall fronts seen at the AQHA World Show.

The behind-the-scenes action is pretty cool too. And on a trip like this, there have been several occasions for the guys to swap training ideas and discussion about equine behavior.

“The topic hasn’t changed since we left,” said Glenn. “How do we create the things we need with a horse? And how it comes back to their minds and the body will follow. Both Clay and I agree that it is so much more challenging to come at things from a psychological viewpoint than from a physical one – but the results are much better.”

I’m happy to report that Clay’s horse, Whiz N Starlight traveled well and is feeling like he is in tip top shape for his upcoming run on Friday in the Senior Open Reining. Wish them luck!

Glenn snapped this image with his camera phone and sent it to me with the word “WOW!!” attached to it.

A Blue Sky Escape at Azuridge

Happy belated Father’s Day to all you wonderful Dads out there! We spent our Father’s Day Sunday at the exclusive Azuridge Estate Hotel. Located just minutes from Calgary in the picturesque vicinity of Priddis, Alberta, Azuridge is an elusive gem of luxury and relaxation. After traveling up a windy road, this extraordinary estate sits hidden and nestled atop foothills that roll out to feature 13 acres of a modern, western retreat.

Father’s Day brunch featured an eclectic showing of magnificent cars and a buffet-styled offering of the finest locally-sourced foods, fresh fruits, home-baked pastries and Alberta beef. As guests, we enjoyed our meals on the open veranda while the kids delighted in live music.

And the water fountain.

The architecture of Azuridge is an earthy blend of indigenous Rundle rock and timber beam construction. The estate features a private rental with all the luxuries of an extraordinary hotel. This includes 13 guest suites, an open concept kitchen, a cocktail bar and fireside games room, banquet hall, pond-side stage and a spa.

There is also a watchtower, which provides a magnificent view of the Rockies:

If you’re looking for a western escape that is guaranteed to leave you breathless, check out their horseback experience offered in conjunction with Homeplace Ranch. Stay one night in the suite of your choice, feast on a cowboy breakfast and then take in a four-hour trail ride and picnic lunch. It’s a day that pledges an adventure you won’t soon forget!

From girl’s getaways to corporate retreats, Azuridge is a spectacular destination – promising opulence at every turn and immaculate attention to detail. A visit to this Alberta bluesky escape promises the soothing getaway you’ve been longing for! For more information, be sure to visit: www.Azuridge.ca

Hikes, Trails and More Arizona Go-Sees

Bandalero Ranch

(If you’re in the vicinity of beautiful Tucson, Arizona region anytime this winter, be sure to drop by the Bandalero Ranch, home to NRCHA World Champion and resident western trainer, Kevin Stallings, and one of Arizona’s state-of-the-art facilities. My Stable Life blogger, Jenn Webster visited this facility back on Oct. 12, 2010. Here’s her view of the ranch).

Our tour starts with the Longhorn pasture.

This week, I thought I’d take you on some virtual tours of various equine facilities Clay and I have visited over the last little while. We always find it fascinating to see some of the innovative (and luxurious!) facilities other people have created to care for, train, produce or rehabilitate equines. We rarely ever pass up the opportunity to trek through another barn so today, I’d like to show you Bandalero Ranch in Tuscon, Arizona. Since I also know a horse or two has recently come to Canada (purchased from the NRCHA sale in Reno, Nevada, recently), I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos of the place with you.

 

Bandalero Ranch is a unique equine facility based in Tucson, Arizona. It is home to NRCHA World Champion and resident western trainer, Kevin Stallings, a jumping trainer and also features a equine rehabilitation center. It’s really something to see.

Overlooking the jumping arena.

The Ranch was designed to be a high-end equine sports facility for both western and english disciplines.

Each stall features an outdoor turnout, directly off of it, complete with high fences and small spaces in between the rails (so no one can get a foot caught).

In the fully enclosed barns, each stall is equipped with an outside run. Horses are free to wander in or out as they choose.

The stud barns.

Where Kevin chooses to stable his stallions, the barns offer cover from the elements while still providing an outdoor environment.

The goals of Bandalero Ranch are simple, to offer the best facility and staff to achieve a first-class training programs and foal production.

The last barn at Bandalero is specifically for reproduction and rehabilitation. There is an equine aqua-treadmill, breeding facilities and a state-of-the-art vet tech lab. Bandalero Ranch offers 24 hour emergency service to its residents.

The main arena (1 of 3) is a covered, 200 x350 feet custom designed with superior footing for reined cow horses and reiners.

In addition to “big” horses, through their affiliation with Rogers Heaven Sent Ranch, there are several adorable miniature horses to be found here too..

The mini-broodmare pasture:

Clay had to check out the mini trailer…

Bandalero Ranch is a very comprehensive equine facility – one of the finest I’ve ever come across. It’s worth a visit if you’re ever in Tuscon! Check out: www.bandaleroranch.com for more information.

Montana Roots Road Show

I recently received notice of this travelling road show via the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada. The concept of boarding a bus with a group of talented poets, songwriters and storytellers, and travelling through the state of Montana on an “American West” tour seems pretty inviting. Here’s the details. .  .

“The Montana Roots Road Show is a traveling concert tour featuring nationally acclaimed poets, songwriters and storytellers from Montana. These artists, along with 30 fellow bus travelers, will bring memorable performances to communities in southwest Montana the week of July 7-14, 2011. Good-time cowboy band Wylie & The Wild West, acclaimed singer/songwriter Stephanie Davis, and cowboy poets and Montana Governor’s Arts Award winners Wallace McRae and Paul Zarzyski will perform at the Montana Folk Festival in Butte, July 8-10, and will be joined by Montana’s Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird and by cowboy poet and songwriter DW Groeth at points across southwest Montana including Dillon, Three Forks and Paradise Valley.

“For the featured performers, the Montana Roots Road Show is all about sharing a passion for their home state and its traditional culture, and creatively sharing stories of everyday experiences through verse, song, humor and narrative. Inspired by the majesty of the Big Sky State, the songs, poems and stories performed by this troupe are universal at heart and carry an emotional punch, whether gut-bustingly funny or heart-wrenchingly poignant. These are some of the West’s finest troubadours, singing of hope, respect, courage, compassion, good neighbors, community, heroes, pranks, horses, love of the land and the lifestyle of a rural Montanan.

“The tour participants will enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience the arts and culture of the American West. In addition to the concerts along they way, they’ll visit museums, artist studios/galleries, gearmakers’ workshops, historic ranches, Yellowstone National Park and some of the most beautiful scenery the U.S. has to offer. This is a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the traditional and contemporary arts and culture of Montana, shared with some of its greatest poets, musicians and songwriters.

“There is still room on the bus for anyone who would like to participate in the Montana Roots Road Show Tour. For a full itinerary and tour costs, visit http://bit.ly/mtrootsroadshow. The Montana Roots Road Show is produced by theWestern Folklife Center and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.”