A lot of people say owning a Bed and Breakfast is hard work. Usually, I just think, “They don’t know what hard work is…they never had a real job.” The last week or so may have changed my mind!
Those who know me, may wonder how I, Heather Thurs, ‘could be so smart, yet do such stupid things’? Let me tell you about my last 12 days, especially, my last 24 hours. Then maybe you will have a few laughs with me AND then say a little prayer for me! You can decide for yourself if being an innkeeper is hard work!
We just enjoyed a visit from 9 Alabama folks for spring break. It was a combination of family and friends. They were here, at the Bitterroot River Bed and Breakfast, for 10 days. We also had a steady stream of real “guests” during this time. The Bitterroot Valley is home to some of Montana’s best hiking, biking, fishing, and skiing! I did my best to be a good innkeeper and be a tourist myself this week. Along with our adventures, each day was filled with a LOT of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and record keeping. I don’t think we got more than four hours of sleep all week!
Day 1: The week leading up to the arrival of the Alabama gang was filled with menu planning, grocery shopping, baking ahead, house cleaning, laundry and all of the usual flurry. We met them at the Missoula airport at midnight on Friday night. We got back to the B&B at 1 a.m. We had guests, so we took a silent tour of the bnb and got to bed around 2:30. We were up at 6 a.m. to prep for breakfast and that is how Spring Break began! We only got a few hours of sleep each night. We had to stay up late, each night, star gazing at the ‘Big Sky’.
Each day after breakfast was filled with sightseeing:
Day 2 Saturday: We served 16 people breakfast! Picked up rental cars, toured Rocky Mountain Elk foundation, went souvenir shopping at Crazy Horse consignments (they have the BEST cowgirl gear), and we took a scenic drive over Lolo Pass to soak in the hot springs for a while. The best part of the day was seeing the Elk herd on highway 93, gathering tumbleweed, and getting some great photos! There were a lot of “firsts” in Montana for these tourist. We all got to bed about midnight.
Sunday: I was up at 2:30 a.m. to take my son to the airport. We served 15 people breakfast at 8:30! We enjoyed hiking at Kootenai Creek and visiting Valley Drug Ice Cream parlor and souvenir shop. The best part of the day was visiting the Crawford’s Critters cattle ranch, where we got to see new born calves, pet the heifers and feed them treats! The oreo calf was adorable!
Day 3 Monday: The Montana Bed and Breakfast Association meeting for me (all day convention). There was shopping the sportsman stores in Missoula (Cabela’s, REI, and Sportsman’s Warehouse) for the ladies. The kids slept late and played games with their long lost cousins and friends. We had a big dinner at night with the gang.
Day 4 Tuesday: After a full house for breakfast, we ventured to Big Creek Coffee Roasters in Hamilton to do some taste testing for choosing a signature blend to serve at the bnb. Seven adults participated and it was so much FUN! Next, we took a scenic drive on Skalkaho Pass. Here we saw big horn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer and some turkeys. Finally, around 5 pm, we made our destination: Polar Bear camping at Lost Trail Pass! The snow pack had a base of 71 inches! We set up tent, built a campfire, and enjoyed some hiking and snow shoeing. The men and children camped out for the night. The ladies left Lost Trail then hit the casinos in Missoula until the wee hours of the morning. More firsts for this gang! Finally, they slept royally at the bnb! I crashed at midnight; I don’t even know when they came home!
Day 5 Wednesday was another fun filled day: After the boys enjoyed hot coffee over the campfire and four inches of fresh snow, they returned to the bnb. (The ladies slept in, of course. But not me, I still had guest to serve breakfast to at 8:30.) Some of the crew went horseback riding in the sleet/snow. In the afternoon, we toured Bitterroot Bison ranch. There we got to see a 100 bison on stampede and then pet them up close and personal. Troy was a great guide, and taught us a lot about what gentle giants the bison can be! Wednesday night, four additional ladies came over for dinner. Kevin made some yummy grilled chicken and asparagus with hollandaise sauce served over garlic cheddar mashed potatoes for a total of 19 people! Guest were in and out all week. Again, we star gazed until the wee hours!
Day 6 Thursday: We lost one Alabama visitor, but gained two more! We spent the day doing housekeeping, souvenir shopping, and antiquing. This was the most leisurely day. We thought there would be no guests on Thursday night, but alas, the phone began to ring! We had dinner in a true Montana fashion: Bison burgers and Bison steaks! We gave the ducklings a bath/swim in the kids’ bathtub. This was great fun! Around 9 p.m. someone remembers that they bought me an early birthday cake! We celebrate and of course, there was some star gazing on the deck until 1 am.
Day 7 Friday: After another big breakfast, we ventured to Victor to Hidden Legend Winery. Ken, the wine maker put on a great show for us! We tasted honey meads of various types. We learned many interesting facts and legends about honey wine. The “King’s mead” is my favorite. Some of our folks bought wine and ‘Game of Thrones’ wine glasses made from the horns of Scottish Highlander cows. In the evening, the Alabama gang spread out to enjoy some of our local breweries and restaurants. I made a trip to Missoula to pick up supplies and get another Alabama family member at the airport! I took the kids to Valley drug to buy last minute souvenirs, print vacation photos, visit the Easter bunny and enjoy a final Huckleberry Ice Cream cone. New guest checked into two rooms. We helped the Alabama gang pack until after midnight. At 2:30 a.m. the alarm clock alerted us it was time to get them to the airport.
Day 8 Saturday: After a short nap, we made breakfast at 8:30. This was a leisurely morning: we only served 9. After cleaning up, I joined my newly arrived friends on hike at Bear Creek. It was a long, beautiful hike in the lightly falling snow. An afternoon of fresh air was rejuvenating! I cooked dinner for the kids and got to bed around 11 p.m.
Day 9 Sunday: We served 8 for breakfast, made a mad dash to find snow gear for everyone, packed a picnic basket, and headed south to Lost Trail. This part of the Alabama gang hadn’t yet seen snow! Half of the group went downhill skiing/boarding at Lost Trail. The rest of us went snow shoeing. We met up at 5 p.m. for warming up with a campfire! Our Montana guest joined us there also. There was great campfire coffee, smores, etc. A campfire in the snow was a new experience for 5 of the group! On the way home, we stopped off at Lost Trail Hot Springs and had a fabulous first time swim in the covered hot springs and saunas! We encountered another elk herd on the highway near Darby. Another first for these folks! We got home at 10 p.m.
Day 10 Monday: Hannah had to be at school for her 1st driver’s ed class at 6 a.m. John was supposed to leave for school at 8 a.m. but I couldn’t get him awake! We served 5 for breakfast (Whew, a relief!) When John finally woke up, we let him shower and check into school late. We said goodbye to the last of our Alabama gang and our last guests; then fell face first into the bed!!! No, not really. We began the slow, steady clean up process! Luckily, I got to go to work at the chocolate shop! It was a relief to be in one quiet spot for 6 hours! Kevin took all of the bed linens to the laundry mat. There was cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning! We decided to move the quickly growing chicks to the outdoor coop. It was a great adventure and the chicks seemed happy. Kevin had to pick Jake up at the airport at midnight, but the plane was late. We got to bed about 1:30.
Day 11 Tuesday: Finally, we have a day off! After 3 hours of sleep, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and suddenly realized it had gotten much colder than usual and the temperature had dropped severely in the coop! My baby chicks were sooo cold! They were huddled so tightly together, all under one lamp. They looked miserable! I was afraid to open the doors to the coop, because I did not want to let anymore cold air into their house. When the sun came up, we reinforced the windows on the coop with plastic and slowly the temp began to rise. We also moved the less feathered chicks back into the garage. The temp in the coop got up to a perfect 80 degrees, so I turned off the heaters, but left the extra ventilation doors closed.
The bnb is mostly cleaned at this point, but there are still a lot of loose ends to be tied. I was gradually catching up on things. Kevin went to do some handy work for our friends in Darby. He called me to say the elk were nearby. I took a break from working and drove out to see the elk and make some photos for our facebook account. When I returned home, I went to check on the chicks. He the trouble continues….
Imagine my horror when I looked in the coop window to see every single chicken lying lifeless and the thermometer at 102 degrees! I had killed nearly my entire flock in one stroke (five babies were still in the garage)! I threw open the coop doors and realized most of them were at least still panting, but not moving. As the fresh air rushed in and I called to them, some started to weakly stir. I helped them get water and gradually they began to revive! “Princess Layer” and “Yoke Sky Walker” were the last to move, I thought for sure they were ‘gonners’. Heaven help me, first I nearly froze them to death, next I tried to roast them to death!
Late in the afternoon, as I am still nursing my brood, the doorbell rings. A unexpected guest arrives desiring to rent two rooms for the night. Well, alrighty! And the guest pointed out they saw my Basset hound down the street! ARGH!!!! Another mission…
As I think about cooking dinner and making cookies for the guests, the phone rings. More Guests! We went from a day off to three rooms booked, at the last minute. Scratch dinner! The kids can eat leftovers…there is still too much food left from the Alabama gang. I quickly make brownies instead of our signature cookies. Meanwhile, Kevin gets breakfast sausage out of chest freezer and realizes all of the food was beginning to thaw! #$%*!!! Here ensues a great race to move all of the food to the little freezers. The yummy punch gets sacrificed to keep my apples and pumpkin frozen.
In the evening, Kevin and I let the chicks and ducks roam in the grass of their new pen for a while. They loved it! It is amazing how their animal instincts take over and they just know what to do! They seem happy and well recovered from the days trauma.
Around bedtime, Kevin noticed the heat light had gone out in the duck brooder. Dang, it must be a breaker flipped. Um, no. The duck must have hit her head on the light bulb and broken it! There is red glass all in the brooder and the chicks are pecking at it! #@$%!
So now, we steal a bulb from the outdoor coop (and they were already too cold last night, now we just cut their heat source by 33%! Does the drama ever end? Maybe store bought eggs aren’t such a bad idea after all.
Tragedies resolved. We go to bed around 11 p.m.
Day 12: At 1 a.m. the phone rings. REEEEALLY? Some guy is whining about how he is stuck babysitting a 2 year old, his girlfriend is supposed to be caring for the baby, but she got called in to work, now it is his job. He insists I have to go wake the baby’s mother who is staying with me, and tell her to come get the baby. He says the baby won’t stop crying and vomiting and he does not know what to do. Now, I know my guest. I have no ‘baby’s mama’ at the bnb tonight. I insist he has the wrong hotel. He insists I need to go wake her up. ‘She is 29 years old and she is staying with you!’ Um, no. After four minutes of conversation, I have not heard one wimper of a crying baby, I still do not have a baby’s mama staying with me, and I hung up the phone. The guy called right back. Kevin answered this time! The guy would not speak to Kevin. I start worrying the guy is a crack head that shook the baby into a concussion, maybe even killed the child, (yes, I watch too many crime shows), and is now freaking out. I lie awake worrying for a long time. I get up and check the chicks. They seem warm enough tonight, thank goodness! Eventually, I fell back to sleep.
At 5 a.m. the alarm sounds it is time to take Hannah to school for her 6:05 driver’s ed class. The first set of guests eat breakfast at 7:00. We get the boys off to school at 8:00. We serve the second set of guest at 8:30. Later, I found out, the apartment building in our neighborhood also had a dramatic evening. Someone called in a prank call about a murder/suicide to the police aorund the same time I had gotten my freaky phone call. Then I realize, we have a large sign for the bnb posted on the corner across the street from the apartment complex. Naughty teens probably saw my sign and decided to scare me along with the whole apartment complex that was surrounded by the SWAT team! In our small, quiet town, this is a big deal!
Is running a bed and breakfast hard work? You can decide. In my opinion, we had absolutely the best spring break EVER! It was the first spring break I can remember actually being with my kids! I always had to work. I got to spend time exploring Montana with my family and friends! I hardly remember the cooking and cleaning at the bnb. I DO remember a lot of fun! I may sleep for the next month, but it was worth every precious moment! Owning a bed and breakfast and being my own boss made it all possible.
Running a bed and breakfast is not hard work, going on vacation is hard work! So if I forget to answer an email, forget to pay a bill, or I don’t show up on your twitter feed, just laugh and say a little prayer for me! You will know I am either working hard or hardly working, at the bed and breakfast. I am truly having the best times of my life owning the Bitterroot River Bed and Breakfast, in Montana! When the days get long and crazy, in order to keep my sanity, I blog.
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