What a year. On January 1, 2020, few of us had any idea what was coming. And frankly, I'd say we still don't know much about what we've been through or when it ends or what it means in the long run. But if you're reading these words, congratulations! We survived! We're the lucky ones.
I usually do a blog post or Twitter thread of fun favorite photos at the end of the year. But this year feels different, and
fun doesn't apply very often. At the same time, it's been such an unusual year that I want to document a few things while they're fresh in my mind. So without further ado, I'll bid adieux to 2020 with a few photos and memories for each month of this crazy year. January The Resolution Run "polar plunge" at Seattle's Magnuson Park (Lake Washington) on January 1 was a refreshing way to start 2020. Here's the thing about polar plunges: water never gets below 32 ℉, so they're pretty much all the same. I had done a polar plunge in Antarctica the year before, and the water temperature was almost exactly the same for that one.
The main thing on our minds going into 2020 was the fact we'd decided to get another dog. Three dogs would mean we'd have our hands full, especially with a puppy.
We took a long-planned trip to Monument Valley in late January. I was planning to do some astrophotography at night (we timed it for a new moon), but the fog made the stars invisible most of the time. It was still an amazing experience. The Navajo Nation rez dogs were fascinating to me. We came across these two while driving our rental SUV on a dirt road, miles from human habitation. We flew into Phoenix and made a road trip of it, driving through Sedona and the Navajo Nation as well as Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Even scored some blue meth from the Candy Lady!
We had planned our Southwest trip for just before picking up Nancy the puppy, thinking that we'd be staying close to home for a while once the the puppy arrived. We had no idea.
We drove to Vancouver on January 29 to pick up Nancy and her brother Strummer, then the next day we drove Strummer to his new home in Montana. Jamie's expression, roughly translated: are you sure this is the year we should be getting a puppy?! Nancy and Strummer sleeping under the stars in Montana. February
February was – and still is – the month of many pre-pandemic "lasts."
PyCascades in Portland was my last pre-pandemic business trip, and for our last pre-pandemic live music event in Seattle we saw Noah Reid at the old Columbia City Theater. On the last pre-pandemic Valentine's Day, we went out with our friends Kristi and Brita to the Atomic Bombshells J'Adore burlesque show at the Triple Door. Life was so simple in the before times. Jamie and Alice settled in to life with Nancy the puppy. Our trip to Los Angeles for Juggalo Weekend was my last pre-pandemic flight. Our nephew handled the dogsitting – the last time we've needed a dogsitter. Our last dog walk after dinner at the Spot, and my last day at the office in Kirkland: Wednesday, February 26. I had a few days off after that, and during my time off the first coronavirus cases were reported in Kirkland, so I never went back to work. On February 27, we drove back to Montana to look at houses in Butte. We've talked about moving to Butte for a decade, and at the time we were thinking a "summer place" there might be fun. We had a drink at the famous M&M in Butte (our last time out at a bar) just before touring eight houses, then drove an hour down the road to visit Nancy's brother Strummer. March
Over the weekend, while staying with a friend out in the country near Three Forks, we decided to make an offer on a big 1917 Craftsman, the last place we had toured on Friday. Then I drove Megan to the Bozeman airport, where she flew back to Seattle to leave for Africa the next morning on a long-planned trip with my mother. If that trip had been scheduled for just a few days later, they probably wouldn't have gone, but on that weekend there was only one confirmed coronavirus death so far in the US.
I spent Monday, March 2 driving the dogs back to Seattle. Back in Seattle, things were starting to change. I worked from home, took the dogs for walks and hikes, and kept in touch with Megan as she traveled in Kenya and Ghana. On March 16, I picked up Megan and Mom at deserted Sea-Tac airport. The world was a different place than when they left the country two weeks before. I took a drive around downtown Seattle on the evening of St. Patrick's Day, just to marvel at the lack of crowds. At first I was using nitrile gloves for gas pumps and similar situations, but then I realized that disposable dog bags work just as well, and I always have a few of them in my pocket anyway. Pandemic life: lots of dog walks and home-cooked meals.
In late March, our offer on the Butte house was accepted! Exciting news, and with the increasingly stringent lockdown things were getting complicated. Montana implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine for out of state visitors, and we decided to rent a U-Haul three weeks before our closing date and pack up and get to Butte sooner rather than later. We found a dog-friendly AirBnB and started handling the myriad details of coordinating a cross-country move.
I think my selfie on the way home with the U-Haul was my "oh shit this is really happening" moment regarding our move. April
April is just a blur, in hindsight. I think I'm still catching up on sleep from that month.
The grocer in our old Leschi neighborhood was the first COVID-19 death of a person we'd met. We were both working from home and spending evenings packing the U-Haul, and we chose Saturday, April 4 as the day we'd drive to Montana. Moving day! I drove the U-Haul with our cat Murg in a crate on the passenger seat, and Megan following in our pickup with the three dogs. We had good weather the whole way, which was a relief because there had been closures in some of the mountain passes due to snow as recently as two days before our trip. After a 600-mile day, Megan prepared the AirBnB (disinfecting surfaces, airing it out, setting up a room for the cat) while the dogs and I unloaded the U-Haul into a storage locker we had rented on the outskirts of town. It was a long day, but everything came together as planned. Our first morning in Butte, the dogs and I hiked to the top of Big Butte Hill to see the view of our new home. I kind of screwed up, not thinking about what it would be like to come back down on slippery snow and ice with three dogs including a maniacal puppy and no cleats or trekking poles. I decided in the interest of safety to just sit down and let them pull me down the steep hill. My butt was totally numb when we got to the bottom, but I hadn't broken an ankle or torn an ACL so that felt like a win. The AirBnB where we quarantined for two weeks was a simple little place with a fenced back yard, perfect for our needs. The back porch had a view of Big Butte Hill, where Montana Tech's giant "M" sign was flashing V for victory over coronavirus. The internet connection at the AirBnB was too slow to be usable for work, so I did a few meetings the morning of Monday, April 6 from the parking lot of the Starbucks and then bought a wireless hub from the AT&T Store. By the end of the day we had reasonable internet connectivity in the AirBnB, and we both worked from there for the next two weeks. When we saw the Believe In Butte signs all over town, we had to get one. Butte has been through so much, going back to well before the 1918 pandemic hit Butte harder than any other town in Montana. #ButteTough Butte is the kind of place where if you have a few minutes you can go take amazing photos, any day of the year. So many good dog-walking spots. And almost nobody walks their dogs around here – typically they just leave them in the back yard all the time. In six months of daily dog walks, we've run into other people walking dogs a few times total. Nancy enjoys living an hour away from her brother Strummer. We get them together every week or two on average. A fortune from Pekin Noodle Parlor, the oldest Chinese restaurant in the United States. Closing day finally arrived! After signing papers at the title company in uptown, Megan disinfected everything while I started moving the items we'd need to spend the night there. The parlor is our favorite room. This is on the day we took possession, and a lot has changed since then. We spent two weeks sleeping on a mattress in the living room, until the rest of our furniture arrived from Seattle. May
We had Bekins move the rest of our furniture and belongings, and it all arrived in the first week of May. The movers dumped it all in the living room, and we moved everything from there. Within a few days, we were feeling moved in, and sore.
Chipping away at moving chores the first few days after everything arrived. I chose an upstairs bedroom for my office, and Megan chose a basement bedroom at the far end of the house. We signed up for Spectrum's 1-GB cable internet service, and ran CAT7 cables throughout the house. We were able to work right away, but it took months to get things set up the way we wanted. We had the house painted right away (it needed it), just white everywhere for now. We've since had many windows replaced, and next spring we'll be dealing with window trim, gutters and downspouts, and a large back yard remodeling project. The BA&P Trail runs along the grade of the old Butte, Anaconda & Pacific railroad. Great views of the city and the old mine yards, and it passes through our neighborhood. Fox and deer are common sights around Butte. We saw a video of two moose running around the Wal-Mart parking lot last year, but haven't seen anything like that ourselves yet. Walks in Butte and surrounding areas. June By June, we felt like locals. No fenced yard this year, so we had to take the dogs out for walks often, but everyone enjoys that. our house is 103 years old and has had minimal maintenance in recent decades, so there is much to do. The money we might have spent on contractors in normal times has instead gone to a large and growing collection of tools, and we've spent countless hours watching videos and studying books about various types of home repair. The World Museum of Mining is about a half mile from us, and has an amazing collection of artifacts from Butte's glory days, including the old Orphan Girl Mine. It's a good pandemic outing because most of it is outdoors. Butte's sense of civic pride is everywhere, and this dumpster is one of several that have been decorated by a local artist. The large Pride flag was at the eastern end of our street for the month of June. July Alice is sensitive to fireworks, and we knew Butte would be a crazy place on the 4th of July. So we drove to our friend Aaron's place that day and pitched a tent on his front porch, where Alice could enjoy a relatively peaceful night out in the country. Megan's mother came to visit for a few weeks in July and August. She had been strictly quarantining and so had we, and Megan got tested and then drove 1100 miles in one day (with Nancy to keep her company) to pick up Lynn and Rosie in the Bay Area and bring them to Butte. Having visitors was a great excuse to get out and see more of the sights around Montana, so we took many day trips while Lynn was here. Two of my favorite features in our house: the original metal sink in the pantry area, and the sunrise views from the parlor, where we start each day with a cup of coffee. August Sightseeing on the weekends. Living in Butte feels like waking up on a Western US road trip every Saturday morning. And we love Western US road trips! Home cooking in the summertime. Our friends Tina and Justin spent a weekend at an AirBnB over in Whitehall, and we hung out with them in the back yard. I've gotten much better at making Manhattans quickly this year. We also had a visit from our friend Jack and his dog Bonny, who were taking a road trip in their RV. Jamie and Alice met Bonny many years ago, so it was a nice reunion for them. While we partied at home this summer, others in Butte were out at crowded bars, doing what it took to push Montana from one of the least COVID-infected states in the spring to one of the worst in the fall. September In September, five months after moving in, I finally had my office set up the way I want it. Work machine on the left with two spare monitors, personal machine on the right with a wide monitor, laser printer and 12TB NAS drive under the standup desks, high-speed wired internet connections to everything, and lots of other details. I removed shades and trim and a chandelier and repainted every square inch, and now it's my favorite home office I've ever had. Another project completed in September: getting the Defender machine back in business. It's been years since I had it set up and running, so it needed some repairs and cleaning, but now it's ready to go any time I feel like it.
We ended September with a fun overnight trip to a lookout cabin up near the Canadian border. You can find all the details in the
McGuire Lookout blog post. McGuire Lookout October
October was my busiest work month of the year, and between that and the shorter daylight hours we didn't get out nearly as much as over the summer.
The snow arrived in October, and of course the dogs loved it. In mid-October the temperature dropped to below 0 for a while, but since then the temperature has stayed above 0. January is typically the coldest month, and Butte has gotten below -50 in the past, so we'll see how it goes. November
In November it was my Mom's turn to visit. We all quarantined for two weeks, then I drove to Seattle to pick her up on a weekend, and we all drove her back the following weekend. It was colder than Lynn's visit and the days were shorter, but we managed to get down to Bannack and see a few other sights as well.
We celebrated Mom's birthday two weeks early while she was visiting us. Mom and I went to Bozeman and found the house we lived in when I was born. Mom and Dad rented the top floor of this house while he was getting his engineering degree at Montana State. It's a mattress store now. Our Lady Of The Rockies is a 90 foot statue along the Continental Divide, looking down on Butte from over 3000 feet above. The daylight photo here is the view from our bedroom window. After driving Mom back to Seattle, we had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. (Nancy appears twice in this photo due to Photoshop trickery.) A snow squall on the last day of November. Butte rarely gets a large accumulation of snow, but brief intense flurries are common, often with high winds, as is common at nearly 6000 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains. December A night walk with Jamie and Nancy near Big Butte Hill. FYI, the city of Butte was named after the hill and not the other way around – before anybody lived here, white people had named that hill Big Butte. It's less than a mile distance and about 700 feet of elevation change from our front door to the top of the hill. Holiday images around Butte. Nancy and Strummer got spayed/neutered in December, and both bounced back quickly. This was their reunion after not seeing each other for a month. One unexpected change this year was how much more active we've been on the Jamie Samoyed page on Facebook, and how much more active others have been as well. Big thanks to everyone whose sense of humor and love for all creatures has brought us joy there this year! Looking Forward View from the bedroom window at midnight on December 31, 2020. The bars closed at 10PM, but the fireworks stands were open this week, and Butte had non-stop fireworks all over town, all evening long.
It's been an amazing year for us, with changes that go far beyond dealing with the pandemic. Butte is a town we've admired for many years, and it already feels like home. We love living this close to nature, seeing wild animals every day, and it's endlessly fascinating to be surrounded by so much history. We've read several books each about Butte and related topics already, and there are piles of Butte history books waiting in the parlor. For those who don't know: Butte is the largest National Historic District in the US, with over 6000 places in this county on the National Register of Historic Places.
We won't be going anywhere for a long time due to the pandemic, so in the spring we're planning an upgrade to our back yard to get ready for Summer 2021.
Happy New Year, and we hope everyone enjoys 2021 as much as we plan to!