Big Sky Report from Flat Ruthie and Valerie

Can’t wait for the Sanders County Fair in September

Valerie and Flat Ruthie write from White Pine Montana:

On a sunny, 80 degree summer day, Flat Ruthie traveled this morning through Thompson Falls in NW Montana to “The Farm” in White Pine, and is heading towards Spokane, Washington with my daughter Robin, and next Tuesday she is heading back through Montana with both of my daughters who are heading to Denver to return my great great granddaughter to her Mom,  as she has been visiting with her Grammy at the Farm.  Then, if all goes well, she should be back in Montana by next Thursday.  Will send photos when they arrive!!  We have been rather lazy here just working on the garden, but soon it will be growing like wildfire, and then we will probably do visits to the river, and in September the Sanders County Fair.

Val and F. Ruthie
 Heading towards Thompson Falls on Highway 200
Entering Thompson Falls
At “The Farm” in White Pine
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Flat Ruthie Was in Spain with Darlene Foster

Check out Darlene Foster’s blog today.  Just heard Flat Ruthie hopped over to Spain!  Thanks Darlene.  Looks like a wonderful trip. Hope she wasn’t too much trouble.  So glad she could accompany you.

Flat Ruthie in Spain

I hadn’t planned to bring Flat Ruthie along on our recent trip to Spain but she really wanted to join us. She doesn’t take much room so we said OK. She had a great time and everyone loved her. She got some sun but I made sure she didn’t burn.

Flat Ruthie at Frankfurt Airport enjoying the comfy chairs.

Flat Ruthie at the pool in Spain

Flat Ruthe enjoying a Fanta Lemonade at the Opera Restaurant in Altea


Feeling very welcome in Spain

Flat Ruthie at the beach

She had many cups of cafe con leche decafeinado

Flat Ruthie loved the Mediterranean

Flat Ruthie had fun and so did I. More pictures to come.

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Flat Ruthie Walks on God’s Thumbprint

Near Tazwell, VA, are the remains of a volcano . . . long extinct, and over time the area has become fertile farmland in the highest mountain valley in Virginia.

A lush green landscape encircled by mountain ridges, it has been nick-named God’s Thumbprint after being viewed from the air.

Flat Ruthie was there.

Burke’s Garden Store

Thanks Shuey.  Tazwell, VA looks so lush and green.  Good to see Flat Ruthie enjoying the beauty of the place.

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Look Who’s Gardening in Montana!!

Maybe you have been wondering where ole Flat Ruthie has been hiding.  She is out of her burrow and looking at a shadow in the sunny state of Montana.

Flat Ruthie had Montana on her list of states to visit for a long time but somehow Real Ruthie ignored her pleas to get mailed  and so she was being carted around in the bottom of a school bag under a heavy pile of assorted necessities for longer than RR cares to admit.  I can’t think of a better time to start blogging Flat Ruthie than right now.

She finally made it out to MONTANA ( a new state!) and got put to work right away.

Here is what Valerie writes:

I hope that Ruthie likes gardening as I spend a lot of time doing that!
It’s sunny in Montana right now, but the snow is still on the mountains surrounding us!
She survived the trip and is ready to start her new adventures!
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4,862 miles in 96 hours and 42 minutes- Flat Ruthie Rides in the Iron Butt 100CCC

Iron Butt Association 100CCC- Coast-Coast-Coast in 100 hours Flat Ruthie writes………… Last week I rode along with my friend Shuey on an Iron Butt Association 100CCC ride:  Coast-Coast-Coast in 100 hours or less!  What an adventure! A: Niceville, Florida (Home)

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Who Would Drive from Niceville, Florida to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania? ON A MOTORCYCLE!!! in FEBRUARY!

I have a good friend.  A dear friend.  You’ve read about him before.  Shuey.  Here is his Flat Ruthie Adventure!  
Shuey writes:
I have wanted to visit Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA, to see Phil the Groundhog  predict the weather for a long time and this year things finally came together.  I checked with Flat Ruthie and she was ready to go (as usual) and the weather prediction for the Punxy area looked . . . good!
Thursday, 31Jan13:  40% chance of . . . clear (not snow)
Friday, 1Feb13:  40% chance of clear
Saturday, 2Feb13 (Groundhog Day):  50% chance of clear
Sunday, 3Feb13:  60% chance of clear
Monday, 4Feb13:  70% chance of clear
So .  .  . UBB (my Honda ST1300 motorcycle) was gassed up and ready, let’s go!
(Here is where  I am to insert the map of the route but it will not allow it, says I don’t have permission for this type of file-  so here is a screen shot of it    Ruth)
Departed Thursday afternoon in 58 sunny Florida degrees and headed North.  Had a short first day and stopped for the night in Cleveland, TN, 26 degrees.  Brrrr.  FR was fine and snuggled up in her carrier.
We continued North on Friday and as we turned North on I-77 up through West By God Virginia (I have been corrected many times by friends living in WBGV as to it’s correct name) and finally crossed over into this year’s Winter Wonderland.  The road was dry, clear and sunny with everything else we could see in stark white/black as if drawn with artists ink.  Gorgeous
Since the roads were clear, I decided to take the shorter route from I-77 on US 19, crossing the New River Bridge and connecting up with I-79.  Always a pretty ride.
Well, US 19 required a bit of attention as it had received 1-3 inches of new snow an hour or so before we got there.  We followed vehicles in front of us, staying in their tire tracks and made it up to I-79 where the roads were again clear; no new snow.  As temps continued to fall we made our way up to Indiana, PA, checking in about 9pm.  Roads were clear.
-Page Break-
 So, it’s an early start on Saturday about 5:30 am and the temp in Indiana, PA . . . ZERO degrees!  Campers, that’s cold!  Heated gear and dry roads, off we go.  Overcast and dark, we headed North.  About 10 miles out it was easy to see where Gobblers Knob was from the fireworks shooting up into the distant sky.  About 5 miles out we caught up to a few vehicles and followed along.  We rode into town, traffic not bad, as festivities had gotten under way about 5 am.  I’ve been there before during warmer weather and knew where to go, but quickly saw that roads were blocked by law enforcement.  Traffic was being directed to parking areas where busses would shuttle revelers up to see Phil.
“Morning officer, yep, on a motorcycle and rode all the way up from Florida to see Phil make his prediction this morning.  Any way I can maybe park a little closer to the event?  I don’t think there will be a crush of other motorcycles coming in this morning.  There’s always a little space somewhere that I can maybe squeeze into.”
Nothing but smiles and . . . “You are one crazy guy, sure.  Go that way and turn right on Elderberry Rd and it’ll take you up to the Knob.  There’s another road block up there and maybe they’ll let you through.”  Next road block, I was allowed to park behind a police car about 50 yards from the entrance to Gobblers Knob!  Perfect.
We entered the park area and asked the temperature at the Weather Channel van, -2 degrees on arrival.  I’d ask again as we left and it had warmed up to +2 by then.  Much better.  We noted quickly that although Phil doesn’t come out to make his prediction until 7:20 am, people were lined up 3 abreast to get back on the shuttle buses and back to town, their cars and shops with HEAT.  Later televised reports I saw estimated 30,000 people attended the event; well, they were definitely not all there Saturday morning when Phil arrived!
Saturday, February 2nd, 2013, 7:20 am – showtime!
Phil came out of his “den” precisely as scheduled, whispered his Winter prediction into the ear of the President of his “Inner Circle.”  The President is the only one who has the gift of understanding Groundhogeeze.  A moment later, this year’s proclamation was read announcing that Punxsutawney Phil, the only true weather forecasting groundhog, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of Prognosticators did NOT see his shadow thus predicting an early end to winter!
FR with one of Phil’s relatives and it’s handler.
OK, saw Phil, time to get back on the bike, plug in (ooh, ahhh) and head on up North for lunch.  I think we’ll go to Clarion, PA, for a sub sandwich at Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop.  Why there you might ask?  Because these subs are the best in North America!
We rode North to Brookville and got on I-80 heading West. Roads were clear and dry, nice riding . . . no bugs.  LOL  As soon as we got on the Interstate however snow flurries began to appear.  By the time we were approaching Clarion they were bigger, more numerous and starting to stick.  We probably should just keep going and get out of the storms path by heading down to Pittsburgh.  Maybe, but . . . this close to Bob’s?  If roads get bad, I’ll just check into a hotel and enjoy a good book.
OK, local roads are marginal, but made it into town.  Arrived about 9 am and . . . they don’t open until 10 am.  However, someone was working inside and motioned me in.
Turns out he’s the owner.  He not only let me wait inside to stay warm but after hearing my story about riding up from Florida in the frigid cold, snowy and icy roads, he made me an early bird free sub saying the story was well worth the price of the sub!
KK Eating Bob's Sub
After that it was a quick “good by,” brushed the snow off the bike, which had continued falling.  I carefully made my way back to the Interstate then followed in the tracks of semi-trucks as the snow accumulated.  The snow abated somewhat as I headed South on I-79 to overnight in Cranberry Township.  The worst part was getting from the cleared  city roads across the hotel’s uncleared parking lot to their entrance way.  Made it.
My friend Ruth, who I had planned on having dinner with in Pittsburgh Saturday night, drove up to have dinner with me when I decided the roads might be to dangerous for me to ride back from Pittsburgh.  What a treat.
In the morning, after a night of continued snow fall, I had to shovel a path out of the hotel parking lot to even have a chance at getting to the city road which had been cleared.  Snow shoveling . . . yuck.
“Yins” can have it!
Brushed the snow off the bike, FR and I loaded up and carefully, feet splayed out to hopefully keep us upright if needed . . . got out, no problem.
On to Pittsburgh to attend my friend Ruth Henderson’s Photography Show Opening reception at the Undercroft Art Gallery.  It was wonderful to visit with Ruth, Steve and her many friends as well as meet some new people unfamiliar with her work.  Flat Ruthie also enjoyed the moment sharing space with her creator and model!
After to short a visit at the art show, we were off again and headed to Cincinnati to watch the Superbowl with family (FR had a good night as Baltimore won).  The next morning we continued South back to Florida with two significant stops for Flat Ruthie.
The first was near Berea, KY, at the Kentucky Artisan Center.  It’s right off of I-75.  It’s a great short stop to stretch, use the very clean facilities, learn something about Appalachian art and maybe something will catch our eye and follow you home.  The cafe was nice with lite fairand something refreshing to drink.  Once we left Berea, the roads were clear all the way to Florida.
The second stop, near Chattanooga, TN, which anyone who has travelled through the area has seen signs for, was  . . . Ruby Falls.
This sign, picturing the falls, was worth a quick pic stop on the way up Lookout Mountain to the Entrance building.  From the Entrance, the view of Chattanooga is stunning.
An uneventful ride back to Florida finishes out the 2,382 mile trip.  Challenging, exciting, beautiful and good friends.  What could be better?
So, where to next?
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Titanic Exhibition, Potato Bread and a Slider- Finishing up Her Northern Ireland Tour

Ahh, dear Anne sent the photos and my good friend Shuey sent a series and Flat Ruthie has to be the laziest Flat I know.  She realizes the photos are in the email, She just needs to download and post.  What is all this laziness about, Flat Ruthie?  Procrastination taken to a new height or depth?  Get that real Ruth to help you out.  She sure can waste a lot of energy thinking about what she SHOULD do.  Never mind interim grade reports are due.What better time to post than when you should be doing something totally different on the computer.  LIKE WORK!!!

After a very exhilarating day visiting Scrabo Tower…….she was able to see Scotland from the top of the Tower and seeing such an important area as Strangford Lough Flat Ruthie thought she ought to see some more historical places and it looked like Newtownards had quite a few.

Her 1st visit was to Newtownards Town Hall

The Town Hall formerly the Market House in Conway Square was constructed in 1770. The local army garrison stayed here, and guarded the town during the United Irishmen Rebellion in 1798. The dungeon is reputed to be haunted by one of the prisoners who was hanged here. They say his ghost cries out  ‘I’m innocent, innocent!’  Flat Ruthie liked that story…. she enjoys a wee bit of intrigue!

Her next visit was to The Old Cross

Oh look it’s in the middle of the road…watch yourself Flat Ruthie you might get run over and don’t forget they drive on the left hand side of the road here!! Ah! Flat Ruthie sees a sign post to Belfast and wonders how far she is from there……..10miles to the centre of the city she gets told.

The Old Cross stands at one end of the main shopping street It was erected in 1636 and  was built as a night watchman’s keep and a gaol (jail) cell.

Where to next wonders Flat Ruthie? She decides that The Old Priory is worth a visit. She can be quite decisive when she wants to.

The Old Priory built in 1632 on the ruin of the Dominican Priory. A tower is the only remains of the Dominican Friary which had been founded in the 13th century and burned in 1572. In 1636 the steeple was finished and a large bell was placed there by Lord Viscount Montgomery. The building got badly into disrepair by the end of 17th century .The walls were repaired in 1836, and a refurbishment as a church took place in 1859/60,  being consecrated on the  27 Jan 1860 (Church of Ireland…. part of the Anglican faith). It continued to be a church until 1817 and for awhile after that it served as a court house.

Although Flat Ruthie was appreciating all this history she was starting to feel overwhelmed – and getting a bit bored!! But one last historical visit had to be made. This was to Movilla Abbey and graveyard as she had heard there was some sort of American connection there.

Movilla Abbey – wow! Flat Ruthie thought…it is old! It was one of Ulster’s most important monasteries and was founded by St. Finian in 540 AD. There was a school here in 543 (St. Finians) which was attended by St. Columba. The Abbey was plundered by Vikings in 824 AD and refounded in the 12th century by Augustinian Canons. It is supposed to have subsisted until the general dissolution of abbeys by King Henry 8th. Only one pre-Norman stone remains in the graveyard. Built into the north wall of the graveyard is a collection of 13th century coffin lids. Flat Ruthie thought this was quite eerie!

Flat Ruthie was very excited when she found the connection to America in the grave yard. The grave of a James Francis. James was born a few miles from Newtownards – he died in Newtownards on the 16th November 1902. James fought in the American Civil War – Company A, 39th New York Infantry, this detail is on his headstone. As per his US Service record James Francis is described as 5ft 5¾inches in height, of light complexion, blue eyes and light hair upon enlistment in 1864. He states his occupation as clerk. The grave of James Francis at Movilla cemetery, Newtownards is one of only two known Irish Brigade graves in the UK. The other is that of a Benjamin Franklin Weeks, Quartermaster of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry buried in London. Flat Ruthie jumped for joy and was a wee bit homesick when she saw that someone had placed a small “old glory” at the grave even though it was a bit tattered due to the elements.

Flat Ruthie was now ready to relax. She made it back to the house where she was staying. The house belongs to her friend Judy’s penpal of roughly 50 years

Flat Ruthie was hungry so she sat down to enjoy some Potato Bread and a Slider

If you ask an Irish person living abroad what food they miss most from back home, potato bread will probably be one of the top answers. And after eating some Flat Ruthie knew why! She does enjoy her food. Potato bread is a thin, unleavened bread, made from potatoes, butter, salt & plain flour. It is a delicious addition to a fried breakfast, or simply toasted and slathered in butter. Being a lot denser than many types of bread it is particularly suited to frying, as it doesn’t tend to soak up oil or fat the way a common sliced loaf might.  (recipe link for Potato Bread)

Flat Ruthie was shocked to discover a slider was in fact an ice cream sandwich…she wasn’t very sure how she should eat it………….but Oh My Goodness it was delicious – Cafolla’s vanilla ice cream, the very best Italian Ice Cream and it’s found in Newtownards.

Flat Ruthie was in Northern Ireland exactly 100 years after RMS Titanic left Belfast for Southampton from where the ship sailed on her maiden voyage. Flat Ruthie took the opportunity to visit the newly opened Titanic Exhibition in Belfast.

The newly opened Titanic Belfast is a definite MUST SEE in any tour of Northern Ireland. It is located in the heart of Belfast, on the slipways where RMS Titanic was built
Inside this iconic building, visitors will re-live the entire Titanic story from her birth in Belfast to the fateful maiden voyage and her eventual discovery on the seabed.

This visit for Flat Ruthie to Northern Ireland was over – she was a busy girl and packed a lot in, in such a short period. Hopefully she’ll be back again someday.

 Thanks Anne.   What a tour.

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Flat Ruthie in Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland

No apologies necessary. So happy to have this wonderful adventure.  

Anne Hamilton writes-

Flat Ruthie has been very, very slow to tell everyone what she got up to when she visited a small town called Newtownards in County Down, Northern Ireland. She can only apologise and hopes that everyone enjoys a belated account of her antics in that part of the Emerald Isle where she learnt a lot of history.

001 northern Ireland

On 14th – 17th March 2012 from dusk until midnight a Global Rainbow was visible for miles in the skies above Newtownards and Strangford Lough as part of the 100 day countdown to the opening of the London 2012 Olympics………….

Flat Ruthie just had to go and see this laser light display which was designed by an American Artist – Yvette Mattern. 

She had a good view from the “Floodgates”, overlooking the still waters of Strangford Lough with Scrabo Tower (on the hill) in the distance. She was in awe of the fabulous rainbow colours beaming towards her… she was very disappointed to have a poor camera & a very poor photographer with her and couldn’t quite capture the essence of the experience. (if you click on the artist’s name you can see the Global Rainbow)

She was fascinated by that tower on the hill. Scrabo Tower. So next day she insisted on a visit.

This tower was erected between 1855-7 as a memorial to Charles William Stewart, 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, in recognition of his concern for the plight of his tenants during The Famine. The original plan was like a Bavarian Castle (architects were Charles Lanyon & W.H. Lynn) but was considered too expensive and changes had to be made. It has 122 steps leading to a viewing platform. Tea rooms were run in the Tower until 1966. Scrabo Tower is at the top of Scrabo Hill which is covered by a hard layer of basalt and this prevented the underlying sandstone from being ground away by the ice layer during the last ice age. Natives of Newtownards know they are home as soon as they see “Scrabo”!!

Flat Ruthie also wanted to see Strangford Lough as she had heard that it is a conservation area with abundant wildlife and is internationally known and recognised for its importance.

Flat Ruthie is a very keen conservationist. The island studded sea lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles, covering 150 km². Almost totally landlocked, the lough is approached from the Irish Sea through the fast-running tidal narrows, which open out into more gentle waters where there are 70 islands. Countless tidal rocky outcrops called pladdies litter the lough and mudflats, along with marshes, rocks, bays and headlands.

Stay tuned for part two of Flat Ruthie’s Adventures in Norther Ireland with guest blogger Anne Hamilton, a dear friend of a dear friend! 

Thanks Anne!

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Flat Ruthie Enjoys Tea and Downton Abbey

Darlene Foster has outdone herself hosting Flat Ruthie

Flat Ruthie Enjoys Tea and Downton Abbey

Posted by: Darlene on: January 21, 2013

  • In: Flat Ruthie’s visit

Today Flat Ruthie went out for tea with us to a new place in town called The Wood n Frog

It was warm and cozy inside and the tea was served in a delightful teapot. I judge the quality of a place by the teapots they use. Tea made in a cup does not warrant a return trip. I chose a Rooibos tea which was very nice. Hubby had a cafe latte and a blueberry sconce which he quickly gobbled up.  Between mouthfuls, he said it was excellent.

We will certainly return to this spot. The wonderful thing is that it is in walking distance from our house.  Now we have seven coffee shops near our home. We could walk to a different one every day of the week if we were so inclined.  We save going out for tea and/or coffee for the weekends though.

Flat Ruthie enjoys going for tea so much I showed her my special camel teapot given to me as a gift from a dear friend when I launched my first book, Amanda in Arabia – the Perfume Flask

Flat Ruthie has been looking over my shoulder as I read a book  called Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. She has become quite a fan of Downton Abbey and watches it with us every Sunday evening. We can’t wait to see what happens tonight.

Do you have a favourite coffee/tea shop or a special teapot?  Do you enjoy watching Downton Abbey?


Thanks Darlene and her dear Hubby for hosting!  What a lovely time.

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Flat Ruthie at Cirque du Soleil in Vancouver!

Darlene is showing Flat Ruthie a wild time! Here is her blog post

Thanks to Darlene and her husband for taking Flat Ruthie to Cirque du Soleil

Flat Ruthie goes to the Circus

Posted by: Darlene on: January 14, 2013

Flat Ruthie and I had an amazing time this weekend. We attended Cirque du Soleil with my dear husband on Saturday evening.  It was amazing. From the moment we saw the big tent we got excited.  The performance was incredible, the costumes remarkable  and the music astounding.  We were transported into another world, one of magic, suspense, colour and incredible acts of human talent.

The performance we saw was Amaluna, based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  To see some video clips, visit the website This will give you a glimpse of what we experienced.

The entire evening was a lot of fun. We took the sky train downtown and then walked to the site. After the show we walked back to the station. Lady Gaga was in town for a performance and the streets were full of Gaga fans all dressed up. It was wonderful to be amongst them and to feel the energy. I stopped to compliment a couple of young girls dressed for the show. We picked up fish and chips on the way home to complete the evening.  The tickets were a Christmas gift from me to my husband.  It turned out to be a perfect gift as he thoroughly enjoyed the performance as well as the company of me and Flat Ruthie!

We don’t do things like this very often so it made it very special.

Is there anything you do once in a while that is extra special?

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