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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Montana Travel Diary

October 3, 2016

Random Notes From My Montana Travel Diary:

BIG SKY, MT— Time off is something that I haven’t seen a lot of lately. That’s not a complaint; it’s a statement of fact. I love what I do for a living.

While driving with my teenage son last year, he turned to me and asked, “Dad, what do you think I should do when I grow up?”

I thought for a minute and then said, “Son, I have no idea what you should do to make a living. You will figure it out one day. My only advice is- whatever you do, don’t do it for the money.”
“Seriously?” he said.

And then I said something that I had never articulated before, and as I heard the words come from my lips I realized the truth that lay in those words. “Here’s the deal son, For the 28 years I have owned those restaurants, I have never once gotten up— not once— and felt disgruntled, disgusted, frustrated, or hesitant about going to work. That restaurant and office are where I want to be. It is what I love to do. It is what I’d hope to be doing even if I weren’t getting paid for it. I love the restaurant business. It’s not about the money. That is what I wish for you. So when you figure out what it is that you want to do one day, I hope you are blessed with that same passion. It’s nothing that anyone can develop. You just have to find what it is that you love to do.”

I’ve never been one of those types that longs to take time off and get away from it all. I have been fortunate in my life to have traveled to a lot of places, but it was for the learning and experience more than the rest.

I don’t require a lot of rest. Typically when my family and I travel, restaurants and food are a big focus of the journey. We spend time in museums and historical sites and there’s not a lot of time for just sitting around and doing nothing. I have never been very good at sitting still and doing nothing.

My grandfather worked hard for 50 years in the newspaper business and never took any time off. He sent my grandmother on trips all over the world, but the only trip he would take would be an annual train ride to Chicago to see the Cubs play. He was a very happy man living that way.

As I stated earlier, I love what I do for a living and most times I would rather be in my home environment than anywhere else. Though when I am in the middle of traveling I love it. I just have to make myself get there. There is always that phase when, just before leaving, I tell myself, “This is not a good time. You’ve got too much going on. You don’t need to be leaving right now.” It’s never a good time.

When those times arise, things always work out for the best. This is one of those times. I accepted an invitation to visit a friend’s mountain lodge in Big Sky, Montana back in February. I had no idea the timing would collide with a current remodel, re-concepting project I had back home. As the departure date grew closer I kept telling myself to push through and get everything done that needs to be done before you leave. I did.

So all of my business for the next week is handled and I am sitting by a fire in 28-degree weather, staring at the side of a beautiful mountain, feeling grateful.

I had never visited Montana. I now wonder why. It is beautiful. Our hosts have been gracious, the weather has been perfect, the scenery is breathtaking, and the pace is deep-south laid back.

Our government might miss on several things, but when it comes to our national parks, they nail it. This was my first trip to Yellowstone National Park and it surpassed the pre-billing. Among the two-dozen animals we encountered, we saw elk, bear, mule deer, antelope, wolves, a red fox, and more eagles in one two-hour period than I have seen in the 55 years prior. I fly fished in the Yellowstone River and was schooled by my wife in the art of trout fishing, but of everything we did, the most enjoyable part was getting to spend “away time” with my brother and sister-in-law.

In the mornings our host would prepare something that she called “grabbies.” They were a quick, easy way to feed a crowd breakfast, and I plan to add them to future vacation breakfast lineups, and have them available when my teenage son and his band of bottomless-pit friends spend the night. They include Old English Cheese and Velveeta in the recipe. I might try switching the cheeses for cheddar or something else, but many “true’ cheeses release oil when melted, so I’ll report on the results. Fake cheese or not, I ate several of these over the course of the Montana stay, and will eat them again, often.

So what did we learn on this trip? 1.) Montana and Wyoming are otherwordly. 2.) Time off is good medicine. 3.) Time spent with family is better medicine. 4.) I have no business fishing with my wife. 5.) I want my son to be happy in whichever career he chooses. Is it bad that I secretly hope it’s the restaurant business?


Montana Grabbies

2 pkgs English Muffins

2 lbs Spicy Sausage

4 jars Old English Cheese

4 ozs Velveeta cheese

Garlic salt to taste


Brown sausage and drain.

Mix cheeses with meat until melted.

Spread on English Muffins.

Freeze on a cookie sheet until hard.  About 3 hours.

Then put in baggies and store in the freezer.


Bake at 350 in oven (or toaster oven) until done.

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