The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-Girl.

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Mongolia 2018- Day 1

I’ve wanted to travel to Mongolia, since I was a child perusing the photographs of the National Geographic magazine. Images of riders in brightly covered del, the traditional coat, traveling across broad swaths of green steppe haunted my imagination. I could easily imagine myself riding across the world’s largest unfenced rangeland. So, when pictures of an elderly Mongolian horsewoman galloping across the countryside, appeared in my Facebook feed, I was compelled to click and follow.

Tammy Pate, horsewoman and clinician, shared these images and became the driving force behind this trip of a lifetime. Tammy is a tiny woman, who lives large. She is a vibrant force of kindness and adventure. So of course she was able to gather a group of like-minded women (and two grumpy, old men) to join her on this trip.

Day 1

August 4, 2018:

I am in high energy mode this morning, despite the fourteen hour time difference, between Mongolia and Idaho, and the more than 24-hours of travel required to reach my destination. I can’t sit still. Ulaanbataar (UB), is a chaotic city of contrasts. On my hotel balcony, above a bustling street corner surrounded by modern high rises, I can see the sprawling gerdistrict. On the edge of a modern city with a population exceeding one million, many families still live in traditional Mongolian tents, without running water.

At breakfast, I recognize two of my fellow travelers and Daniel Miller, who has taken the day to share his local knowledge with us. We will spend the day walking around the city, the movement is welcome after yesterday’s twelve hour flight across the Pacific.

A short walk from the hotel and we arrive at Beatles Square, near the State Department Store. Where a surprising monument to the Fab Four, recalls the 1970s. Mongolia was under Soviet control and teenagers gathered to play Beatles music learned from contraband records from Eastern Europe.

Beatles Square, Ulaanbaatar
Beatles Monument, Ulaanbaatar

Across the square is the State Department Store. The store is home to six floors of every modern convenience imaginable. Including a money exchange surrounded by high-end makeup counters. One American dollar is worth approximately 2,500 Togrog(pronounced tugrik). The store is a fitting introduction to the contrasts we will see throughout our travels. Popular European and American clothing brands slide by, as the escalator climbs to the traditional Mongolian handicrafts on the sixth floor.

Ulaanbaatar is bustling with activity.  Korean models of Japanese cars pack the streets.  What we as American’s consider hard-and-fast traffic rules are merely loose guidelines in this city. With one eye on the traffic and another on the sights, I follow our group.  There is so much to take in as we walk. There does not seem to be a distinctly Mongolian architectural dialect, the bare functionality of cinder blocks contrasts with drab shaped, but brightly colored Soviet era buildings, juxtaposed against a handful of very modern skyscrapers. Odd contrasts seem to define the city.

Mongolian Parliament Building, Chinggis Khaan Square, Ulaanbaatar

Chinggiss Khan, Parliament Building, Ulaanbaatar

I’m surprised by the amount of public art we see, there is a sculpture at almost every street corner. Chinggis Khaan Square is home to the Parliament House, where the imposing figure of Chinggis (Ghengis) Khaan himself is seated. Chinggis Khaan founded the Mongol empire in 1206, he brought peace and prosperity through harsh and merciless action. He is flanked by two mounted warriors. To their South, is Sukhbataatar the military leader who drove the Chinese out of Mongolia in 1921. A short walk from these heroes of the nation, there is sculpture of a bronc rider that can compete with Frederic Remington and Charlie Russell, in terms of authentic familiarity with horses.

Bucking Horse Sculpture, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

The Horse Breaker, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Having seen the financial heart of the city, we opt to follow Daniel’s directions to one of several large markets. On our long walk, we peek hints of Mongolia’s nomadic culture, like bucking horse sculptures and ger-shaped buildings, incongruously scattered throughout the modern city. Dodging ubiquitous Toyota Prius’. We also observe stark economic disparities, the further we march from the center of the city. At the Black Market, the brightly painted entrance graced with cyrillic signage, betrays the open air market’s monochrome title. Our day in the city has been brimful of new sights and sounds, but nothing compares to the market. The booths are densely packed with every type of good imaginable, eat your heart out State Department Store.

Market Entrance, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Naraan Tuul Market, Black Market, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Traditional saddles, hair ropes, and hand-crafted items we have come to see are located on the far side of the market from the main enterance.  There isn’t a direct route to the nomadic goods. We’re jostled by locals, who know where they’re going as we ogle our way around the outer edge of the market.  I’m approaching complete sensory overload, as we walk by row-upon-row of brand-name athletic shoes, hand-made leather boots, camel hair socks, vinyl flooring, brightly painted orange furniture, and solar panels. Anything you can possibly imagine is located somewhere in the vast marketplace.

The shoppers among us began accumulating booty somewhere around the cashmere and camel wool socks near the entrance.   Not much of a shopper and very aware of the limited amount of space in my suitcase, I resist the urge to add to the burden of my backpack.  I enjoy “window shopping,” as much or more than actually making purchases.  I notice a large amount of brightly colored children’s motocross gear and brightly colored racing saddles, tomorrow their purpose will be clear.


As I get older, I am less concerned with the “shoulds” and arbitrary societal expectations, that ruled my 20s.    Part of this process in change, involves making careful, intentional choices, that either enrich or simplify our life. Careful, intentional choices or wildly leaping into opportunities, because they spark joy in my heart.  Either way, my life has improved as I make the effort to deliberately chose joy.

So on Thursday, I leave for Mongolia.  Leaping into an adventure with both feet, I look forward to sharing it all with you here.


The Liebster Award!

The Rules:
1. We must post 11 random things about ourselves.
2. We must answer the questions the nominator set for us.
3. We must create 11 questions for the people we nominate.
4. We must choose 5-10 blogs that we love ( with less than 200 followers) and link them to this post and let them know they were nominated.
5. No tag backs.

Many thanks to the lovely, Mindy Hoggan over at Rodeo Tales & Gypsy Trails for the nomination.  She is the most gracious and supportive blog friend, check out all the fun she has going at Lil’ Red Roan, too!  I’ve had a really difficult time responding to this friendly award, I don’t know why.  It has taken me a week of reflection and procrastination to come up with the following list.

7/14/2013-I’ve been nominated again.  Special thanks to Jenn Zeller over at The South Dakota Cowgirl, I am honored to be included in her list of worthy blogs.  I’ve included my answers to her questions below.

11 Random Things About Me

  1. I drink a lot of black coffee, hot and cold.
  2. I am a geek (I’m always the one who has read the book, before the movie).
  3. I used to have a plan for my life, involving advanced degrees and a career.  I wouldn’t change a moment of the last ten years to achieve that.
  4. I am the oldest and only girl in my family, I have four unique, fun younger brothers. I love them.
  5. I admire horsemen, people who take the time to observe and understand and communicate with another species, to achieve a good relationship with an animal much less people takes time and commitment.
  6. I admire those, who pursue self-improvement and skill development purely for their own satisfaction rather than monetary gain.
  7. We recently saw a skunk exiting the outhouse at the barn, it totally validated my fear of outhouses.
  8. My friend, Brooke, catered a wedding in December, I went along as her assistant.  I may have forgot to put eggs in several layers of the wedding cake I was mixing.  This is my confession.
  9. Green is my favorite color.
  10. I have five pairs of cowboy boots, three for riding and two for town.  I don’t think I have enough.
  11. I didn’t start taking roping seriously until I was in my twenties, I am not a confidant roper.

Mindy’s Liebster Questions, answered by me, Rachel.

  • How did you get started blogging?  I enjoy reading and writing, studying the play of words, and crafting with them.  When we moved to Idaho two-years-ago, I was having a difficult time adjusting to the move.  We lost my baby brother that Fall and I couldn’t help feeling like I was abandoning my family in the midst of this hard time.  When I was sufficiently out of the dark, I began blogging.  My early blogs felt like love letters to my family and helped me cope with the transition.
  • What is your most read post?  Undoubtedly, 25 Things I Want My Ranch Kids to Know.  It has made the rounds on Facebook and approached viral status several times in the past year.  It has been an amazing experience.
  • Favorite hobby or past time?  Aside from reading and cow horses, I enjoy knitting and drawing.  There is innate self-respect in the act of creating.
  • Song that makes your heart happy?    Ryan Bingham’s Southside of Heaven, his music speaks to my heart. It may be the gravel of his voice.
  • Favorite pizza toppings?  If I’m not eating with my meat-and-potatoes family, I love pesto and almond slices on my pizza.
  • What makes your heart skip-a-beat or pitter patter?  Watching my husband with his children never fails to make my heart swoon, particularly when he is able to share the his love of horses and cowboying with them.
  • Do you like to play in the snow?  YES!  One of my biggest complaints about our current home is the lack of snow and good sledding conditions.
  • Favorite rodeo event?  Saddle Bronc is the only one I enjoy watching.
  • Favorite read?  Oooh, this is a tough one.  I love such a variety of writing.  If I were forced to choose just one, I’d say Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.  It is heartbreaking, beautiful, and funny.
  • One thing you are thankful for:  My family near and far, they are a grounding force in my life.

The South Dakota Cowgirl’s questions:

  • Favorite Band or album? Ryan Bingham, he’s not a band per say, but his  music strikes a cord with me every time I hear his voice.
  • Sun or snow? Snow, I can handle cold much better than I can heat.
  • Favorite Alcoholic Beverage? Craft beers, dark usually.
  • Pork, chicken, or beef? Uh, how is it prepared?  I like my fajitas with marinated beef, my lamb with chimichurri, and pork on occasion, especially if it’s marinated in citrus, like lime.
  • Favorite item of clothing? At this very moment as it approaches the 90s outside, it is a knit cotton skirt from Patagonia.  If I am cowboying, it is a toss up between Smartwool ski socks and Cowgirl Tuff jeans.  They actually fit a woman’s body!
  • Kitchen staple? Garlic.
  • Housewares store? I am a professional covet-er when it comes to housewares catalogs, but never actually purchase anything because I have a frugal, practical heart.  I always think, “Do I really want to move that in a few years?”  If I had to choose, I’d say Crate & Barrel.
  • Magazine? I thoroughly enjoy the Yoga Journal (I know, very un-ranchy of me) and I’ve recently been introduced to the Western Horse Review.
  • Where would I like to visit if I could?  Mongolia, their horse culture is fascinating.
  • Favorite brand of boots? I have a pair of custom Blacktail’s that I absolutely love, they have the best riding shank for long days.  If money were no object I’d have a pair of custom Rocketbuster’s, but because I am on a budget Ariats are super comfortable, totally useable shelf boots.
  • Favorite accessory?  I love engraved silver bracelets and funky earrings, the more unique the better.

My nominees!  I realize several folks below have been nominated by other folks recently or might have more followers than specified, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less.

Brett L Erickson Photography-In addition to stunning composition, Brett Erickson’s photographs convey a strong sense of place, honesty, and love.

WestEastern-Jessy Mclavey’s authentic and touching posts inspire me to greater productivity.

Tail of Two Corgis-Who doesn’t like to see corgi pictures and hear cute corgi stories?

Roses & Sagebrush-Sandy is a neighbor with a fun new blog and I’m looking forward to hearing more from her and her sister-in-law.

Write Some WhatNot– These gals are talented teachers and writers, I enjoy mulling over their reviews and challenging my pea-brain.

Rocky Springs Rambles-I look forward to Mandy’s humorous and enlightening posts about station life in rural Australia and you should to.

My Questions for the Nominees (with help from my question guy):


  1. What do you hope your legacy will be?
  2. What is your favorite hobby or pastime?
  3. Where or what do you consider home?
  4. Do you place importance upon selecting the right name for your pets?
  5. What is your idea of an ideal celebration?
  6. If money and time were no object, where would you travel and why?
  7. What is your favorite breed of dog?
  8. What song makes your heart happy?
  9. What is your favorite book?
  10. If you cook, what is your signature dish?  If not, what is your favorite dish?
  11. Name one thing you are thankful for.

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