Montana Road Trip

We just got back from our vacation to Montana.

Obviously seeing family, some old friends, and watching the grandkids with the grandparents made the long drive both ways completely worth it.

We packed the minivan to the brim before heading out. Then Chloe bought three bags full of clothes while we were there. And she wasn’t the only one buying stuff up. The pack-up/load-up for the trip home took a lot of imagination.

As did the last 8 hours of the trip, considering I drove the whole way, only stopping for gas, and was realistically tired around Denver, which is pretty much the halfway point. Ever tried one of those heavy-duty energy drinks like MONSTER or ROCKSTAR? They’re actually not that bad.

On the way there we left McKinney, Texas around 6:30 pm and rolled into Great Falls, Montana at 7:30 pm. We left Great Falls around 1 pm the day we left and arrived in McKinney a little bit after 2 pm. The first place we hit was the Taco Treat drive-thru when we arrived in Great Falls, even before going to my parents house. Everyone had been looking forward to it since it was such a hit last time.

We went straight home and right into the bed once we hit our Texas home again.

26 Hours there, 24 hours back. Five ROCKSTARS, 15 mountain dew’s, and two jars of peanuts were ingested during that time frame.

I was absolutely shocked at how well our 4 kids did on the long drives. The big kids never complained, helped us out when we needed, and slept a lot. And the little ones did so much better than I thought they would.

Mara didn’t sleep at all the entire drive to Montana, which was completely counterproductive to our reasoning for leaving so late at night in the first place. It was crazy. She just stayed up. And for the first twelve hours she was a little angel. After that it was hit or miss with her. When the lack of sleep eventually caught up with her, she screamed loud and crazy, and made all sorts of incoherent requests while doing so. It got so bad that we pulled over in Casper, Wyoming and got a hotel room to let her and I sleep for a few hours. After listening to her scream for an hour in the room, I got up and said fuck it, we can do this while we’re on the road. If she was gonna be screaming our ears off anyway, we might as well be making some miles. And I honestly didn’t mind her screaming as much as everyone else did anyway. If anything it helped keep me awake and alert. The drive back she slept and did great. At one point she cried because she sort of puked or spit up some food while we were on the Raton Pass. I thought we were gonna be in trouble with her at that point, but she powered through.

Harrison didn’t cry one time either way. He talked our ears off most of the time, played his tablet a little bit, and took insanely long pees when we’d stop for gas. He seemed content to gaze out the window at everything most of the trip. Just like his dad used to do back in the day.

I’m so damn proud of him and so happy he’s in my life. I’m amazed by him daily. Three and a half years old, goes on a trip where he’s basically forced to sit in his car seat, strapped into one sturdy upright position the whole time, and all he wants to do is look out the window the whole time and say ‘There’s a tree. There’s a big truck. Dad are we going to Montana? Oh. Okay. Thanks for taking me to Montana. You’d never leave me? Will Gram Leeann and Grandpa Hawk be happy to see me…?’ And on and on and on.

Harrison also helped me check one of the items off my bucket list while we were there…playing golf with my dad and two sons at the same time. With the added benefit of my nephew Dawson playing with us as well. We played at a course in Choteau, Montana. The same course where I first learned how to play. My dad would take me out there with one of his friends and I’d take about 200 swings a round just trying to figure out how to hit the ball. It’s a perfect little course because nobody ever goes out there.

It was the longest 18 hole round I think I’ve ever played, but it was perfect. Travis and Dawson are basically beginners, and my dad and I really aren’t very good. Experience hasn’t helped either of us much. But Travis and Dawson each hit a few good shots and got to drive the golf carts all day, which they loved, and Harrison got to run around all afternoon grabbing clubs and chasing balls. So it was a great day all the way around.

The next day my wife and I took a drive down to Helena, just the two of us. We took the frontage road from Cascade all the way down past Wolf Creek. We stopped and had a beer, burger, and some wings at Shotgun Annie’s. Well worth it. One of the best meals of the trip. Then we spent most of the day in Helena driving around town looking at properties. Ended up finding a really nice house that I’m sure we would have pounced on if we had our all our ducks in a row prior to the trip. Unfortunately we’re only in step 2 or 3 of the 25 step we’re moving to Montana process.

We also spent a bunch of days at my sisters house playing bags and watching the little ones jump on aunt Laurel’s big trampoline with the sprinkler spraying water up under it. My mom and dad actually dominated the bags tournaments somehow. They went on some crazy winning streaks and won almost every game they played.

We also went out to their boat for a day. Travis and Dawson road the innertube behind the Jet-ski for a lot of the day. Harrison and Mara both got in the lake with their dad and swam with him. They also loved getting in the dinghy and paddling around with their old man. Nobody loved that more than me though.

While the rest of the family went to Helena with my wife to check out the city we hope to move to, I managed to get in some golf with Ralph, Denise, and Curt Paul. I used to play with them every Sunday in the summer for years, and it was like we never quit. We fell into our old routine like ‘Clyde’ Frazier and ‘Pearl’ Monroe. Ralphy and Denise were laughing and smoking. Curt was doing his normal unnecessary outer monologue. And I was telling old stories (many that have become more glamorous and exaggerated as the years have gone by) and constantly bullshitting. I Even managed to hit a couple good shots in there.

A few days later I was gifted another set of clubs from the Nebel family, for the third time in my life. Three of the four sets of golf clubs I’ve owned in my lifetime are a direct result of the Nebels.

I was able to take them out when I played golf a few days later in Seeley Lake with 3 of my buddies. And I actually hit the clubs pretty well. But that’ll have to be a separate post for a separate time.

Then we took the kids to the Little Belts a couple of the days and let them play in the creek. They threw rocks, walked across the stream, threw sticks and watched them float, and built damns in the water. Their grandparents took some great pictures.

Overall, it was a great trip. There was some stress here and there, for everyone at certain points I’m sure. And I felt bad for Chloe a little bit because, at 15, she’s right at that in between age of not quite being an adult but definitely not a kid. And 2 weeks is a long time to have 8 people staying at my parents house. But everyone handled it well. It was a lot better trip this year than last.

And it gave me inspiration for what I’ll be writing about on my next two posts.

Stayed tuned.