I have many fond memories of Montana. Growing up, we would take trips almost every summer to visit my aunt and cousin. My mom, brother, and I were the frequent travelers; my dad would often stay behind due to work obligations. We would spend several days at my aunt’s house, enjoying the outdoor hot tub and getting the RV ready.
Then, we would load up. Pack everything into the RV: food, clothes, toys, games… you name it. We were ready for our adventure. Buckled into the bench seats at the table, we would play cards, color, or often people watch out the rear window. We would stop when we needed, or if stopping wasn’t an option, there was always the choice to use the facilities enroute. Food was always a few steps away, in the kitchen; although opening the refrigerator door while rattling down the road was a little hairy.
Campgrounds were our destination, sometimes KOAs, sometimes pristine wilderness areas. Once, we parked in a campground during the pitch black of night. We’d been on the road all night, and didn’t even hook up when we pulled in for the night. That morning, when we woke, we found ourselves in the charred remains of a forest. My mother has vivid memories of driving the RV around hairpin curves, steep drop-offs.
55 mph was our speed limit (if that). But didn’t matter. We loved every minute of our travels. We visited the “must-see” places, Yellowstone, Glacier, and the like. We stopped at indiscriminate sites too. Colored pencils let us document our trip in drawing pads, or stones from one of the rivers that we gathered to paint.
We rafted down rivers, once being dropped off by the adults, to meet at the pick-up point a mile or two down the river. We had campfires, watched wildlife, and enjoyed late nights whispering under the covers in the “loft” bed above the cab. Self-sufficiency was ours, we could go wherever, whenever. As long as we monitored the gray and black water tanks.
We stayed in bear country. We saw bears. Black bear cubs climbing over fences, many yards away. Grizzly bears, brown bears. Bears that came up to our RV while we were on the road — my cousin’s bicycle handle had the teeth marks to prove it.
We always came back from Montana with many fond memories, eager to return again. We would always bemoan the fact our families lived so far apart.
But even today, we still have the memories.