Justin Timberlake has a song called Montana in his Man of the Woods album. John Mayer left his New York and Los Angeles homes behind and found a sweet spot in Paradise Valley. What is it about Montana?
Where do I even begin? For one, it makes the 46th state I visit out of the 50. While I was at the Salt Lake City airport last night I decided to look at the weather forecast and noticed that it was in the mid-20s and snowing in Helena. I instantly felt panic take over me. The week prior I had looked at the weather report and the temperatures had been forecasted around the 50s. All I had were two thick sweaters and a leather jacket. I didn’t bring my full winter coat. I was bound to land in Helena at midnight and had to drive about an hour to Butte on four hours of sleep. To allow the panic to settle , I simply took a deep breath and whispered, “Universe, I need reassurance that everything is going to be okay.”
Sitting next to me on the flight was an older gentleman in his mid-50s. We instantly started chatting and continued to do so for the remainder of the flight. He asked me what I did for a living and I responded. “Did you study public health? He asked. I was stunned – I typically have a very hard time explaining to others what public health is in a succinct manner, but he already knew! His daughter who’s in her early twenties is currently studying public health and looking to advance her career. He asked me for my business card and I gave him one. As the flight went on, he went out of his way to determine the best route for me to take to Butte and also recommended that I rent a 4 wheel drive. We continued conversing and talking about Yellowstone – he then showed me pictures of when he last went with his family. I knew in the deepest part of my heart that this was the confirmation I was was seeking. Everything was going to be alright. When we landed, he introduced me to his wife whom was waiting for him.
I went straight to the National counter and requested an upgrade to a 4 wheel drive. I’d like to say that this is not a paid advertisement in any way, shape, or form, but that was best customer service I’ve ever received, at any airport (and I’m a freq travel girl!). The guy at the counter, Ben, not only set me up with a brand new Tacoma for the road, but also suggested the best route to take given the weather conditions and the time of day. He also provided me with two maps as guidance. Pro tip: When you’re driving through the mountains in the dead of night, you might want to have a backup in case your phone signal decides to tap out. By 12:30 AM, I was on the road ready to embark on what was supposed to be a 1-hour journey.
The roads were dangerous. The passageway to Butte was covered in ice. Having previously lived in Upstate New York, I was familiar with the conditions, but even still, they were treacherous. The elevation in New York State doesn’t compare to that of Montana. My supposed one hour drive turned into five and half hours. Visibility was almost non-existent and the road lane demarcations were nowhere to be seen. I spent the majority of my time trying to manage the delicate dance between using the gas pedal and a soft break – an art of balance when driving on ice. To make the experience a little less stressful for myself, I started taking deep breaths and blasted the country music that was playing on the radio. Five and half hours later, around 6AM, I arrived at my hotel.
The woman at the hotel was kind enough to let me check into the room although it was already the next day. I was able to sleep for two hours and then head on to work for the day. After my day was finished, I drove back, but this time during the daylight. The drive back, though a little bit clearer, was still intense. However, what stood out this time around, was the beauty of the scenery. I’ve been to the Colorado Rockies, all over the PNW, yet these mountains have a certain age, seriousness, and wisdom that inspire me to revere them even more so.
Montana. My state #46. The kindness of your people, the treachery of your winter, and the magic of your sceneries will hold a special place in my heart. Next time, I’ll come greet you as you awaken your beautiful spring senses. I can only imagine how brilliant you’ll be when the sun shines and the flowers bloom.
I find it rather bizarre that on Monday night I flew from my coastal home (San Diego) to the desert (Las Vegas) then to the high snowy mountains (Montana). Life can be so wild! Off to Idaho tonight!