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Two months ago today, I wrote a blog post just hours after returning from a road trip that changed me deeply. I came face to face with myself, and it wasn’t always a pretty picture. That trip made me grow up in ways I never thought I needed, and it created new dreams, presented once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and strengthened relationships.
let’s look back a little bit, shall we?

The Bare Facts

Total trip distance: 5449 km (at minimum, detours make this hard to calculate)
Total Traveling Time: 64.5 hours
Tanks of gas: 16
Times we pitched our tent: 5
Times we changed our itinerary: 5 major trip changes
Places we missed out on: 2 (Mount St. Helen’s itself, Garnet)
Once-in-a-life-time experiences: Countless, but two stand out (Sleeping under the stars, and Old Faithful)
Number of inside jokes: Too many to count
Catch phrases: “A bucket of chili!”, “twenty Minutes to Bozeman”, and a bunch more
Regrets: For me, that the trip was so fast that we never got to settle in, and missed out on some cool experiences; others may have different feelings

 

Why did I Write about My Vacation?

 

I created the previous blog posts through a combination of memory, audio recordings I made at the time, facebook posts, text messages, photos, and, where applicable, speaking with the others involved. In particular, the exhausted monologues of day 1, Day 5, and day 7 provided great jumping off points for me to tell my story. All impressions are my own, or are impressions or thoughts that have been directly expressed to me by those who went through them. Many of you have thanked me for writing this blog series about our trip, warts and missteps and all, and for that you have my gratitude. It would’ve been very easy to sugar-coat things, to paint this amazing trip in the rosy glow of remembrance, to put all of us in the most positive light possible. But it wouldn’t have been raw and real and authentic, and it certainly wouldn’t have been this road trip. I took great pains to describe feelings and conflicts and impressions as accurately as I could, with greatest emphasis on my own reactions and feelings. Others’ words, actions or attitudes may have coloured my reactions or thoughts, but I am only responsible for how I respond to them.
As to why I wrote this? It’s a remembrance, to the person I was before and the person I’m becoming. I don’t want to lose sight of either incarnation of her.

 

What’s Happened Since

 

In the weeks following our journey, fire devastated huge swaths of area we had previously covered. Oregon’s I-84 was closed in portions we had traveled less than a week earlier due to the Eagle Creek Fire, which is still burning two months later. Over a million acres of Montana land have been scorched by multiple wildfires that have devastated land, property, and air quality; even now, some roads have just recently reopened. If we had taken the same trip even a week later – or if we take it in the future – it would look and feel and smell completely different than it did on our journey. I feel like we were given a gift, some of the last glimpses of this unspoiled land before it all burned away.

As for the four of us personally, we’ve all had to go back to “real life” (to our jobs and our homes and our countries), but flashes of the Epic Road trip of Awesome still linger and pop out and unbidden moments. The roof bag is still stuffed with camping gear, my toiletry bag is already stocked for my next adventure, and the T-shirts I bought in Montana are among my personal favourites. We temporarily misplaced the bag from the Montana Gift Corral containing the plaque and bracelet, and I frantically messaged them when we couldn’t find it to see if we’d left it behind somewhere and maybe someone had turned it in. When the answer was “no”, I considered re-purchasing the items, but shipping to Canada would’ve been prohibitively expensive. Sarah found it in her duffel bag a few weeks later, and you can now frequently find me wearing the bracelet she and Ben found for me. I was right about how it fit, though; I’ve started to dub it the “boomerang bracelet” because I’ve lost it so many times and always gotten it back. It, like so much of this trip, must have been meant to be.

 

So…. Now What?

 

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know this bit. That dream of traveling around Montana has started to form concrete dimmensions. I hadn’t even unpacked my backpack before I sat down and spent hours researching ways to get from Alberta to Montana by bus (hint: you can’t do it). I researched planes and trains and started looking into accommodations. The idea gripped me so fiercely that Ben and I agreed that we’d forego our original plans for next summer so I could take this trip in the fall (he’s planning a different excursion of his own). I’ve spent hours on travel sites, configuring itineraries, changing plans, mentally organizing it in my head on nights when I can’t sleep. When my current job went from a temporary contract to a permanent one a month ago, I felt safe enough to book my train ride into Montana, and extending the planned itinerary from two weeks to three. It’s getting real now, not this abstract “someday” concept anymore.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be back in Montana in September, 2018. Not only will I be touring Montana, but my trip will branch out into Washington State, Wyoming, and Colorado. I will be on my own, carrying nothing but a backpack on my back and a guide dog’s harness in my left hand. I’ll be looking straight into the future, doing things that – if I think too hard – I might talk myself out of because they’re new or unpracticed and a little scary.

Maybe I will rediscover my “brave.”

If you’ve ever supported the work of this blog, please consider buying me a coffee and help make this trip possible.

In Bozeman, I bought a black T-shirt that feels so very soft to the touch. On the front of it is a phrase that is apt, and I close with it now.

The mountains are calling.

I must go.

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