"For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love.” ~John Steinbeck

Photo taken by me :)

I'm back! You probably didn't even know I was gone (I'm not one to announce that my house is vacant for a week, if you know what I mean), but the fam and I took a last-minute trip last Wednesday to MONTANA! The drive from here in Cali to there not counting stops is over 20 hours, and aside from a two-hour nap on the side of the road in Oregon on the way there (with semis blowing by so fast our suburban shook) and a three-hour stop at a hotel in Reno on the way back (getting Lovemuffin up after that one was a bit difficult), the longest pit stop we had was probably about ten minutes. We spent a LOT of time in the car. (Considering the fact that all three of my high school girls were with us and Lovemuffin did pretty much all of the driving, I'd say the trip went pretty well. :D)

These trees were everywhere and so beautiful. (Kinda like
Shaver Lake here, but prettier.) Some lose their top
 "layer" of needles in the winter, hence the different colors. 

Anyway. Thought I'd share a few memorable things about the trip. Montana is absolutely gorgeous, and has so much WATER (something we are severely lacking here in the Central San Juaquin Valley), so it was great to get away for a few days. 

After the 24-ish hour drive from California, we checked into our hotel in Columbia Falls. We probably looked like complete rugrats (by then our eyes were red as sun-ripened tomatoes) when we checked in, but no one was in the lobby to see us in that state, thank goodness. Having pity on us, the receptionist suggested we go into The Back Roomthe back of a bar/restaurant where huge pieces of chicken and other yumminess is served. Once there, we sat down and skimmed our menus (a few of us actually set our heads on the table, because ZZZzzzz), noticing one of the sides mentioned was called "fry bread". In our state of mental DUH-ness, we looked at each other, curious. "Maybe it's put under the broiler or something?" I said.

Fry bread. Y-U-M.
Shortly after, the bread of amazing, fried deliciousness came, with sides of honey-butter (think Marie Calendars, but better). It was dense, and awesome, and tasted better than any bread I've ever had. Even though we all had huge sides of chicken on our plates as well, I think I can speak for all four of us gals when I say we would have been perfectly fine with only eating fry bread for dinner. And breakfast the following day. And every other meal for the rest of our lives. (Problem was, we were so tired, we could hardly chew. Also, there were tons of people in that restaurant, but it was so QUIET! Is that a Montana thing? A Back Room thing? It's loud EVERYWHERE here. Sometimes we have to almost yell at each other to be heard.)

So, we left on Wednesday afternoon, arrived Thursday night, crashed, and the following morning, Friday, we were still recovering from our tiredness. Lovemuffin found some great coffee, and then we met with an amazing realtor named Linda who devoted most of her afternoon to taking us all over tarnation (mostly in the outskirt areas of Whitefish) to look at stuff. She was great, and fun, and such a blessing to our trip. After more driving, we went back to the room and ordered pizza. (Bread kinda became the theme of our lives in Montana.)

Saturday, we drove to Whitefish to check out the shops, including a coffee shop I'd found via Pinterest, actually (I now also stalk them on Instagram, too), called Red Caboose. (I was so excited about being able to pin our town on the "visitor" map until I saw SOMEONE ALREADY HAD!) Pretty much everything inside the shop, decorative-wise, is restored, so it had a great rustic feeling to it. And a fireplace. I love when coffee shops have fireplaces!

One of our favorite shops that we hit up after Red Caboose had the most darling (think hipster-ish) stuff... including these Mistaken Lyrics cups, which had the older two girls and I in stitches. 

The clouds on the way to Glacier National Park! For some reason, my comp compressed this and isn't
playing the actual video.  I'm also kind of sad that you can't hear the rockin' music. :(

Sunday, we went to Glacier National Park. Lovemuffin asked Google how to get into the park, and Google maps proceeded to take us some random way that took quite a while, but gave us great views. (Come to find out, we came in some sort of unknown, back way. Oh well!) The clouds were practically right in front of us as we drove, and I had to capture it on video! According to the news, the Polar Vortex was moving in fast, which meant that by Monday night (no later than Tuesday morning), we were going to have to hit the road and head home to beat the crazy weather. It was already raining the entire drive up, and by the time we made it inside the park, it began to snow. 

"It's SO CHRISTMAS!!!" -us, over and over
We were so excited! (We've all gone to the snow at least few times here in the mountains, but it's not the same as when you get to watch it snow. And Montana is just so beautiful.) By that time, we were so far into the park, we were starving, so when we came across this little place, we had to stop and grab a bite. It was quaint, with a tired old black cat curled up on the counter, guarding the cash register, a bucket to catch the dripping water leaking from the ceiling, and the game was on a big TV next to our table, which made Lovemuffin happy. (Did you know that Montana has no sales tax?)

Sunday night, it snowed a lot. The patio of our room butted up to a golf course, so the girls bundled up and took off into the darkness to make snow angels and run around in the snow. 

Monday morning, the storm was a' comin'. We went with Linda to check out a few more properties, and by the seventh one, it was snowing pretty well. Some of the directions were very vague (or flat-out confusing), and in our rush to see the last one before getting back, Lovemuffin drove up a tiny driveway. As we reached the top, we noticed a Do Not Enter sign. This was obviously not the place. Lovemuffin backed up, and we heard a weird noise. I thought we'd driven over a branch (can't see anything when everything's blanketed by snow), but lo and behold, we had actually driven over a pile of rolled up barbed wire. Which had tangled alllll around the axel and something else (no idea what it's called)

We tried to move the long, wound-up piece of wire not stuck on the car out from beneath it. It caught on my pants, the junior's gloves, and Lovemuffin's gloves, pants, leg, and jacket. (UGH.) Once it was finally out of the way, Lovemuffin couldn't get underneath the suburban, but thank GOD we had a flashlight in the car, so he could at least see what was going on. It was SO tangled that the only way to solve the problem was finding a way to cut the wire. 

Course we didn't have anything that would do something like that in our car, so down the little hill Lovemuffin went. It was snowing, we had no cell phone reception, and he was gone for a while. I was just getting ready to head down the hill to find him, when he came back. No one had answered the door at the nearest house, but their shed was unlocked. No wire-cutters, but he did find pliers. 

Yes, you read that right. Pliers. All I have to say is that the Lord gave Lovemuffin superhuman strength, because I have never seen a man cut barbed wire once, let alone THREE TIMES, with pliers. It was insane. Even Linda was laughing. It was like Lovemuffin turned into the Incredible Hulk! 

After that, we still had to unravel everything. But we were on a hill and there was pretty much no space between the undercarriage and the ground/snow. The sophomore tried to help, but it proved quite difficult, so the freshman ended up doing it, her ear centimeters from the hot muffler as she worked. Most of us stood around feeling as though we weren't of much help... The junior decided to take a few pics with her Samsung (which took better pics than even my expensive Nikon).

We then left, drove back to the house to return the pliers (along with a little thank-you note), and the owner of the house pulled in behind us, like, What are you Californians doing in my driveway? 

Lovemuffin explained the situation, handed back the pliers and thank you note, he told us we hadn't driven far enough up to find the property (UGH again). We headed back to town.

Fast forward to us taking off the next morning at 8:30. By then, everything in the ice chest in the back of the car was frozen solid. It was FAH-REEZING outside--colder than I've ever experienced. I seriously had to put a blanket between myself and my car door because the cold was insane. Ice hung off the Suburban everywhere. Our windshield wiper fluid was frozen solid (Californians obviously do not sell the kind with anti-freeze in it), so we couldn't really even use the wipers. All of the roads were icy. The further south we drove, the colder it got. Not long before reaching Idaho, I HAD to snap the above pic of the temperature. (Like my phone cover? Ha.)

It got even colder as we drove, getting to zero. About two hours in, we stopped for a bathroom break at a bar out in the middle of nowhere. The weather by this point said "feels like -16 degrees", but you really couldn't even fathom the cold while you were standing in it because it was a dry cold. It was crazy. The owner had this gorgeous dog (I've tried to figure out the breed--thought it was an Akita but those don't look right--these dogs are HUGE and solid and have really long fur), and the girls just had to meet it!

The freshman. Don't let the little bit of visible snow
and my crazy, jacket-less kid fool you--it was
downright FREEZING.
And... that's pretty much the gist of our trip. We drove, we ate, we slept, we looked at things. By the time we hit Nevada, it was still only 20 degrees. I think the final temperature as pulled into our hometown was high 50s, and it was so funny, because in what we'd normally be complaining about being cold (you know, grabbing sweatshirts and whatnot), we were all like, "Ahhhhhh this feels SO GOOD." LOL!

In summary, road trips like this are, in my opinion, not meant to be taken very often. I will say that we are super-blessed, because though the girls (and Lovemuffin and I) did get into it a couple of times, it could have been soooo much worse. We had great scenery, a great realtor, and an overall great trip. Next time we feel like checking Montana out, however, I'm pretty sure we'll fly. 

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