Saturday, December 31, 2011

Road Trip to the Big Sky

Note the family truckster loaded to the rafters in the background...

Overheard just moments before this picture was snapped: "BOYS, it's your mother's birthday.  Just stop complaining and smile and let her take a picture, would you?!?"

Our road trip to Montana in October earned a spot among my 20 Great Things.  We usually take a family trip there over the summer, but it didn't happen this year.  I think the rest of the boys shared my secret disappointment, although we didn't say much, because we had an awful lot to be so very thankful for.  When the opportunity came up to take the trip as a family back to the NILE Stock Show in Billings, we were all over it.

Carson and I picked up Keith and the older boys from their hunting trip in eastern WA on our way to Montana.  I decided to surprise them by bringing along Sophie the Farm Dog.  That, in combination with showing up 5 hours late, didn't bring the excited reaction I was hoping for.  When a mysterious stench came wafting from the back seats just short of the Idaho border, Sophie was deemed the culprit and a thorough investigation was launched.  It was soon discovered to be the feet of a certain 11 year old, who shall remain nameless. ;)

It seems like an entire book could be written on the adventures of our trip.  At 11:45pm on the first night, as Sophie stood at the foot of the bed barking in our hotel room, I was scribbling notes about all that had taken place in just 8 short hours.

When I refer to our family as a traveling circus, it's hardly an exaggeration.  Visualize us entering the LaQuinta lobby in Missoula at 10:30pm on the first night...each child required to pack in twice their body weight in order to limit Keith and I to about 12 bags each.  I had just gotten done telling the lady at the front counter that our dog was very polite indoors, and would cause no problems.  This was a bit of a stretch...Sophie is very sweet, she just isn't an inside dog. When Keith, the boys, and Sophie came through the door, one of the suitcases was topped with a giant Ziploc bag  of dry dog food and a huge, dirty, metal dog dish...sure signs that our pooch wasn't accustomed to indoor living.  As I continued checking us in, Sophie tightly triple wrapped my legs in her leash while the rest of the crew stumbled over one another to get to the last of the freshly baked cookies on the counter.  I'm sure we woke up at least a few snoozing patrons.

The second day of our trip was Carson's birthday, and Keith had the bright idea of letting him pick out a gift at the Cenex in Missoula (an awesome store, by the can fuel up, your husband can buy some boots & beef jerky, and you can find a cool new wardrobe...really!).  It should have come as no surprise that Carson wanted a bow and arrow set.  Over the next days, I dodged flying arrows as I piloted the family truckster across Big Sky Country.  Keith came to realize that traveling with 3 of Sophie would have been much easier than traveling with 3 Hickle boys.

We read a sign at a burger place in Livingston that had us repeating its words for the entire trip:

Closed for the season.  Reason?  Freezin'.

It's funny how not-so-funny things make you laugh hysterically when you are in closed quarters for too long with certain people.  That sign being an example.

At one point, Sophie was the cause of a two hour delay in finding a hotel that would take pets (much to Keith's dismay), but had nearly redeemed herself all the way as the most pleasant traveler on the trip, when we decided to take a detour to Wyoming and Yellowstone before heading back home.  While in Cody, Keith was walking her down the sidewalk and I was in a store with the boys.  Without notice, Sophie bolted on the leash, snapping the latch on her collar, and she barrelled right through the front door of an expensive store.  You know the kind of store that you don't enter if children are with you?  Yes, it was THAT kind of store. In she ran, running the entire length of the store, and ended her trick by jumping up into the front window display.  Keith felt so bad, he bought something small and got out of there, pronto.  I was assigned to leash duty for the remaining trip.

The stories really just go on and on from there.  It was a great, memorable time, and I felt really thankful to be together as a healthy family, just having fun.  Montana in the fall is a sight to behold for sure.  I'm glad that God delayed our trip.  I started my birthday morning on October 23rd with a beautiful run through West Yellowstone, and the day just got better from there.

The other day, the words from the readerboard at that burger place came to me, and made me giggle.  I imagine that is a sign I will always remember. :)

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