all the feels on this road trip

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Sometimes everything goes right on a road trip, and it’s magical. But it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, and our recent Montana vacation set a new standard for luck. Let’s start with the best and work our way down to the worst. You can start at the bottom if you’d like. Then everything will get better as you read on.

The Best

We were able to take a week off from our store during the busy summer season to spend together and with extended family. It was a memorial for my dear Uncle Ed, also known as Eddie Bear because he was the kindest man we’ve ever known. Family from Portland, Oregon, to St. Louis, Missouri, converged on the beautiful Lake Mary Ronan to pay tribute to him. This was one of his favorite places on earth.

Uncle Eddie Bear’s memorial at Camp Tuffit on Lake Mary Ronan

The last time we’d seen many of these folks was at a reunion in 2012. It was so wonderful to catch up on everyone in person and spend time sharing favorite Eddie Bear stories. I’ve learned all too well that time is precious and am now on a real mission to visit as much family as possible.

The Good

I planned our road trip so that we were able to go to Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls, Idaho. It’s been on my list for more than five years and was worth the extra couple of hours.

Related: Shoshone Falls

Camp Tuffit, a bass fisherman’s dream come true

Ed’s immediate family stayed at Camp Tuffit, where Uncle Ed and Aunt Char have had an RV for many years. Camp Tuffit is a fishing camp that dates back to the early 1900s. We were lucky enough to stay there with them about 20 years ago. This year, however, it was sold out by springtime.

The Lodge at Lake Mary Ronan, Montana

We stayed at the Lodge at Lake Mary Ronan, just 10 minutes away, with my sister, two nephews, their wives and three young boys. It’s a beautiful resort for camping, although we opted to stay in cabins. I would definitely camp here next time! There’s a restaurant and bar, plus a small general store that serves breakfast and lunch options right on the shore of the lake. They also have boats, canoes and paddle boards for rent.

Sunset on our first night at the lodge.

Scott and I had a small cabin, just right for two people. It was adorable, well-stocked and an air conditioning unit that was much appreciated during the heat spell in late July and early August. The rest of my family went together on a big log house, which was beautiful and spacious with a large deck overlooking the lake. The only downside was that it didn’t have AC. Yikes. We all voted that they need to add some window units in the upper bedrooms at least.

We had fun in and on the water, canoeing and floating in the tubes we brought from home. My cousin Tre took us on a spin around the lake in his fishing boat, pointing out his favorite spots to fish with his dad, Ed. There was also a fun evening of watching our great nephews learn to fish. Crawdads were also a big hit with them, even dead ones.

This may be one of my favorite pics of all times. My cousin and two nephews fishing on a smoky morning.

The Bad

On our second evening there, after a nice day visiting with family, a small wildfire started up near Camp Tuffit. By nightfall, we were evacuated and had to spend the night in Kalispell. Thankfully, we were able to return the next morning for the memorial. The wind was blowing away from us at that point, so the smoke wasn’t too bad.

The Elmo 2 Fire from the dock at Camp Tuffit

By the next morning, the wind had shifted and smoke had settled in. We explored the lake by canoe and had decided we would probably leave later that day. But the wind shifted again, and we stayed. Rinse and repeat the next day, sans canoe.

We headed out a day early. My sister and nephews decided to stick it out, but got evacuated that evening by pilot car with flames on both sides of the road. They have a new found respect for wildfires, which most Missourians have never experienced.

The Worst

We made it to Idaho Falls that night, had a great dinner and went to bed early so that we could hit the road bright and early. This is when everything went sideways.

Beers at MacKenzie River Pub in Idaho Falls, before everything went south.

Fifteen minutes outside of Idaho Falls, on the way to Jackson, Wyoming, warning lights started flashing in my new car. We stopped for a few minutes and let everything reset. Two minutes later, they started flashing again and the car started to rattle. By the time we got back to Idaho Falls, it was shaking so hard we didn’t think we’d make it.

Idaho spuds

We did, though, and barely made it to an Enterprise Rental Agency. They had no cars available, so we took an Uber to the airport and were able to rent an SUV. Scott drove us back to my car and transferred all of our things to the SUV while I was on the phone with Audi Care. They towed it to Salt Lake City, home of the closest dealership.

I’ve got to tell you, it was a long drive back home after that. Very, very long with very little conversation.

The next morning, I returned the SUV to the Grand Junction airport. On the way, the low tire warning flashed. Of course there was a screw in the tire. I can’t imagine it going any other way at this point. A few minutes later I got the call that my car had catastrophic engine failure and needed a new engine—from Germany.

This is when Audi proved its reputation. They offered to replace the car with a brand new one and provide me with a rental or loaner until it was located. I can’t remember how many people apologized and how many times, but it was a lot. Audi corporate stepped in to help immediately. I’ve got a 2023 Q5 headed this way, hopefully by next week. That is how customer service is done, folks.

Ending on a completely random note, I spent a lot of the road time in the passenger seat that week and came to a realization. I’m terrible about shaving my knees. No matter how many times I’d shaved, every time I looked down it was the same. A friend suggested keeping a razor in the glove box. Brilliant!

The moral of the story? It’s not always shits and giggles, but I still can’t wait for our next road trip. Stay thirsty for adventures, friends, we’re making memories here.

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3 thoughts on “all the feels on this road trip

  1. “You can start at the bottom if you’d like. Then everything will get better as you read on.” BEST LINE EVER.

    This is crazy and nearly unbelievable. I think Audi comes off looking pretty good, but even if they didn’t start the fire, they were very responsible for the later end of this disastrous road trip!

    I am sad that you didn’t include the part about noticing the hair on your knees. I noticed this on the way to Wyoming earlier this week, and no joke, I am going to start keeping a razor in the glove box! That suggestion was brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 10 months, 10 states, 14 getaways | Tales From the Empty Nest

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