“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
If you ever have the opportunity to take a road trip (no matter the distance) with a handful of your closest friends, I highly recommend going. The photograph above was taken somewhere on I-84, near The Dalles, commemorating our first pit-stop, on our first road trip, together. I met everyone at Savanna’s parents’ house the night before, and we all spent the night there so that we could all get up and on the road no-later-than 5am the next morning. A great plan, in my opinion, however, we stayed up until about 2-3am the night before and practically collapsed when we got into the car. I still have no idea how Savannah managed to drive us to Montana non-stop for nearly 12 hours, though.
Savanna’s step dad, Howard, let us use his 8-person Yukon and despite the great amount of space that SUV has, it turned out to be quite an intimate experience when you pack it up full of gear and occupy every seat and crevice available. I chuckle at the thought that we’re all smiling in the first picture because perhaps those smiles are a result of the relief of not being jam-packed within the Yukon. Granted, the other reason for the smiles could be due to our sheer enjoyment of being together (but that sounds much sappier typed out, than it did in my head).
We arrived in the town of Bigfork right around dusk and spent the night at Andrew’s parents’ house. They had dinner ready for us when we got there and we spent the majority of the night just talking and getting to know Andrew’s parents. As people began to make their way to bed, I fell asleep upstairs along with Taran and Megan. Due to the disproportionate amount of sleep I accrued during the car ride, I fell asleep to the movie Ghost Busters (1 or 2…? It was Halloween night, after-all) only to wake up a few hours later to the same movie playing. Taran, Jomi and I were the first to wake up, but as soon as Andrew’s mom (Debb) got up, we got some star treatment as she made us coffee/tea and an enormous breakfast (for us all). During this time, I went out onto the balcony to admire the view.
Montana is an amazingly scenic place. During the drive and even while we were in Bigfork, it was amazing to look around at the awe-inspiring beauty. The yellow trees (in the photo above) are pine trees that turn yellow during the fall/winter, but are a natural evergreen color the rest of the year. We saw plenty of deer while we were there too, as well as flocks of wild turkey, as well! We joked about how dangerous it must be for turkeys to be walking around in droves so close to Thanksgiving. After-all, who would go out and buy a turkey when you could shoot one (or ten) passing through your backyard? Hahah. I kind of wish I took more photos of the scenery, but the memory I have of Montana will permanently be etched in my mind.
After breakfast, we packed our stuff up and headed to the wedding venue which was held at a place called the Grouse Mountain Lodge located in Whitefish, Montana (about an hour’s drive away). I didn’t get any pictures of the exterior, but if you follow the link, I’m sure you would come to understand the ambiance associated with this place. There was even a driving range behind the lodge as well, so naturally it was pretty ritzy and fancy. Set up went pretty well, and fairly fast once Andrew’s family showed up to help us out. The bride was pleased with how things were set up by the end of the day, so that’s all that truly mattered. Once everything was set up and ready for the wedding, we headed to a condo at which we were all going to stay. Andrew’s grandparents had a timeshare at the place we stayed at and initially offered the entire place to just Andrew and Brittany, so we were all ecstatic when we found out that we were allowed to stay there as well, as it was big enough to fit all eight of us comfortably. The condo was near the top of the mountain and we could easily see from our balcony the giant hill people would ski/snowboard down and the chair lifts heading up to the top of the mountain. Granted, while we were there, there wasn’t much snow on the ground; however, it did snow on the morning of the wedding and the morning we were on our way back home (but I’m getting ahead of myself). The view from the balcony of the second floor of the condo also gave us an incredible view of the mountain ranges in the distance.
Once we dropped off our gear and claimed our sleeping areas, we left once again to head off to the rehearsal dinner together. Andrew’s parents paid for everyone that attended and we were yet-again incredibly grateful for their kindness. While we were there, however, Taran couldn’t stop admiring our waitress, so I collaborated with Andrew’s mom to get her to talk to him, and inevitably got them to take a picture with one another. We joked at the idea that this wouldn’t be our last time in Montana together, as we would have to return for Taran and Abby’s wedding, someday. Hahah.
After dinner, we ran a few last-minute errands before heading back to the lodge where we prepared ourselves for the wedding. Everything went by so fast that I literally had no time to take any pictures, what-so-ever. All I can say is that Brittany and Andrew’s wedding was an incredible experience. Although I had planned on memorizing my script for the ceremony, that didn’t happen. Thankfully, we had planned ahead and placed the script inside of a Reader’s Digest (vintage 1966) that actually resembled the look of an old Bible. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and without a hitch.
Although the day seemed to fly by, it was an incredible treat when we got to a period of the night when we came to toasting to Brittany and Andrew. We gave Brittany and Andrew some time after Logan’s speech, and then surprised them by opening up another round of toasts from the rest of the bridal party and the wedding guests. It definitely became quite the intimate and emotional affair at that point, and something that I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced at a wedding before, nor will it be something I will ever forget. The overall Montana trip has taught me a lot about myself, and how much I value my ‘small’ group of friends. So-much-so, that it’s even made me ask myself whether I should truly apply for the JET program, as the thought of leaving my friends is somewhat heart-wrenching, as it is. Even though I know that some of them would come visit me should I get accepted into the program, it just wouldn’t be the same. Regardless, I’m just thankful that this feeling that I have is mutual and isn’t just one-sided. We’ll be celebrating our first “Friendsgiving” this year, where we meet up at my house to celebrate our own Thanksgiving dinner together. Not long after that, we also have plans for our third annual Secret Santa event/dinner. I feel truly blessed to have met such a great and amazing group of people after getting out of the Marine Corps. To be honest, I didn’t think that I would find the same type of comradery in the college setting as I did in the Marine Corps, but I’m glad that I was wrong. I have so much to be thankful for at this moment in time that I look forward to see what else the future has in store for me (and for all of us).