Summer 2016

After grading students’ blogs today, I am inspired by what some of them chose to write about. It was a variation of “what I did on my summer vacation,” but instead of what they did, students wrote about what they plan to do or hope to do this coming summer. I’ve been thinking about my own summer vacation, so I thought this would be a great topic for me to explore as well.
Two years ago, Chuck and I bought an older Minnie Winnie motorhome. Initially, we looked into renting one of those newer motorhomes you’ll sometimes see cruising down the highway in the summer, but the cost was prohibitive. This 1992 Minnie Winnie had been owned by an older couple (yes, older than us) and had been well-cared for, and while not fancy by any means, it would suit us well for traveling with our dogs. We decided to invest in something we could use over and over, and in 2014 we set off on an epic vacation for three weeks of travel.
We have marvelous memories from that summer, seeing everything from the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming to the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake in Missouri/Arkansas, to Amarillo by morning, and beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico. I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, and we managed to see parts of Utah’s great parks on the way home. We spent three, lovely weeks just sightseeing and hanging with our favorite friends, Rosie and Basco. I recognized the serenity of getting up each day not knowing what we would experience but looking forward to another day of new experiences, and I took it all in.
Last summer, we were short on money, so we decided to stay close to home. We took the motorhome out a couple times for camping, and we enjoyed it, but at the end of the summer, I regretted that we hadn’t spent more time in it, exploring other parts of the U.S. Now, as we near midterm of the spring semester, I’m starting to think about what I might want to do this summer, and I have lots of ideas.
Adam will spend at least one more summer in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and I really want to try to spend some time with him hiking, maybe horseback riding, whatever. In the same area, our good friends from Clyde Park, “Uncle Ronnie” and Anne have a place in Big Fork and they sometimes spend time at Flathead Lake. My former colleague and still friend, Mike Cronin, and his wife Jan are living in the Whitefish area, and I’d love to visit them. I have an aunt and uncle in Kalispell, and it would be fun to see them, too.
I’ve never been to Canada. Kind of crazy, really, since I’ve been to Mexico and Europe and the UK, but I haven’t visited the foreign country closest to my home. I’ve heard lots of good things about the beauty and interesting activities available up north, and that’s on my bucket list, too.
While I’ve been to North Dakota dozens of times, I have lots of family there that I’d love to visit, especially in the Dickinson area. Also, I’m curious about the Bakken and all the changes over the past several years, and now things are changing again. If we went that far, it’d be a shame not to touch foot in Wisconsin: I’ve never been there and that’s the only Great Lakes state I haven’t visited. But once in Wisconsin, it’s just a hop, skip, and jump to Michigan, and we’ve got lots of friends there, and Michigan borders Ohio, another state I’ve yet to visit. Heck, we’d practically be in the neighborhood, and we couldn’t come back without checking out West Virginia, another state I can’t yet check off my list.
Gas prices are low this year, much lower than two years ago, and I’ll pay off my car in November, so we probably can afford to do a little more this year than last. However, summers in Montana are about the best, and we absolutely love our home in Montana City. Not once, not for one second, have we regretted our decision to move here. Even though I have entertained the possibility of moving somewhere for the perfect professional opportunity, I’m not certain I’d ever be happier than I am here. I’m going to buy a map of Helena hiking trails, Mt. Helena and Mt. Ascension, and spend more time traipsing those trails, more time kayaking and more of that on moving water, and I want to spend some time birdwatching this summer, too. We have an amazing array of birds in our area, and I’m embarrassed not to be able to recognize most of them. And then there’s my lonely violin that gets played rarely, and there’s our dogs, and Leo the 19-year-old cockatiel. Ah summer…

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