For every road trip, I have an itinerary. True, it isn’t based on plane or train tickets. We may not have a specific moment to be at an airport, but you can bet your ass that alarm IS going to wake you at 4:48 am if that is my plan for the day.
Years ago, it was a simple Word document with a table. It has morphed into a full spreadsheet on Google Sheets, shareable and so easy to punch in formulas for costs.
Costs. How much is this view worth? A million dollars for anyone who lives to see it as much as I do. So $35 for the entrance and $55 for the extra rental bike seems like an amazing deal if you ask me.
Arguments. I have five, yes FIVE, teenagers in my car. Mostly non-driving teens except for a small stint and ever-open road when I felt it safe enough for my permit-only fifteen-year-old to take the wheel. And I have to drive them everywhere for too many hours in the car, I have to wake their adolescent brains way too early for their underdeveloped prefontal cortexes, and I have to argue with them about all the things they don’t want to do because they haven’t read my itinerary that I shared two weeks ago.
But there are no arguments here.
It’s true they didn’t read it. They didn’t know that today’s plan, after removing the wheel from bike number five, positioning it in the back of the Pilot, after renting the sixth bike fifteen minutes early, after driving and stopping for pics and sucking in the perfection that is every other second of Montana… The parking lot 5.88 miles further up the Going to the Sun Road was already closed at 8:20 in the morning.
This is why you always bring bikes.
According to my itinerary, we were going to ride seven miles up the hill from Avalanche Creek. There’s a turquoise river, a climb, and views of the actual too-soon-to-be-melting glaciers.
But not everyone in my car is a cyclist like me, and getting to Avalanche Creek, upstream, took a lot out of them.
My itinerary today included this Trail of the Cedars, “not a real hike, it’s wheelchair accessible” is how I “sold” them on it.
So began, after the small cycle, the gasps. Trees so tall you can’t understand how they’re in Montana. A creek so pristinely protected you want to gulp it into your whole soul. And, more miraculous than anything you could lay your eyes upon, teens without cell service viably impressed, their joyous outbursts as beautiful as the scenery.
So energized were they that they agreed to another two miles up that sun road, took immeasurable moments to skip rocks in the river, to enthrall themselves in the imperfect beauty that is nature.
And my itinerary?
“Quedanse juntos. Me entiendes?”
I sent them back down the road, alone, my credit card in Mythili’s pocket. And goddamn it if I didn’t ride those seven miles and capture within my worldview this million-dollar pic of peaks made by glaciers.
And goddamn it if my teens put all those bikes on the rack without me asking, without watching my how-to video, adding in their Black Lives Matter proclamation to the world and all of white blood Montana.
And my itinerary? It didn’t include a fishing pole, kids pushing each other into the picture-perfect lake, or the road still being closed to cars.
It is just an idea, a well-researched idea to drop off the dog, pick up the extra bike, add a couple of kids, and have the time of your life.
I wish I could capture in a spreadsheet, in words, in pictures, what it feels like to have a perfect fumbled plan and ride down that mountain on two wheels after sweating up it, but the wind never stays too long. The sun sets.
My boy of few words described it best: “If this were in Honduras, it would be so filled with people you couldn’t see the shores.” When Riona asked me to translate, the words he didn’t say meant more: “You don’t even know how lucky you are.”
And there’s always another adventure tomorrow.