Oh! Let the Sunshine In!

I love being a Montanan like a flower loves the sun! But like a flower, if I don’t get sunshine for weeks or months on end, I start to wither and fade away. Vitamin D is as essential to those of us living in these northern, low-sunlight, always so covered and bundled up against the cold, states almost as much as we need oxygen to breathe. But even with all the supplements and strategies for winter survival, sometimes a girls’ just gotta do what a girls’ gotta do. For me, shortly after ringing in the new year, this meant going on a road trip to sunshine California for a few months!

Yes, this is not unusual. Montana breeds a whole lot of snowbirds who fly the coop every winter in their RV’s, heading to warmer climates. But this was the first year that I got to participate in this migration south.

 

It all started when I made a whiney post on Facebook–something about ‘got a guest room available’ question to a friend in Phoenix. A mutual friend saw–understood the unspoken desperation in that plea–and intervened. It took me 3 days to get my affairs here in order, with an eye on the weather forecast and road reports, I loaded my Subaru and didn’t look back!

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My view for the next 3 hours

True to my self who distains all things having to do with Interstate highway travels, I choose my Montana exit down Highway 93 South through the Bitterroot Valley, turning east to drive over Chief Joseph Pass and through the Big Hole Valley.

All roads were snow packed and icy, but I knew traffic would be extremely light. Slow and steady has never failed me on any road trip as I avoid the big rigs and speeding car traffic typical of Interstates. The negative (or not!) side to this is the lack of cell phone service for much of the drive. And if a person did get into trouble, it might be awhile before someone came along to help. I keep a wonderful stash of winter travel emergency gear in my car though, so I felt safe and prepared for anything.

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Long and lonely highways

After gassing up in Dillon, I soon was up to 6870′ above sea level as I drove over Monida Pass, leaving Montana behind.  Look at that beckoning blue sky promising me warmer days!  Anticipation fueled my desire to put as much distance as possible behind me–get going while the getting’s good–I made it to Ogden Utah for my first night away from home.

Less snow–more traffic–and not willing to face the dreadful Salt Lake City two-hour- passing-through heavy traffic while winding down at the end of the day, I took the exit to my favorite motel chain, Holiday Inn Express. Always safe, quiet, and with a touch of luxury in their bedding, I laid my road weary self down for the night.

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Lunch from my cooler stop near St George Utah

Day Two was long and tedious. There were a lot of low-hanging clouds (fog) often on the roadway. You just move forward and pray that no one has stopped on the road in front of you. Delayed by hours due to this frequent slower speeds, found me rejoicing when I finally reached the downhill grade from the Rocky Mountains into balmy St George Utah, where it was shirt-sleeve weather, perfectly dry roads, and a welcomed opportunity for an off-the-beaten-path sightseeing adventure!

Bipassing that tempting first sight of Arizona, the little triangle of the sunshine state  directly south of St George, I headed west on a secondary highway meandering through the Shivwits Indian Reservation in Utah.  Old homesteads, cactus, and antique fence lines were a welcome relief from the truck stops and Interstate commerce.

Less than two hours later, I was back on I15 to the glitz, hustle, and bustle of Las Vegas where I caught my second night on the road in another Holiday Inn.  Not the best plan when there are so many great deals to be found at the big casino’s for luxury rooms at Holiday Inn Express prices. Next time!

Wide awake by 4:30 am, I was back on the road within the hour, eager as a seagull diving for a fallen French fry, to arrive at my California destination of La Quinta. Deserted desert roadways ribboned their way across Nevada, crossing many ‘washes’ and railroad tracks. The 65 mph speed limits were hard to deal with and I may have pushed my luck a few times, but without thankfully without consequence.

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Snow Capped Mountains frame the Coachella Valley

I would have liked to stop to take photos along the way, but there is no shoulder on the narrow roads, and the pull-offs are rare and difficult to spot before hand. So I drove in this monotony for hours as I listened to an audio book for company.

CA transportation department, if you are listening, please raise the speed limits on this isolated highways to prevent travelers from the temptation to speed through.

By 11 am, I was in the driveway of my beautiful hacienda, hurriedly unpacking my car and settling into the gift of my temporary California home. This is the life. Someone’s got to live it. It might as well be me.

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