This post is written by our Sales & Marketing Manager, Jason Wilder
I recently completed an amazing 2500-mile (39 hrs. driving time) cross country trip from Bellows Falls, Vermont to Missoula, Montana with two very special people in my life. One being my lovely girlfriend Karen and the other a close friend, Jenny. You may ask why a cross-country trip? Flashback to August 2016, Jenny is about to join the love of her life in Missoula, as that is where her fiancé Justin Beebe is stationed. He is a Lolo Hotshot crew member, which is an elite wildlife fire-fighter group stationed in Missoula. In a split second everything changes, Justin lost his life on August 13, 2016 while fighting the Strawberry Field fire on the Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Flashforward to April 2017, Jenny decided to move to Missoula to continue pursuing the dreams her and Justin had mapped out. Once Karen and I learned her plans, we immediately offered to accompany her on the cross-country trek.
Day 1: Tearful goodbyes – Bellows Falls, VT to Perry, NY
(6hrs of drive time, 350 miles)
The journey begins by meeting Jenny at Justin’s parents place in Bellows Falls, as that was where she had been living. We arrive to two vehicles (a Subaru Impreza and Toyota Tacoma) packed to the limits. Jenny and Karen settle in the Subaru, and Jenny’s dog, Lily, and I in the Toyota. After saying our goodbyes to everyone, we were off to Perry, NY, also known as Jenny’s hometown. In Perry, we had dinner with Jenny’s parents, and stayed the night with her mom. Needless to say, it was a very emotional day.
Day 2: Just make it past Chicago! – Perry, NY to De Forest, WI
(12hrs of drive time, 727 miles)
We wake up bright and early to Jenny’s mom cooking us a wonderful breakfast, and we hit the road by 8am with several days’ worth of lunches and snacks (Thanks Jenny’s mom!). Other than the one hour traffic delay going through Chicago, the rest of the day went as planned.
Day 3: Please no more Wall Drug billboards! – De Forest, WI to Rapid City, SD
(11hrs of drive time, 765 miles)
We hit the road by 7:30am and most of the morning is stress free until we hit Minnesota. It turns out that Interstate 90, which goes straight across the state, is under a high wind warning with gusts up to 50 mph. High winds are not a tractor trailers best friend, I wouldn’t have been surprised if one or two of them were blown off the highway.
The winds dissipate once we hit South Dakota. For those who have driven this stretch you’ll recall the Wall Drug sponsored billboards. One after another for hundreds of miles! After doing a little research on Google I found out they have over 500 miles of billboards on Interstate 90, stretching from Minnesota to Montana. Wall Drug spends an estimated $400,000 on billboard signs annually.
The highlight of the day was stopping in to check out the Badlands National Park, absolutely breath-taking to see in person.
Day 4: Stuck in Gillette and no it’s not the Stadium – Rapid City, SD to Bozeman, MT
(7hrs of drive time, 459 miles)
We are on the road by 8:30am, but unlike previous days, we are driving through a snowstorm. After about three hours of driving 40 mph through blizzard like winds, the highway is closed and we are forced to exit at Gillette, WY. To our disbelief all other routes are closed as well and we’re forced to spend three hours in town waiting for the roads to open.
Instead of going straight to Missoula we stopped in Bozeman to see a good friend of mine. Leif worked for EIM a few years back, and we decided to stay in town to catch up.
Day 5: A River Runs Through It – Bozeman, MT to Missoula, MT
(3hrs of drive time, 203 miles)
We finally get a late start and hit the road around 11am. After thousands of miles on the road our cross-country journey is complete! The rest of the day is spent unpacking and getting Jenny settled in.
Day 9: Freebird – Missoula, MT to Boston, MA
(5 hr flight!)
After many long days on the road to reflect on what is important to me, I came to the conclusion that life is so precious. I no longer take life for granted and consistently remind myself to not get stressed over the little things in life. As I learned from my dear friend Jenny, life can be turned upside down at a moment’s notice. I find solace and inspiration in the fact someone can experience such a life changing event, yet continue on with their life’s journey.
The Lynyrd Skynyrd song Freebird says “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on now, ’cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see”. Jenny, Justin will never forget you!