In July, I had the opportunity to go on an epic road trip to the Sip ‘n Dip bar in Great Falls, Montana for my friend, Sarah’s 40thbirthday. The journey took us through Ennis, Montana, which is one of my favorite small towns in Montana. The drive to Ennis from Ogden, Utah is only 4.5 hours away but it took us almost 10 hours to get there, which is a sign of doing the road trip right. The road trip was a caravan of my practical Toyota 4 Runner with Sarah, Jenny, Melissa, and I as passengers, and Jessica’s fabulous 1961 Pink Cadillac with her, Shell, and Kendra as passengers.
We stopped in Malad, Idaho for a bathroom break that also included Burger King Whoopers and all of us wearing crowns. We continued on to Idaho Falls, to check out the very cool waterfall that runs right through the middle of town. Then we made it to the Frosted Top in Ashton, ID for burgers and tator tots from this classic roadside drive-in. Finally, we had to chase one more waterfall and visited Mesa Falls outside of Ashton before heading to Ennis.
The car ride was filled with stories and laughter and lots of songs to sing along with. I brought a party game with question to help get to know your girlfriends, which spurred a lot of conversation. The road trip was definitely bringing us closer together as friends. Plus, since this road trip was for Sarah’s birthday, it was a celebration of life.
We quickly check into our hotel in Ennis, and then everyone hopped into the pink Cadillac to drive down to the two block main street lined with shops and bars. Our first stop was to Willie’s Distillery to sample the local whiskey. Then we headed to the Silver Dollar Bar to refill our drinks. We ended up hanging the whole evening at this bar talking to some motorcycle riders who were also from Ogden, dancing to the music, and eating these incredible breaded mac&cheese wedges they warmed up in a toaster oven. A group of 40+ year old women running the streets of Ennis, in laughter, a bit inebriated, and celebrating life, I’m sure was quite a sight to see.
Then next morning, the morning of July 23rd, we were eating breakfast in the Stockman’s Bar. I check my phone while eating. Facebook memories displays the pictures I took of the Madison River from 4 years earlier. The surprise that my presence in Ennis at the same time 4 years apart took my breath away. My life today is completely different from what I left behind in California.
July 2014, I had barely moved to Oakland from San Francisco that June. My job was changing, and I wasn’t happy with how it was going. I knew my life needed to change, but I wasn’t sure how or what I needed to change. I decided to go to Utah to visit my family and friends, and then go fishing in Montana with my Dad, so I could take a break from the confusion of my life.
My work year prior, I had spent 75% of my time travelling internationally to train other teams on how to use the Event Content Management System. I was constantly tired and stressed. However, as 2014 continued, my manager had moved to another team and the new management of the team didn’t understand what I did. I was given less and less responsibilities. For the first time in my working career, I had time and I was going to use it to go on vacation.
Little did I know that vacation was going to be the start of everything. It was the flutter of the butterfly’s wings that creates a hurricane 6 months later on the other side of the globe. Overall, it was a normal vacation. I had fun hanging out with friends. I went to see one of my favorite bands, TV on the Radio, at Salt Lake Twilight with Melissa. Then my Dad and I went to one of our favorite fishing spots, the Madison River directly below the Hebgen Lake damn. We camped in the National Forest camping ground direct across the street of the river. The mornings and afternoons were spent fly fishing to catch the Madison River’s famous trout.
I love fly fishing. I love the rhythm of the casting. I love being at the river’s edge. I love the sound of the roaring water. I love watching the ecosystem team with life. I’m good at casting, but I’m really not good catching fish. Honestly, I would rather cast than catch. I’d go fishing with my dad for an hour or so and my arms would get tired from casting, so I’d start wandering around taking pictures and thinking about the world around me. I watched a bald eagle that was nested in the trees across the river, dive down and grab I snake. I could see the wiggly body of the snake hanging from the talons of the eagle as it returned to its nest. I listened to wind through the trees. It was so calming.
When the day would get hotter, Dad and I would head out on an adventure. We drove north to Ennis, which was an adorable town with a one block main street with historic buildings filled with tourist shops, bars, a drug store and soda fountain, and a whiskey distillery. Whiskey is and was my preferred fire water, so a stop at Willie’s Distillery was a must. I walked away with a bottle of Big Horn Whiskey to use as a camp sleep aide. The town left its mark. I always wanted to return. But I never would have predicted how that return would be.
The campground did not have cell reception, so it was on these daily outings that I would be able to get phone reception. We were driving down a fur-tree lined road when my colleague Linda called me. Linda and I both worked on the system-side of events, and she is who I worked the most closely with my entire career at SAP. Linda had received the call from our new boss, Frank, that she was being laid off. She would have another month to find a new job within SAP, and receive a severance package. I felt terrible for Linda, but honestly knew that if Linda was being laid off, so was I. I started to think about what I was going to do if I was also laid off when I returned to work the next week. All I could think was, I’m going on a road trip across the US.
Well, the vacation came to an end, and I returned to my apartment in Oakland to go back to the confusion of my life and strong suspicion that I was about to be laid off. First thing that Monday morning, I received the same call from Frank that Linda had received a week earlier. The butterfly batted it’s wings. It was time to make my road trip a reality, which I did in September and traveled across the US until December.
That road trip gave me time to think about my life and what I wanted out it. It also help put into perspective how miserable and lonely I was in California. It wasn’t immediate that I knew I wanted to move back to Ogden, but I was ready to do something new. I finally made the decision in January 2015 to return to Ogden and made the move on the last week of that January.
I know have incredible friends. My life is full of art and creativity. Ogden has so much going on and activities to partake in. I now have much better work-life balance. I work on my art, poetry, and photography as much as I work. I’m not working constantly and being stressed just to afford my apartment in California. I have time to enjoy my life. I’m also no longer lonely.
I have met the most amazing people, and I’m surrounded by some of them that morning as I look at my phone. I tell the ladies about my Facebook memory. It is so different to have been in Ennis before, confused and unsure about what to do with my life, compared to being here with them, celebrating the life I have now.
I like to say the life I was looking for in California, I found when I returned to Ogden. I am completely grateful for the new path my life has taken and I’m so glad these ladies are part of my life. Seeing the Facebook memory from 4 years earlier, made this road trip even more meaningful. When I tell the ladies about my earlier visit to Ennis compared to this trip, they are happy to be part of that moment. But I’m also grateful for that reminder of my first visit to Ennis, which helped me appreciate the new journey I’m on even more.