Middle of Nowhere, Montana - My Family Travels
Montana. The very name sent images of vast, rolling plains and deserted ghost towns running through my mind. Why would anyone in their right mind choose to spend a week of precious summer vacation there? The only feasible explanation I could deduce and, of course, the excuse my mother gave me was to see family. More specifically, the reason for my intended stay in Hell was to attend the wedding of my cousin Charles, one of the many in the vast Eaton brood.

Of course I went on the trip (I had no choice), but I had very low expectations. These were quickly met. On the cross-Wyoming journey, the traveling group of my mother, my aunt, my dog, and myself soon discovered an utter lack of hotel vacancies and was forced to spend its first exhilarating night in a Super 8 parking lot. Unfortunately, another discovery was soon made: Buffalo, Wyoming has no all-night public restrooms. So on we drove. By 8 a.m. we had arrived at our first destination point–Billings, Montana. From then on, the trip was a blur of visiting various family members, long stretches of open highway, and a multitude of lunch breaks taken to consume cold-cut sandwiches (a difficult task when one is, like myself, a vegetarian). The trip was turning out to be everything I expected and more–a monotonous week of visits to relatives few of us knew and fewer liked. In fact, the most exciting part of the trip was being kicked out of the house of my extremely conservative uncle for daring to bring our dog inside. Sure, the countryside was gorgeous, but the stifling heat inside the car made it difficult to concentrate on anything. The tossing of the symbolic bridal bouquet at the end of the wedding was a relief.

However, driving home at the end of the torturous journey, I came to realize what a learning experience the whole ordeal had been. Aside from the firsthand experiences I would not have otherwise enjoyed, such as passing a truck while rounding a downhill curve in a heavily-loaded minivan, I also gained a great deal of knowledge about my family. The little day-to-day annoyances I experience at home are nothing compared to spending a week trapped in a car with crazy relatives who go on and on about how I only had half a brownie with lunch and am going to die from malnutrition. Things have been put into perspective, and I now appreciate the quirks of my mother, aunt, and dog. After all, had we not stuck together through the entire sordid affair, I might still be stuck at a middle-of-nowhere gas station in Terry, Montana, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for a trucker to vacate the sole bathroom.

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