We drive south along the lake, rain showers pattering on the roof of the truck now and then. The morning sun finally breaks through the clouds as we pass Wild Horse Island, Big Arm, Chief Cliff . . . and as Flathead Lake ends, Polson. It’s our breakfast stop on this ten-hour journey back to the city. We’re traveling light since we’ll be bringing a load back. We’re saying goodbye to our beautiful winter home, simplifying our life. All beginnings and endings are hard, even good ones. We forget that.
After breakfast and another hour, it’s my turn to drive as we head into the deep woods at Lolo and the curvy roads along the rivers. The sun is bright through the forests, casting long shadows onto the highway. New green covers every hill like velvet. The rivers rush and sparkle. I nearly have the road to myself for the first half hour. I’m zipping along, except for braking when the speed signs indicate extra sharp curves ahead and a lower speed . . . or a pile of rocks at the side of the road warns of a spring rockslide recently cleared. There are quite a few of both. My guy dozes. He’s worked hard for weeks to finish up the spring mowing and wood splitting before our trip.
Way up ahead I see a WinCo Foods semi and all I can think is “How am I going to pass him?” But I don’t catch up with him for awhile. He must be going the speed limit. Besides this trip, we have a challenging two weeks ahead of us. I’m running all that must be done through my mind. Organizing. Planning. Dreading. Getting into my driving groove with my new glasses. Fussing about the truck now just ahead. A hundred-mile stretch of sharp curves doesn’t offer many clear passing spots and you have to be ready to take them when they come.
But a half hour later, a comfortable distance between us, I’m actually thinking, “Thank you, Lord” when I realize my shoulders have dropped and I’m humming along with Amy Grant. I don’t have to be hypervigilant about braking and checking my speed for all the pesky curves. He’s moving along at the speed limit and if he taps his brakes for a curve or rockslide, I simply tap mine when I get to the same spot and coast on around. I have my own personal Pilot Car ahead of me—like our last trip to the cabin when our son had driven ahead of us, with a truck full of boxes, setting the pace. He used to drive big rigs too, double fuel tanks on winter roads . . . and has pointed out a few times that those signs on curves for slower speeds are not Speed Limits, but rather the suggested speed. Got it. I check my sleeping passenger and reach for my Peach Snapple. All is well.
We make it through the woods in great time, I-drive-these-roads-twice-a-week time, with the bonus of no nervous stomach. Now, if my kids happen to hear about this, I will take some ribbing. They would never stay behind a semi for 80-some miles, no matter how curvy the road or how many trailers it was pulling. But they won’t be entirely surprised that I did. But that’s okay, it’s part of my job . . . providing entertainment for my kids and grandkids . . . my idiosyncrasies the foil for their coolness. I’m just happy to help. In all fairness, I have had a trucker roll down his window and motion me, with a vigorous arm circling, around him on a long open curve after I’d followed him for an hour. But that was a few years ago.
Nevertheless, to the gentleman in the shiny burgundy truck, driving a WinCo Foods big rig along the river route on Highway 12 from Lolo, MT to Kamiah, ID last Tuesday . . . “Thank you. You were an angel unaware. Happy Trails!”