Travel Tips...I grew up in the east, a short drive from Pittsburgh. We grew up storing a few supplies in our homes for the occasional power outages, but the car? Pah! I never heard of such a thing.
Now you’ve landed at the Billings International Airport. You’ve picked up your rental car and start the drive south. Your mouth is watering from the panoramic view laid out before you as you start down Highway 212 to the Red Lodge Rentals property which will be your home for the next few nights if you’re lucky, the next week or so if you’re even luckier. You see the majestic Beartooth Mountains shooting up into a sky a shade of blue you’ve never seen before and the hour’s long drive whizzes by in no time at all.
Traveling from and around the charming, friendly Red Lodge area in Carbon County each season calls for a different kind of car-packing.
The beauty of Montana is seductive and alluring and can deceive you. Just like those big lumbering bison you’ll see if you keep driving on Highway 212—Red Lodge is the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone Park. Although the bison look as if they couldn’t move any faster than the Model T they outweigh, they can go from a placid zero mph to a blazing and dangerous 30 mph in moments and the weather in Montana can change just fast.
Like the people of Red Lodge you’ll meet when you walk Broadway, the main street of town, who come from diverse backgrounds—the sights and the weather around the area can change with each turn you take.
For each journey from your lovely rental home, make sure you have these goodies with you:
• A map. There’s nothing like a paper map during a road trip so you can mark it up. You can start by putting a big sunny circle around Red Lodge so you know to find your way back to your Vacation home.
• Flashlight. Didn’t your dad always advise you to carry a flashlight? Okay, then this one requires no explanation.
• Gummy Bears. I realize this isn’t a necessity for most travelers, but when I’m in a car, I’m addicted to Gummy Bears or Gummy Savers. So throw some in the car and think of me when you’re happily eating them during a sunny drive throughout the plains and mountains of Big Sky Country.
• A camera. Unless you’ve got a photographic memory, you’ll sure want to point and click so often your trigger finger will need a soak in the hot tub waiting at your home away from home.
• Sunscreen and a hat. Both are mandatory for spring through autumn visits. I’ve got that fair, Celtic skin and burn as easily, although not as lovely, as the Aspen trees turn to yellow in the fall. But unless you’ve got skin that repels UV rays, you’ll realize quickly that sunscreen is important even in the winter. In my ten winters living in Montana, we had one where the sun wasn’t a daily visitor. Walk around a bit outside with an exposed face and you’re sure to get some rosy pink in your cheeks!
If you’re setting off from Red Lodge for a June trek over the incomprehensibly beautiful Beartooth Highway for a viewing of those bison in Yellowstone Park, you’ll want to include the following in your vehicle:
• Several bottles of water. Not so much for the car radiators anymore, but because you’ll need the liquid. The high altitudes can make you more thirsty than usual, so it’s wise to have it on hand to keep your hydration up.
• It’s a good idea to take snacks with you. Just in case you drink the water and your radiator takes a break after all and you need to sit still until the tow truck shows up.
• June in Red Lodge can be cozy warm, but I urge you if you’re taking the Beartooth Pass scenic drive, throw your cool weather gear in the car. When you reach the peak at 10,940 feet, the air is usually crisp and you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for it.
• A camera (yes, I’m mentioning it again)—not only for the breathtaking nature vistas or wildlife you’ll glimpse, but because at the summit there are often remnants of the blasting it takes to open the road each May. You’ll definitely want a shot or two of yourself and your car beside the multi-yard snow bank.
• A notebook. What? Yes; even those of you who don’t consider yourselves word-smiths, will want to take a moment to jot down: “Saw skiers on the headwalls this afternoon. Insane sport—as they speed down a vertical plain!”
One year my cousin came to visit for her first trip west of the Mississippi. The state of Pennsylvania is full of its own lovely forests and stretches of highway with not much on them, but she kept remarking, “Everything is so far! The scenery is gorgeous, but so vast!”
You’ll be continually surprised by every turn you take, driving, walking or hiking, don’t let yourself be surprised by Mother Nature. Be prepared and you’ll enjoy coming home to your Vacation paradise even more.
Rose M. Griffith, Freelance Writer
Freelance Articles ~ Musings From a Redhead