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My first solo trip.

My first solo trip.

First published April 20, 2012

 The three years later account of my solo journey to Montana.
Almost three years ago I traveled to Missoula Montana for a photography class. The class was a week long, so I was away from my baby for a week. I was scared to go alone and dreaded the trip. I am not exactly someone who joins the group and talks to people allot. Unless I have many alcoholic beverages. So, I was off on an early Monday morning. I sat in the Airport and cried. This was the first time I had done anything without Brian, Alex, My mom or sister with me. I hated it.
I'm a bad flier, have we already covered this fact? Not only am I terrified of Flying but, I get super sick. So, I shelled out my $75 for a Doctor's visit, then another $30 (at that time) for 3 Transderm patches. On top of that, I took about 5 Dramamine. So, I was rather confident in my choices. This would be a flawless flight. We headed to Denver. Oh, wait there is a severe storm that we have to fly above, but there will be turbulence?  I was in a tizzy with my I'm going to barf face buried in a bag until we started to land. The older gentlemen in a suit who was an important businessman shook my shoulder and said "I fly almost weekly, and I have never seen a plane coming at us like that, It's close," Dude? I did the whole, Whaaa? Whaaa? Are you kidding?" speech to nobody in particular. I watched, and he clutched my arm. We were landing, and this plan was practically landing right next to us. Stop what you are doing now. Look to your right, see that thing closest to you? That is pretty much how close that plane was to us. We landed, I made my way to the smoking lounge in the Airport and had a drink and lots of nicotine. I was pretty nauseous, and both of those decisions were a disaster. I figured that was the worst part of the trip. I would be okay from here on out.
I DO NOT DO SMALL PLANES. I'm scared of regular planes, but a plane where there is only one seat on each side of the isle...nope. No thank you. I will camp out in Denver until My connecting flight in 5 days. That was the plan. But, I found my way on the plane and freaking out. I told the guy across the aisle from me that I am going to die in this thing. Maybe not from the fiery crash into the dark, jagged Rocky Mountains, but probably from a heart attack. I prayed...many times over, and we were off. I sobbed, and yet again I wore my best I'm going to barf in this tiny plane and start a chain reaction face. Finally after the longest hour and a half? Two hours? Three hours? We landed. It was dark. My first trip to the North West would start with me in the dark for the next 12 hours. I made my way to the hotel by Taxi, and can I also state that the Missoula Airport is tiny just likes its freakish planes. Cute, and clean and beautiful but, so small. Anyway, got to the hotel, inspected my room. I was in love. It was huge, the HUGE TV was right next to the bed, and I figured out the first night that I could shower, and see the TV. So, I spent over an hour that first night in the shower watching the 30 Rock DVD's I brought with me. 
That morning I woke up, took another super long shower while watching TV, made my way down to the best hotel breakfast ever.  Then I walked outside. It was hot but, not humid. Wow, there is a difference. It was like 85 degrees, and I didn't hate it. I did a full 360. Holy shit, mountains everywhere. I can look anywhere and see mountains. I was in love, yet again. It was so beautiful. I walked the 5 or so blocks to class and settled in. I took excellent notes and spent the first day just listening. It was all fascinating, but honestly, I knew most of this stuff and my eyes glazed over. It was a good refresher though. Our teacher was a very accomplished photographer who does a lot of work with famous people. That first day I didn't say a lot. We had to introduce ourselves and naturally I nearly diarrhea-ed my pants. (My wedding speech during my sisters wedding anyone?) I have a HUGE monster fear of public speaking. I can not do it. Even if it's "Hi, my name is Nikki, and I am from Nebraska" That is enough to make me pass out.
That night, I walked over to DQ for dinner and settled in my room for the evening. It was pretty good stuff.
The next day, I did the same morning routine. Up, Shower, Food, Walk to Class. This time, a lot of the students decided we should all eat together. That's when I finally spoke. I was seated by Jim, Dale, Dr. Grant, and Kaye. They were all nice and very much like me.  After class, they decided our newly formed group should hit the town. I was slightly nervous because isn't this how most murders start? But, others in the class knew we were all doing this so, at least they would know I was with them when I disappeared. Logical right? Plus, Kaye was there, and she was the sweetest lady, so she could protect me, probably? Oh well, It was three years ago, and I survived so that's that. We all met at my hotel and were off. I was dying to see the town. I was not disappointed! It was beautiful.
We went down to the Clark Fork River, and I got my first look at real cowboys. They were everywhere. They took me to an old theater that was incredible right along the river, We walked across the bridge and took a ton of photos and watched the people who were in canoes going downstream. We had a lovely time. Thanks to Kaye and Jim for taking lots of pictures of me, for me. I was the only one who had never been there, so it was all new to me. After we had walked around the downtown area, Jim told us about this great Bar called the Rhinoceros bar. He had promised his girlfriend he would get her a shirt, so we walked down and had some drinks. It was a cool place. We had a drink, Jim bought me a great koozie, "Rhino Bar, Charge in and get your Horn Wet" (Clever fun stuff I appreciate) and we decided we better head back to our hotels.
The next day in class we finally got to take photos. We divided into small groups, and I met Rachel. She was from Missouri, so she wasn't that far from me and we hit it off. She took some of the most beautiful photos of me, and I still get a chance to chat with her from time to time. Her photography is knocked your panties off amazing! 
The next few days and nights were filled with all day classes and super delicious dinners.
The last night we all decided to partake in the nightlife. We went off to the Montana club that boasted the best hamburgers in the world.
I was introduced to Moose Drool. I fell in love, and if you read my blog you know, I am still in love. 
We had a great time though; we happily took our beer from bar to bar. I was told this was perfectly legal. The cop who stopped us and said it was no longer legal. I thought I was going to get a fine, but we convinced him we were not from town and didn't know they had updated the rules.
I think I dragged myself into the hotel around 4 am. The flight was at 6, so I had to pack and drag myself to the airport. Again, tiny planes...but I was still pretty loose from the night before so, I did better. I slept on both flights. I was so sad to leave such great people and such a fun city. It was so foggy the morning of the flight that I had to wait for a while. No worries, I needed to rest for a bit. Sadly, this airport didn't have a coffee shop. 
I watched the sun come up over the mountains and was off. My first journey alone and I survived. I was thrilled to come home, but can not wait until I get back up to Missoula. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been. 

Saying goodbye to our boys in Royal Blue

Saying goodbye to our boys in Royal Blue

Ralph Nader lacks people skills.

Ralph Nader lacks people skills.