Moving to Montana
As a member of the Air Force, moving is inevitable and happens often. Luckily, I am always up for the adventure of visiting a new place and look forward to moving. My most memorable move so far occurred in 2009, when my wife and I moved from Italy to Montana. Our travels to the new base included a visit with family during Christmas time, an addition to the family, car troubles, and multiple snow storms.
After three years of living in Italy, the time had come for us to leave. We enjoyed our time in Europe, but were open for new adventures. After discussing our options and considering our past experiences in North Dakota, we decided we would like to return to a northern state. As luck would have it, our list of possible bases included Malmstrom. Weeks later, we received orders to Montana. This would be my fourth move in six years but more importantly my new wife’s first move with the military.
As the time for us to leave was coming closer, we tried to rush in as much sightseeing and shopping as possible. My wife left Italy a few weeks before I did, leaving me to finish moving out of our apartment, selling our car, and signing out of the base. Our PCS was just in time for us to be able to stop home in Missouri and enjoy Christmas vacation with family before starting our drive to Montana. The plan was that I would be flying out of Italy and arriving in St. Louis two days before Christmas.
It turned out the weather was not going to cooperate with that plan. The night before I was to leave, the largest snow storm Aviano had seen in years swept through, blanketing the ground with two inches of snow. Now, I was stranded and did not know when I would be able to head home. The next day was mostly spent checking on the flight and enjoying one more famous Italian pizza. After multiple delays, at eleven o’clock in the evening the plane had landed and was ready to leave. Finally, I was on my way. Twenty hours and three plane rides later, I landed in St. Louis on Christmas Eve.
With four young nieces, we were all up early on Christmas to open presents. The presents were all opened, and we were sitting down for breakfast, when I heard a knock on the door. My wife walked in the other room to answer the door and moments later walked back in with my Christmas present, a handsome, nine week old, brindle boxer puppy. It took only a matter of seconds for that puppy to become my new best friend. As it turned out, the breeder was unable to sell the runt of the litter, so she let us take him for free to keep the brothers together.
For the next two weeks, we enjoyed visiting with our friends and family, even going to a Zac Brown concert, but I also had to get my 1995 Isuzu Rodeo running. My Rodeo had been sitting in a field for the last four years and was nowhere near ready to make a fifteen hundred mile road trip to Great Falls. As I started work on my Rodeo, I soon realized that it wasn’t going to be just a simple job of changing the oil and charging the battery. No, I would need to replace the timing belt on the engine. This consists of taking the front timing cover off the engine, which is not a quick job. Another belt tensioner needed to be replaced, which meant another trip to the parts store and another day waiting for the part to come in.
The next day, we had the cars packed as tight as we could get them and were ready to hit the road. Just as I jumped into my Rodeo, I noticed the blower motor for the heater had stopped working. Now this wouldn’t be a problem, except it is now January and I am starting a drive to Montana with two puppies in a cage in the back. We were so ready to get a move on, that I decided that I would be ok for the first drive of the trip. I figured I could reassess the situation once we stopped for the night.
This is where it all really gets interesting. Yet another freak snowstorm had crossed my travel plans. We had been driving for five hours and had only made it to Kansas City. The snow was piling up and it was now rush hour. The traffic was heavy as we crept around the city. We passed trucks laid over in the ditch and multiple cars stuck in the snow, but we kept going. For the next six hours we drove North, never going over fifteen MPH. We were determined to make it to Sioux Falls, where we had hotel reservations for the night.
After a huge relief of making it to the hotel, we pulled into the parking lot and my wife’s car got stuck in the snow. It was past midnight, so we pushed it into a space and let it sit for the night. In the morning we woke to find another foot of snow on the ground. The interstate we were planning to travel was shut down, leaving us stranded at the hotel for the rest of the day. Fortunately, this gave us a chance to push the car out and go straight to a tire shop for a brand new set of winter tires.
As we drove down the highway the next day, the weather started to get nicer. The sun was shining and the snow was melting. We made it all the way into Buffalo, Wyoming for our next stop overnight. On the last day, we drove the final 6 hours of the trip. The drive through Montana had beautiful scenery and made us very excited to get to our new home. When we made it to Great Falls, the sun was shining bright and it warmed up to almost 60 degrees. We could not believe what we had to drive through to find such warm and beautiful weather.
We loved our time in Italy, and miss the travel opportunities of living in Europe, but we are an adventurous couple and were excited for the new experiences waiting for us in Montana. Who knew the actual move to Montana would be such an adventure! We underwent many obstacles during that PCS, car trouble, bad weather, and new puppies, but now we can look back on that time and have a good laugh. We made it to Montana and we love it here.