I’m sure like many of you, we had some big plans this summer to get away. We actually had a pretty great plan for spring break (a trip to Japan) but of course that got cancelled a few weeks shy of our departure date. So, when it looked like this quarantine was not going to magically disappear after two weeks, or by Easter or Memorial Day, I started feeling a little panic stricken at the thought of being stuck at home and indoors for the unforeseeable future. At the end of the day, I needed something brighter to look forward to beyond just avoiding the hospitals and staying Covid 19-free.
Day after day I watched my boys’ eyes glazing over as they stared into their screens. Their electronic school days bled into their after school activities and those generally involved screens, too. I was working like normal (albeit in a mask) and the monotony of my day-to-day routine without a light at the end of the tunnel was really bringing me down. So, a few months ago, we made a plan to go to a random dude ranch in Montana. Our exceedingly patient and fabulous travel agent made the arrangements. We would fly into Big Sky country, a place to which none of us had ever been, and give the boys a healthy dose of nature while giving me a fun diversion to get my mind off of Westside real estate for a few days.
Fast forward to about a week or so before the departure date. Los Angeles’ Covid numbers were spiking, tensions were running high and the airline abruptly altered our flight. My wife is a notoriously nervous flyer under the best of circumstances but getting her on a plane during a pandemic was in and of itself a monumental undertaking. Learning that she would now have to endure a few unexpected stops and have to wait it out in additional airports sent her reeling. So, we took it as a sign that traveling would not be in the cards this summer and cancelled. But because we were so close to our check-in date, we were told we would not just lose our deposit but the entire cost of a week’s stay at the ranch. I don’t want to say how much money that meant but let’s just say it was enough to risk sitting next to my wife on an airplane in a pandemic without the benefit of the bar cart. So, we reached back out to our travel agent (Susanne Hamer at the Travel Store in Brentwood. A saint.) and asked her not only to rebook the ranch but to figure out how to get us there by car, stopping in safe and culturally enriching points of interest along the way.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Vacation, you can pretty much imagine our trip. I invested in a luggage bag on top of my car so the boys could spread out a bit more. We started referring to my eldest as, ‘Rusty,’ the Anthony Michael Hall character from the film. My wife and I harmonized to songs the boys had never heard of prompting them to turn up the volume on their own devices. We made a handful of wrong turns and almost got attacked by an angry, overturned wasp hive somewhere hot in the middle of nowhere.
But then, miraculously, we saw a moose out in the distance, silently drinking water from a stream. We got gas from a station that sold guns from the same counter as Coke and Twinkies. We hiked through the sloshing Virgin River in Zion; risked heat stroke climbing the red rocked hoodoos of Bryce Canyon and the next day witnessed Old Faithful shooting scalding earth water high into the sky. There were wild bison, Bald Eagles, random deer and even a small black bear wandering nearby. And all of this took place even before we made it to Montana!
Once we rolled into the dude ranch, we were pretty tuckered out from the adventures (and drive) of the week prior so it came as a relief to see that this particular ranch gives new meaning to the term “glamping.” Tents with showers and heated floors? Sign me up! There was also no shortage of available activities and every day was busier than the one that came before it. We experienced .22 rifle target practice, fly fishing, jet skiing, horseback riding, ATV touring… even knife and ax throwing for good measure. It felt like we were worlds away from Cheviot Hills. But then the world got much smaller when I heard my name called out during dinner one night, turned around and met a lovely Beverlywood family who recognized me from the neighborhood! I guess we all had the same idea… how to take a much needed mental break from the all encompassing rigors and unrelenting stress of a global pandemic. We made every effort to stay safe while grabbing the chance to witness some of the most beautiful natural scenery our country has to offer. We were nervous to be out of the impenetrable bubble that has been our home but were somewhat relieved at how strict every hotel, rest stop and gas station was regarding masks. Yes, you can buy a gun from the local Stop n’ Sip but not unless you had a mask on first! We ate every meal outdoors and away from other people, even on Montana mornings when the temperature hovered around 35 degrees outside. We found that people in Utah, Wyoming, even Idaho were more frightened of us bringing our germs in from Los Angeles than we were of picking up the virus from them. All this to say: it was a risk to escape town for a few weeks under these current circumstances but it was worth it. We were nervous about the virus and sometimes a little on edge being in the car for 20 hours each direction. But sometimes with risk comes great reward. These are anything but normal times and I think taking care of your mental state is just as important as your physical one. I know I needed a total departure from the norm and to get out of town for a bit. I’m lucky in that we are not in the high-risk category and could come home and quarantine for a few weeks before seeing our elderly loved ones. I’m also lucky that I have a team who could handle the workload for me while I was busy wrangling cattle and having paint ball matches out in the wilderness.
And now that we are back safe and sound, I feel somewhat recharged and refreshed to return to the unchartered territory of Westside real estate. Contracts and listing appointments may not be as gorgeous as big skies and vast open plains but memories of our Montana home-on-the-range will now help motivate me to work hard and return there one day. Possibly by plane but truthfully, I’d pick the car again. Why? Because I’m someone who doesn’t back down from a challenge. Let’s be honest: hiking in 115 degree heat is tough, but a true test of strength is spending 40 hours in the car with your loved ones and still liking each other when you get home. All the ax throwing and brushes with bison don’t compare to the sheer bravery of enduring an extended family road trip. And will this newfound Herculean show of strength translate to my real estate work? Why, yes, I think it will. Thanks to this quick pandemic get-away, I can honestly say: I’ve had a great break and am now ready to work hard once again.