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Road Trip

by Justin Dionisio September 29, 2015



Every now and then the want for more creeps in. Some club it into a place where most other reckless thoughts and ideas go, while others have learned just how important it is to bring those aspirations to life. Luckily, I recently managed to fall into that category. It was time to really make something happen. To really take some time to feel alive. To trade out rhythm and balance for the uncertainties of an open road, highway signs, and mile markers that just dare a man to live. That’s when the idea of a road trip came about. To leave town with some people that I love for twelve days and conquer six states along the way. To completely dodge the bullet of routine, just for a while. With the idea of a twelve day road trip through six states freshly circling the rooms of my mind, I thought of the two best guys i know to embark on this with. Brennan Munoz and Dylan Herrington. Adventure enthusiasts just like Myself with the mindset of never ever having enough and always wanting more. No better three amigos to take the South Western U.S. than us three. The first thing we did was put in for our time off work, which was hard enough. This trip was bigger than some excuse to leave town for bit. This trip was more of an investment, and we all knew that. Like buying silver in bulk in hopes of it benefiting your finances one day.  It potentially was a way to grow, to live, learn, travel, feel, and explore the true timbers of our hearts. Individually and as companions. So there it was. Our time off work had been approved and the little money we each had saved for gas was wadded up and tucked away into a lock box. The coolers were full of cheap beer, gatorades, peanut butter sandwiches, and granola bars. The money was there, and we didn't think twice about where it would be when we returned. To be honest i don't think we really cared all that much. The elongating excitement had outgrown that fear. With seven CD's burnt and a full truck packed to the brim, the morning of our departure had finally arrived. Full of doubt and disbelief, we hit the road and set out to kill the want for more, just for a few weeks. To dabble in the wonderments of our country we had only seen in photos.


Day one couldn't have been better. We arrived in Zion Nation park, a place of immaculate beauty. One of those places that leaves you somewhat confused, like how can a place so vibrant and unusual exist amongst a world like this? But it did and we took in every single minute of it. 109 degrees out, we saw it most fit to spend the rest of the fading light in the Virgin River. "At last!!!" we cheered as we ran full speed down to the river bank. We made it. First stop was full of relaxation and anticipation. At one point, sitting in the Virgin River I remember hearing one of my friends say "it’s only day one, can you imagine what the rest of the trip will bring?" little did we know it would be the ride of our lives.



Later that night, after driving down the winding two lane road to the other end of the park, we started looking for the nearest dirt road to set up camp. A young man in a gas station only a few miles outside of the park gates had kindly suggested a National Forest road only a few miles off the main highway. It was there he said we'd find a dirt road along a river where camping is permitted virtually anywhere you could access. Coincidently, that was exactly what we were hoping to hear. Taking his direction, we meandered down a windy road and into Gods red rock country of Utah. Our camp sat underneath large red walls of rock and earth and along side us sat the prettiest wandering mud colored mineral river. A roadtrippers motel 6.  Everything was new, It was all natural, and most importantly it finally felt like a home.



The next morning consisted of hangovers, left overs, and a full day of focus dedicated to driving to our next stop. Through old towns and alongside vast pastures, downing gas station coffee, and feasting on fast food, we put 14 hours behind us like we were running from the law. Having not a clue of what lay ahead, the road seemed endless and we didn't mind. The music was loud and the windows were low. Temperatures were dropping through the night and all we could think about was our next stop, Flathead Lake, Montana. My parents had recently purchased a summer home right on the lake that none of us had seen before. Our excitements were as prevalent as a thick fog over a still lake. We drove through the night and into the early morning. Through Salt Lake City, Idaho Falls, and eventually up into the Big Sky Country of beautiful Montana. Dylan asleep in the camper shell, I was riding shot gun, and Brennan driving. By this time it was almost daylight, we had been driving all through the night and i'll never forget the way i felt looking over that lake at the sun rising through thick smoke from local wildfires. It was a feeling of utter satisfaction and comfort. Like we had finally returned home after a long trip, but the best part was the trip had just begun. We finally pulled into the quaint town of Somers Montana. In the middle of a quiet lake community sat a wide spread home right above the massive Flathead Lake. All three of us slipped into the first bed we could find and drifted off into an eager and harmless sleep. As the hours flew by we all awoke to a beautiful and crisp summer afternoon, once again at a place that felt like nothing short of a home.


The next few days felt like a dream. An endless vacation. Like time felt comfortable enough to just stand still for us. The house was home, fridge was full, and the people of Somers Montana were wonderfully inviting. Three reckless California boys making the best of the cards they were dealt, and in this case we really had the dealer beat. From rodeos to water sports, cliff jumps to cold night swims, Flathead lake Montana was magical. I can remember us never wearing shoes, always eating good food, and even drinking expensive beer. No other way we'd rather have had it.  


It was time to fish! More importantly, it was time to hit the drawing board. We mapped our final route out and set forth on yet another journey to a fishing spot way in the backcountry. We had one final day left in the big sky country, so we all knew it was time to really dive into the heart of the state. Truck was packed and first light came quickly that morning. As if the mile markers were our prey and that white ford pick-up truck the predator, we once again found ourselves chasing the sun hauling ass down yet another daring open road. Gas station breakfast burritos never tasted better to me than they did on that morning. After driving 55 miles down a dirt road with the windows down, dashboard caked with dust and country classics on repeat, we were suddenly parallel with the most beautiful lake that eventually turned into a river which then turned into a stream. Driving, laughing, fighting, and sleeping, the time spent behind the wheel never felt too long. The hours spent searching were never too hard or too much. We were once again on a dirt road heading from nothing to everything, nowhere to something. Our destination had arrived. Eager as all hell we gathered our rods, pulled out the beer, trail food, bear spray, fly boxes, and waiters. After shoving everything we needed into our packs, we set out on foot down a winding river. With local wildfires only a few miles away we were all on high alert, but that was all part of the experience. We picked a nice bend in the river where the water piled up nicely forming a deep dark pool. Sure enough after a few lines and tippets hit the water, it was safe to say the fish were biting! Native Cutthroat trout were rising everywhere and the spot we had aimlessly picked made for a perfect mid afternoon dry fly bite that lasted every bit of three hours. The stringer was full of beautiful Native Trout and all was well.  Not normally did we keep what we caught but in this particular situation, life on the road called for food on the go. The what seemed to be endless supply of cutthroats provided just that.


After a day of stream fishing and more bridge jumps into cold and shallow summer waters, the mood slowly transitioned on us. We were exhausted, wet, and dreading the two hour drive back on a dirt road. We knew this was it for Montana and I could tell the temperature of our hearts had drastically dropped. I took the wheel and started the drive. With the windows down and Alan Jackson turned up just right, Brennan and Dylan fell fast asleep. Suddenly it was just myself and that old dirt road, as if we were old friends finally getting the chance to catch up. After a few violent bumps and maybe some fish tailing here and there, the guys couldn't have awoken at a better time. Still so far back in the country, off to our right Brennan had spotted a team of horses grazing in a fenceless pasture below. Of course to our surprise there was a perfect road carved out just wide enough for my truck to fit. Without even thinking twice I quickly turned around and headed their way. "Wild horses" I whispered to whoever was listening, " WILD HORSES!" I then said a lot louder. At the bottom of the road was a giant meadow where the lake had once been. There were about twenty beautiful full sized horses so carelessly existing.


I was so jealous! We quietly crawled out of the truck, grabbed our cameras, and shoved every lens we had down every blue jean pocket we could find. The horses didn't move, they didn't run, and they didn't spook. Some of them even curiously trotted towards us. For some reason we really didn't talk much to each other. Each of us found a group and spent the last two fading hours of golden daylight walking and running with these wild creatures. It was a feeling I think i'll never get back.To be able to top a moment like that must be a mere pipe dream. Wild horses. Montana. The golden hour. Each of us felt ten feet tall. With an amazing day under my belt of great fishing and even better company, the world seemed to stopped spinning. It was there where the the weight of everything fell violently on top of me. The beauty of the whole situation clubbed my knees and sent me straight to the floor. All the thoughts, wonders, and concerns of where I was headed next instantly vanished. I was completely grateful with the way things felt. I realized that damn, this is right where I am supposed to be. I had no concerns for anything. It was a feeling that inspired me to do whatever it would take or work however long i would have to, just to get back to those horses in that field. Just to shake the hand of that found freedom, once again.



So the damage had already been done. We were so at peace with everything. I was so at peace with everything. Anxieties, fears, reckless aspirations, and aimless concerns. They were all gone. For so long my heart had desired nothing more than that of which I experienced in the field. It was almost as if there was a film crew right behind me and all of this was just a series of props and set-ups for the enjoyment of others. It wasn't. It all happened for us three guys. I am sure they took their share from it, just as i did. Probably leaving much more than they came with. For once the load that was atop us seemed ever so bearable. For once, i was actually excited to return home to work. To return back to my hometown just so i can start the anticipation of being back there with those horses. They carried me home, and i believe they are still carrying me as i unwillingly re-introduce myself day after day to the lifeless face of routine. The next three days were just as good, just as exciting, but they were the road home.


Three more full days in three more beautiful states. Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The weather was perfect and the roads were easy. Home was on the horizon. By this time the money was all spent, we were damn near out of leftover trout, and our block ice was all melted. The beer was all drank and our skin was caked with dirt. Fishing licenses were expired and it was apparent that maybe it was time we packed up and headed home. Down through oregon and into California we went. By this time the music was memorized and we sang it like a choir. seven CD's on repeat for 3,000 miles never sounded better than that drive home. The energy was high enough, but the excitements just weren't there like they were before. You could tell these three boys were ready to see home again. That was that. 3,000 miles. Twelve days on an unfamiliar road into places we've never seen before. A trip that will never be forgotten. A short story of growth, self realization, beauty, and brotherhood that i will always be eager to tell. Not until the end i think we all finally understood why we went, why we saw, and why we conquered. It would be foolish to write for another man, but for me i saw that only in beauty, passion, inspiration, and conviction can a person really find the abilities to forgive, to forget, to grow, to live, to overcome, and to embrace. This time, this trip, there was no pain. There was no heartbreak nor was there any sorrows. Just an adventurous wind on three swollen faces, clean air in tired lungs, and Gods country in six sagging eyes. Our hearts were never weary, the talk was never dull, and never once did we feel alone, on that winding and daring open road to home

Justin Dionisio
Justin Dionisio

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