16-26 June 2016 – Jeff’s Pre-Launch Adventure

Following several hectic months of downsizing, preparing our house for the market, and preparing our trailer for full-time travel, I was looking forward to a relaxing and enjoyable week of fly fishing in Montana while Anna and Owen stayed with her family Colorado. So, while Anna, Owen, and Dash motored towards Colorado with her Dad, I departed Everett, Washington with the trailer on a leisurely trip towards Fort Smith, Montana for a week of fishing on the Bighorn River with Sweetwater Travel’s Flying Fishing Guide School.

It took me a while to get out of town as I wrapped up loose ends such as getting the truck and trailer weighed and finally getting the Verizon Jetpack and associated data plan. By 4pm on Thursday, the 16th of June, I finally started west on I-90.

 

The trip west was uneventful. I spent the first night in a Wal-Mart parking lot just outside Spokane, Washington after fruitlessly searching for a campsite in a nearby State Park. That was my first night parking-lot surfing and it didn’t feel like a very auspicious beginning to the Big Big Trip, but then again it was really just a pseudo-beginning as the real beginning would be a few weeks away when we departed Colorado as a family.

 

Fishing the Bighorn River with Sweetwater Fly Fishing Guide School

Fishing the Bighorn

I wanted to spend my second night on the road in Livingston, MT so that I could explore the area, and after being waylaid in Wallace, Idaho by an awesome burrito and a tasty brew, I finally arrived in Livingston a little after 7pm. Too road-weary to explore that night, I made up for it the next morning before driving the 200-odd miles to Fort Smith, Montana. I arrived at the Cottonwood Campground just outside of “downtown” Fort Smith and got the trailer parked and set-up for my week of Man-Camp as Anna had taken to calling it. Cottonwood Campground caters to anglers and Sweetwater uses it as a base for several of its Guide School classes.

 

I spent the next five days floating and fishing the Bighorn River with a wonderful group of instructors and fellow students, while learning the ins and outs of being a safe and successful fly fishing guide and increasing my overall fly fishing ability. I’m not sure if being a professional guide is something I want to pursue down the road, but it’s nice to have that skillset and experience in my toolbag. After class let out on Saturday morning I said my goodbyes to my classmates and instructors, packed up, and started my trek south to meet the family in the Vail Valley. [Look for a more detailed accounting of my week at Sweetwater to post in the near future]

Floating the Bighorn

Floating the Bighorn

 

Erosion control on the Bighorn River

Erosion control on the Bighorn River

 

Being exhausted from the week, I broke the trip south into two days, moochdocking at Anna’s brother Nick’s house in Loveland, Colorado on Saturday night. On Sunday morning Nick gave me a tour of the small brewery he owns and operates in Loveland. I hadn’t been there in almost four years. The last time I visited was his opening week in 2012 when we were moving across country from DC to Washington. Anna and Owen spent almost two months in Colorado while I attended various Navy Schools, flying in-and-out of Denver, before resuming our trek to Washington. Curiously enough, during that trip we also moochdocked at Nick’s, but that time was in the brewery’s loading dock in our old trailer. Nick’s wife Kari is a generous and patient woman for putting up with us that summer.

 

Airport Pickup Airstream Style

Airport Pickup Airstream Style

After the brewery tour and breakfast, while Nick and his family headed west, I headed to the airport with the rig to pick up other family members that were flying in that morning. A lot of sweating and planning went into my decision to pull the Airstream through the Denver Airport. The nightmare scenarios I envisioned never materialized and it turned out to be no-biggie. Bada-boom, bada-bing…after a few curious looks from other travelers and sideways glances from security, I picked up Anna’s sister and her family and off we went…[Pro-Tip: For those planning on driving 50+ feet of RV through DIA, I recommend using the upper-most level (international departures, I think?) due to height issues.]

 

The final remaining challenge was to negotiate a narrow and winding driveway and park the rig at Anna’s parents’ home. Of course, this had to be done under the critical eyes of many of Anna’s well-lubricated and wise-ass helpful family. I had a lot of doubts about being able to get the trailer up the driveway due to a variety of tight turns and landscape obstacles, but being a master backer-upper with help from my Big Big Trip partner, we got it parked and were soon ensconced in the warm embrace of beer family.

 

Over the next 10-days, in between family events, hikes, and a fishing trip with Anna’s uncle Larry, we wrapped up the final closing on our house and I made the final preparations for our official launch on the 5th.

Nice Brown Trout from the Colorado River

Nice Brown Trout from the Colorado River

Colorado Hiking with Owen

Colorado Hiking with Owen

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