Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Editor’s Voice

:: WRITTEN BY LEIGH RIPLEY ::

When I was growing up, winter fun was more like boot camp than days of leisure and play.  

My stepdad (really just a dad, as he has been there for my sister and me since we were little) worked incredibly hard; and when he wasn’t working, he played just as hard. 

A trip to Disney meant waking before sunrise to be the first person in line at the gate…and walking till our feet were swollen and we were the last people to leave the park.  

Ski trips were more of the same…we must get first and last chair! And we didn’t just ski on spring break trips…we were enrolled in ski lessons to really maximize the experience and our time on the hill. Weather never mattered, my sister and I skied in below-zero temperatures, blinding snow, sleet, hail and rain. We also pushed through a fair amount of rain most beach trips we took. 

I thought I’d do it differently with my kids…and that’s what I was planning to tell you about when I sat down to write this piece…but now that I look back, I realize I have become my parents. 

So while winter in Montana is crazy amazing and a major tourism stop for outdoor enthusiasts, those of us who live here occasionally like to get away and soak in some sun. About four years ago we took our kids (ages 6, 8 and 11 at the time) to California for Spring Break. We went with my parents and stayed in a condo on the beach in Carlsbad, centrally located between Disney Land, the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. I should have seen the writing on the wall when plans began developing almost a year before the big vacation. Alas, it was just another winter vacation with my parents, and it went something like this… 

Day one: A solid day of flying and driving, only to land in subpar weather with more subpar weather in the forecast. Hitting the beach anyway with my three Montana babies playing in freezing ocean waves, which they likened to the temperature of the water at Flathead Lake in June, so it was OK. A late dinner out and off to bed because we had an early morning planned. 

We woke at dawn to my dad singing his go-to vacation song: “It’s time to get up, time to get up, time to get up in the morning.” Followed by frantic preparations for the day and breakfast on the go for the hour-long car ride to Disney. Of course we were there before the gates opened. Of course we bought the Fast Pass so we could do all the things before the day ended, which we did. And of course we were the last people to leave the park. 

The next day was a planned lazy day, which consisted of exploring Carlsbad and it’s parks, sights, landmarks and markets on foot. After a full day, we made the best of more freezing, overcast beach time and another late dinner. 

Day four would be Sea World…in the pouring rain. The 6-year-old puked all over herself in the parking lot so we did make an unplanned detour to the gift shop to outfit her in vomit-free clothing for the day. In true form, we ignored the weather and stayed all day…and did all the things…in the rain. 

The next day would be the San Diego Zoo. We arrived before the gates opened, studied the map and bounded into the captive wild beyond. We walked all four miles of the zoo and an extra mile or two to double take some of our favorite sights. All the while my dad complained about his foot, “There’s something in my shoe.” Did we stop to investigate whether there was in fact a foreign object in the shoe? Of course not. We just kept going…until the gates closed behind us at the end of the day. 

Once in the car, my dad finally took his shoe off, only to discover a men’s comb had been lodged in the insole all day. Amazing. Who does that? We do that. We ski, surf and tour in the rain. We push through carsickness and combs in our shoes. We get there early and leave late, because as my dad has always said, “You snooze you lose!” 

Wishing you and your family long, busy, exhausting winter fun Southwest Montana this year!