Field Notes


Driving out of service is the best. until it’s the worst.



“I grabbed a scenic drive book from our shelf as Kirk and I herded the kids into the truck. It was (almost) spring, and after too many months inside, we needed an adventure. We flipped through suggested day trips and decided to head north, blissfully unconcerned when cell service cut out just
past Whitefish.

We knew it would, like it always did, and frankly, we liked it that way. For Generation Xers like Kirk and me, road trip tech blackouts were both otherworldly and nostalgic.
I pocketed my phone and put my feet on the dash. When the kids asked for screen time, I just shrugged. “No service.”
No social media. No movies.

Just the wild outdoors and a steering wheel.
Like our parents did, Kirk and I held hands and scanned for wildlife, periodically declaring how beautiful everything was.

If the kids got antsy, I read Harry Potter out loud.
And when we crossed Lake Koocanusa, Kirk imparted trout facts without any internet searches at all. We were killin’ it old school. We didn’t even check service bars as we pulled off the main drag to a Forest Service road covered in snow.

I mean, come on. We were Montanans. We had a truck, a saw, blankets and snacks, and plenty of off-road GenX confidence. Who needed internet?
Kirk gunned the engine up the road. According to the book, it would eventually lead us to Yaak River country, one of the wildest places in Montana.
But the snow just got deeper.

“Maybe we should turn back,” I said when the tires spun for a second. Before Kirk could agree, the truck slid sideways, straight into a ditch.

“But get real. Even with full reception in my driveway, the internet can sometimes barely do a Google search.”


He revved the engine, but those tires kept spinning. We were stuck. “Crap,” I mumbled. Then I reminded myself that we were GenXers, with a truck, a saw, blankets and snacks—we even had a shovel! So while Kirk dug out our tires and cut branches for traction, I passed out granola bars, tucked the kids into blankets, and got going with my British accents.

We were still killin’ it old school—this was all just part of the adventure.
Except the shoveling didn’t work.
Neither did the branches.

And as the sky broke into a gorgeous sunset, we were still stuck, tires still spinning, still miles from help—and getting cold. With three little kids and just a handful of granola bars left, nostalgia and otherworldliness weren’t doing us any favors now. While Kirk continued hacking at the icy snow, I prayed for help and tried to hide the fear that squeezed my throat when the kids asked if we were going home soon.

In desperation, I unlocked my cell phone.
Two bars. That was something.

But get real. Even with full reception in my driveway, the internet can sometimes barely do a Google search. No way this was anything more than some quixotic charge at a tech windmill, in the middle of a snowy—
But the little blue line moved, indicating the screen was loading. I held my breath. It kept moving. That glorious little internet connection kept inching across my phone screen.

And when a local with snowcat tow answered my call, I almost cried. Thanks to a technological act of God, we’d been saved. Two hours later, we were back on dark roads, cruising home to hot chocolate and high speed internet that worked most of the time. The kids slept in the backseat as Kirk squeezed my hand. Like I did as a kid on those long ago road trips, I leaned against my window, still reeling at how the night had turned out.

I whispered a prayer of thanks for the miracle of modern tech.
Then I stared at the stars, otherworldly in the night sky.
And I clicked my phone off.


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