Montana, like I KNOW you’ve never experienced.

Spring is approaching which means so is the time to plan our summer activities and vacation. Yes, that’s right.  I do not have our summer trips planned  because I procrastinate, a total fly by the seat of my pants type B.  I blame this personality trait on the Radon.  I blame everything on the Radon.


 It all began in the summer of 1982.  The Steel Mills were booming and 13 weeks of vacation were the norm.  My dad jumped up and down when he discovered that 13weeks were his for the taking.  My brother and I were on summer break so our parents decided to pack up the 1970 Buick Skylark and embark on a cross-country road trip to…..Montana.

The Skylark blazing a trail of glory in the West

My dad was a man on a mission.  He drove long and hard and much of the scenery was a blur.  I can still recall my mom saying “Oh, kids look at tha…” but there was nothing to look at except squashed bug guts on the window.  Whatever she had attempted to show us was a speeding haze left behind.  

During Dad’s space  travel, I became very thankful to Wall Drug and the dedication to highway advertising that this company maintains.  The “Have you dug Wall Drug?” and other variations of roadside billboards were, if nothing else, predictable.   Even with a Buick space shuttle cruising at the speed of light, one could effectively read these expected signs in advance.

The Buick taking a quick rest while we rested inside this remote cabin

We made it to Montana in a mere four days.  Dad was proud.  Mom was haggard and I’m surprised that none of us developed bladder infections from the lack of pee stops.  Mom laid down the law.  She made it known that on the way home we WERE going to SITE see by getting OUT of the car!  We WERE going to take as long as we required to enjoy this unique trip even if it meant stopping at every statue available….even the ones of cows. 

One of the many cow statues we "milked"

But there was a reason for Dad’s impatience.  We had reservations at “the mine.”  I’m sure it had another name but I only knew this place as the mine.  It was a family operated business located in Bolder, Montana. 

Out of towners, like us, stayed on-site in small apartment style homes for as long as one’s budget could manage. I recall that the place was critically small and seriously deficient in the privacy department.  But most frustrating to my stuck up on a mountain in the middle of nowhere child mind was the TV.  The man in the main home controlled the TV and we had to watch what he watched.  He, like all males, loved to channel surf and we had to ride his satellite wave.   There’s nothing that makes you want to hurl yourself off the mountain peak than getting interested in a movie only to have the channel changed mid-way through. Which is why, to this day, I will dismember anyone who attempts to channel surf in my home…twitch, twitch.

My brother, the Buick and the "abode"

This little abode lacked in just about every department imaginable and I’m surprised that we managed to stay as long as we did without killing each other.  The lack of…everything was overshadowed by hours upon hours of unlimited access to….The Mine.


My mom discovered The Mine in a newspaper article.  The article claimed that after breathing in the mine’s air, individuals with incurable aliments became well.  She was desperate.  I was in horrible pain (thanks Arthritis) and nothing the medical community had to offer was helping.  Looking at these pictures I quickly gathered, I do remember those awful days.  The swelling, the stiffness, and the inability to feel anything except terrible pain.  Desperate times call for desperate action and some special air!  The medicinal property in the air was Radon. Radon was golden. Radon was good. Radon was safe.

My mom, brother and me with the mine staff getting ready to enter the elevator

Radon was deep underground so deep underground my family of four went, like sheep to the slaughter in a rickety shaft elevator to our  mine destination. Here, in the dank darkness we spent 12 plus hours of Radon sucking fun… each. and. every. day. for. weeks!  I just have to comment on the photo above because looking at it now my mind is screaming RUN, I can’t believe we experienced this wonder of the world. Notice the sign about No smoking in the Mine (to the left partially cut off), and the 12 passenger shaft elevator limit but if one began to question or have any inner doubts then  the conveniently placed quote above the elevator reading “Happiness is to be pain-free” erased all fears.  Radon was the proposed ticket to pain-free happiness.   

Out of extreme boredom I took up cards.  I became quite the lil’hustler and could beat anyone (but the Chinese tourists were the most fun) at poker and Rummy 500.

Learning the game in our abode


In the mine...breathing.

Thankfully cards were not the highlight of the trip.  We left the mine behind and toured the beautiful west during the eight days it took us to get back home.  It was a trip to remember and one I hope to do with my family minus the radon exposure, of course.  Out of all the trips I’ve experienced as a kid, this one was by far the best and the most memorable….

Buddy, the psycho horse

Me and the bro OUT of the car with Mt. Rushmore


Me, Mom and Bro with Mt. Rushmore


Dad, bro and the Buick with the Mountains of Montana


We even stopped for Tee Pees


Dad, me and the roadside scene

….Along with Mt. Rushmore, The Battle of Little Big Horn, The bad lands, Trail rides on wild, crazy horses, Grand Canyon (Which they let me SLEEP through but I heard a lot about!!!), and statues of cheese,  I think the public health alert released within the last 15yrs stating that Radon is dangerous to your health and should be avoided along with the recommendation for home Radon testing and subsequent removal somehow added to the memories.

We went underground in Big Sky country to suck Radon.  That ain’t right.


8 responses to “Montana, like I KNOW you’ve never experienced.

  1. What an interesting story! Wow, pretty amazing to think they advertised it for good health. Wow. Your pictures are fun and will take each of us back to that place … that place. I too, have been to Bad Lands, Mt. Rushmore, Grand Canyon many times. Good times … without radon. You’re right … that just ain’t right. Wow.

  2. It was a truly a great trip…most memorable and I do want my kids to experience the radon-free West one day.

  3. Wow, sucking radon… the world is a different place now, no? When I was eight, my parents packed the three of us into our full size van, and we trekked from Pittsburgh to Oregon and back again, camping all the way and following much the same route that you appear to have taken to Montana. Fortunately for us, that was a 6 week round trip journey.

    That vacation was definitely a highlight of my childhood. Also, afterward it seemed I had seen so much more of”the world” than many of my playmates, so I felt oh-so-sophisticated.

    • Would you believe that the radon mine place is STILL there for others to enjoy? It must not be that much of a health hazard or else I would like to think that it would cease to exist!

      Your trip sounds much more relaxing!

  4. But without this trip, you would have nothing to blame…

  5. Fun story…loved the photos! Channel-surfers are the worst!

    I don’t have our summer vacation planned either…there are six of us…travelling together is not something I find fun…sigh…


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