When the term was created, people applied "reality check"* to dreams. The challenge was to determine if one is awake or caught up in a dream. Far more importantly, reality checks operate while going about one's daily life. They force one to know if she or he is responsibly dealing with the living, constantly changing world.
One might "dream" of creating a multimillion startup and the reality of markets will soon tell if the plan is working. Or how about dreaming of becoming an Olympic skier while growing up in Bozeman? We know it's possible, Heather McPhie did it after learning to ski at Bridger Bowl.
In athletics, grueling competition provides multiple reality checks on dreams of great success and the fame and fortune that can follow. Most young dreamers recalibrate and adjust their fantasies.
As America's big sort operates, an ever-increasing number of people dream of moving to Montana. Many of the problems and dangers plaguing large metro areas are absent or minimal here. People seek their good life and expect to find it here.
Vastly improved technology permits even those of retirement age to safely live here in comfort. Insulation of homes and clothing is far better. With computer controls the norm, of course vehicles start at sub-zero temperatures. In sum, technology has greatly reduced the Montana's traditional high costs of climate and distance.
More subtly, our valley conveys a sense of civility and goodwill. Visitors intuit and often remark on this quality. It is a big attraction. **
The great majority of adults in our community enjoy a peaceful, wealthy environment. Goodwill is the norm and safety is usually taken for granted. Some of course elect risky behavior such as skiing the backcountry or kayaking the Gallatin in Mid-June. In the later cases, all sensible people wear beepers and flotation vests.
Despite all the modern advantages Montana winters impose reality checks on travelers. While our climate is surely changing, it's only prudent to expect snow or ice covered roads and occasional sub-zero weather nearly half the year. Neither raw intelligence nor formal education will assure safety. Only experience, appropriate gear, and good counsel provide safety when one slides off some lonely road and sits helplessly stuck in the snow.
A few years ago a neighbor who moved here from the D. C. area very nearly died after running off Enders Road-- only three miles from her home. She was stuck in a snowbank during a blizzard and lacked adequate provisions. She had no "winter survival" bundle of clothing, boots, and sleeping bag. Nor did she have the essentials required for towing out. Some good samaritan is likely to stop while driving a heavy 4 x 4 pickup or SUV.
However intelligent and well educated, people who lack winter experience or good counsel are potential victims of their Montana dreams. We witnessed this on Christmas Day when a friend joined us for brunch. He is extremely smart, educated at Caltech and Chicago, earned a Ph. D. in a physical science, worked in aerospace, and taught at a western university. He has lived in Bozeman for over a decade and drives a few thousand miles per year.
Leaving for his home and a mile from ours, he slid off the road and was badly stuck on the north side of Cottonwood Road. What was he driving? A two-wheel drive compact car with summer tires. Although he carried winter clothing, his one piece of safety equipment was a cell phone. He called me to report his plight.
This story has a very happy ending. Shortly after our friend got stuck and before I arrived, a Gateway man drove by in a Cummings Diesel Dodge dually pickup. Of course it's a 4 x 4 and of course he stopped--and on Christmas afternoon. It's Montana.
We gathered up a tow strap, a shackle to connect the strap to the car's undercarriage, and the PU easily pulled him out of the ditch. Lesson learned.
It may not be as dangerous as skiing the backcountry or kayaking high water but living here and driving in the winter is inherently risky. In addition to a shovel, extra winter clothing and a sleeping bag, please carry the equivalent of beepers and flotation vests when driving.
If you understand winter and have a friend who moved here and does not, consider giving that person a small gift. Here is what I assembled for our friend.
Winter Emergency Bag should include: shovel, towstrap, 10,000 lbs. WL (at least 20 ft long with loops at each end), two shackles for linking to behicles (cresent wrench for shackle bolt), winter high friction gloves, ducktape, and a flashlight. An inexpensive , possibly life saving gift for the New Year. Friends are valuable, rewarding, and hard to replace. Let's make it a New Year's resolution to help protect them.
*A reality check is a method of deducing whether one is in a dream or in real life. It usually involves an observation of some sort of sensory observation, usually visual. Most induced lucid dreams involve a reality check of some sort.
**My "FREE Insight" posted on December 22 asserted: "Peace and goodwill is the optimal social condition" and some modicum of wealth is required for a wholesome life.