On the Way to the Avalanche….

by | Jun 28, 2014 | Stories

Our day trip to Glacier National Park is somewhat dampened by clouds and periodic sprinkles. Not to fret.  We’re prepared with long pants, rain jackets, and a small soft sided cooler “survival kit.”  This is a long day, so you might not want to continue reading.  Fair warning provided.

We entered the Glacier National Park (GNP) on the East side by St. Mary and went as far as we could until the road was closed for repairs.  Showing Kayla the Great Northern Railroad (Amtrak stop) Lodge was a must.  Even as an adult, I’m still awed by its beauty and the gigantic logs in the lobby of the Hotel.

We came back out and around to the GNP West Entrance which is our favorite part of the park.  The Going to Sun Highway all the way up to Logan Pass is gorgeous.  They had snow again last week and this road has not yet even completely opened for the season.  We’ll see how far we can go and how much we’ll see.

Lake McDonald Lodge is not far from the West Glacier Park entrance.  It’s also one of our favorite spots. We’ll catch it on our way back down after we go up the mountain as far as we can.  It would be fun to see and show Kayla a real avalanche that has the road closed.

“Uh Oh” Scott mumbles looking feverishly at our car dashboard.  “What?  What?  What is the matter Scott?”  “Mum, the battery picture on the dash flickered red and this is not good” he proclaimed.  “Turn around.  Flip around right away and go back to Lake McDonald Lodge. We’re not that far from the Lodge and we can’t take a chance.  We’ll figure this out” I say somewhat excitedly.

Scott responds, “I don’t have any tools in the car with us.  They’re all in the motorhome  We might have a loose battery cable.”  I’m hoping that’s all it is because I’m not shy about asking for help. As we are pulling up the driveway of McDonald Lodge, I asked Scott to stop so I could ask 2 guys walking along the side of the road for help.  “Are you going to your car and do you have any tools?  We think we’re having some sort of problem going on with our car” I explained.  Insert thinking cloud here, “I hope they didn’t think we were some sort of scam trying to rob them or something.”  They didn’t have any tools.  🙁

We made it to exactly the front door entrance of the Lake McDonald Lodge and our car sputtered to a complete stop. Thank you God.  It had no hopes of starting again.  The Doorman graciously called a Maintenance man to take a look.  “We’re not going anywhere.  It appears to be the alternator.  We’re going to have to contact our insurance and see what we can get figured out” Scott says as he asks me to pull our insurance identification from the glove compartment.

The National Park Board does not allow any cell phone towers of any sort in the Park we learned.  It doesn’t matter who your phone carrier is.  There’s no service!  How and where are we going to call to get our car towed?  Scott had to borrow the Lodge’s front desk phone for a long time which wasn’t cool.  It was there only front desk phone.  American Family located a tow truck out of Whitefish, MT and it would take him about 1 1/2 hours to get to us.  Does it have room for 4 people?

Kayla and I went shopping in the Lodge gift store.  We can’t leave GNP without a traditional t-shirt or sweatshirt.  Scott stayed by the front door to watch for the tow truck while we went into the lovely dining room.  I ordered him a hamburger to go while I enjoyed a much-needed glass of chardonnay wine. I offered Kayla a teeny weeny sip after our waiter left our table.  “I suppose it’s something I’d have to develop a taste for” she said as she wrinkled her nose.

Nervously and hurriedly, we ate our dinner and asked for our bill so we would be done by the time the tow truck arrived.  Hopefully, SJL would have time to eat the hamburger I ordered for him.  More waiting in the lobby followed our dinner.  There was a huge open fireplace and lots of comfy couches and chairs.  Some people were playing cards and board games.

A rough and tough older looking cowboy type guy with “the” hat and belt buckle sat down at the piano near the fire.  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  Did he tickle those ivories!!  What a treat!  I wished I’d snapped his picture with his long wrinkly fingers running up and down the piano keyboard.

At approximate 1 3/4 hours after the tow truck arrangements were made, a shorter bald, tattooed man walked in the Lodge door as though he was looking for someone.  He wore a ‘sweet’ smelling grungy t-shirt, dirty blue jeans and had greasy black hands with dirty fingernails.  Get the picture?   “Are you Scott Lee? Let’s get your car hooked up and on our way.  Pile in the truck.”  he growls in his gravelly voice.

How were all four adults going to fit into his truck?  I crawled in first next to, you guessed it, “Rocky” was his name.  How fitting is that name!  Kayla had to squeeze in kind of between me and Scott.  I had to be careful that Rocky’s long rod of a stick shift didn’t hit me in the knees or shin.  Kayla and Scott had to shift their weight several times especially when Scott got a cramp in his hip from the precarious awkward way he was positioned next to the passenger door.

Such fun.  Really….like we needed another adventure.  It is funny though.  We look at each other and choke back the giggles.

While we’re bumping along in the tow truck, Scott and I start to discuss where we’re taking the car for repair and where we’ll have to stay for the night.  The original plans were to take us to Columbia Falls about 9 miles west of Kalispell.

As it turns out Rocky drives the tow truck part of the time; but also works at the affiliated auto body and auto repair shop in Kalispel.  He could help us.  That is…..should we?  Scott and I both feel a little vulnerable and reluctant and we’re doing this odd communication between us with mental telepathy and eye & eyebrow movements.  Is he really a mechanic?  Will he know what he’s doing?  Will he take us to the cleaners?  Should we leave our car with this character that we don’t know?   In a way we don’t have a choice.  So……..

Where will we stay?  He can check to see if there’s a room available at the Holiday Inn Express.  He says he will call his wife and have her check for us.  He thinks he can get us a good rate.   ????   O.K. ????  Then it dawns on me.  “Does your wife work for the Holiday Inn Express?  Yup, she does…Well, don’t we have a cozy referral deal going here?  He tows ’em in and she puts ’em up.

Weren’t we lucky?  There was one room with 2 Queen beds left.  Did we want to be on 2nd or 3rd floor?  What??  Get it?  There was only one room left. How funny was that.  And the rate wasn’t that great; but who cares at this point.  It was a nice new hotel.  We had someplace to take a nice hot shower and a place to sleep even if we had to sleep in our clothes and wear them again.  They had toothbrushes but no toothpaste.  We’ll use the mouth wash.  There was a full free delicious hot breakfast with yummy fresh warm Cinnabon rolls.

When we got the call that our car was ready, the Holiday Inn Express shuttle van drove us to Rocky’s shop.  We laughed when they had to get me a step stool to get inside the van.  The step was too high for my short legs.

The bill for a new alternator and timing belt was under $300.00 and we were back on the road by about 10:30 a.m.  How’s that for service?  We’re happy and feeling a bit guilty that we were not exactly trusting.

Back to Havre by about 5:00 p.m. to pack up the motorhome and drive back to Glasgow by about 8:00 p.m. where we’ll spend the night before heading home to Minnesota in the morning.

On the road again.  Hopefully, the rest of the trip back to Minnesota will be uneventful. We enjoyed the ride and hope you got a kick out of some of it, too.

We’re home safely home now.  I’m sure there will be more travels and more stories in the future.  But for now, this is the last page and end of the story for this trip.


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Based out of Champlin, Minnesota. Serving and Welcoming Creativity and Humor 

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