We woke up nice and slow the KOA Charlotte and I went to the office to get coffee and hot chocolates for everyone. After “the dude’s” complimentary coffee at Big Bear motel I didn’t expect it to be $1.75 per 12oz cup but I should have based on what they charged for the cabin. I saw a water bottle that I liked that came with two tops and since the one I brought for myself was a full gallon and unwieldy to drink from while driving I decided I was going to get myself one too. At this point I was about the only kid on this trip that didn’t have a cool water bottle and the price was actually decent. We took a long time to get on the road today. We’ve got a fairly short day today just like 3-4 hours to the badlands so there’s no rush. We’ll probably stay at the Sage Creek campground tonight.
Loralea saw me cutting that sage when we left Madora and decided she wanted to get some too. There was a bush in good proximity when we stopped at a rest stop so I gave her the scissors and a bag. As she was getting out I told her to walk slow, look at the ground, watch and listen for rattlesnakes. I wasn’t joking their had been warnings at about every other place we’d been recently. So now she had to take Charlotte for protection and to watch her back. I love their relationship.
Once they got all the sage they wanted we parked at the front of the building and I took Leo out for a bit. At the very beginning of this trip we all talked about things that we definitely wanted to do and one of the things they wanted to do was to crush the “corn dog part of a cat tail on their hand” because they thought from the looks of it that it would be very gratifying. I totally get that. Well as I’m exercising Leo I saw an opportunity to make that happen. There were some cattails growing just a couple hundred feet down from the parking area. I got the ones that wanted to do it and off we went. Charlotte and George weren’t interested so they stayed in the car (locked in the car with the AC on and a movie playing dooon’t worry, or go calling CPS ).
This one apparently wasn’t as “ready” as we were hoping. Meanwhile my son thinks it’s funny to honk the horn at people. Now mind you I’m in a spot where I can see the Suburban clearly and I’m seeing people walking by, and he’ll duck in behind the steering wheel and honk at them as they get in front of the car scare em, they're getting mad as hell for a second and then realize it’s just a child, then look around disgusted for where this inattentive parent could be. It was so damn funny I let it go on longer than I should have because it was so damn funny to stop.
Their ain't no denying this one, that’s MY boy for sure.
We hit the road again and about 45mins from the badlands Sage Creek Campground and google starts doing some nonsense routing us on dirt roads, inner dialogue since that’s worked out so we’ll for us so far, eye roll. Obviously I’m trepidatious about wash boarded dirt roads and want to maintain that smooth speed. When we turned down the road for the campground there is this van going just the right speed to exacerbate every bump of the washboard. I could not, so I went around. They were going sooo slow! When we got to the campground we all had to pee. It’s a vault toilet. I don’t let the younger two in a vault toilet alone. I have this nightmare yahSee. It makes Carlea sooo mad, George doesn't care, but I tell her either I come in and hold on to you or you can put on your floaty before you go in “but daddy I’m big”. She ain’t. I don’t know how deep those things are but I’ve seen the surface of the nasty be at least ten feet below and that wasn’t the bottom, so they’re deep.
(VAULT TOILEY NIGHTMARE LINK)
It’s a nightmare of mine that I will not allow to be realized so they just gotta deal with dad’s craziness on that one. I'm pretty laid back about most things but not this. I mean as parents we all have at least one thing we are irrationally worried about. For me it’s my smalls falling in vault toilets. Think about it, how wretched would that be? How would you rescue them?
Well when we come out guess who’s setting up at the very last available primitive campsite, the van I passed on the way in. You know what though, as I drove past I saw that it was a woman by herself and I was glad she got it. If we’d been there setting up and saw her I’d have packed up and let her have that site anyway. I’d rather she have this safe site surrounded by not scary camping people rather than going into town and sleeping in her van. There were prairie dogs and buffalo everywhere so Leo would probably been crazy here anyway.
We headed to get some fuel and made it back to be in the badlands for sunset and it was beautiful. The children wanted to take soooo many pictures.
We continue on through the park and out the south side at nearly dark. We pulled into a motel/RV park/campground place, they were closed but a guy walked up and said that they only had tent sites left. I didn’t really feel like setting up the tent and getting out bags and pads but I can if that's the only option. We stayed there while I called places in Wall, SD incase it is the only option. The second place I called said they only had a suite left. It was a two king bed suit and it was really only like $20 more than a single king bed room. The children will love that, and to Wall SD we went. Once in the room the children ran back and forth from one room to another for a bit then all picked their beds and one says “well daddy I guess that leaves you the couch“. It didn’t end up like that but it was funny. Tomorrow we’re going into the badlands National park for Jr. Ranger programs and a bit more exploring.
State Line Photos
We woke exactly when they started the motorcycles. My poor son went from sound asleep to disaster position in an instant. He was balled up covering his ears and trembling. It was actually adorable. I told him everything was ok and it was just the big motorcycles and did he want to see the motorcycles. Of course he did. He peeked out the window and went straight back to sleep. It was about 7 and I knew that was when “the dude” had said they started coffee service so I went to the office to get a coffee and scope out the laundry facility.
“Facility” may have been a bit generous. It’s a washer and a dryer outside the office inside a fenced in area. It’ll work though. I brought over my first of what I thought was 4 loads and poured in half the bag. The machine wasn’t even half full, so I dumped the rest in and tossed in a tide pod, they’re delicious by the way. Now I only have two loads. Even better.
The girls wanted to go swimming and I wanted them to have as much fun as they could.
The dryer took way longer than it should so I just took the damp clothes out and put them on the picnic table that was by the pool. I was able to do the laundry and watch the girls swim. It’s warm here and dry enough that the hot damp laundry actually dried faster out there on the table than it did in the dryer. It was fun doing laundry outside, I may make a habit of it. “The dude” asked me if we could stay the night. He said we we’re great guests and they have a Cowboy singer that comes on Sunday nights and their son lets people ride their (some kind of huge beautiful horse I pretended like I had heard of) around their loop in the parking lot. It truly sounded awesome and I knew Carlea would love it but we had to make some eastward progress. He said ok well the horses are all outback and you're welcome to take the children back there to let them see them.
Uh, ok. Done!
After we left the Big Bear Motel we drove around Cody Wyoming for a while. We saw a mule deer casually walk through a four lane four way intersection packed with traffic, like it was his road. It was a sight nobody aside from us really seemed to be surprised by. We finally settled on "More Burger and Shakes". It was really good. Charlotte was conflicted between a burger or a salad. Well, "More Burger and Shakes" did not disappoint. They had a bacon cheeseburger salad. She was elated.
Sooner than usual in this days trip it became apparent to me that these babies need to run, swim and play. The energy and bickering in the car was too much. Basically they were driving me crazy. So we knock off the driving early and found a KOA Journey in Buffalo, Wyoming with a pool and a playground. They have one cabin still available, a little pricier than I'd prefer but whatever. Side note, don't go googling the trip from Cody to Buffalo and getting all condescending on our millage for this day, we mosey.
For dinner we hade more of the TWO POUNDS of BBQ Loralea had bought on the other side of Yellowstone with pita and hummus and the last of the delicious cherries for desert. This BBQ was a funny story that Loralea is very sensitive to…
See, we stopped at a gas station on the way into Yellowstone and they had a BBQ food truck out front so I sent Loralea and Charlotte to get some barbecue for us to have for dinner. Well sweet girls go over there with daddy's debit card and ordered some barbecue. She wasn't clear on how much we needed when they asked her so, as the story goes the person working asked how many people it needed to feed. To which Loralea replied, five. She didn't specify that it was only one adult four children that eat like birds OR that we would like any sides, you know AN ACTUAL MEAL. Sweet girls came back with something like two solid pounds of pulled pork. No sides, no utensils, no bread, no hushpuppies, no Brunswick stew, no mac and cheese just two pounds of meat wrapped in tinfoil in a grocery bag. Then they handed me a receipt for fittyTwo dollahs. Loralea could tell I was somewhere past surprised and she felt way more sheepish about it than necessary. Of course every time we'd break out the barbecue with another meal I'd say something about how the elder girls must really like it cause we had so much of it, wow they must really love it. They had about enough of that joke by now, well Loralea had actually, Charlotte was just like whatever dad we're kids and you gave us a debit card this is on you. She's not wrong which is why I ain't mad, but it is funny to me. We are all tired of the BBQ at this point though so we finished it off here at the KOA.
A little tv, Gunsmoke. After the Medora Musical, I’ve decided I’m going to start watching westerns more and I'm taking the children with me. For now it puts them strait to sleep.
This day is a wrap.
Today is the day we’re leaving Glacier. It has definitely been an experience. It is undeniably beautiful. We have certainly faced challenges together this week and we have stayed together and gotten through just fine.
Packing up the campsite goes eerily smooth. It seems like we have only about 3/4 as much stuff to pack up here as we did leaving Madora or the Minneapolis KOA. I let the children sleep in as long as I could and did everything else I could without waking them. Eventually though I was down to only they’re sleeping bags and pads that needed to be packed. Once the suburban was all loaded up we all wanted to take one last walk down to the water. To say goodbye or more importantly to show daddy their balance ninja circuit they’d constructed out of logs.
It was incredibly beautiful and calm and peaceful.
We leave the campsite about 9. The plan is to go to the gift shop and let everyone pick out a sticker and then to the ranger station for Carlea and Charlotte to get sworn in as junior rangers.
They all wanted a few more pictures and we loaded up in the car. We’re heading to the badlands next because when we came through 4 years ago on cross country trip we got there at dusk and it was beautiful but we didn’t stay long enough. It was a part I wished we had lingered longer. Well Badlands National Park is 12+ hours away so we’ll break that up and in between only a little more than 6 hours away is my still most favorite national park, Yellowstone. I plan to get a drive through of Yellowstone because I know the children will get to see some more wildlife there and I rationalize it’s “on the way” but really I made it be on the way. The trip from Glacier to Yellowstone is great. I routed us into Yellowstone to come in the top wrap around counter clockwise and leave out the east. We stopped on the way a few times and got some delicious tree ripened “flathead cherries”
We made it to Yellowstone about 6 and I was planning it would take 2-3 hours to ride through depending on traffic.
Yellowstone did not disappoint with the wildlife.
I had routed us the way I did specifically because the one and only thing that I really really want the youngers to get out and see to remember was the Grand Prismatic.
It was drizzling and chilly at Yellowstone but certainly not unbearable. Unfortunately the cool air was helping the steam be so dense it was difficult to see through.
We continued around the park and saw more buffalo and elk then eventually made it to the east entrance.
This made two places I’d not been to before when we were here we hadn’t seen the north entrance or the east entrance. Both are beautiful.
Out the east entrance and the next town we come to we are getting a room for the night.
It took what seemed like forever to get to Cody Wyoming. We first stopped at a place that was $300 a night. It was probably 10pm at this point. I needed like 12-15 hours. I was going to do two loads of laundry in the morning. $300 for a matter of hours? This is not my place but the guy at the desk was very helpful and pulled up the rates locally and we landed at the
Big Bear Motel. This was a cowboy motel that looked like the set of a Tarantino film. Pool, playground and dog friendly this was the place for us. I rang the bell and a guy came out looking like “the dude” sans robe. I apologized for waking him and he was totally cool. “This is what I do maaan this is why we’re here”. Yup, this is the right spot. He gets us a room and I back in beside three motorcycles with pristine Harley-Davidson covers on them. Knowing they’re probably each worth more than this entire suburban and, their riders are probably partial to them, I give them a wide berth in parking. Sturgus is coming up next weekend and we're seeing a bunch of motorcycles around the the area.
Waking the children and putting them in bed I’m not far behind them. Today was another good day.
Up bright and early. Out of the campsite at 7:30 I know the Chevy dealer opens at 8:30 and it’s about 30mins away. Stopping with the parts I needed to replace at every auto parts store I passed. After 5 or so it was clear from the lack of availability and the chincy appearance of the part in the pictures they showed me that I need to be at the dealership. Parts houses wanted about $45-$55 for this hose assembly. Eventually, after somehow dropping nearly $40 at McDonalds for breakfast, we make it to Don K's Chevy dealership in Whitefish Montana. I show the parts guy the piece and tell him some of the story and what seemed like an eternity later it's my "lucky day" they have one in stock, only one.
I ask how much, knowing it doesn't much matter if he tells me this 2 foot rubber hose is $500, I'm buying it anyway. They’ve got me, whatever the price I'm buying. But it was only like $62 dollars. He kindly reminds me not to loose the spring clip from the old hose as the new one does not come with one. I walk out with the new part. Loralea recognizes what’s up and is appropriately elated. The other three are in the middle of some significant strife and Charlotte and I had a brief 1:1 at a nearby picnic table. I think we all understand the situation and we start back towards the Suburban. When we get to the suburban I had the whole scenario planned out in my head, I had grabbed my laptop and inverter from the Suburban last night so the girls were going to be able to put a movie in the laptop they were charging on the way there and watch a movie while I figured out how to fix the suburban. I was going to connect the rubber host spring clip end first so I could be slightly more aggressive with the twisting and pushing and only after I got it in place and its natural curve line it up to the connection that needed to be made I would try to connect the other end. I didn’t want to do it the other way because I didn’t want to stress the plastic fitting on the heater core. That was plan A. I had worked out through about D or E in my mind, instead of sleeping last night. The spring clip end went on just fine and easy and once I removed the old plastic clip from the broken hose the new one literally slid on with the most gratifying but yet suspicious click ever. Could this really be that simple? Adding as much cooling blood back to her as she could initially stomach I thought to myself as I stood there on the bumper looking into the engine compartment, what am I missing. Ok well here goes nothing lets try it. I tried the ignition and click, click, click. DAMN, ok well I had left the hood popped for a long time yesterday and that work light under there probably killed the battery. I jumped it from the rental Subaru and it fired right up. I looked, no leaks, I sat and watched the thermometer and it eventually slowly started to climb and then stopped right were it was supposed to. I was elated inside and cautiously optimistic outside.
Now, how do I get both these cars out of here? A car came and asked if everything was ok, I explained the situation and they told me they were going north not south which I didn’t believe because there’s a fire up there and the border is closed but I can totally understand their reluctance, Oh well. I had texted with Randy Middelton earlier and he was going to be available to help me by driving the rental back if needed. I got the jumper cables put away and closed the hood on the rental and got prepared to ride down to the KOA where the Middeltons are staying. About that time a Toyota with three women came around the same corner the Middelton’s one ton had come around less than 18 hours ago and they stopped and asked if we needed any help. I'd learn latter they were Andrea from MD, Julia from TN, and Margaret from Seattle. I explained the situation and how if I could just borrow an adult to follow me out in the rental and one of them said something like "oh, God sent us. We’re were just heading down to the Polebridge station to see about breakfast but none of us are really that hungry we just felt like a ride all at the same time“ then another said “makes sense now this is exactly the kind of thing we love to do”.
Down the dirt road we went yet again this time feeling better than any of the two times before.
I stopped at the Polebridge Mercantile as that’s where they were headed to get some breakfast. I asked them what they were planning to get and I eventually got one of them to tell me they were very curious to try the cinnamon rolls. I went in and got three. I was really shocked and impressed with the selection of stuff including water bottles in there. As I delivered the cinnamon rolls I asked if they didn’t mind if I took just a second to take my tiny girl in to pick out a water bottle (she has been the only one not to have brought a good one or get a new one on this trip and she’s a little jeally) They said of course and I snatched Carlea up to come in and see if she saw one she likes. I told her if there was a water bottle here she likes we could get it because it would have a good story attached and I’m probably never ever coming back here again.
She picked one out and we were back on the road.
The trip to return n the rental was fairly uneventful. When we got there I talked with and thank the women for their help and they told me about how their travel theory was that “The real adventure starts where your plans end”. Oh this is my kinda people here. We then discussed the journey as the destination and as I write this I realize that this is maybe even a spiritual perspective. Not as far as Carrie Underwood goes in “Jesus take the Wheel” but when you travel without plans and really push your “comfort zone” you are truly putting your trust in your higher power, for me it’s God, and things always work out for me exactly as they are supposed to be.
This experience has clearly shown the children to stay calm, believe there is an intrinsically good nature in mankind, work through problems. Wow, what a lesson to have been obliviously a part of.
We have to get the rental fueled and cleaned to save a $100 service fee.
The rental is shined up and returned, a day early thank you very much. We had it less than 24 hours but Bowman Lake ate two days of our Glacier trip.
I stopped and got a new air filter for the suburban and we washed and vacuumed it. This was some real “Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance” stuff but it needed the pampering.
We got back to the campground, in the Suburban with just the right amount of time to get cleaned up and leave with time to spare to be at our friend Jim and Mary’s for dinner that evening. It was such a comforting feeling to be back in the Suburban and it running mostly fine.
Of course there was already a line for the shower and there was traffic getting out of the park but I expected it now and had left at 4 to make the 45min trip from the park to their house. As we turn out of the park
We stayed in this road construction traffic not moving for 45-55 minutes. All the while with no cell signal to call and let them know what’s up.
When I finally got some cell connection it seemed we be there about 6:40. That’s almost 3 hours to make what should be a 45-minute drive.
I let them know and they were fine with it.
When we got there it was so nice to see a familiar adult that I could talk to. This past 24hours was a story that needed to be told, if for nothing else to get it out of me and behind me.
The children had a delightful time and we had a great dinner.
“The scariest traveling experience I’ve ever had” or
“The day I thought I had finally pushed my luck too far” or
What will forever be know by us as “The story of Carlea’s water bottle”
Thursday started out great. We were all reveling in the success and beauty of yesterday. This park wakes up about 5 everyday. Maybe it’s when they open the entrance or it’s the perfect time to ride the “Going to the Sun Road” for the sunrise, I don’t know but every morning about 5am you hear the thunder of motorcycles coming up the mountain. It’s cool but it really sounds like thunder. Same this morning, I heard it and decided to go lay down in the hammock with a blanket for a while. It was delightful, cool, beautiful and peaceful.
Eventually Loralea woke up and came out there with me and we both fell back asleep.
It was fantastic.
Once the other three woke I made bacon and stuffed French toast. I had some cinnamon Dulce’ coffee creamer plus some strawberry jam and like a half a pack of cream cheese to make the filling.
After breakfast we are going to ride up to Boweman lake.
Boweman lake is said to be remote, pristine, and beautifully scenic. After our logging road experience Tuesday this is exactly what we’re looking for. Once we were done piddling around the campground we struck out for Bowman lake. We made it about what I thought at the time was half way and we had used up at least half our fuel. We left with a 1/2 tank and now we’re just at 1/4 so, I was concerned.
There was a cool old Wildland fire memorial marker. This was interesting because during this time that we were there the “Hay Creek Fire” was also burning in the area and only considered to be twenty percent contained. There were signs about being prepared to evacuate at any time and Informational Bulletin stations up every mile or so on this dirt road that was all wash boarded from the fire apparatus. We turned around and the girls said they’d be fine staying closer to the campsite for the day, but they’d spend all day at the campground if I’d let em. I was determined that we were at Glacier of all places we were going to see some beautiful stuff and make some everlasting memories. We headed into town of Columbia Falls, Montana got fuel and then I saw a playground. Carlea had mention in one of our 1:1s that she thought this trip needed more playgrounds so we stopped.
We played and played until we were ready to leave the playground, which takes a while. So eventually we headed back up to the Bowman lake. By this time it was like 3 in the afternoon. Now Boweman lake is like 30miles outside of cell coverage and 20miles or more down a dirt road. Google maps says it can’t even route you there by car. These were the worst washboarded dirt roads I’d EVER in all my life, been on. Nothing at the Outer Banks could compare to this nonsense. Now there is a speed at which you can go across the tops of the washboarding and it’s not AS jarring on you or the car but I’m sure your suspension is doing a ton of work. 30 miles of dirt road takes a long time, even for the Duke boys. Eventually we got to the Polebridge Ranger Station “infrequently manned” it says on the map. We roll past and head up the hills and turns. It gets steep and tight. I shifted down into manual for the first time and stayed between 1st and 2nd most of the time. Previously I had just been using the towing mode in the mountains.
We got 5-6 miles past the Polebridge ranger station turn off, climbing a hill and I suddenly loose power, the Suburban is still running but not moving.
The instrumentation went crazy. Check engine was flashing.
The display screen was scrolling “check gauges” “Engine power cut to protect engine” “Ignition retarded to protect Engine”.
The temperature was pegged.
I initially thought oh ok it overheated. Pull over pop the hood and let her cool off. No big deal, the engine has been reving on these hills and not moving fast at all so it makes sense it woud be hot. I wanted to leave it running so it could continue to cool itself. I threw it park, popped the hood and hopped out. As soon as I got out and certainly by the time I got in front of the hood,
I felt a legitimate physical pain in all the muscles of my body that are near joints,
I could almost immediately hear my heartbeat in both ears,
my inner dialogue started SCREAMING “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God”.
I was panicking.
I ran back and shut it off.
It diesels off, which was VERY concerning but in hindsight likely as attributable to the ignition timing as to the temperature.
There was a trail of car blood behind us for at least 200 feet. There was steam, and car blood all over the engine compartment. Remember we are 30 miles north of cell coverage and farther than that down a dirt road. Here I am at probably 5 PM by now with all four of my children and a dog with NO WAY to fix this. All the routes I would usually take to mitigate this problem are not available. My reality has now, for one of the first and few times in my life outpaced my ability to mitigate a situation, and I hated it. It was terrible and terrifying.
Here’s where memories are made and prayers are answered.
We sat there for less than 2 minutes. Clueless what to do and here comes this Ford one ton lumbering down the gravel towards us. They stopped and said what anyone might, “Hey, you need some help?” And for the very first time in my life I absolutely did and there was no denying it to myself so I said “well, I’m here from NC with my four children and our dog trying to get to Boweman lake, our car has died, I’ve blown a radiator hose and no idea how I’m gonna get this fixed”. So the Middletons, Stacey and Randy gave all of us a ride. Me, the four children, car seats, and Leo in the back. I thought to tell the children to grab car seats and put them in the back for now then everyone grab your water and we had just made sandwiches right before this happened so bring those too. It took a long while to get back to cell coverage and even then I wasn’t sure how much AAA was going to be able to do this far out. Once we got back to cell coverage Stacey was nice enough to start looking for a car rental company and I was in the phone with AAA looking for their partner shop locally and a tow truck. Turns out my auto renew card had expired like a year ago and although they had just sent me new cards they’re weren’t good as the account had expired. I didn’t even have a pen or paper so Stacy loaned me one. Thankfully Stacey found Dollar Rental was willing to rent us a car right now. That’s where we headed. When we go there the Middeltons entertained Leo and the children in the bed of the truck while I tried to rent a car. I had to pee so bad. I told the guy working there the basic situation before I headed to the bathroom. When I came back Clayton, that was his name, said that he had just done a quick Google search and apparently it’s a very very common failure and it s just a hose that breaks at the joint. He showed me a picture and it did look similar. The first car he tried to rent me the computer wouldn’t let him rent so he had to switch to a different one. A green Subaru Outback. When I came out and hit the unlock button the lights flashed and all the children started cheering, this was the car they had been hoping we would get. I wasn’t feeling as jovial yet but they were able to get excited about the small details and remain obliviously unaware of the overwhelming sense of doom and fear I was carrying in this moment. Clayton had given me a glimmer of hope. As I was talkign with Clayton at the Dollar Rental Car place, I explained the situation and what the tow truck had said. I had told him about the first tow truck guy refusing to take the job all together and the second wanting $700 and then how he had told me that If I hadn’t already lined up time with a shop there was no point because all shops were working two weeks behind and there was no chance I could get anything fixed in less than a week. Clayton said, man look I don't work tomorrow until two if you need a hand fixing it or if you need a hand getting it out of there here's my Cell phone number call me and either me or someone in my family can help you.
I get the children loaded into the rental Subaru and immediately start tracking down Clayton's brief research and it seems legit. I try to call Stefanie to let her know what's going on as I definitely don’t want her hearing about any calamity from anyway but directly from me, got her voicemail. Then I of course call Charlie. He is reassuring as always and seems to think it could be as simple as Clayton thinks he also said that Madison had done this same repair on his vehicle recently. I ask him to let Stefanie know what’s going on and when I hang up I watch a couple YouTube videos, garbage I gained nothing from them. Talked to Madison and got some good advice and caution. Then straight to the only auto parts store still open and I bought all the heating cooling parts they had for that year suburban and every tool I could imagine I might need. A stop at the slowest most understaffed Burger King I have ever seen in my life for dinner from a sack and 40mins is lost. Now me and these four children, this dog, and $500 worth of tools and parts go racing back to the carcass of our beloved chariot to try to revive her. The children are loving the disregard Daddy has for this rental on this dirt road while trying to get back to the Suburban and still have a decent amount of sunlight to try to effect this repair. We talked about the Duke boys daddy grew up with. Loralea thought it was just a mayonnaise family.
I get there and sure enough it’s the same plastic fitting that seems to be featured in a lot of repair articles. Now, in that moment I see the distant flicker of hope brighten. I get the hose and the broken end off and we head back to the campsite.
We got to West Glacier and I take a moment with the one area of cell signal to research the GM part number and the closest three Chevrolet dealers. Tomorrow morning we'll have to get an early start to try to salvage this vacation. One of the tow truck guys had some extra help coming in tomorrow at 10 and was willing to give a lower price then so I figured if I could know something as to whether I can fix this or not by ten in the morning, that would be a good start. We get back to the campsite about midnight. All but me, because see I was driving, are already asleep. I get them all in the tent and try to fall asleep myself. As I lay here there I realize that although the children have been eating all day and had Burger King for dinner I hadn't eaten all day since that stuffed French toast.
My mind keeps going back over all the details of the day and the order of events. Was there a sign this failure was looming I had ignored? I thought about how everything had played out and what I could do tomorrow and hoped that "Hay Creek Fire" would stay put and not go burn up my Suburban overnight, which seemed like a genuine possibility from the signs.
Really each of the people I had met today. Clayton and The Middeltons had all given me hope. My internal screaming dialogue had been "OH GOD, OH GOD, OH GOD, OH GOD" I sincerely don't think I've ever called on him like that before, at least not in my adult life. In hindsight as I lay on this sleeping pad and write this I realize he was answering me. When the Middeltons first got to us, literally within two minutes of this happening, the first car we'd seen in almost an hour, one of them said “Well, God works in mysterious ways so here we are and we ARE going to help you.” When she gave me a piece of paper and pen to write some notes on while I was on the phone with AAA or a tow company, it had a bible passage on it.
The turning point.
The best day in glacier yet.
Finally a day that really made us all see the “IT” about Glacier.
After the late night shower fiasco we slept in until probably 10. Loralea and I made sausage peppers egg and cheese breakfast burritos. They were great. Well I made coffee first.
After breakfast we planned on doing the whole “Going to the Sun” road again and going out the east side of the park. I was hoping there would be cell signal there and that I could find some coffee creamer as I was running low and that was about the one indulgence that I really didn’t want to give up for camping. We hadn’t seen outside that side of the Park yet so it would make for a good day. Leo has come to travel well. He seems to be the most calm in the back there knowing everyone is in the car and where they should be, I can relate to that sense of peace to be honest. I’ve always said in their car seats is where my children are the safest in all of their lives. May or may not be true but they’re very safe. After breakfast I worked on trying to I re-fix the leaky gas tank on the Coleman camp stove, we’ll see. Once dishes were done and put away we hit the road. I was determined we were going to have a good day and stop at everything any child wanted to see and take every picture they wanted.
We set out probably about 12:30 and the “Going to the Sun Road” did not disappoint. I was determined the girls were going to have good memories. This road is only about 50 miles but it takes a couple hours at least each way this time of year. Have I mentioned it’s really crowded? The first stop was at a piece or a pair of pieces of leftover snow and ice. Charlotte had seen it the firs time we came through and wanted to stop then but it was, surprise to crowded. Today we had to drive past and come back twice to be able to find a spot. We made it happen though.
Lunchbox falls was the second stop. It’s a beautiful place. It started of with a bit of a continuing problem with Leo though. As we were walking up the trail tightened up for a short section and Leo freaked out. Not expecting it he knocked me over, George over into a scratchy tree, and Loralea into some mud. He was already on my list from his behavior yesterday but this, this behavior here and hurting my children pushed me over the edge. As I would tell it I put Leo indiscriminately on his side put a knee on him and yelled at him. As Loralea tells it I picked him up off the ground by his collar and only his tail was touching and put threw him down on his side and was mad at him for hurting my children. Both are probably pretty accurate. With that moment behind us Leo won’t make eye contact, he stays on the ground until I tell him he can get up an is perfectly behaved for the entire rest of the day. I mean directly to my left, never pulling, asking if he can drink some water before he approaches it, not barking and biting at the water and completely perfectly behaved. I’m optimistic we’ve turned a corner.
The views both close up and far are all beautiful. This stop was turning into a delight. We stayed at Lunchbox falls a good while probably 30-45min.
When we got back in the car and continued east on “Going to the Sun Road”. We were slowing down and pointing out the different sites and admiring the beauty. Traffic was slow in spots and it’s a winding mountain scenic road but THIS is the destination so who’s to rush.
Then we turned a bend and the traffic is at a complete stop. I knew. There’s something good going on. I can tell from how people are scrambling for cameras and scrounging to get a view, it’s a bear.
It was a delight to get to see one in the wild. I had seen one once before but it was from the box of a cable lift at Telluride and I was the only one that saw it so it wasn’t as big of a deal as this time. This was a cool experience. After the bear finished his swim and seemingly disappeared into the vegetation within 4 steps we continued to the east entrance.
That night after dinner we were going to see the “We didn’t Start the Fire” presentation at the fish creek amphitheater.
As usual everything here takes 8 times longer than it should so we leave to go 3 miles down the road with fifteen minutes before the presentation starts. When we arrived 40mins later we discovered it was a thirty-minute presentation and we walked in to hear the ranger deliver the final paragraph at most. We were all disappointed. Except that Loralea or George one, saw an opportunity and capitalized. The ranger was having a meet and greet q. & a. session after and they took the opportunity to get their Jr. Ranger books checked and subsequently sworn in.
George is so bashful tonight that he had to be held by his sisters and he’d only stay if they stood with him. I love how he finds so much comfort and security in them.
Our second day in Glacier
This day was the lowest of the trip for me so far. Everywhere we went it was crowded and people were in the way. I mean the mall at Christmas crowded. I actually saw a woman standing in a parking space to hold it for her whoever that was coming. I wanted to run her over just on principal. It was so crowded, everything you try to do takes eight times longer than it should. We found an old logging road that was rough and 7 or something miles into the wilderness and took it just to get the hell away from all the people. Today, this is not my favorite national park. The logging trail was really beautiful though.
This was also the day I really regretted bringing Leo. I mean we can’t do much of anything because he’s with us. We can’t hike any trail with a pet. You can’t leave him in your car if he barks plus it’s so damn hot anywhere in the park and there’s no parking anyway. We tried to go to one of the lakes and swim but Leo was absolutely nuts around the tiny waves of moving water. It was the Indiana Dunes all over again. He was a complete lunatic lunging and biting at the waves combined with making noises that were somewhat like he thought something is trying to kill him and a wild animal caught in a snare.
It made me question everything about dog ownership. We are here in “the Crown of America ” and we can’t do even the simplest thing because this animal can’t behave like he had any sense. I tried to put him in the back of the suburban backed into the shade where I could see him from where the children were swimming. He was barking like crazy. Loralea went to sit with him and a lady came by with a dog as they were sitting there and he started barking so loud and fell or lunged out of the suburban and scared the woman. Now we look like the owners of some maladjusted crazyDog, people are so judgmental you can immediately see disapproval and or disdain in their glares. Of course he was secured to the suburban so he couldn’t go anywhere, but he made a scene. Meanwhile people left and right are stopping to tell us how pretty he is. If it wouldn’t break Loralea’s heart they could have had him today. Finally late in the afternoon I thought I would take him to a more remote area of lake, put a longer leash on him and just let him exhaust himself attacking the waves until he realized there wasn’t a danger. It didn’t work. Like two hours later he was just as neurotic and had lost no steam. He was attacking the waves scratching at them so hard he was casting golf ball size rocks 20 feet out the back. Finally, I brought him in closer and made home lay down. He was constantly complaining and even tried to get up while I was telling him “down”. I’m not proud of how that played out but I’m certain he understood Alpha when we were done. That night after we had spaghetti then we left Leo in the running car and had a really nice walk by the lake, that was beautiful. It didn’t salvage the whole day but it salvaged some hope for me.
We all needed showers. When we spoke to the volunteer at Apgar campground she said that there is usually a line for the showers from six to sever or seven-thirtyish so we waited until eight fifteen to get there. That should have made it doable to get everyone showered and into bed by a reasonable time. Although it doesn’t get dark until 10:00pm here, seriously it’s dusk out at 9:30.
We get to the showers at the Apgar campground as those seem to be the closest I send the three girls to go and the George and I will wait with Leo because you can’t leave him unattended or he’ll see a dog an bark his head off or some Dudley Do-Right with see him in there and freak out never minding the fact that it’s a temperate 72ºF. in there.
George and I will wait for the girls. A couple minutes go by and Loralea comes back and tells me she has “some good news and some bad news” que internal eye roll ok, what is it. “Well there’s a line and were EIGHTH but we all are perfectly willing to wait in the line.” This is one more time the crowdedness of this park is aggravating the hell out of me. The long dirt road today was cool and it was pretty and not populated but this is craziness. What’s a guy supposed to do, you gotta have clean children. I mean at least once or twice a week right? Like dishes, you gotta get em cleaned up every once and again. So, we wait and wait and wait then its been too long I walk over to the showers, with a flashlight if that tells you anything, some lady sees me and immediately says “you’re looking for the three sweet girls?” Inner dialogue- well I’m glad they’re well behaved, outwardly “yes ma’am”. They’re in that middle one there. Ok. Have they been taking an excessively long time? “No not at all they just went in a little while ago”.
Checked in with the girls they’re fine and say they’re almost done.
A few minutes later, waiting back at the Suburban and they trickle back. I leave them locked in the suburban with a 2-way radio to playing Uno while George and I get a shower. We’re in and out and we all head back to the campsite for straight to bedtime.
This was our actual first day in Glacier.
Like you read yesterday we checked in sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and then waited a while for the previous occupant of site 10 to vacate. I didn’t want to rush them as they have until lunchtime to leave and I definitely don’t want someone looming over us when it comes time for us to check out, traditional camping courtesy is due in this situation. The girls continued to sleep on the air mattress while George slept, cuddle up on top of me with the driver seat reclined, there are worse things. This was a moment of zen for me. I may have gotten some sleep intermittently but nothing substantial. Eventually the ranger came by and we talked about the details about the required reservations for “Going to the Sun Road” etc. We of course didn’t have reservations for that, or anything else on this trip because, if you’ve read up to now you know, I don’t like to have the time constraint of not being able to have added a day to Indiana or Roosevelt if I had wanted to. A pass comes with the campsite though. I had kinda figured that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get to your campsite. He had me move the Suburban to the day use Picnic area to clear the main entrance to the campground. That was really pretty too. Once the girls finally woke up we ate some snacks and watched RV. I really really did not want to go anywhere because I had displaced so much of the interior of the Suburban to allow for the air mattress to be inflated that it looked like a hoarders vehicle. Once I get the campsite set up I’ll have enough stuff out of there to be able to reset it easily. The girls got bored after RV finished so I got out the handheld radios I had brought and started sending them on “Missions”. We even had code names. Loralea was Agent Crayola, Charlotte was Agent Magnet or Agent Eraser and Carlisle was Agent Velocity.
Once the campsite was all set up we took our first long drive on the “Going to the sun Road”. We stopped at the gift shop on the East side and got George a water bottle, and a coffee for me, maybe one to two other things. Each of us is disappointed in the water bottles we chose to bring for ourselves on this trip. Mine was just entirely too big, at one full gallon its unwieldy to try to drink from when you drive, George's was leaking, Loralea’s and Carlea’s didn’t keep the water cold and it sweats. Charlotte with her RTIC that she got a year or two ago was the only one rightfully pleased with their choice of waterbottle. George’s may be the first of several new water bottles purchased on this trip. After that we headed back to site for a nap. This was just a quick look at the “Going to the Sun Road”. I was really tired but Loralea was angry about the nap.
Well, she thought she was but we made a deal that I’d set a thirty minute timer and if we were asleep when it went off we could get up. Thirty minute timer revealed that her anger was a disguise for sleepy, none of us heard that thirty minute timer go off.
After a nice nap we headed to the Apgar village for ice cream first, a walk not quite a mile but probably closer to a mile than the children realize.
Then dinner at some place because I just didn’t feel like cooking and it looked fun. They were about to close and the hostess was a little snooty but the waiter was cool so I made sure everyone knew exactly what they wanted when he first came and made it all to-go and let him know we could settle up whenever was good for him and it worked out great, even had a to go beer.
After dinner with the to-go beer the children saw people swimming and paddle boarding so of course they wanted to put their feet in. Everyone that walked by wanted to talk to us. The combo of Leo and the children are a definite draw. It clearly ain’t me. One family was from California and the grandparents were from NYC your could hear it as soon as he spoke we talked to them about camping in Brooklyn. (Still one of my favorite campgrounds).
Then we headed to get fuel and back to the campsite for bed. It didn’t get actually dark until after 10p.m. that is going to take some time to get adjusted to.
Once on the road we stopped to cut some sage. I had meant to do that on the Cross Country Trip of 2017 but forgot. Then several more, actually so many more stops along the way to Glacier.
We went from a predicted arrival of 8pm to 10 to Midnight. I knew this was going to be a difficult leg of our trip. The children handled it great but I was getting worn down by about 10 p.m.
Finally I was ready throw in the towel and to get off the road. I Stopped at a hotel in Browning Montana somewhere east of Glacier and they’re booked. The nice girl working the desk there said there is only two hotels in the town and they’re both booked. The other was attached to a casino. I had intended to get a room and sleep until like 5 then knock out the last hour of this trip and get to the campground by sixish. The website showed that the sites had been filling up by about 7a.m. in recent days so that should have been enough buffer. No rooms available though so we push on. Another hour goes by, and no one is awake. Loralea is semi-conscious, basically fighting sleep off. Finally we arrive at the West Glacier entrance. Although we were coming from the east the campsite that was first come was located closer to the west side of the park and its faster to down around the south side of the park than to try to go through because of the winding "Going to the Sun Road". By the time we finally arrived at Glacier it was about 12:45-1a.m. Loralea really needed to pee. With her out of the car I started rearranging all the interior contents of the back seat. I mean moving everything, it looked like a hoarders vehicle when I finished. Then I set up and inflated the new seat converting sleeping pad and the three girls climbed on. Sleeping on the car bed in the back seat worked great. We took the short trip from the restroom at the Apgar boat inspection station on Apgar Loop up to the Sprague Creek Campground, nice and slow.
We got there at probably about 1a.m., cut the headlights and pulled in, I got out at started looking at the signs and information boards and as I was reading the part about the 36th bear sighting in that campground this season having happened today, I heard a heavy cracking sound of timber from the shadows 50 -60 feet away, I guess I'll read the rest tomorrow. I initially parked there then though maybe I'd be in the way and repositioned across the street to the bus stop that said it was not being used in 2021. After about an hour when someone else came they parked where I had been so we moved behind them. We got there at 1:20 in the morning and still and were second in line for 6 sites. I tried to get some rest but it was pretty spotty with driver seat reclined and George sleeping on my chest. The host came and passed out 6 packets at 5-6 am. There were more than 6 cars in line by 4AM so on this day the available spots filled by 4am. Funny how things always work out exactly the way they are supposed to be, imagine the predicament I'd be in if they had a room for us in Browning.
George actually woke up first today and told me he was getting up and going to the bathroom, that means I’m up too which is fine because the conversations we have in these 1:1 moments in the mornings are invaluable and with him usually hilarious. I’ve been making a point to have some 1:1 time with each of them everyday, usually in the morning. I’ve stolen a trick for gauging their mood and disposition from a firehouse friend. 1-10 ten is the happiest you’ve ever been "how are you feeling today and so far about this trip?" In one of those conversations with Loralea recently I also asked her what she was using as her 10 and her answer was so touching, “the day Charlotte was born was my happiest day ever”. That was so good to hear because I have heard a more than a bit of bickering over LEGO’s and sharing in that back seat in the past few days. It seems like it’s either bickering or unstoppable high pitched giggling. Both will wear on you but I love the meaning behind the latter more.
Anyway, I got up with him and we walked over to the bathroom then started the suburban (I had to know everything was ok, and it was) got Leo out of his crate and made some coffee when we got back.
We made corned beef hash for breakfast and got motivated to ride up to the North Unit of the park to see the scenic drive there. It’s about 40miles north. And uneventful short lego and giggle filled trip went by quick and when we got to the gate the ranger was much more matter of fact about seeing bison instead of what they had at the South Unit. The South unit had a dry erase board of their sightings in the ranger station. Obviously they're more frequent up here.
We had all had showers that morning or the night before so we weren’t really feeling like a hike since the feeling being clean was welcomed and really refreshing at this point, so we had resigned ourselves to just see the scenic drive then and then had back for when the pool opens.
The north unit did not disappoint.
On the way back to the campground and pool we had a little extra time and I knew Charlotte had wanted to see the “Enchanted Highway”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchanted_Highway
On the day that we were hot spotting Wi-Fi from my phone to pick the campground we were going to stay in Medora and make the reservations she and Loralea were reading a description of the top ten campgrounds near the Roosevelt National Park and making their own sales pitch for which one we should pick. You may have already realized I do this kind of thing a lot with them. Charlotte saw the Enchanted Highway when we were doing that and really wanted to see it, so I made a brief thirty min or so detour so she could see the sculptures of the enchanted highway.
When we stopped Loralea immediately recognized it as a great geocaching spot. She was right. According to the app there was one hidden there in the maze. We all searched and searched until finally Carlea found it. She was very pleased with herself.
Sorry no picture.
Then back to the campground and pool for the rest of the day.
After the pool closed down we headed into town (across the street) and got some Mac and cheese to go with the hot dogs we are planning to have for dinner.
We played UNO at bedtime since the girls had been wanting to teach me but it had been to late the past two nights, so tonight was the night. It was so nice to see them getting along so well. Even in losing they were gracious but don’t let that lead you to think that in winning they weren’t braggadocios. It was great.
During a lull in the game I was having a sidebar “Huggie” wrestling bit with George and I said
“George tomorrow we’re going to see one of the most beautiful place in our whole country. “
“Oh! Is it Wegmans?”
Oh man, he’s been asking for Wegmans for every meal I’ve asked his opinion on for this whole trip. He absolutely loves some Wegmans, but thats not where we're going.