Before buying The Tin Wheeler, the obvious first decision we had to make was how large did the trailer need to be. Besides the desire to have enough space to be comfortable and have enough room for storage, we learned that many national parks cannot accomodate trailers more than twenty five feet in length. We were happy that we knew about this when we arrived at Fish Creek campground. The area of the campground that the ranger recommened had pull through sites that were very tight. Numerous trees with bark scraped off warned us to be careful. The truck had to pass within a few inches of the trees to allow Mary Joan to avoid removing even more bark. While there were other areas in this campground that could acomadate much larger rigs, they all had water and electricity which costs a lot more for each day's stay. While we have frequently made use of capgrounds with such ammenities, we usually try to be self sufficient. After all, with batteries, water and holding tanks we are completely self sufficient.
Our original plan was to stay just two nights in Glacier National Park, but the truck was due for an oil change so on our way to the park we made an appointment with Columbia Falls Auto Service. The service center is right on the main road just about fifteen miles from our campground. Just a short distance away is a coin-op laundry. I dropped Sarah off at the laundry, left the truck at the servie center, re-joined Sarah at the laundry and together we walked a short distance to the Night Owl Cafe for breakfast. Shortly after returning to the laundramat I got the call that the truck was ready. I left Sarah to finish the laundry, picked up the truck and took it to the truck wash where it got a much needed exterior cleaning.
After returning to the campground, we started to go for a hike, but just 20 minutes on trail we heard thunder and saw the clouds of an approaching storm. We retreated to the trailer. Scout no longer enjoys long hikes, so we leave him in the trailer. But, he is also very afraid of thunderstorms and can become destructive if left alone when one occurs. Fortunately, Scout was not too upset by the storm when we arrived back at the campsite. We gave him some Valium just to let him settle down.
The storm brought heavy rain so Sarah and I decided to drive to the town of Coram where we found the Stonefly Lounge. The Red Sox vs. Yanikees game was on the big screen TV so we settled in with a large pizza and watched the game. Scout was happy in the truck. He could sit up on the front seat and see us through the window. The Red Sox won and thus ended another perfect day. We have found perfection doesn't necessarily mean that everything goes as planned. Rather, it is a perfect day when we can look back and say that we made the most of what we were given.
I usually sleep very well, but for some reason I awoke sometime in the early hours before dawn. When I was working I would frequently wake up and dwell on the problems I faced at work. In those days I rarely could get back to sleep. But that has not happened on this trip. This night, I lay awake and enjoyed the sound of the rain on the roof of The Tin Wheeler, knowing I would fall asleep sooner or later and didn't have to go to work deprived of sleep.
We stopped in Columbia Falls to refuel. While in the service plaza, I checked the tires pressures. One was very low. I had Sarah drive forward very slowly while I examined the tire for a puncture. It wasn't hard to miss. A large screw had pierced the tire. Removing the bad wheel and tire and replacing it with the spare is a simple operation with a tandem axle trailer. I simply made a ramp using our leveling blocks, drove the good wheel onto the ramp. This lifted the the defective wheel off the road for easy replacement. The spare tire was a little under-inflated so I only had to pull the trailer to the air compressor station at the service plaza to get it up to proper pressure. We were back on the road in less than 45 minutes.
|No Jack Needed|
We decided to make The Grand Teton National Park our next destination on our way to Winfield, Kansas for the Walnut Valley Festival. That takes us again through Missoula so Sarah called her sister Jennifer, who had joined us in Alaska and asked her if she would like to meet us at Jennifer's daughter's house. We had parked Mary Joan in front of Grace's house on our way north. Jennifer readily agreed to meet us there.
Once again, we parked in front of Grace's house in the lovely city of Missoula. The next morning I took advantage of overcast skies to wash and dry the Tin Wheeler. Washing a shiny Airstream in bright sun leaves ugly water spots on the aluminum skin. Mary Joan was quite dirty and in need of a good washing.
|You Don't Need to Go Far to See Wildlife|
I took the damaged tire to the trusty people of Roemer's Tire Factory (http://www.roemerstirefactory.com/). It was 4PM, but they said they could fix it right away. Should only take about 20 minutes. Sarah, Jennifer and I drove the short distance to the Kettlehouse Brewery (http://kettlehouse.com/), another fine micro-brewer that makes Missoula a nice place to visit. We no sooner finished our pint when Roemer's called and said the tire was ready. Another great experience with these people. Prompt, friendly service at a very fair price. The next evening we returned to Bayern Brewery (http://www.bayernbrewery.com/) with some friends of Grace then returned home to cook a big filet of fresh wild caught coho salmon.
The next day we prepared two turkey breasts for smoking by soaking them in a brine and herb solution then slowly smoked them on the new Weber grill that Jennifer bought for Grace. We were joined by a number of Grace's friends, including Josh, who gave me fly fishing lessons the last time we were in Missoula, and his wife, Jamie. We all got a little shaved off the top after sharing a bottle of Moonshine from Flathead Distillery of Montana.
With Grace off on Sunday, we drove about 40 minutes north of Missoula to the National Bison Refuge. The day was clear and bright. We enjoyed a short hike to the highest point in the park and learned about the great Missoula Lake that existed here at the end of the last ice age. The size of the lake was beyond comprehension. It was formed by glacial ice blocking the outflow to the west of these huge mountains. But, when the ice dam melted, it released a torrent of water whose flow exceeded the volume of all the rivers currently flowing on earth. This huge mass of water helped form the great Columbia Gorge and raised sea levels significantly. The small ripples of sand that we typically see in our lake bottoms near the shore were evident here too, some thousands of years later. Only, these sand ripples are 15 feet high and 90 feet apart. The wildlife was abundant, mule deer, bison and prong horns (antelope) were the main attractions.
|The Entire Valley Was A Huge Lake|
|Mule Deer (notice the big ears)|
|Often Called Antelope, A Pronghorn|
|Over 6' at the shoulders and up to 2,500 lbs, don't mess with him|
Returning from the Bison Refuge, we stopped at the Ewam Garden of 1000 Buddhas on the Flathead Reservation of the Salish and Kootanai peoples. Jennifer and I had read about the project in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/us/01monks.html?scp=1&sq=ewam%20garden%20of%201000%20buddhas&st=cse) a number of months ago and wanted to see it. The relationship between the Native Americans and the lama spearheading this project is very interesting and the progress at the site has been remarkable since just ten months ago.
|The Garden Under Construction|
|The Great Wisdom Mother|
|Buddhas Waiting To Be Installed|
Our next stop is a brief stay in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks before visiting with a former associate and her family in Jackson, Wyoming. Stay tuned and be sure to check out all the new pictures by clicking on the Bambi at the top of the page.