Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Sunday, September 23, 2012


We finally got on our way – only about 45 minutes later than planned.      Just before getting to Great Falls, I pulled over -  did I have my passport?   Well, I had my passport card so all was well.

We gassed up then went over to the grocery store to get some dry ice.   When I got to the truck and placed the dry ice under the frozen ½ gallon jugs, I started putting the food in the cooler – Hmmmm.  Something’s not right.   “Diane, where’s the bacon and eggs?”   Oops.   Back to the store to get the bacon and eggs.   We also figured out we’d left the Beer Baron sausages behind, and I’d so been looking forward to having one since I tried the first one on the 4th of July.
* A note about the dry ice.  It worked very well.  Too well, infact.   We had frozen half & Half, cheese dip, celery,  lemonade, butter , etc – the milk was the only thing that didn’t freeze.  It kept the food properly cold through our whole trip.  Then only other thing that didn’t freeze were the eggs, and that was because I had put them in the drinks cooler.  The reason we decided on dry ice was because I thought Diane's cooler leaked because when I stored it on my driver's seat at Logging Creek, my seat was soaked - with the dry ice - the seat was merely covered with frost!

It was a beautiful day.   The fall colors are not as varied in Montana as in the East, but they are every bit as intense.   The yellows are neon, and the greens are multiple shades of lime.  Awesome!

Approaching Browning,  we were delayed a bit for road construction.  The first we noticed of it was silvery, papery stuff blowing all over the road – when we drove through the actual work – we figured it out -  They were filling cracks in the asphalt.   Once the cracks were filled, one fellow had a roll of what looked like white plastic on a roller with a handle.   He walked along rolling the “plastic” over the wet asphalt fill.   Tom later told me that that stuff is biodegradable and within a month would disappear – in the mean time – preventing the tar from getting on everyone’s tires.   I thought it was quite interesting!

We stopped in Browning to visit the Museum of the Plains Indians.   It was filled with spectacular beaded ceremonial regalia as well as utilitarian items for cooking, horse equipment, war clubs, papoose boards, toys and countless other items used in the Native American’s lives from the 1700’s.   Browning is the main town on the Blackfoot reservation.   

 There are two main routes from Browning to the border – the prairie side and the mountain side.  We decided to go north on the prairie and return through the mountains.   The high plains were awesome – you could see forever.   As we went along, I spotted a very narrow, needle sharp peak over along the Rockies.   It was obvious it stood out by itself, rather than being a part of the mountains.   I stopped to get a photo of it – but it was a bright sunny day and my little camera does not have a view finder so I had to take my chances, and managed to cut off about the top 1/3 of the peak.  Darn!

We had hoped to get gas in Babb, but the only station was a Sinclair, and I’ve not heard good things about their gas so we back tracked 10 miles to St. Mary’s.   Hurumph!  Should have filled up in Browning where the diesel was $4.13 – in St. Mary’s it was $4.55. 

On our way again, we sailed through Babb, MT, and cut over toward the Chief Mountain border station.   Hm.m.m.m  Chief Mountain.  That sounds so familiar – and then it hit me as we approached another view of that peak I was so interested in.   We had been seeing only the very narrow end of the peak – Seeing it full on, I recognized it immediately.   Chief Mountain is very sacred to the Native Americans – and has been for eons.   I stopped to get a photo – but once again, I couldn’t see what I was doing, and the photos did not turn out. 

We sailed through Canadian customs.  We handed over our passports, and Tuck’s rabies papers.  The custom’s agent checked out our passports, and just asked if these were veterinary papers on the dog without looking at them.   Didn’t  even ask for proof of insurance.

 We had gotten $100 worth of Canadian money before leaving home – I figured that would be enough to get us into the park and pay for camping, and we could use debit cards for anything else.   I was wrong – never was good at math -   I had figured the entrance fee at $7.80 each – but I didn’t take into consideration that we would be there 3 days, and the $7.80  was for each day – but it didn’t matter – in the park they accept American money everywhere.

I’ll not say more now – I’ll write about our adventures in the park  when I figure out how to post the photos.  Which should be next month.

Anyway after a few days, we headed back to the USof A.   Passed through the border station – had to answer a ton of questions.   One thing I noticed – the Canadian agent wore a uniform, but the American  agent wore a bullet proof vest.   Interesting contrast.

We were headed over to Kalispell so we could visit a bit with our cousins there since they were both going to San Francisco when we return next week.

 As I said before, we drove down the mountain road – the border crossing was a little over 5000, elevation.    Shortly before hitting Hwy 2 west, Diane says – take this road, it’s a short cut.  The first thing I saw was a sign restricting vehicle size to no more than 21’  in length.   Luv is 20’ from bumper to bumper plus a hitch.   I looked up and saw a pickup with about a 20’ trailer in tow.  I guess the driver figured he had 20’ on the trailer and about 18’ on the pickup so he was OK.

Once on the road, Diane said “Look.  Up there is your road!”   I looked where she was pointing -  Holy Cats!   That road was just barely perched on the side of the mountain. No shoulders, no guardrails, and I swear my lane was about ½ the width of the other lane, which was probably why I straddled the yellow line almost the whole 12 miles.   We were on the outside lane and there was nothing between us and the bottom of the mountains.   I had white knuckles, and then I started to sweat.  I was cussing, Diane was laughing at me – but she said she was scared, too – I was laughing, too – otherwise I might have been crying.  Or even screaming with fright.

I’m not fond of heights at all.  If I had been in my little Volvo it probably would not have been so bad, but when I looked over Luv’s hood, I could see no road beneath the right side!  

They had turn-outs, but each time I thought to take advantage, Diane told me not to.   Finally just over the summit – at 5985’ elevation, there was a large pull-out for an overview of Two Medicine Lake.  I stopped and got out – and my knees were shaking so bad, I could hardly walk.

We started down the mountain, and dropped down to about 4000’ in under 3 miles – That was as steep going down as coming up – and still we were on the outside lane.  The road just continued to hug the side of the mountain – no switchbacks.!   So that was the “Big Boots” *** adventure for that day. 
 (*** taken from Winnie the Pooh cartoon wherein Christopher Robin had on oversized red boots and saying he was going to have a “big boots” adventure that day)

 Our original plan for the trip was to go to Waterton, and on the way back, cut through Glacier Park from St. Mary’s to East Glacier – However, they closed the Going to the Sun Road for construction work before the snow flies.   They are in the 9th year of a 10 year construction project.  

We could still get into the park – but from the St. Mary’s side we could just go to the top at Logan’s Pass, and from East Glacier only 15 miles into the park was open to traffic.  The alternative was a 67 mile trip on Hwy 2 around the south end of the park.  So, on we drove.

We stopped at East Glacier and checked out the campground just inside the park.   It’s a big campground, but I noticed nearly every site had a tent pad, and they didn’t look big enough for my tent.   Checked at the Ranger Station, and they said there were some bigger ones, but that we’d have to find them ourselves as the person who would know where they were was on vacation.

 We continued to cousin Judy’s home where cousin Donna joined us for dinner – a wonderful salad, sweet n’ sour meatballs with rice, and fresh homemade peach pie.  We sat around and talked, and were going to leave and go back to the campground for the night, when Judy strongly suggested we spend the night at her place – which we did.   Waterton had a “bare campsite” program – all food and preparation utensils must be with a hard sided vehicle when not in use – and since I have a soft topper, that meant loading 4 big totes into the cab of the truck at night, then unloading all for breakfast, loading into the bed of the truck so we could drive around, unloading and loading in the cab once again.  I was dog tired of that!!!

 In the morning, we left for home.   About a 260 mile trip.   About 100 miles from home, we stopped at a rest area and just as we were leaving, a young gal – probably college aged or a little older, walked up and asked us if we could change a tire.   The last time I changed a tire, I was 15.   The young lady was travelling alone – on her way between Yellowstone Park and Glacier Park.   I said I was willing to try.  She got out the jack, and the manual – and to get the spare out, you had to put the jack handle through a hole on the top of the bumper (stupid engineering – water could flow right into that hole)  and turn it counter clockwise.  Well, we could have changed the tire, but the connector was rusted shut.   It was only ½ mile into town so we drove her in and made sure she had help before we started on our way again. 

 It was about 3p.m., and we were both starving – not having had lunch – cause I was bound and determined that I was going to have a hot beef sandwich from the Elk Country Café in Choteau, and we still had 35 miles to go.  We split the sandwich between us to make sure we had room for home made pie – Diane had chocolate crème and I had coconut crème – Nap time anyone?

While we were driving through Great Falls, I noticed something in a pickup ahead of us.   There were two people sitting in the back holding on to what turned out to be a full mount of a Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep.   They must have just picked it up from the Taxidermist.
Today is Sunday, and tomorrow we leave to return to Glacier Park.  We would have made it in one big trip, but Diane's daughter is joining us, and she doesn't have a passport so she couldn't go to Canada.   We plan to return to Waterton next September!!!

Until next time,
Bear Hugs
Luv n’ Boots, and Tucker
And Little Bear, too

She believed she could do it and so she did.

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