Every Day Holds Something New
We made it. 8 days, 3660 miles and the best false start ever to commemorate our very own "Vacation" Chevy Chase style.... We picked up the rental car friday night, and drove it home to pack. After loading our "loaner Grand Am" we bedded down early in anticipation of a glorious 464 mile drive from Seattle to Missoula Montana...our first stop. Waking at 5am, smiles on our faces, we bade goodbye to our two worried looking cats, and headed out the door. My wife cozied into the passenger seat...arranged her lotion, cameras,"VooDoo Vic, the travelling doll, and various other trinkets, and with satisfied look in her eyes, motioned her readiness to go. I (being the geek of the family) took one walk around the car to inspect as if a pilot preflighting for a transcontinental flight in an experimental aircraft....the tire, right rear, was as flat as it could possibly be. I stood there looking at it, as if my disapointment would somehow fill the tire miraculously. Even my hardest sigh didnt inflate it so much as one psi. Wife out of the car, into the house to further confuse the cats who know when a trip is much too short. A quick call to the "texas landmark" rental agency yields the following information: "Sir, we can send someone to put the spare on for you, it will be two hours...or you can repair the tire, and save your receipts. Or, sir, just bring the car back and exchange it." Luckily, I had some fix a flat in the garage and figured that would get me to a gas station where I would have the tire fixed. Jamming the fix a flat into the dead tire gave just enough pressure to go the 1/4 mile to the 50 cent air machine at the local 7-11. Filled her right up, and she held! In spite of the now visible roofing nail that was in the tire, we headed for the garage. "Wait a minute" it was 5:30 am. No self respecting garage would be open yet, so I decided to trust in the "fix-a-flat goddess", and make haste to the start of our trip. Surely, it would hold until Missoula....I restarted the engine and got on 405 headed for 90 to Missoula. Another heart stopper. "Bing bing bing.....red light on, bing bing bing...your oil is low said the horrible message. I almost jumped out of my skin...making the decision right then and there to return the car immediately to Alamo Car rental at SeaTac Airport where we would exchange this little lemon for a better suited car.....My wife nodded in absolute approval, so off to SeaTac we go. Ahh, no problem I thought...a quick exchange at the airport, and we would lose an hour tops off of this glorious trip we had planned. No problemo! "POW...HISSSSSSSSSSSS" Less than three miles into our revised itenerary....the fix-a-flat Goddess changed her mind....no more air for you! The tire returned to its lifeless state at 70 miles per hour, forcing us to a grinding halt at the 124th street offramp in Kirkland...."&%$$##" was my only reaction as we coasted on the rim into the AM PM Minimart parking lot....yes, this is going to be a good trip.... I will post more from our fun trip in a bit. I hope you will all enjoy reading about it and seeing the pics on the website soon.We saw a lot in a little amount of time. Yellowstone, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devils Tower, Wall Drug, Badlands...and the list goes on. (Note to Moderators Mark and Bob...I did look up Mr. McKinnon in Wallace Idaho....I dont think he is around anymore, but it appears there is a Harvey and Mrs McKinnon who have taken over his house, and made it much less than a work of art....I was sad.)
That First Day cont'd
After the car exchange, and a few breakfast sandwiches at McDonalds, we headed to Route 90, East...Once passed Issaquah, we were doing 80 miles and hour. The car was in great shape. A new 2004 Grand Am, with 200 miles on it. over Snoqualmie Pass, we noticed it was getting warmer, and by the time we hit Spokane, the temp was around 95 degrees. Our first stop on the trip was Wallace Idaho, just a few miles east of CoeurD'Alene Idaho. We buzzed into town, noticing there wasnt anyone walking, or moving for that matter. it was hot. After taking a few photos, and having a burger at the local burger stand, we located a visitor center with details about the history of this area. Known for three things, its rich mining history, its legal unfettered brothels, and its location use for the movie "Volcano", Wallace has been, and will always be one of my favorite stops. Did you know Lana Turner was born here? Asked a toothless man outside the mining museum..."No sir, I did not..." I said nervously looking at my historical pamphlets as if to prove him wrong. Well, she was, he retorted. We walked along for a short while when my wife asked..."who is Lana Turner?" "Dunno" I said..."lets get some ice cream"... We spent some time in the town, walking, joking, and feeling like locals. When visiting Wallace, there are a few must sees...The mining museum on the main street, and the Oasis Brothel, which remained open and working until 1988, when all of the prostitues, for some unknown reason, simply left. Disappeared. They left dishes in the sink, perfume on the dressers, and clothes on the floor. Wierd huh? To visit this brothell online, try this fun link: http://www.imbris.net/~mrmayfield/ Finally having our fill of one tooth Jackson watching us walk, and some three legged dog stalking us, we headed east again. Missoula Montana was our first nights destination. Arriving around 5pm was perfect. And the perfect end to a 460 mile drive....some more food! We checked in to our hotel, the Best Western Grant Creek Inn...right off the highway. After throwing our bags in the room, we headed off to find food! I was really hungry, so when my wife saw a Fudruckers, she suggested I stop. Having never experienced Fudruckers, I ordered a one pound burger and fries...wholly moly! It looked more like ten pounds of beef between two frisbees! Man! Oh, I tried, I cried, but I couldnt finish this behemith! My wife laughed as I sat back in the car, and teared up on our way back to the hotel. As with any fun trip, its the people you meet who make the journey fun, and we met her. She was perhaps in her 60's, a jolly woman with a dynamite smile. She worked in the hotel gift shop, and greeted us with a sincere "howdy". I stepped over to talk with her, as Suzi was busy looking for an ugly souvenier or a postcard. "how are you doing?" I asked. "Oh much better than this morning" She said. I knew a story was coming whether or not I wanted to hear it, so I bucked up to the counter, winced a bit and said..."oh?, what happened?".......More to follow! This lady was a hoot! I really enjoy sharing our trip with all of you!
Missoula Moma and Walmart Wanda
"Well, I got into a car with a real stranger this morning..." she said... I looked puzzled, and asked.."Why'd you do that?" "Well, he asked me to.." I knew then there was more to her story than met the eyes. She had a certain smile that was ready to burst into a full tooth showing giggle. Her face was flushed, and her eyes were sparkling.
"hehehe, do you want to tell me the whole story?" I asked with general curiosity. "Well, he werent a complete stranger I reckon, in fact he used to court my friend...then right outta the blue, he called me and asked if I would ride with him to Hamilton to get some breakfast.." she giggled. "I didnt reckon I wanted to be rude to him, so I went, but he was a total stranger..." I laughed a little and said in my usual almost sarcastic way..."well sounds to me like someones got a new boyfriend..." She giggled a little and went on to say she didnt want to "court" anyone right now, but you could see the almost schoolgirl excitement in her. She explained she has been widowed for many years, and the whole time has lived in a small cabin in the woods outside of town. She has a dog (but who doesnt in Montana) and loves to read history books about the wild west. I asked her about children, and sadly she had none. We talked for a while, and I wished her well with the ne "beaux" and she just slapped the air and said "oh pooh" with the prettiest smile east of the cascades.I affectionately named her "Missoula Moma". We found the Grant Creek Best Western to be a fairly nice hotel, and since it was well over 100 degrees, we decided the pool would be a welcome respite. I grabbed my trunks, and Suzi dawned her swim garb, and off we went to the indoor pool. No swimming today! The pool was full from corner to corner with what appeared to be two baseball teams of 12 year olds. The noise was unbearable as was the prospect of relaxing in the pool. "Wanna drive into town?" I asked my wife. "yes, that would be good.." she sighed.Driving into Missoula, I had the goal of trying to find an old casino I played poker at some years before. Not remembering the name, we drove for quite a while when we found it. The Lucky Strike casino was both a bowling alley, and small casino with two poker tables, a few nickle machines, and a well weathered crowd inside. I told my wife of how much fun I had here before we were married, playing poker everynight while working as a contractor in nearby Stevensville on a house project. I became close with a few locals at that time ten years ago, and kind of hoped I would see them again as we walked into the dark, smokey casino.Alas, we dropped a few coins into the machines, and left several dollars poorer. I guess I needed to give a few dollars back after the extensive "take" I had made there in the 90's.Driving back toward the hotel, we spotted the great travellers Mecca: Wal-Mart! "Lets go in" I said excitedly to my wife. She nodded gleefully and in we went. It seems as though the Wal-Mart in any town in any city gives you a take on what that community is all about. Missoula Wal-Mart was no exception to the rule. As we entered, the official greeter, a small wrinkled woman with a nervous tick which made her look as if she was chewing something, said "howdy and welcome to Wal-Mart" I smiled and said "well thanks for having us over Wanda!" She started to giggle hard, and then even harder when she realized I wasnt so much a psychic as I was astute enough to read her name badge.As she pulled her name tag up from her blue vest to make sure that was her name, she laughed even harder showing a mostly intact set of teeth with the occaisional gold work. "Oh you..." she said..."you can just call me Wal-Mart Wanda..." She laughed again, and patted me on the back with a slap and a rub as I entered Mecca. I loved her!.........More to follow..........
Yeah it's true that even in Wal-Marts it is possible to find local colors. After truck stops, they're the best bet for travelers : you'll find everything you need there : camping supplies, food, cds, maps and even souvenirs. I ran into a cashier in Colorado who lived in Montreal for 2 year.
She knew I was from Quebec because I bought some wine and she asked to see my I.D. (it always surprises me because I'm never asked that in Canada (legal drinking age is 18 here)). So I gave her some Quebec news, she remembered a few words of French, it was great!:-) I talked a lot with another cashier in Illinois who asked me questions about where I was from, and other stuff like that, in return she told me about Illinois, really interesting:-) She had a particular accent and colorful expressions that I never heard of...I understood one word out of two, but it was ok anyway...;-))
Wal-Marts are the Comfort Stations on the Road
It is so true that Wal-Marts provide a familiar place for travellers. I was thinking how fun it might be to write a book about camping at Wal-Marts all across the country. Call it "Wal-Mart America!" I will say, however, we visited another WM in Pierre SD, and it was the ugliest, dirtiest, and worst example of what a Wal-Mart can become with poor management. No greeter...filthy bathrooms, holes in the walls and doors....pretty disgusting.