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Take it. Take another piece of my heart. (Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park)

2010 September 23
by shana

Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park

I thought I loved Glacier National Park. I thought Kootenay National Park was beautiful. I thought I loved Banff. But then, I drove the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, and… well, it it was love at first sight and I fell. Fell hard.

I felt humbled and experienced an awe beyond any I had experienced before for the magnificence of my surroundings. It was as though I was not only driving through this landscape, but that it was passing through me as well. I could feel it through every cell of my being. I was moved. I was teary eyed. I was breathless. I felt poetic, and declared to the vastness around me, “Should there be anyone to desire my heart, it can be found along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park.”

Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park

Unlike Lake Louise, I hadn’t researched or heard much about Jasper, or the Icefields Parkway and I didn’t have any expectations. And I think I prefer it that way. Sure, sometimes you miss out on things that you wished you had known about, but sometimes the “discovery” of something makes it so much more powerful.

Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park

My sweet dog was asleep in the back seat. It was just another road to him. But, every time I would gasp or exclaim about the beauty that surrounded us he would startle and jump up to see what the excitement was about. I felt bad every time for disturbing him, but I couldn’t help myself. It was so beautiful…. amazing….awesome….

Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park

The views were… indescribable and unphotographable. I have never been able to take a landscape shot that really, I mean really captures the place and the sense of place. I tend to prefer the more abstract angle to things. I enjoy patterns and textures. I enjoy things that look like something they are not. I will let the landscape photographers do their thing. I did try to take a few shots however to give a small sense of the place. Hopefully, you are inspired to visit yourself because a photograph is not a good substitute for experience in a place like this.

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Lake Louise, Banff National Park

2010 September 15

Lake Louise River

I had been hearing quite a bit about Lake Louise, so although I was sad to leave my beloved Banff, I was excited to head that direction. It wasn’t too terribly far from the town of Banff, and frankly, from proximity alone I thought it must be amazing.

I was able to get a camp spot without any trouble. I wondered if I had been placed on the “American Loop” because I saw more US plates than I had seen in one place since I entered Canada. Either that, or we all converged on the Lake Louise campground the same day.

I find it interesting how we tend to create superstitions when we do things on a regular basis. Superstitions for sports, activities, and for day to day habits…. I had already developed the belief that if I couldn’t easily get my camper level, that it meant I was only supposed to stay for one night. If I leveled out easily and quickly, then I was meant to stay for longer than just one night. But then, maybe it is just that it is not as comfortable to stay when you are not quite level and it is a nice excuse to not have to move for a day if you are. Regardless, I couldn’t get quite level in my camp spot at the Lake Louise campground, but figured it was good enough for only one night, and I swore I would pick up some boards for under my tires soon.

The Canadian Parks system had interpretive theater in their park campgrounds. Most of them did a nightly show. For one reason or another, I had not made it to any of them although I was curious. I decided I would try to make the one in Lake Louise. The poster boasted a title of “Dream Big” and I thought that sounded interesting and inspiring so I put my dog on a leash and started that direction.

Lake Louise - Dream Big Theatre
Well, when I came to the tent section at Lake Louise, it was surrounded by an electric fence and had a cattle guard across the road to keep the bears out. Wow. I had never seen such a thing, and wondered if it was even safe to be out walking. The sign said there was a side gate for pedestrians, but I didn’t see one. So, I let my dog off his leash to see if he could get across. He has successfully traversed similar structures, but now he wanted to go around and under the electric fence. And after a couple pathetic attempts to find the pedestrian gate or figure out a way across into the tent area, we gave up. We gave up on our big dream to attend “Dream Big” and I would be lying if I didn’t feel a little disappointed and defeated. (even if only in my own lameness, I fancy myself a figure-it-outer most of the time, after all.)

Lake Louise - Bear Fence

So, we walked the long walk back to the camper, and by now the interpretive theater was probably half over, so I decided to get in the car and take a drive up to the lake. The little commercial area of Lake Louise is minimal. Basically the sum of two strip malls, bordering two sides of a parking lot, provided all the various shops to meet tourist needs; a deli, bakery, restaurant, candy shop, grocery store, post office, etc. .

I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. But, we drove up the road to the lake and found a place to park in the expansive parking lot. When I got to the lake, it was beautiful. It really was. But, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down. Is this all? This is what I have been hearing about? I mean, it is beautiful, but… maybe I am missing something?

Lake Louise View

But, then I thought maybe it was a destination/experiential thing. People were whisked off to the Lake Louise Lodge, which was massive and looked very fancy. And right out their window, if they paid the premium for a lake view room I am sure, they could look over Lake Louise. They could view this amazing scene of nature in the privacy of their own hotel room. They could eat a fancy dinner while immersed in the glory of nature. They could sit in their temperature controlled, bug free room and look out upon this beautiful lake. They could even watch the sun set in their underwear… if they really wanted to.

Lake Louise Mountains

For the more adventurous, they could walk along the lake or even rent boats to paddle out onto the water. But, maybe it was the merge of nature and extravagance that created this lure to Lake Louise that I kept hearing about but seemed to be missing. Maybe that is why the campgrounds were not as full as they were at Banff, even though there were a good number of people strolling around the lake. I am not really sure, and I felt as though maybe Lake Louise didn’t get a fair chance since my expectations were possibly built up a little too much both from what I had heard about it and because of my affinity for Banff. It tends to be easier to appreciate something when you expect less or don’t know what to expect at all. But, when you are expecting your socks to be knocked off, and all they have done is droop around your ankles, well… it is hard to get too excited.

Lake Louise with Boats

But then, maybe part of the beauty of this time at Lake Louise is realizing that we all find beauty in different places, and we can all have different favorite places. We are diverse people, and even lovers of nature and magnificent beauty can decide which backdrop of magnificent beauty is their favorite for their own experiences. And to be fair, I did look at the tourism information for Lake Louise which boasts being the hiking capital of Canada with opportunities to see glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife. It also boasts being one of North America’s finest downhill ski areas. So, maybe I didn’t give it a fair shake after all since I was only able to spend a very limited time there and was not able to explore much.

It really was beautiful; the lake, the area… don’t get me wrong. And if the opportunity ever presents itself to be whisked away to Lake Louise, I would be more than willing to explore the juxtaposition of extravagance and nature, as well as spend a significant time hiking. Until next time, Lake Louise…

Lake Louise Flowers

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I Heart Banff

2010 September 13

Fence & Flowers in Banff

I can’t put my finger on what it was specifically, but I heart the town of Banff. I just do. I was comfortable there, I had good hair days, I felt more inspired, the sky was bluer….

Ok, maybe the sky wasn’t bluer because it rained probably half the time I was there. But  I even had less of the rainy day doldrums in Banff. I have spent time at other tourist towns, but to me there was a different vibe in this community. It just suited me. I wanted to stay. I actually considered it. I even looked online at jobs and saw there was a 14 month graphic design position advertised…hmmm….

Park walkway in Banff

But, I couldn’t stop my trip so soon… I had just started. I couldn’t already plant myself, at least not for that long. And, I didn’t even know how to go about arranging to work in Canada. So, I was satisfied to just stay the three nights there and wander around town before heading out for Alaska again.

Overlooking Banff

I didn’t even take my camera with me most of the time. I just wanted to experience the place, rather than primarily observe. I wanted to sit in it… experience it.

Banff Street Scene

I walked my dog along the river. We walked down main street and saw smiles appear on people’s faces as they noticed my dog. One couple even made identical “ooohhhh cute” faces simultaneously. He has that way about him. He is a good looking dog if I don’t say so myself, but it is also his happy demeanor that makes him an attractive dog. Unfortunately, there were also a few people who were terrified of even the mere sight of any dog, so I had to try to anticipate that because my dog thinks everyone should be his friend.

Ok, people are all really just stick throwers to him, but to him all stick throwers are created equal. He doesn’t understand that some people don’t like him just because he is a dog; just because he is furry and four legged with a big slobbery tongue that can water an entire flower garden with no more than the 4 cups of water that fit in his dish.

Bridge in Banff

He has developed a habit over the years when he meets new people. He will let them pet him just long enough to see that they are even slightly interested. Then he disappears and the people start to comment on how he must not like the attention or must not be interested in getting a pet or two. And usually, by the time they finish commenting he has found a stick and dropped it at their feet and is looking at them with painfully hopeful anticipation of having more fun than…. ah who cares, just throw the stick, huh, it will be fun, more fun than not doing it, please, see my cute tail wagging and begging…. I usually tell people that the test is really not to see if you will throw it, but for how long. And that if they were smart, they wouldn’t start. But if they seem to know what they are getting into and they insist, well, by all means I welcome the relief pitcher.

Banff Scene

He also has the uncanny ability to find a stick anywhere. Part of the reason for this is that he has a very loose interpretation of what a stick actually is. He came and set a piece of wood barely bigger than a toothpick on my leg once expecting me to throw it for him. Other times he will bring almost an entire tree, and if you kept walking down the trail ahead of him, you usually find this out by it smacking the back of your legs. Unless it was too big for him to carry, and you heard him dragging it along behind you. It wouldn’t even occur to him that I could not throw a big branch like that further than he was already standing from me. The materials used are much less important than the actual activity as far as he is concerned. And… if he can fetch in the water, then he is in doggie bliss.

Bench along the river in Banff

Luckily, he is actually starting to tire out a bit over the years so I could take my journal down to a bench facing the river and write for a bit without breaking my concentration with a slobber stick landing in my lap. But even sleeping he draws attention. A couple came over and asked if they could pet him, and we ended up visiting for a few minutes. I have heard that dogs are a good way for singles to meet other singles. I am not sure about that, but you do have a pretty good chance of meeting dog lovers and exchanging niceties with other dog owners as you act like your dogs don’t have their noses attached to each other on polar ends.

Banff Street

I didn’t recreate much in Banff, which I know is probably a shame because it is great country and I am sure there is a lot to do. But, I felt really productive and inspired there, so I took advantage of that and just worked most of the time that I was not strolling around town.

Banff Clouds

After three nights, I left Banff with the hopes of returning someday when I could spend even more time, or possibly focus on recreating more than working. But for now, Banff is at the top of my list for favorite town along this journey so far.

Houses in Banff

ps – if you click on the photos they will resize to fit your browser window. 🙂

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Kootenay National Park

2010 September 10
by shana

Kootenay National Park, Canada

As Waterton diminished in my side view mirrors, I had every intention of driving to Fernie, British Columbia and stopping for lunch. Maybe I could find a delightful little cafe where I could sit down for a bite while tapping out some work on my laptop. Yes, that sounded lovely. But, it didn’t happen that way.

And, just as I had planned on stopping in Fernie, I had planned on stopping and camping somewhere before I reached the entrance to Kootenay National Park. I wanted to find out if I would be able to pull my camper through to Banff, and wanted to be able to spend most of the day in the park and not most of the day driving there.

I stopped at one RV park between Fernie and Kootenay, but they only rented by the year. I almost stopped at another, but ended up forging white-knuckled through a big rain storm. (Good trailer pulling training.) And then, before I knew it, I was at the town of Radium Hot Springs just outside the park. I was coming up on an intersection, and for some reason, I turned and drove toward the park. This wasn’t a conscious decision.

It was getting to be evening, and I didn’t know if I would even be able to find a camp site since it was a holiday weekend, but there I was pulling up to the park entrance kiosk.

She said there were a couple campgrounds, and she couldn’t guarantee but they probably still had sites available. And, I could drive my camper through. Ok, here I go… I guess. The roads in Kootenay were nothing like the roads through Glacier National Park in Montana. They were four lanes and nice wide shoulders. I felt more comfortable driving, but you could almost forget that you were in a national park too.

I pulled into the first campground I came to, and saw that there were plenty of camp spots available in the first loop. I stopped, used the bathroom, and then decided to tempt fate by driving deeper into the campground to see if maybe there was a better spot. I didn’t even know what might be “better” about a better spot, I just was still feeling the urge to keep moving, just as I had all day. I thought I was running out of luck, because many of the loops were full. I envisioned the first loop filling up and finding myself back on the highway headed for the next one. But, I just kept driving through the loops until I found an empty spot. Loop K, Spot 2. Phew.

I got settled into K2, filled out the registration, and then started a late dinner. I grilled the salmon I had picked up in Fernie with halved zucchini and slices of onion on a cedar plank. It was delicious. De-lish-ous. I was in camping dining bliss.

The only way this moment could have been more perfect, is if I had been able to share it. There are times when it is nice to go solo, to have peace and solitude, and then there are times where the good company of friends, family, or even strangers makes the experience even more extraordinary. This is one of those times.

Kootenay National Park, Canada
Just as I finished my dinner, I looked up and saw the mountains turning pink above the tree tops. I hastily put all of my dinner stuff away, grabbed my camera, my dog and set out for the trail we had briefly ventured on to stretch our legs before dinner. We walked out on the foot bridge and soaked it all in. The sunset. The beauty. The magnificence. The sensation that there are not even words for… just as there are views that photographs can not begin to capture.

Sunset in Kootenay National Park, Canada
It was amazing. I was almost brought to tears standing there taking it all in. And although my photographs do not do justice to the experience, I took a few to share what little glimpse I could.

The next morning, we ventured further down the same trail to Dog Lake. It was a nice little hike before we hit the road again.

Dog Lake, Kootenay National Park

I am not sure what compelled me to keep driving, to pull into the park, to look for a “better” camp spot, but I am glad I did. It was one of my favorite camp spots, my tastiest  dinner, and one of my favorite evenings so far.

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Beauty in the Land of Vicious Deer (Waterton National Park)

2010 September 6

Storm clouds on the road to Waterton National Park

HelloBonjour

This was my greeting as I entered Waterton National Park. It was not two separate words, but had become one from repetitiously saying it to every car that came to a stop outside the window of the park entry station.

Bonjour! I wanted to declare. But I realized that would soon become a bad idea the second she started speaking to me in French and I no longer understood what she was saying.

I actually took a semester of French in college. I even had a tutor. We would go over a page or two in the book and then she would quiz me. We were working on the basics. I am talking colors, objects… identifier words… we weren’t even trying to conjugate verbs yet or form complete sentences. I remember one session very clearly. We were studying objects on a desk. There was an illustration and everything was labeled with the correct word in French. We went over them, how to say them, and then she quizzed me. What is the word for book? I tried to remember, I really did. But all I could muster was, “I don’t know, but it is sitting on the upper right hand corner of the desk.” And I really thought I should get a few points for that.

I wish I knew French. I wish I knew Spanish, and Italian, German, and even Persian. But my brain has not taken well to expanding into foreign languages. It can learn a lot of things, it really can. But, it has a hard time with foreign languages… and the guitar. I also wish I knew how to play guitar, but that is a different topic completely. It is interesting to me that I have such a hard time with other languages because I really enjoy language in itself and the complexities of it. But, I have gone off topic here… back to the beauty and the beasts….

Street in Waterton Township
The gal at the park entrance window informed me that it was a holiday weekend, and that I might be able to get a camp spot since it was only Thursday but I would have to go to the campground to find out. Well… luck was on my side because there was one site left. Yay – I will take it! But, I could only have it for one night because Monday was a holiday and they were booked full with reservations through the weekend. That was fine with me.

I asked what holiday it was, but she didn’t know. She looked at me funny for even asking. I am not personally all that familiar with Canadian holidays, so I was curious what they were celebrating. I have since Googled it, and discovered that the First Monday in August is called “August Civic Holiday.”

There were signs posted on the check-in building warning of deer attacks. Keep your dog on a leash. Don’t leave them tied up outside. Deer WOULD attack. The gal at the window made a point to mention it as well. She said people laugh, but it isn’t funny when their dog gets attacked. I was taking it seriously, but now I was scared to even let my dog out to go to the bathroom if there was a deer in sight.

And you might laugh at me for that too. But I have seen how aggressive animals can be toward dogs if they think they are a threat. My family’s old dog Buck was charged by a cow that was summered in the mountains and had to learn to protect itself and it’s calves from wolves and coyotes. The last thing I wanted to see was my faithful furry companion attacked by a deer!

Waterton National Park

But despite the vicious deer, Waterton is a beautiful place. It was very peaceful. It felt good and easy to be there. Waterton is part of the International Peace Park in conjunction with Glacier National Park in Montana. The last time I was there, was in 2000 with my Grandma.

The campground was right in the township, next to the water, and had bathrooms and even showers. I was very excited about this. This was the first place I had stayed that they were both available and included. The place I stayed near Glacier gave me a token that was good for only 6 minutes. The showers here were timed as well, but not token operated. So, they didn’t run continuously while you were in the shower. That was fine with me… if it conserves water, great. I don’t mind pushing the little button when I am ready to rinse off.

We left the campground and Waterton the next morning… after all the deer had left. Well, except for this buck that walked through the campground right as I was getting ready to pull out….

Buck in Waterton Campground

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Camper (mis)Adventures – Part IV: Frozen or Flame Broiled?

2010 September 3

neon hot dog

Remember a couple of posts ago when I said that reminders of our mortality were a good thing? That they can energize us and make us feel alive? Well, shortly after the experience that prompted that post, I experienced the other kind of reminder of mortality. The kind that leaves you speechless and nearly immobilized. The kind that makes you realize how lucky you are to be alive in a much more “real” sort of way.

I had not been using the gas in my camper for several weeks since I had left Montana. I had realized that the funky smell was not from my refrigerator as I had originally thought. I had realized that it was in fact a gas leak, and that it was not coming from my fridge but somewhere yet to be identified. My sniffer doesn’t always work well. I get congested and have a few allergies that flare up from time to time so by the time I did smell it, it was probably pretty strong.

I had been using my propane for the fridge, the stove, and would eventually need it for the heater. All of that had to come to an immediate stop once I realized that I had a serious gas leak. And although it took me longer than it should have (as in immediately) I am glad I figured it out… well, I am just glad I figured it out.

[We interrupt this post for a quick camper tally: On the “broken and/or rendered unusable” side we have the sink, shower, hot water heater, shower door, air conditioner, refrigerator, stove, heater, and the lack of a dry shelter. (My camper and I cry together.) On the “working as it should be” side we have a table, a bench/couch, a floor, and a toilet… with a hitch receiver and tires recently joining the working side.]

Although I was toughing it out and figuring out how to get by without water or propane in my camper, it only took a few chilly (ok freezing) nights for me to break down and call and get an estimate on having the gas leak looked at. Luckily I happened upon a good shop run by a good guy who was able to get it in the next day. (I will be elaborating more on this in a later post)

The first really cold night though, I toughed it out. The next really cold night, the person at the front desk of the RV park gave me a space heater to use. That worked great, I could set it at just enough to take the chill off, but it wasn’t a permanent solution since I would still not be able to use it when I was parked somewhere without electric to plug into.

So, I took it in to find out how much work it was going to be to fix it. Well, by the time I came back he had already replaced the damaged copper tubing. He showed the piece to me, and the hole that was in it. I just looked at it, and then looked at him…. and could hardly say a word other than… “that is a really big hole.” In my mind, I was flashing through all the times that I had the gas on for who knows how long for the fridge and then lit the stove…

My only saving grace is that these little campers are far from airtight. There are vents behind the fridge and stove, and I usually had the windows and overhead vent opened at least a little. But… it was still startling. It was still frightening to know how close I could have been to a big “KA-BOOM!”

But, now thanks to a good guy at a good shop who insisted I bring it in because “a gas leak is pretty serious” (which I knew, which is why I had been gas free for weeks) I now can safely use my propane again. Which then shifts the stove, fridge, and heater back over to the working side. The poor hot water heater will have to remain on the broken and/or rendered unusable side however until the grey water tank is replaced. The good news is that we are shifting back in the right direction!

Thanks to the good people of Alaska!

(I know I am way behind an haven’t even made it into Canada in my posts on here yet, let alone Alaska, but I assure you I am working on getting caught up! Waterton National Park post coming soon!)

Previous entries:

Camper (mis)Adventures –  Part I

Camper (mis)Adventures –  Part II

Camper (mis)Adventures –  Part III (Soggy Dreams)

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Crazy MacGyver Fantasies

2010 August 26
Gerber Multi-Tool

MacGerber Tool

I know it may sound crazy, but I have these fantasies that in any given situation, I would have the knowledge, gear or… whatever might be needed to save the day. A fantasy of preparedness and/or resourcefulness, of sorts.

Let me give you an example. I used to have this hydration pack in which I kept a stash of unfilled water balloons. Why you ask? Why indeed. I don’t remember why I had them in the first place, but I put them in my pack because I hated to throw away perfectly good water balloons… and thought they might be “handy” in some creative unexpected way in some unlikely situation. And how cool would it be, to be in some random scenario, and to be able to have this conversation…

“Wait, I have something that will be perfect for that.”
“Water balloons?”
“Yes! Water balloons.”
“Brilliant.”
“I know.” “I knew they would come in handy some day.”

I mean, the possibilities are endless really. Lets say you are in a downpour, stuck in your tent, forgot playing cards and have nothing better to do than… randomly blow up a bunch of tiny little colorful water balloons and pointlessly bat them at each other like fools while you giggle like little school girls. (and then never tell anyone because they just really wouldn’t understand the delight in the pure colorful pointlessness of it all)

Or – you are at a BBQ on a really hot day and want to liven up the party a bit with an unexpected water balloon ambush. No one would see it coming.

On a more serious note… what if you needed to use it as a tiny tourniquet, like on your finger or something? Or, you could tediously tie several of them together to create a larger tourniquet. I mean, if you are at risk of bleeding out you will take whatever you can get right? Even if it comes in the form of a carnival-like string of multi-colored water balloons.

But, alas… I never got a chance to pull those little water balloons out of my bag of tricks. I think I eventually gave up on the dream and just (reluctantly) threw them away as I transitioned to a new hydration pack. Never would I get to sit around a campfire while someone says:

“Dude, do you remember that time that we were wondering what the hell we were going to do, and then out of nowhere Shana had this crazy handful of water balloons that totally saved the day. So random, but man, I don’t know what we would have done without them.”

Sigh….

I am not sure if it is a clash of my practical and creative sides, or it is a meeting in the middle of the two. What I do know is that if I had actually come into a situation where they would have saved the day… it would have been very cool. Yes… very cool. But since that day never came, and it looked like it never would, continuing to carry them around felt utterly ridiculous.

Although my water balloon dreams have floated away, I still occasionally harbor fantasies about the usefulness of a piece of string, a small ziploc baggie, a random marble, multi-tools, etc.

I do hope that I am able to channel my inner MacGyver though, should a situation ever arise to call for it….

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Many Glacier & Babb

2010 August 24
by shana

Many Glacier Park Entrance Sign

I almost didn’t drive into Many Glacier. I almost didn’t stop at the Babb Store. Really, the fact that I did both was the result of a newlywed couple and their choice of a parking spot. Funny how something so minor can completely change your direction.

I was on my way out of St. Mary and on my way to the US/Canadian border en route to Waterton National Park. I just wanted to stop at the Post Office on my way through before I left the country. There was really only one good place to pull in and park with my camper, but there was a little Subaru parked there with “Just Married” written on the window. The guy was sitting in the car with the door open and looked like he had either been there a while… or would be there a while. So, I decided to loop around and go back to the Many Glacier turn off.

It was a very, very, very bumpy road. (And yet, such a small foreshadowing of what the future held.) Of course, it was a beautiful drive despite the “rough road” as the sign had warned. Peaceful… well other than the jostled part. Not too many other cars. I was excited to see the lodge and hoped to get a good picture. Well….

There were soooo many people at the end of the road. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere. Any. Where. There were not any to be found; camper or no camper. I finally pulled over on a turn out along side the road at one point just so I could quickly run to the restrooms before hitting the bumpy road on the way back.

I stopped at a couple spots on the way back to snap a few pictures, but it was really windy and I didn’t want to take too much time because I still had a lot of ground to cover. So I slowly bounced my way back to the highway.

Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana

When I got back to Babb, I remembered I was low on water and thought I better pick some up, just in case. Water is one of those things that you just always need to make sure you have enough of. Always. I walked through a time warp as I walked into the little store. It was like it had never changed from when it was first built. The inventory had changed but everything else was the same, or at least made to look that way. I picked up some water and then went to retrieve my camera to take a few shots.

Babb store, Montana

Babb store near Glacier National Park

I was told the antique shop next door was also a place I should go, so I swung in for a quick perusal. (Ladies, just between us, there was some really fun vintage dresses in there that were priced quite reasonably. Had I more than a zero need for adding a vintage dress to my limited closet space right now, I would have picked one up myself.)

Antique Glasses at Babb antique store

And after all of this, I didn’t even end up stopping at the Post Office. Sometimes the detours are more important than our original destination….

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Stuck Between A Rock & A 60mph Hard Place

2010 August 21
by shana

highway

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program for a public service announcement.

(Ok… so there is nothing regularly scheduled about this… at all, and it is not technically a public service announcement. Regardless….)

As you may have read earlier, I have already touched on the subject of the new experience of “getting hitched.” One of the effects that this is a slower traveling speed. Not only does the handbook for my vehicle recommend not using overdrive while towing, and yes I actually took it out and read it, it just isn’t safe in most instances to drive much over 55mph or 60mph on the high end. This is in part because as a single axle trailer, it can have the tendency to morph from a portable abode to the wagging tail of a happy dog. As you might imagine, this can get a little scary, especially on considerably bumpy, winding, and otherwise uneven driving surfaces loosely referred to as paved.

So, as a result of this, I tend to drive slower than… almost everyone. Which in itself is a little bit of an irony, since I am almost always running behind schedule and would normally tend to drive (an acceptable amount over) the speed limit to try to make up some time. In fact, if someone were to keep track (which I am sure no one probably would, thankfully) the most common phrase used in my posts would probably be some variation of “I wanted to leave/get there sooner, but…”  (Although please note, hopeful OC statistician with nothing better to do: my awareness of this might alter my future writing behaviors.)

I think I am slowly learning to come to terms with my struggle with time… always running out of it or after it. Driving slower and pulling a camper might actually help me with this – help me put things into perspective. Life threatening situations tend to do that.

Rock = Highway

60mph Hard Place = Long bed semi-truck hauling second flatbed trailer behind it.

Pretty much everyone passes me eventually: cars, motorcycles, RVs, double and triple axle trailer haulers, Sunday drivers, and yes even semis. I am usually thankful when the speed limit has been reduced to one I am comfortable with and yay! for passing lanes. But occasionally, I get on a stretch of road without these perks and can find myself with vehicles behind me anxious to get around. Most drivers maintain a safe distance until they are ready to pass. (a second yay! for safe and considerate drivers)

However, sometimes I get an anxious, late, stressed, or otherwise rushed driver behind me that creates a difficult situation. Such was the case with the aforementioned long bed semi. He wanted to pass me and had even started to a few times. I was prepared to even slow down as he passed if needed to allow him back in the lane. He started out a couple times, and then would slow down and swerve right back. I didn’t understand why,  and was thinking to myself, “just pass me already!” until I saw later that he had a rather long load.

This is why it becomes a hard situation: 1. I have a big semi anxious to get around me which makes me nervous in itself of how much risk he is willing to take. 2. I have a big semi on my bu…mper and even if I wanted to pull over at a turn out to let him by, it is too dangerous to hit the breaks without notice to turn off for fear of him playing bumper cars with me.

So, unless I can see the turn out from a half mile away, to see if I can safely transition from the highway and also get back on the highway which is sometimes tricky with the trailer, I have to maintain the max speed I can safely drive. Also, pulling the trailer makes it impossible to stop on a dime and pull off the highway without a nice pullout or exit where I can do so with minimal turning.

I longingly glanced at several turnouts as I drove past that I couldn’t scope early enough. Eventually I made it to a large accommodating turnout, pulled off the highway, came to a stop, and watched the rather long semi roll past me. I then took a few minutes to take some deep breaths, allow the blood to flow back into my fingers, and then snapped a few pictures.

I am fully aware that it serves no purpose to get angry with something that you have no control over, even though sometimes it seems like we have no control of our own anger. I also realize that there isn’t always a purpose or meaning to everything, at least one that we need to know about. But, if attempting to put a meaning or purpose to something allows me to focus on something positive rather than submitting to anger or fear, I will allow myself these moments to over analyze.

In these instances, I tell myself that maybe there is a reason I am getting pushed down the road; why I am not allowed to pull over or delay my driving. Maybe I am missing an accident that I would have been in had I stopped or been going slightly slower. Maybe I needed to slow up the other driver so he avoided an accident, which is something I tell myself when I am the one stuck behind a slow driver and am starting to get anxious. Or… possibly it is simply to remind me of my mortality.

Reminders of mortality are great things. They give us a little shot of adrenalin. They remind us time is short. They make us re-evaluate our lives: how we are spending them, the path we are on, and the level of fulfillment we have in the areas of our life that are most important to us. Have I told my family I love them recently? Am I smiling and laughing every day? Do I need to spend more time doing…? Do I need to remember to take care of myself so I have more to give to others?

I will wrap this up with one last yay: YAY! for life: the reminder of it and the ability to live, share, and enjoy it.

(Disclosure: This post has been slightly dramatized for effect. I was actually in no more perceived life-threatening danger than any other day that I am driving on the road with other drivers. However, it was still a bit scary and still made me do a bit of thinking.)

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The Park Cafe & The Subject of Pie

2010 August 18

The Park Cafe in St. Mary

The Park Cafe in St. Mary, east of Glacier National Park, is highly recommended. Not only did my friends enthusiastically speak of it, but it boasts a “World Famous” status. I took a moment one evening to ponder on what exactly it takes to become World Famous, but I am still not entirely sure…. Is there a checklist or maybe a point system? Do you have to register with an organization that keeps track of these sorts of things? Just curious….

My friends had told me of the Gypsy Burrito at the Park Cafe. “I’m sold,” I had declared as they listed off the ingredients. I had meant to get there during sooner in my stay and had even planned to a couple times and had not made it. So, I pulled my camper into the parking lot and stopped in for lunch before I took off for the border.

The description of the Gypsy Burrito read:

Curry spices season this blend of potatoes, yams, parsnips, onions, carrots, coconut milk and garbanzo beans, wrapped in flour tortilla and topped with a tangy pineapple salsa and cashews.

It sounded good. And as it was set down in front of me, it looked good. Even the handsome doctor from Dallas standing behind me in the cash register line thought so. He asked if it was good. It was. Very good.

I could only eat one of two rather generous burritos on the plate so I asked to get a to-go box and ordered a piece of peach pie to go.

Pie. I really don’t understand the pie culture. Whenever people tell you that it is a really good cafe, they always seem to underscore it with, “they have really good pie.” Maybe it is just because I am not a pie person. My mom makes really good pies, and I will gladly have a piece if she has made one for an occasion. And I enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie at the holidays, but the rest of the year… pie doesn’t even enter my mind. And it certainly doesn’t persuade my decision making when it comes to deciding where to eat.

But, since it had been mentioned a couple of times, I got a piece to go. Just in case it was the most spectacular piece of pie ever… just in case it would change my entire perception of pie and its meaning in my life – or maybe even the meaning of life. Just in case…

Maybe it would have been better had I eaten it there. But I couldn’t eat another bite at the time. I even tried heating it up a bit on my grill, but I can’t help it… I was not won over. I am not a converted pie lover. Which is fine; I can leave the pie to the people who really appreciate it, and get my fill during the holidays.

The Gypsy Burrito though… was completely worth the time to stop on my way out of St. Mary. If you make it to Glacier National Park, I would recommend stopping by the Park Cafe in St. Mary and having a bite and a piece of pie… if you are a fan of pie that is.

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