Away for the weekend

29 05 2009

I’ll be gone through Sunday afternoon, so there will be no new posts until then.  

But expect great revelations Sunday evening.  I’ve got a lot of interesting stuff to talk about…

For the record, my dad and I made it home safely.  And thanks to everyone who has stopped by to read, I hope you’re enjoying it so far!





You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Part II.

27 05 2009

BREAKING NEWS—BREAKING NEWS—BREAKING NEWS—BREAKING NEWS
So as it happens, I ended up buying a great, practically all-original 1988 Grand Wagoneer from a guy in Malta, MT for a great price.  Unfortunately, it’s now sitting in an Elk’s Lodge parking lot in Bismarck, North Dakota with a busted transmission (I think), and I’m typing this out in a Barnes and Noble café on a few hours of sleep.

My dad and I will be heading home as soon as we find a shipper, provided that the Elks don’t mind if it sits in their parking lot for a day. So much for the great price…

On the plus side…well, there really isn’t a plus side visible at the moment, but I’m sure this will be funny with some perspective, somehow.  At least I’ve got a great vehicle that will be even better once it drives.

I’ll make a more comprehensive and entertaining update about the last few days in Montana (which is all-around awesome) once I feel I can conduct myself civilly.





You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

26 05 2009

I had more trouble getting out of bed than usual this past Saturday morning.  I blame a combination of uncomfortable seats in the Wrangler and really comfortable beds at the Kalispell Holiday Inn Express coupled with an exhausting few days on the road and my seasonal allergies.  But anyway, with most of the day behind us, my dad and I set out to see at least a small part of Glacier National Park.

Scenery.  I was too distracted by the natural splendor to take a lot of pictures.

Scenery. I was too distracted by the natural splendor to take a lot of pictures.

Lake McDonald Lodge is one of several historic lodges in the park, and it seems like the kind of place where arriving in the Packard with a canoe strapped down on top would just feel nautural somehow.  There are vintage White tour bus/truck things parked outside of the lodge, and I believe there are over thirty of them scattered around the park.

They look old, but they were completely refurbished by Ford to run on propane.

They look old, but they were completely refurbished by Ford to run on propane.

I could more or less live out all of my vintage vactioning fantasies on the grounds.  But if I decided to leave ground…

Awesome.

Awesome.

…vintage wooden boat rides are available!  Except we got there just as the last tour was coming in for the night.  Here are more pictures of the area.

Yeah, I had to post a shot of me looking pensive eventually.

Yeah, I had to post a shot of me looking pensive eventually.

Oh, and this is to prove that my dad and I are actually together on this trip, since there’s been no photographic evidence so far:

Father-son bonding.

Father-son bonding.

The sun was going down pretty fast, so we decided to leave Glacier National Park and head back into Kalispell for the night.  But first, we checked out Packer’s Roost, a bar we had driven past a few times.  I’ll admit, I was a bit reluctant to go in because I hate looking like a tourist and I can’t even drink legally, so I was destined to be the designated driver.

But in the end it was a good decision.  How else would I have met Claude?

Claude-Graham bonding time.  He's not freakishly tall, I'm just sitting.

Claude-Graham bonding time. No, he's not freakishly tall, I'm just sitting down. Note the ironic t-shirt.

And I never would have had the opportunity to embarrass myself at the pool table:

This actually happened.

This actually happened.

Everyone was having a good time and seemed to be sincere.  Not a lot of pretension at Packer’s.  To my dad and I, it seemed pretty wild, but the owner, Greg, told us it was quiet for a Saturday.  I’d love to see it when it’s really crazy.  Yet another place for me to revisit next time I’m out west (and of age).

Also, the answer to Claude’s joke?

An Amish Driveby! I never made any promises about quality…





Kalispell and the Jeep Ranch

25 05 2009

When you spend a few days driving, everything begins to blend together, but I’m pretty sure we arrived in Kalispell, MT on Thursday.  Kalispell is on the western side of the continental divide, and is the first real “civilization” we encountered in Montana, featuring a wide variety of restaurants, a Costco, and liberals.

One wonders what worthy cause or catchy slogan is buried under the "Honor Teachers" sticker.  Free Tibet?  You Can't Hug With Nuclear Arms?

One wonders what worthy cause or catchy slogan is buried under the "Honor Teachers" sticker. Free Tibet? You Can't Hug With Nuclear Arms?

I might have respected the “Think Globally, Act Locally” sticker a little more if it was attached to a Prius instead of what is probably one of the most gas-guzzling Toyotas on the road, but whatever.  I’m pretty sure that after you attach the sixth bumper sticker it becomes an excercise in self-parody, whatever your cause ultimately is.

Anyway, the next day, we set out for the Jeep Ranch, located halfway between Kalispell and Missoula near Plains (near being relative-there are some mountains in the way).  The proprietors, George and Chad (a father-and-son team) maintain a few hundred old Jeeps on a portion of a 160-acre homestead.  I was too busy looking at the Jeeps and listening to stories to take pictures, but fortunately, my dad took care of that.

An old CJ-7, wth the orginal barn visible in the background.

An old CJ-7, wth the orginal barn visible in the background.

A variety of parted-out full-sized Jeeps.

A variety of parted-out full-sized Jeeps.

I might have already said this, but I’m incredibly jealous of the state of preservation of most of the vehicles I’ve seen out here in general.  Old trucks, like the Power Wagon I saw, that would have rusted out decades ago in Michigan are more or less rust-free, and even the Wagoneers (which are notoriously prone to rusting in difficult to fix areas) on the ranch were not as bad as they would have been in other parts of the country.  Many of the rusted vehicles on the Jeep Ranch actually came from near the West Coast, where they encountered horrific humidity and salt air.

We spent over four hours at the Jeep Ranch looking around, talking, and comparing the new Wrangler to some of the older vehicles on the lot, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a Wagoneer in the right condition for my needs.  I can’t say I was entirely surprised, since George emphasized that they deal primarily in parts, not complete vehicles.  In any case, I’ve found a good source for parts and learned a good deal about the evolution of Jeeps, not to mention meeting some great guys (I’ll find a picture of them later).

Unwilling to give up my quest for another Wagoneer, I unsuccessfully scoured local papers over dinner.  Finally, after checking more or less every classfied ad page in the state, I found another vehicle on Craigslist.  The location?  Malta, a town on US2 on the eastern side of the state.  We drove through Malta the day before.  I don’t even think we stopped.  Arg.  I’ll be checking that Wagoneer, an ’88 (as old as I am!) out on the way home.

These posts always take longer to write than I expect, and we need to get back on the road.  I’ll have to make an update later this evening bringing everything up to date, and I promise I’ll recount my experiences with Real Montanans (Montanians?) then.

To keep your attention, here’s a joke from Claude, a guy I met at a bar.

What goes clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop, bang! bang! clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop?

You’ll just have to come back later to find out.





More Pictures

24 05 2009

Again, I don’t want my posts getting too long, and I just realized I forgot to add these pictures in the last one.

Glasgow, MT's hottest eatery.  Excellent brisket sandwitch.

Glasgow, MT's hottest eatery. Excellent brisket sandwich. It's considerably less blurry in real life.

Another shot of the Power Wagon.  It needs some work (or a total restoration), but was very solid all around.

Another shot of the Power Wagon. It needs some work (or a total restoration), but was very solid all around.

Coming up next: my trip to the Jeep Ranch in search of a Wagoneer, Kalispell, Glacier Lake Park, and  my close encounter with some locals!





Montana Bound (Part Two)

24 05 2009

So where was I?  Ah, yes, North Dakota.  As I was saying, the middle part of the United States, or “Flyover Country,” as our sophisticated coastal elites call it, is not exactly the most exciting place geologically.  Still, to really get a feel for this great nation, I think all politicos should be required to drive through it before taking office.  It really gives one a sense of the scale of our country.  They might also realize how stupid tiny tin-can Smart Cars, though possibly well-suited for cities, are out in the West. But I digress.

We were a bit early in the year to see amber waves of grain, but there were really cool grain elevators and silos every few miles:

I'm fairly certain this was in North Dakota somwhere, but what's the difference really?

I'm fairly certain this was in North Dakota somwhere, but what's the difference really?

Finally, we arrived in Montana.  In keeping with their libertarian attitude, no tax money was spent on a multimillion-dollar welcome center.

Welcome to Montana!  Please be patient, we promise it gets more interesting!

Welcome to Montana; please be patient, we promise it gets more interesting!

I would have raised a toast in honor of Vasily, but I didn’t have any vodka handy.  I have not yet seen any rabbit farms.

"I would have liked to have seen Montana..."

"I would have liked to have seen Montana..."

The landscape might not have been exactly gripping, but there were some cool little towns out there.  Also, they have different gas stations than we do back in Michigan.

There's a "Dino Trail" to follow, but sadly, I didn't have time on this trip.

There's a "Dino Trail" to follow, but sadly, I didn't have time on this trip.

Montana has generally low taxes, but a gasoline tax and a restaurant tax help make up their revenue.  Still, gas prices weren’t much higher than they were back in Michigan.  Plus, the logo has some nonspecific sauropod on it, which (to me) is worth at least a few cents more per gallon.

A Chrysler dealership (I can’t remember which town it was in) had two beat up Dodge Power Wagons lined up out in front, one with a tow truck attachment and one with a pickup bed.  At least one was for sale, and I was halfway tempted to ditch my plan to get a Wagoneer and buy one of those instead.  Luckily, I was struck by a rare spell of sensibility and decided to hold off.  Someday, if I’m living on a ranch or something, I can probably rationalize buying one for heavy-duty hauling.

Trucks just don't have this kind of character these days.

Trucks just don't have this kind of character these days.

After many hours of driving, I got my first glimpse of the Rockies.

They get bigger eventually.

They get bigger eventually.





Montana Bound (Part 1)

22 05 2009

I was originally planning on posting updates on the progress of my trip to Montana in search of a new (old) Grand Wagoneer (more on that later) on at least a daily basis, but surprise, there weren’t many wi-fi-ready coffee shops along US2.  Instead, I’ll have to give a recap after the fact.  Here it goes:

There was nothing unusual about the first eight or ten hours en route in the new Wrangler, since almost all of it was spent in Michigan on a route I end up driving at least a dozen times a year.  Mackinaw City was depressingly quiet Tuesday night (the calm before Memorial Day Weekend?), but my dad and I managed to find an open restaurant where I caught the end of the Wings game.

Leaving the next morning from the cottage, we finally started crossing state lines (see below).  My stay in Wisconsin was blessedly brief.

Wisconsin's stunning natural beauty.  I'm sure it looks better after a pitcher of PBR.

Wisconsin's stunning natural beauty. I'm sure it looks better after a pitcher of PBR.

The big problem with this trip is the lack of time.  We stopped in Duluth for coffee and noticed that it was, indeed, a very nice city—then drove on.  Northern Minnesota looks a lot like the Upper Peninsula, but they’ve apparently got Floodwood, the Catfish Capitol:

I'm not buying it.

I'm not really buying it.

I also saw the Mississppi River for the second time (but I don’t remember much about my trip to St. Louis).  This far north, it looks more like a bunch of wetlands that happens to drain south.  Maybe I’ll do a raft trip or something in the future.

Deciding to drive through the night, we entered North Dakota.  The scenery was even less varied than Garrison Keilor’s voice, so I’m fairly certain the darkness didn’t obscure anything.  The main highlight of the the North Dakota drive was being able to listen to Coast to Coast AM on the radio (there are no affiliates in the Detroit area).

I can’t encourage you enough to tune in to Coast to Coast AM if you have the opportunity.  It’s probably one of the most satisfyingly bizarre radio shows out there, though I was a little disappointed at the conventional nature of the Thursday morning programming: starting out with a gun rights discussion (can’t really complain here), it didn’t slide as far off the deep end as it usually does; near death experiences might be out there, but there’s at least some science behind them.  I wanted rants about the New World Order and serious discussions about how the ruling class is actually shapeshifting reptiles.

In the morning light near Minot, North Dakota, we finally caught a glimpse of the scenery we had been missing through the night:

"Gently undulating" is probably being really generous here.

"Gently undulating" is probably being really generous here.

I don’t want these posts getting too monolithic, so I’ll break the rest of my trip so far down into several more posts punctuated by lots of full-color pictures to keep your attention.  Thanks for reading!