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?
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.
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.