Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weekend at Rachel's
(not to be confused with
Weekend at Bernie's)

The Great Disconnect turned out pretty well. Even to the point that I'm not ready to really do a post. It was great to have no concerns for 48 hours! I only checked the iPod for emails, but they were mostly just Facebook updates. Thanks for helping me not feel needed! I'll admit, I took about 5 minutes on Saturday afternoon just to quickly glimpse at a handful of sites, but overall, I though I did pretty well!

Lots of stuff that ran through my mind, so I'll do the bullet trick for this post. But while you read and look, click on the music player below. It was our theme for the day! For all pictures, be sure to click 'em to big 'em. For the most part, you won't be sorry!

  • There's a couple of ways to get to Kalispell (where Rachel lives). I took the shortest, but potentially longest (time-wise) route up through the Swan Valley. This is the route that my family has taken for decades for vacations up to Whitefish Lake. And for whatever reason, this drive up there brought back all sorts of things.
  • Nothing has really changed in the past 40 years on this drive. I remember quite distinctly sitting in the back of the station wagon and hearing the Carpenter's "Close To You" on the radio. It was the summer of 1970. I was a hormone-infused 8th grader, and that was "our" song. And there's a specific stretch of highway 200 that triggers that memory.
  • I gained an appreciation for my dad's frustration with campers boats being pulled on the road. Most of these things only go about 55 mph, and there's few straight stretches to pass. But when there's nothing you can do about it, and you're not on a specific time deadline, it's nice to just kick back and watch the scenery!
  • Trixie's Bar in Ovando still has the worn out sign, but it's still there. The only different thing now is that it advertises that there's an ATM there.
  • This is the gas station at Clearwater Junction, where the Swan Highway meets MT200. I have stopped here literally every time I come up this way. If not to pee, then to buy a drink. And that big cow on the left has been there every time, all the way back to at least 1970!
  • Just north of the big cow is Salmon Lake. On the south end is the church camp that I attended a couple of times, and my niece and nephew attended this summer already. It's also where BIL2's family comes for yearly family reunions (it's good to have relatives in the Catholic heirarchy!).
  • About the middle of the lake sits an island with a huge "cabin" built on it. It was the summer home of the doctor who invented the contraceptive sponge. When he died, it was bequeathed to the University of Montana, who now uses it for conferences and meetings. Note the boathouse on the right side of the picture next to the highway.

  • For most of the trip up the Swan Valley, the trees grow right up to the side of the road, and you can smell the pines, the duskiness, some smoke, even some of the rotting fish smell around the lake (lots of lakes!). I was fortunate enough to not really hit any traffic on my way up. Odd, for a Friday afternoon. When the trees weren't right up to the side of the road, you could see the Mission Mountains to the left, and the Swan Mountains to the right. Magnificent in their own right, but nothing like the Park.

  • I got to Kalispell, and Rachel took me to Moose's Saloon. Yeah, it's that decrepit. Nothing on the outside that even says "Moose's" anymore. And the inside is very dark, with a nice mix of sawdust and peanut shells on the floor. But it's definitely the place to go for pizza and cold beer! The place was packed for the entire time we were there!

    We made a short evening of it. We headed back to her place, watched a movie, and got to bed early. I was out like a light, and got a great night's sleep! Sleep was a major activity! I think I got close to 24 hours worth, not including a nap Saturday afternoon. It was WONDERFUL!
  • Saturday morning, we headed for Glacier Park. Since Rachel's an employee, we wouldn't have to pay to get in the gate, and we could use the employees by-pass at the gate. But first, we'd have to get close enough...
  • I'm not going to say much about the Park. I'll just let you soak in its magnificence. Be sure to click 'em! I don't know if this is the most scenic road in America, but it's got to be in the top three, at least! So here's the views from the Going To The Sun Road:

  • OK, I knew I couldn't do this without SOME sort of commentary... All of the pictures, except the one of the two of us in our dorkiness, were taken from the passenger side of Rachel's car--no focusing, no framing. Just point and click. It's obvious that you can't take a bad picture in Glacier Park! No shoulders on the road, as evidenced in the picture above. No guardrails, either. Just a very low stone wall. And do look closely at the stonework. That's some mighty fine artistry! And an engineering marvel, as found in the triple arch in the picture below the two of us!
  • The only low point of the visit happened at Scotty's Bar, where we had beers and burgers, and were joined by Montana Jones. As the beers flowed, he and I started to pick on her, and she got upset (justified), and walked out on us. Yeah, we were mean to her, and we've both apologized (she got flowers from him!). We're cool. Things are good. But I had to admit here that we were mean. :-(

  • And finally, it would be wrong if I didn't also include a picture of my other companion for the weekend. This is Rachel's pet rat, Midget. Say hi, Midget!

So that was my weekend. Ooh...not quite. I saw something I've never seen before on my drive home. Well, a couple of things. I saw three separate one-car rollovers, all of which were pulling a trailer/boat/5th wheeler. Too fast, and not knowing how to prevent fish-tailing. But the neat thing was the storm. I caught the tail end of a violent one that I was watching for about half an hour ahead of me. Really dark and lots of lightning. What I caught was that sort of rain that your wipers can't deal with, even at their fastest. Not a common occurrence up here. As it was dying down, I looked at the hills to the east, and they were covered in snow. But since it was still way to warm for snow, it had to have been coated in hail! No pictures, as they wouldn't have turned out because of the rain that was still coming down. But it was pretty darned cool!

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