Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Back in the USA

Some days you get up with an idea of what the day will be like.....what it will consist of.....what you will do, what you will see, and then you are completely blown away by how it actually turns out.

Our departure goal was 9 am for Tuesday, July 23rd.  I was up early to dump the black tank, wipe the dew off the windshield, and clean some of the side windows.  I did all that, but in addition I wiped off the awnings, and the part of the roof above the awnings all around the coach.  Okay, TLE says on occasion.....I am a little OC at times, but it makes me happy to see the coach looking almost as good as it did the day we brought her home for the first time on March 1, 2008.  By the time I finished TLE was just arising for the day.....what a life, huh?

I think in a previous post I said we were about 10 miles from the U.S./Canada border, but it was really about 16 miles, but it's all good.....we only had about 35 miles to travel in total.  We actually departed Lee Creek RV Park around 8:45 am and turned right on to PH-2 to head south to the U.S. border.  As we climbed out of the town of Cardston we were blown away by the beauty of the mountains to the west of us.  The skies were clear with temps in the 60's.  We arrived at the U.S. Customs office around appeared as if we were the first customers of the line of cars like we experienced entering Canada on the I-15 entrance going north 22 days earlier.  We were instructed by the agent to pull forward into the parking area and open the trailer for inspection after we handed him our Passports.  Someone would be out shortly he said.  We parked, and I got out and opened the trailer prepared to remove the 'Bird, and open up every nook and cranny to inspection.  While we waited we chatted with Forest and Cindy who made the mistake of saying they were "with us" and had to wait with us while we were inspected.  In a short time Agent Ware, just arrived from the Huston, TX area, came out.  He handed our Passports back and just asked us about our travels in Canada.   He was a good natured guy, maybe in his early 30's.  When he said he was originally from Beaumont, TX, which he referred to as "occupied Louisiana", that got a big laugh from all of us, especially Forest and Cindy.  Within a few minutes he bid us safe travels and sent us on our way with nary a question about the trailer, any food items we had purchased, guns, alcohol.....all we talked about was the Columbia Icefields, Lake Louise, how much drier it was here than Houston, etc. One of the easiest border crossings back into the U.S. I have ever had.

From the border it was a scant 10 miles to Babb, MT where we had hoped to fill up with Diesel.....we were down to 1/4 we pulled into the Sinclair station Forest and Cindy continued on south toward Shelby, MT where they would fuel up on their way into Great Falls.  Within a few seconds I realized this station did not sell diesel......hmmmm.  I walked into the cafe next door and asked a nice young lady at the cash register where the nearest station was that sold diesel....she quickly replied "St. Mary.....just 8 miles south".....well, okay, that was our destination for the day anyway so we continued on south another 8 miles into St. Mary and right on the northern edge of town was an Exxon station which sold diesel at $4.39/gallon.....WOW....that is the most I have ever paid for diesel on this journey.  We decided amongst ourselves to only put in $200 worth, which purchased us around 45 gallons, give or take a few ounces, and put us back to 1/2 full.

From there we drove another block to the local supermarket which had a large parking area to one side.  We got out the car and drove over to the St. Mary Visitor's Center, the entrance to Glacier National Park.  We went inside to inquire about parking in their parking lot for the day while we drove into the Park (by the way, we used our Golden Age Passes to enter for FREE!).  A nice young lady inside the Visitor's Center advised us we could park all day.  I then asked if they allowed people to stay the night in self contained RV's.  She replied that under special circumstances they did.  So, I asked, of course......"what are the special circumstances?"  She paused, then pulled out some sort of log book, and replied "I'm not sure, but let me take your name, phone number and license plate number so the Rangers will know you have permission to stay here" cool is that?  Asking never hurts, and we felt a little more at ease leaving our home in a secure parking lot.  

We headed back into town and then turned back north on US-89 to an RV park we had seen coming into town to see what their rates were.  There is a minor heat wave coming in the next few days, and if we are still in the area we may want to be able to plug in and run the A/C.  They charge $41 for water, and 30 amps.......a little high, but if we need it we will spend the money.

Next we headed back to the store to do some shopping......nice to be able to buy beer for less than $15 a six pack!  TLE picked out a few bottles of wine and I picked three six packs of some interesting supplies have been severely depleted since we entered Canada.

TLE then followed me over to the Visitor's Center where we found a parking spot and settled in for the day/night.  I did some insurance work, and then we took the top off the 'Bird and headed into Glacier National Park.  I have dreamed about coming here since the early 90's when my boss, at the time, had taken a vacation and just raved about his experience.....well here I am all these years later driving into that park.

We began our drive around 1 pm with no idea how long we would be gone, but looking forward to what the day would bring. 

Every where one turns in this park you see a "picture post card" view.  As TLE drove I sat in the "shotgun" seat with a map of the park in my lap......the road from east to west is about 50 miles long.  Our turn around goal was Lake McDonald, about 40 miles into the park.  A lot of the turnouts were packed with cars, and when we arrived at Logan Summit Visitors Center it was also packed.  We did find a couple of turnouts where we would stop and take pictures, but continued on toward Lake McDonald.  The map I was looking at showed a lodge and restaurant so we were hoping to catch a late afternoon snack, and maybe a couple of local brews.  We knew there was some road construction going on, and passed through a couple of minor construction zones where we had to wait a couple of minutes, but we were not prepared for the 15 minute wait about 10 miles from lake McDonald where they are redoing about 4 miles of road.  Once we got moving again we were driving on mostly a dirt/gravel road, and the dust was flying.  We still had the top down so by the time we made through that 4 miles we were coated with a layer of dirt.

View from a turnout just past Logan Summit

We finally found ourselves back on pavement, and within 6 miles turned into the Lake McDonald resort looking for the restaurant.  The first one we came to was no where near the my mind I saw us sitting by a window with a view of the lake while we supped.....this restaurant was not part of my vision.  I asked TLE to drive into the resort a little further, and within a few hundred yards we came to the Lodge, which advertised a restaurant inside.....I could see the lake from the parking lot, so this must be what I had in mind.  We found the last parking slot, and walked into the Lodge.  Within a few minutes we found the little restaurant with a view of the lake....we had to wait 5 minutes for a table, but were soon seated and examining the menu.....they had several brews on tap, but we both picked the Oatmeal Stout......

Our view of the lake....the screen doesn't do it justice in this picture

After a couple of drafts, and a "Buffalo Quesadilla" we walked down to the lake front and sat on a bench for about 20 minutes enjoying the balmy air, and the view.

We took a few pictures....TLE took the panorama above, and the self portrait below.

We were not looking forward to the drive back through the long construction zone with the top down, so we put it up before heading back to the east entrance of the park. 

Enduring our 15 minute wait to begin moving again

As we had hoped, a lot of the parking lots had thinned out by the time we headed back east, and we were able to stop and capture a lot of great shots.



We arrived back at the St. Mary Visitors Center around 6:45 pm with big smiles on our faces....the day had worked out even better than we had hoped.  We scored a great dry camp spot at the Visitors Center with a great view in every direction!

Another unexpected delight was that we are able to pick up our DirecTV satellite signal once again! One of our favorite TV programs is "So You Think You Can Dance?" was on Tuesday night, so after dinner we sat and watched the two hour show.

Just as we were getting ready to get in bed I saw head lights aimed directly at the drivers side of the coach.  I peered out and saw a Ranger's SUV there and a Ranger walking around the front of our coach......UH OH!  He knocked on our door, so I turned on the porch light and walked out.  He asked if I didn't know it was ILLEGAL to park in this parking lot.  This is the first time in almost 18 months anyone has ever knocked on our door anywhere we have parked.....especially after asking permission.  I explained calmly to him we had asked for permission inside the Visitors Center and after providing my name, phone number and vehicle license number which she dutifully wrote down in some sort of log book, was given permission.  He then replied..."I'm not surprised, you are not the first person in the last two weeks who has told me the same thing......apparently someone has incorrect information".  So he asked me for a description of  the employee who had granted permission, and said I was free to stay the night.....whew!!!  He thanked me for my honesty, and politeness, and I thanked him for graciously allowing us to remain the night.

Surprisingly through all of that questioning I never panicked, or worried about what we would do if we were asked to leave, which was a real possibility.  As we drifted off to sleep with soft breezes coming in our windows I was thankful we were in a spot that was patrolled with gun toting Rangers.

Thanks for stopping by!

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