I awake in Many Glacier Campground to what my boating friends would call a “snotty day.” It’s thick pea soup fog, cold and gray out my rain-streaked window. I have done a “big hike” yesterday, and I have another one planned for tomorrow, so I do not feel guilty for taking a day off and being lazy.
It has now been three days without any internet connectivity, and I am starting to exhibit signs of addictive behavior. Fidgety. Restless. Unable to focus on the book lying next to me. I start to consider extreme measures in the lodge nearby, like bribing guests for their room number so I could use the wifi, or lying to front desk clerks at the lodge that I had a family emergency, and could I please have a guest wifi code. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I know I can get a signal back down in St. Mary’s. I have also read about a restaurant recommendation on one of my fellow RVers blogs for Two Sister’s Café, halfway between St. Mary’s and Many Glacier. I rationalize a trip into town under the guise that I will do some research in the educational exhibits at St. Mary’s Visitor Center. And since the Sister’s Café is on the way, of course…
It’s warm inside, there is a table by the rain-speckled window in front, and the staff is friendly. I ask if I can sit awhile, and he says “You just missed the lunchtime rush, so stay as long as I would like, I could use the rest.” The internet signal is strong, and the cheeseburger is grilled to perfection. And I use my previous day’s hike to not only rationalize my day off, but there is Huckleberry Pie on the menu. I’ve never had a huckleberry. Another educational opportunity.
I leave the cute and cozy Two Sister’s Café, and drive six miles down to St. Mary’s Visitor Center. As I slow to pull into the parking lot, I hear a strange rattling noise coming from the Tracker. I have never heard this sound before, and find it odd that it doesn’t stop when I kill the engine. I get out, open the hood, and water is literally sizzling….not just boiling, but sizzling into the coolant overflow container. It is at this moment that I realize my temperature gauge has most likely been stuck just to the left of center for who knows how long?
I go inside the Visitor’s Center to give the car time to cool down. While in there, I inquire about any local mechanics nearby. I find out the nearest one is in Babb, Montana, 8 miles away. At this point, I am 20 miles from the mother-ship, which is still parked up in Many Glacier Campground.
After the car has cooled, I add over a gallon of water to the radiator. While the hood is up, a lovely RVing couple comes over to ask if I need help. I explain my situation, and ask for any additional advice. He tells me most likely my thermostat is stuck, so just keep a close eye on it, and get to mechanic asap. As I pull out into the street, enough steam billows from my tailpipe to rival the last of the great steam engines.
Unbeknownst to me, the RVing couple watches me leave the parking lot. Knowing I wouldn’t get far, they decide to come looking for me, and find me half a mile away parked at the Exxon station. The general consensus is, the little Tracker is hosed. We discuss my options. Being good RV folks that they are, they insist on driving me the 20 miles back up to the Winnie in Many Glacier campground, despite my resistance. “No-no. I’ll be fine. Really! I have my bike on the back.” You see, I have a hard time accepting help from others. They counter, “Look, even if you call a tow truck, you have no way back to Many Glacier. What are you going to do, ride your bike 20 miles uphill? It’s getting dark soon. Traffic is too light this late in the evening to hitchhike. You don’t want to get stuck up there in bear country alone!” So finally, we come to a compromise. I will accept their generous offer, if they will allow me to top off their tank. We have a deal.
Once back in Many Glacier campground, I work fast to stow the Winnie, as it is now approaching sundown. I hurry down the pot-holed road as fast as I am comfortable without crashing things in the kitchen. I hitch up the Tracker and tow it back to Many Glacier, into my spacious pull-thru site. There is something to be said for having one’s own tow truck!
By the time I get back to the campground and start the Tracker to unhitch, the engine has seized up. Thus bringing my Glacier National Park vacation to an abrupt end….and beginning a journey of an unexpected sort altogether…