Our trip to NAMGAR's GT-32 in 2007 has been our greatest adventure yet. The trip lasted nineteen days, covered ten states, two Canadian Provinces and over 5400 miles. Diane kept a comprehensive journal on this trip, so we'll relate our journey in a journal format. We hope you enjoy reading about our travels.
A couple of items first. After GT-31, we wrote that we were going to redesign this site. Unfortunately, a paying customer and other things intervened, but we are moving in that direction. Many folks have commented on the antique cards that we include for each of the GT locations. Whistler officially opened for business in the early 1970s; it can only be considered a classic, and no antique postcards are available for this venue. They are probably still circulating the original postcards.
Our traveling companion, Bruce Nichols, once again accompanied us. Bruce retired this year from teaching, and this trip was his retirement present to himself. He drove Ole Blue from his home and stayed with us the day before we departed. We had our traditional champagne toast to a safe "Adventure" (we did this every night at dinner, too). And despite the trials of the journey, we think he enjoyed the trip as much as we did.
Also, PRNCZ started this trip with a fresh engine rebuild. When we left, there were barely 1200 miles on her.
Monday Morning, 6:00AM
Everyone was up early to pack, make one last check on the cars, shut down the house, zero the odometers and make tracks to a greasy-spoon for an early breakfast. Our neighbor came out to watch the commotion and volunteered to commemorate the occasion by taking a picture. Our destination for today was Clear Lake, IA: the place where "the music died" on February 2, 1959.
On the way, there was one tech stop to fix a grounding problem that was causing the turn signal indicator light to malfunction on PRNCZ.
We reached Clear Lake, IA and the Surf Ballroom about 4:30PM. Since it closes at 5:00PM, we dragged Bruce around to all the important sites: the phone booth where Buddy Holly made his last phone call home, the auditorium which is very original (much like many MGAs), the lounge area with all the celebrity photos and the gift shop for a memento or two. Then we took the requisite photos outside with the As. Both of our As are 1959 vintage, the same year the music died.
A reunion is still held every February to commemorate the Winter Dance Party of 1959.
"Step onto the hardwood floors, surrounded by ocean-front murals and booths reminiscent of milk shakes and rock-and-roll. Look up into the clouds floating on the ceiling and realize that the sky is still the limit. You're indeed standing on the stage of American music . . ." — (Surf Ballroom Web site).
When we finally reached our motel, Diane went in to register. A few moments later she returned to the car. Normally, she would tell Steve where to park in relation to the room, minimizing the number of trips to schlep baggage. This time she told him to move to the opposite corner of the building and put the hood up and side curtains in - and PRONTO. The area was under a tornado warning, and a storm front, which was now visible, was headed into town. We ordered pizza in and watched the SciFi channel amidst the crashing and banging outdoors.
The new day started without any repercussions from the events of the previous night. The rain came - in buckets - but there was no tornado. The interior of the car was uncommonly dry. After a quick "continental" breakfast at the motel, we headed off to this day's destination: Chamberlain, SD, a sleepy town off of I-90 on the Missouri River.
Today would be the first day of really hot temperatures and a taste of the even hotter temperatures to come. To break up the day, we planned a stop in Mitchell, SD, home of the Corn Palace.
Corn Palace, Mitchell SD
The Corn Palace is nothing more than a community center, auditorium and small historical museum. Besides its age, the other interesting feature is its exterior. The images on the building's façade are changed each year. They are made of all natural materials, primarily ears of corn, corn husk and straw. The colors are achieved by using various varieties of corn. The Corn Palace's auditorium walls are also done in the same fashion.
We normally do not travel on Interstates, but with the temperatures hovering in the very high 90s and nothing to see along US 16, we decided to travel the final seventy miles on I-90. After checking in at the motel and hitting the pool, we headed off for Charley's Restaurant, recommended by the desk clerk: a lounge and steakhouse right out of the fifties.
There we struck up a conversation with a biker-couple who had been on the road for the past week, touring the national parks. They spoke of riding in 100°F to 117°F days. When we asked how they managed the heat, he said the only way he rode was with "sleeveless shirts and no helmet." His wife looked a little worn... Can't wait for tomorrow!
Today was an exceptionally long day. Our destination was Spearfish, SD, with several intermediate stops: the Prairie Dog Ranch, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore National Monument. The weatherman said that the high would be 98°F with a strong possibility of late afternoon thunderstorms. We needed to travel on I-90 in order to make all the stops planned.
The Prairie Dog Ranch is on the road into the Badlands National Park. We visited the ranch over thirty years ago, on our way west to see Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons National Park. At that time, Steve suggested to Diane that we should stop. He had just purchased a new camera and wanted to check out the photo opportunities. Diane was dead set against it. We stopped. After Steve got his photos, it took him about ninety minutes more to pry Diane away from all the cute furry creatures.
Now the ranch is but a shell of its former self. Except for the large fiberglass
prairie dog at the entrance, a few furry creatures milling around and the gift
shop, there's little that can be said about this former roadside attraction.
Badlands National Park
The Badlands are another story: they're still as eerie and beautiful as we remembered them thirty years ago. The Badlands National Park is basically a driving tour that takes about two hours, depending on how many times you get out of the car to take pictures, hike along the boardwalks and how long you stay at the visitor's center and museum.
We passed a group of Corvettes in the park, which we later found out were from a Corvette Fest in Spearfish.
Once out of the Badlands, we made our way north to Wall, SD, the home of Wall Drug. Wall Drug was established in the 1920s. Its hook to lure customers was free ice water: a rare product in those days. Now, folks are lured to this place from all over the world by signs along the road which read "You are only xxxx miles from Wall Drug". Haven't you seen them? We saw them in London and in Germany, but not in Russia.
Wall Drug has expanded since the 1920s into a major tourist attraction. Free ice water is still available but so are food, leather goods and a wide variety of tourist tchotchkes. Steve managed to catch a photo of Diane "busting" this wild jack-a-lope. Jack-a-lopes are critters indigenous to this area.
Diane "busting" a Jack-a-lope at Wall Drug
Steve and Bruce stopped at a NAPA store for a cooler engine thermostat for PRNCZ and some oil for Ole Blue. They thought that PRNCZ would run cooler with a lower temperature thermostat, but neither of them wanted to work on a hot engine in 100°F weather. It never got installed.
We continued to Mt. Rushmore. As we got closer, the skies became more menacing: we thought we might be OK and pressed on.
The approach to the monument is through Keystone, SD and was very disappointing. The minute we entered Keystone, we turned to each other and said, "Gatlinburg?" Other than the town being smaller, with so much commercialism, it was difficult not to compare Keystone with Gatlinburg (GT-31). We drove through as quickly as possible because raindrops were now appearing on the windscreen.
We no sooner got to the Mt. Rushmore parking lot, than the skies opened up. Thank goodness they've added a large parking ramp. We got under cover as quickly as possible. The rains, and hail, came in buckets.
As Diane was getting the bumbershoots out of the boot, she bumped her leg on the tailpipe which eventually got infected and turned every shade of the rainbow - the one we never saw after the storm.
Our Best View of Mt. Rushmore
We waited thirty minutes in the parking ramp before the rain let up enough so that we could dash to the visitor's center. Then we dashed to the gift shop. Bruce purchased a Mt. Rushmore umbrella as a souvenir. Then we dashed to the museum and watched a video on the construction of Mt. Rushmore.
The rain finally subsided, but then the fog rolled in, right over the four famous faces. This was our best photo from the visit. Just image the four presidents above the building: can't you see them?
After walking around the museum, we waited a good hour for the fog to clear, but then had to move on. The sun was shining when we pulled into the motel parking lot. After dinner, as we left Applebee's, the skies opened up again. Goofy weather.
Today promised to be a great travel day. Our destination was Billings, MT, and our intermediate stops were Devil's Tower National Monument and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
We started off this day with the hood up and the side-curtains in. Once it warmed up, we took out the side-curtains but left the hood up, because we knew what was coming. The trip to Devil's Tower Monument on Wyoming Rte 24 was quite picturesque itself, but then we crested a hill, and the Tower came into view...
Steve & Diane Heading for Devil's Tower
For perspective, this photograph was taken from the side of the road approximately three miles from the Tower. The Tower stands about 1300 ft. high and is about one mile in circumference at the base. It's conjectured that this is the core of an old volcano and that the original volcano stood another mile higher than the Tower. This is all that is left after everything eroded away.
You may remember the Tower from the Spielberg movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". But did you know that only sixteen minutes of the movie were actually filmed here?
We visited the ranger station where we viewed the exhibits regarding Devil's Tower and stamped our passports. Then we walked to the base of the Tower, but we decided not to circumnavigate it.
After an hour of putzing around, we headed off towards Highway 212 and on to Billings. Wyoming Rte 212 passes through two Native American Reservations: the Crow and the Northern Cheyenne. And as the day became progressively hotter, the landscape became progressively more desolate. We learned that PRNCZ hates the heat as much as DI does. At times along this stretch of road we're willing to bet that the temperature exceeded 105°F. We finally made it to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
Where George Custer Fell in Battle
Alex Haley once said that "History is written by the winners." Initially, this wasn't the case for the Little Bighorn Battlefield, established in 1876. But since 1991, the history at this location has been refocused on Native Americans because Custer lost: he lost very badly.
Diane stayed at the visitor's center to view the exhibits, enjoy the air conditioning and listen to the Native American interpreters. Most of the interpreters are Native Americans with stories about the life of the Indians at that time and how they defeated the U.S. Army.
Steve and Bruce walked up to the monument and the battlefield. The headstones in the photograph mark the location where General Custer's soldiers fell during the battle. The red ribbon marks the location where Custer, himself, fell. If the remains of a soldier could not be identified, they were buried in a mass grave and marked with a monument listing all the remaining names. There are also headstones for Indian warriors who fell during the battle and a monument commemorating all the tribes that fought here: Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Crow and Arikara.
This location is also the site of a National Cemetery (est. 1886) which contains the remains of the first Native American woman in the U.S. Forces killed in combat, in Iraq.
Yesterday's heat was brutal. So today we decided to get up early, get on I-90 and shoot for Missoula, MT. We were on the road by 5:40AM, it was 79°F, the traffic was light, and we were making good time. But about three hours down the road it finally dawned on us that we were making such good time, we'd be at our motel in Missoula before noon! Sitting in a parking lot under a hot sun waiting for a room to be cleaned is not our idea of fun. We needed to do something to kill some time.
Diane checked the map and found a scenic drive between where we were and Missoula, so we decided to take the 55 mile long Pintlar Scenic Loop. Midway we stopped in Philipsburg for lunch.
Canyon View on Pintlar Scenic Loop
We talked with a big group of bicyclists who were riding across the US for "Habitat for Humanity":we thought we were hot!
We found the Philipsburg Cafe and had the specialty: pasties. The café is listed in the National Historic Registry as an old boarding house with a fully operational antique freight elevator and hardwood floors. This is an historic mining town, and pasties were the meal of choice for the miners. And were these pasties ever good!
We finally got to the motel at 2:30PM, barely. The traffic moved so slowly through Missoula, we were in constant fear of overheating. The mis-timed traffic signals and the semi in front of us didn't help matters. PRNCZ guzzled a full quart of oil in 400 miles due to the fact the rings hadn't seated, to the heat and to crossing the Continental Divide at 6500 ft. She and Steve were equally unhappy. Steve picked up additional oil, fearing that a seal may have failed and didn't want to get caught short. Dinner that evening was at the Montana Club.
Today we picked up the third member of our expedition, Don Holle. Don and wife Linda live near Albuquerque, NM. Linda still works and didn't have enough vacation time to make the drive, so Don trailered his MGA to his sister's place in De Borgia, MT. Linda flew to Seattle later in the week and took a rental car to Whistler.
Our goal for the day was Grand Coulee, WA, on the Columbia River and the location of the world's third largest dam.
Diane With Bar Friends 1992
Diane With Bar Friends 2010
We met Don for breakfast at the 10,000 Silver $ Bar in Haugan, MT. That's Diane getting reacquainted with a local cowpoke and an Indian. When she visited in 1992, she met up with three Indians here. Move your mouse over the picture to see her then.
Our first stop after breakfast was the historic Train Depot in Wallace, ID. The curator at the Depot saw us drive up and was ready for us with stories of the 1953 MG TD he's owned since new.
There was lots to talk about: the cars, the historic town, the cars, the bordello, the cars, the train station, the cars - you get the picture.
Finally, we were back on the road, through Coeur d'Alene, Spokane and on towards Grand Coulee, literally driving through the "amber waves of grain".
Descending into Grand Coulee Dam
When we arrived at the Grand Coulee Dam, Steve, Bruce and Don visited the visitor's center, while Diane read and took pictures. Afterwards, Steve drove Diane to the hotel (she wanted to do laundry) and then caught up with Bruce and Don on the opposite side of the dam, waiting for the next tour of the #3 Power Plant.
The tour consisted of a ride on a 45-degree elevator that runs down the face of the structure to the inside of the dam. From the observation balcony there, we got a spectacular view of the six power generators. You want power? You can get it here. Each of the generators in the plant alone can produce over 700 MEGAWATTS of electrical power! There are eleven generators in the entire dam structure.
Enjoying the Cascade View
The weatherman said that today would be mild and rainy throughout the Cascade mountain range. Hoods down! We're motoring through the mountains.
This was the last leg of our journey to our objective. Tonight we would be in Whistler, British Columbia.
What scenery we had along the way: mountains, snow, rain, clouds, waterfalls, pine trees. SNOW? yes, snow - what a welcome relief from 100°F heat! We passed many campers, hikers, motorcyclists and wineries. Smell the pine trees and the cedars! Ahhhhhh...
We finally reached Sedro-Woolley, WA and turned north towards the Canadian border. At the turn, we lost Don and Bruce. They had gotten stuck behind a rather large camper and didn't see us shoot off over a hill. The walkie-talkie's batteries were low, and there was only sporadic cell phone service.
We eventually turned around and back-tracked. We met up with them at a gas station. While gassing up, Don heard a strange noise from under the bonnet: we stopped for a tech session at the nearby Cascade Middle School parking lot
Steve diagnosed a generator problem in Don's A. The generator pulley nut had disappeared. The only thing holding the pulley on was fan belt tension. A half hour later, after replacing the generator with a spare, we were back on the road towards the Canadian border at Sumas, WA. We crossed at 2:00PM and immediately turned west onto PH1 towards Vancouver.
Where'd That Generator Go?
Were we in for a ride. As far as we could see ahead - tail lights. As far as we could see behind - headlights. We're talking close-order driving: less that one second between cars, traveling at 100 KPH! This was Sunday afternoon! This lasted until we were almost all the way through Vancouver.
At the western edge of Vancouver we connected with PH99, the Sea to Sky Highway. Discounting the rain, this would normally be quite a scenic drive. But now PH99 is under construction in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics at Whistler, so the going was slow and treacherous. There were potholes nearly the size of PRNCZ (we're exaggerating, but there were some really big ones).
PRNCZ's tappets had started clattering quite badly since Sumas, but conditions didn't permit stopping for an evaluation. Are we there yet? We're 2475 miles from home and really wouldn't like to have a valve meet the top of a piston.
Come 5:00PM, and we had finally arrived at the Delta Whistler Village Suites. It was still rainy and quite cool, but we were assured that the weather would break in time for the car show on Tuesday (it did - and gloriously). After settling into our lovely room, we enjoyed dinner and conversation with Tim & Sue Coyne at Caramba! Restaurante on the Town Plaza.
Poor Substitute for a Postcard
Ah, Monday, day of rest. This was the start of one week without having to unpack and repack PRNCZ on a daily basis, and cool temperatures with sunny skies. The first order of business was registration and a warm "hello" from our hosts, Anne & Peter Tilbury.
Then, off to the local IGA for fruit, cereal, milk and yogurt. Our room was equipped with a kitchenette, so we decided to take advantage of it. That turned out to be the right decision, because while we were at Whistler the American dollar became par with the Canadian dollar: Whistler is not an inexpensive place to visit!
After a quick tour of the Village to get the lay of the land, we hit the fitness center; Steve was eager to lounge in the sauna, and Diane needed to stretch. Only after taking care of us did we wash PRNCZ and get her ready for tomorrow's car show.
NAMGAR Welcome Center at Hotel
The hotel's underground parking lot was set up as though it were the car show venue, just in case tomorrow's weather didn't cooperate. The wash station was near by with ample towels and rags. Steve, with Don Holle's assistance, took the time to check out the clatter from beneath the bonnet. The diagnosis was a sticking exhaust valve in cylinder #4. Since the problem was intermittent, Steve reset the rocker clearance and hoped for the best.
Diane with Mark & Cindy, Dressed to the Nines
The First Timers' Reception was held that evening with a nice array of snacks and wonderful blueberry martinis. We even acquired an extra bottle of TrueBlue blueberry juice to take home with us. Don't say yuck. This stuff is actually quite good and 100% juice! Since we've been home, we've finished that bottle and purchased a few more locally - yum!
This was followed by the Welcome Reception where Peter gave everyone the official Welcome and introduction to the week's events. Then off to the hospitality suite to reconnect with all of our MG buddies. Here the Michalaks were trying to start a new NAMGAR tradition: the toga party.
Today was car show day. NAMGAR had taken over two tees at the Whistler Golf Club for this event. Besides all of the beautiful cars, the local celebrity was Constable Afzeek Yakub of the Whistler RCMP who was most generous to pose for all of us with our cars.
Officer Yakub Poses with Diane & PRNCZ
The yellow 1500 parked next to ours had an interesting dash plaque from an MGA Register that actually pre-dated NAMGAR. It was number 140. After some investigation Diane was able to determine that this was the register that Cecelia Bruce and her husband founded in the early 1970s. Cecelia was surprised, but pleased, to see an original dash plaque still affixed to a dash.
After walking around the golf course and working up an appetite, we enjoyed lunch at Palmer's on the Green with Bruce Nichols and Mike Jacobson.
We then checked out the vendors and the tech sessions, one of which was a discussion of British Columbia's historical vehicle licensing and insurance laws (yawn), with the second half being a slide tour of Jay Leno's automobile stable (yeah). It turned out the speaker had assisted Jay Leno in locating a quite rare Duesenberg.
Later we adjourned to Milestone's (a pub) for beverages and some "catching up" with Mike & Jennifer Ash. Afterwards, we met up with Bruce for some very tasty Indian food at the Tandoori Grill.
To Lillooet — No Scenery Like This in Illinois
Lillooet: we had to go to Lillooet (pronounced LIL-oo-et). Lillooet is a small town about 85 kilometers north of Whistler. It is the location of the only official desert in British Columbia, and our Canadian hosts say it is the most spectacular drive in all of British Columbia. Were they ever right! As you'll see, we had the grand opportunity to experience this drive three times.
We had decided to opt out of the car rallye and took the driving tour (first time). The drive was spectacular: winding roads, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, logging operations and one lane bridges. We certainly did our share of rubber necking.
There were a few times where we heard PRNCZ say: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." as Steve shifted into 2nd gear to climb a grade.
Lunch was at the Cayoosh Campground just outside of town: very tasty sandwiches, salads and desserts. The sag wagon wrecker arrived empty, which meant that everyone on this excursion made it without mishap. Unfortunately, on the return trip, it arrived back at Whistler with a fare.
After returning to Whistler (second time) and cleaning up (the car), we had our official photo taken (see top) by the GT photographer, Les Garbutt. Les was flitting about all week, ready to take pictures throughout the GT. His photos became the backdrop for the awards banquet. After the photo session, we gathered up Bruce and walked across the way to the Mountain Club for a dinner of salads, appetizers and desserts. We sat outside and admired the beautiful scenery.
We'd purchased advanced tickets to ascend the mountain in Whistler via gondola. But our first problem was finding the damn gondola. There were hundreds of kids in Whistler attending a moto-bike event. The place was a jumble of bikes, repair trailers and booths hawking every conceivable bike part and piece of clothing for moto-biking.
Diane at Whistler Gondola Upper Terminus
After locating and ascending the mountain in the gondola, Steve discovered that there was a chairlift that went even further up to the very top of the mountain. Diane opted out of that adventure, claiming that love did not include feet tangling from a chair 100 ft off the ground. He went up with Dave & Rita Houser. The pictures he brought back were just stunning.
In the afternoon Diane did laundry, got ready for the awards banquet and prepared for the trip home. Steve watched the SciFi channel.
The awards banquet was held at the Telus Conference Center, a few steps from the hotel and a very festive place it was. The decorations were very chic, including an official menu and place cards. We were also treated to chocolate bars wrapped in special MGA paper. How cool is that! There was a silent auction area and a display of the many awards and recognitions.
We were honored to be among the recipients of dash plaques for traveling over 2000 miles in an MGA to reach the GT site.
The banquet is always a highlight of the GT, but it also signals the end of the GT — so kinda sad. Our table seated Cecelia Bruce and her mother, Rebecca; Mark & Cindy Michalak; Dave & Lois Gribler; and Bruce. Our table went crazy when Cecelia was awarded the Mac Spears Award for her zealous support of the MG marque and NAMGAR, as the MGAngel.
Host Peter Tilbury graciously thanked Diane for her work on the Events Guideline document which helped the local groups organize and execute the GT (Diane's blushing). We were recognized for being the only persons to have attended all 32 NAMGAR GTs and for our continuous support of NAMGAR.
We made one last stop at the hospitality room and then retired to our room for an early morning start.
We were up early: it was the start of our journey home, another 2400 miles and a week in PRNCZ. Our destination today was Golden, BC, Canada. This would put us very close to the Canadian Rockies for more sight seeing tomorrow.
Before leaving, we stopped in the lobby for coffee, a quick donut and final farewells. It was so sad to leave. This is such a beautiful place with such gracious hosts: the Canadian Classic MG Club and the Canadian XK Jaguar Register. Thank you for a job well done!
Rogers Pass, Canadian Continental Divide
We were back on the road through Lillooet and beyond (third time), with a stop in Cache Creek where we met Len & Judy Bonnay for lunch.
Again, the drive was most beautiful with splendid scenery and lots of wildlife (marmots). The photo at Roger's Pass shows a snippet of the scenery that we experienced throughout the day.
We pulled into Golden at about 7:00PM to be told that the entire city water supply was infected with E. Coli, so "DON'T drink the water, little girl..."
The motel clerk recommended the restaurant across the road, but admonished us to eat now. It seemed that the hospitality industry in this area was sorely lacking workers (where were all those college kids?), so restaurants were closing early. We quickly cleaned up and hurried across the road to the only "good" restaurant in the area: the Golden Grizzly Cookhouse. The waiting line snaked all the way to the parking lot. We decided to sit in the almost empty bar which was a good thing: we were quickly served (really good food). The place closed at 8:00PM — and this was a pub on a Friday night.
Luckily, we had water left in our water bottles and were able to brush our teeth before retiring.
Lake Louise — Glacier in Background
Lake Louise was just as beautiful as it was fifteen years ago, but, alas, what happened to the glacier? Fifteen years ago its tip almost reached the water (see photo). Anyone who doesn't believe in Global Warming needs to see this; it is living proof! How disappointing. We took lots of pictures and shopped for souvenirs in the Lake Louise Chateau.
Then we drove down the road a piece to Moraine Lake to see another gorgeous glacier fed lake. Here the tourists have really taken over the surrounding area, but the lake is relatively pristine.
Leaving Moraine Lake, we drove on to Banff. Our plan was to have lunch there and then to show Bruce the Banff Springs Lodge, one of the seven grand hotels built by the Canadian National Railroad throughout Canada. But it was hot and neither PRNCZ nor Ole Blue were tolerating the heat well. The drive through town, which we found out was under serious road renovation, was congested and a major undertaking. Luckily, we found a spot to park before the heat totally overtook the cars. We popped the bonnets to allow air to circulate through the engine bays and took off to find a restaurant. We abandoned our plans to sight-see in Banff, and after a nice lunch of Thai food, we got back in the cars and headed out of town — pronto!
We got onto Highway PH1 towards Calgary and soon found ourselves in stopped traffic. We pulled onto the shoulder and drove a short way to the crest of the hill to assess the situation: a major accident had blocked both sides of the freeway. We turned off the engines and parked until the accident ahead was cleared. We put up the umbrellas, ala the Niners, and waited, and waited, and waited. Once the traffic cleared, we started up again, but then Bruce started to smell gas in his cockpit.
At the first opportunity, we pulled off for root beer, fuel and to assess Bruce's situation (notice the priority order of these events). Ole Blue was running rough, and Bruce thought he'd gotten some bad gas. We saw a Canadian Tire store and figured this would be a good time for an oil change and gas. But we were informed that an oil change wasn't possible until the next Monday (today was Saturday), by which time we'd be long gone. We got the gas and moved on.
We snaked through the traffic south of Calgary and drove on to Vulcan, Alberta. We arrived there about 5:30PM, in time to visit the Vulcan Visitor's Center which was still open.
Visiting the Starship Enterprise, Vulcan Alberta
The Visitor's Center is a replica of a star base and is replete with all manner of things Star Trek. And yes, that's a replica of the Starship Enterprise FX6-1995-A that sits on the main (only) road through town. The greetings on the base are in English, Vulcan and Klingon. Apparently, this is the only town named Vulcan on the North American continent, so why not. It turns out that we missed a major Star Trek convention by only a few weeks.(whew!)
After about an hour, we drove on through vast fields of something with a very pungent aroma. All of us recognized the smell, but none of us could quite put a name to it. We finally arrived in Lethbridge at about 8:00PM and decided we were too hot and tired, as were the MGs, for supper.
At breakfast the next day, Bruce blurted out "Mustard!" The unrecognized aroma was from the vast fields of mustard plants.
Today was another long driving day, and it happened to be Steve's birthday. Our goal was Columbia Falls, MT, via Head Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, the International Peace Park and Glacier National Park. "Going to the Sun Road" is what Steve had been waiting for the entire trip.
The Offending Points
Our first stop after leaving the motel was a Denny's for breakfast. After breakfast, we got back into the cars only to discover that Ole Blue wouldn't start. Since leaving Golden, BC, Bruce had been complaining that Ole Blue was running badly. First he believed it to be bad gas, but now that it wouldn't start, he suspected the coil, but Steve wasn't so sure and insisted on proper trouble shooting procedures before laying wrench to the vehicle.
We needed air, gas and spark to make the thing start: we knew we had plenty of air, and we could smell the gas that had flooded the engine. There was no spark at the plug; there was no voltage pulse at the coil. Bruce was about ready to lay wrench to the coil, but Steve still insisted that there was something that had not been tested: the points. Steve popped the distributor cap and asked Bruce to watch the points as he tried turning the engine over. Aha — problem identified! The points were not opening at all. Steve asked if Bruce had another set of points. But Bruce had another distributor in the boot with the points set and ready to go. Bruce swapped the distributors and set the timing. While Bruce was timing the engine, Steve examined the old points. They looked perfectly good and appeared to just be out of adjustment. Why after 3000 miles? It's anyone's guess. Total time for this tech session: 45 minutes.
Oki, Kiitsiksiksimaatstsimohpinaan - this is Blackfoot for Hello, We Welcome You. We had arrived at the Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump Interpretive Center in southern Alberta near Fort McLeod. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and explains a custom practiced by Native American people for almost 6000 years. They killed bison by chasing them over a cliff and carving up their carcasses in the camps below. The Center explains the excavation work and the importance of the bison to the Plains people: food, clothing and shelter. A most interesting and recommended stop.
View from the Going to the Sun Highway
Soon we were back on the road and in the USA by 1:00PM. We were welcomed by roving herds of cows in the road, which Steve attempted to herd with PRNCZ. Were we in a Western movie?!
After stopping to gas up in St. Mary's, MT, we got in line for the entrance to Glacier National Park and "Going to the Sun Road". It was a long, very pretty drive with many turnouts and things to see, including the Weeping Wall where a waterfall snakes through the mountains then onto unsuspecting motorists if they get too close to the edge (as Steve did to Diane). Unfortunately, there was no parking available at Logan's Pass, the Continental Divide, so we continued on. We saw a lot of wild life, including the indigenous white mountain goat.
It was getting late in the afternoon, so Steve suggested stopping at Lake McDonald Lodge for some beverages and perhaps dinner. As we were parking the cars, a fellow stopped by and said: "...so good that you're driving them...". Thanks, we think so, too. Even in the heat!
'Birthday Boy' Cake
We were too early for dinner so we had a drink on the patio where we toasted Steve, since it was his birthday. Diane handed him his birthday cards. Linda Holle had given Diane a card for Steve at Whistler: he entertained the entire patio with her musical (accordion) card. What a hoot!
Earlier, before the restaurant opened, Steve had struck up a conversation with one of the wait staff, Kurt. Steve requested that the hostess seat us at his station, which happened to be the best in the house with views that overlooked Lake MacDonald and the mountains. Kurt really took care of the birthday boy. He made a special Star Trek dessert with the appropriate star date scripted in a strawberry sauce. That squiggle to the left of the star date is supposed to be the Vulcan greeting sign for "Live long and prosper."
After the delightful dinner, we continued on to Columbia Falls, MT. We passed the Montana Vortex on the way to the motel, but didn't stop because we were just too tired. We'll have to ask NAMGAR's Vortex Advisor, Don Holle, about the significance of this particular one.
This morning Steve went out to pack PRNCZ and noticed that there was a fine white power covering the car, which seemed odd. Bruce came out and said he'd heard on the telly that there was a large forest fire nearby and that a part of today's route might be closed. We had no definitive information so we set out on our originally planned route. Our goal was Lewistown, MT.
As we approached the Glacier National Park entrance (yesterday's exit) there was a sign indicating only local access traffic was permitted because of a forest fire over the next 34 miles. After a quick check of the atlas, we decided to head back to Columbia Falls, then south to Kalispell and turn east from there.
We stopped for breakfast at the first McDonald's, which happened to be right across the street from a Grease Monkey quick oil change shop. While Bruce and Diane finished breakfast, Steve walked over and made arrangements for two oil changes. We had a good chuckle as the "experienced" twenty-something mechanic tried to start PRNCZ to drive her into the change bay. After trying to start PRNCZ with the key, Steve provided a training session on early American and English cars, pointing out the proper use of the starter pull.
Crossing Roger's Pass, U.S. Continental Divide
He was rather embarrassed, but we were all pleased with the quick and efficient work by the Grease Monkeys. We were soon on our detour with two happy MGAs. It's amazing how an oil change can change PRNCZ's attitude - kinda like a cup of coffee in the morning or a shower after a long, hot day in the A.
Even though we were miles from the forest fire, we traveled through a cloud of smoke for a good two hours. Soon we were at Rogers Pass and the Continental Divide (again) at 5610 feet. We chatted with a bicyclist from Tacoma who was visiting his sister-in-law in the area - she has three MGs.
The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful although the sky started to look rather menacing towards the east. It was still hot (98°F) with a few raindrops. We pulled into the motel at about 5:00PM and asked the locals about the weather forecast. We were told not to worry. We didn't believe them and put the hood up anyway. Then we decided to head across the parking lot to the Pizza Hut for dinner. We found out the next day that Lewistown is quite the restaurant city. People travel for miles for a gourmet dinner here — certainly, they couldn't mean the Pizza Hut!
It was going to be hot, really hot, today. We could tell from the temperature at 6:00AM: 73°F. We left the hood up in anticipation of what was to come. It was going to be just a lot of driving, but the end of the day would find us in Bowman, ND. And, we did have an unexpected surprise along the way.
Miles City Library Local History Room
The morning drive was quite boring: this is desolate country. So we made a game of it by looking for all the different wildlife we could spot: antelope, pheasant, the odd woodchuck and meadowlarks - lots of meadowlarks. They were along side of the road and would all fly up as soon as they felt the MG draft. We were ducking, left and right, to avoid these guys.
We were pretty hot already at 11:30 when we saw a sign for the Historic Center in Miles City, MT. We decided to check it out. We drove through the center of town, but didn't see any signs of an historic center, so Steve had a thought: stop at the Library and ask (a man asking for directions! YEAH!!).
Well, as we were walking into the library, a woman behind us asked who was from Michigan (she saw us pull up in the MGAs and noticed Bruce's plate). She said she was originally from Grand Rapids. All three of us have lived in Grand Rapids (Steve was actually born there). Turns out, Sonja graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in 1969. Steve and Diane graduated from Union High School in 1967 when Bruce was the Chemistry teacher there. Small world. We spent the next hour reminiscing, getting a tour of the library and reading about the history of Miles City. Sonja shared lots of information about bagpipes and Scotland — how'd we get on that topic? She also pointed us towards the Hole in the Wall Restaurant for lunch: we'll save that story for the hospitality suite at GT-33.
As we left Miles City, the bank sign read 104°F and after a long, hot, boring drive on U.S. Rte 12 through the wilds of Montana and North Dakota, we arrived in Bowman, ND at 4:00PM with the temperature at 102°F. Not much in this town. We drove around, looking for a restaurant and landed at Windy's, the local baked chicken and casino joint. The food was not bad, actually, and quite inexpensive. Bruce had another helping of fried gizzards (first helping was in Wall Drug). We stopped to gas up after dinner and noticed that it was still 95°F at 7:20PM.
Milbank, SD was our destination today. It was basically a straight shot, but then we hit road construction on U.S. Rte 12.
At 6:00AM it was 66 degrees with a gorgeous sunrise. One mile down the road, and we were advised to detour because the road was in really rough condition. So we did and had a really nice run through farmland, farmland and more farmland. Lots of quail alongside the road, just like yesterday with the meadowlarks. But we also saw a golden eagle and lots of antelope.
Vinegar Tasting with Lawrence Diggs
We finally approached Mobridge, SD where we lost an hour (time zone). We stopped for gas, then decided to backtrack a couple of miles to visit the Sitting Bull and Sacagawea Monuments on the west side of the Missouri River. Besides his achievements as a chief of the Lakota tribe, Sitting Bull also fought at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Further along, we took a small detour to Roslyn, SD. Passing a small lake, we spied what looked like a pair of swans. Wait — them are pelicans! In the middle of South Dakota? Yup.
Roslyn is the birthplace of Myron Floren - you know, the accordion guy from the Lawrence Welk Show. But that's not why we're here. We're here to visit the International Vinegar Museum!
That's Diane and Bruce at the vinegar bar with Lawrence Diggs, the premier world authority on vinegar. He's been written up in Bon Apetit magazine and other more cerebral publications and has authored the premier textbook on vinegar. For the best balsamic vinegar be sure it's made with Trabbiano grapes from Italy. You can pay upwards of $400 for the best. We spent over an hour here and learned how vinegar is made and its many uses.
We arrived at the motel in Milbank, SD, at 6:15PM. The desk clerk recommended The Lantern for dinner, so that's where we went. We stopped at a carwash on the way back to the motel and gave PRNCZ a well-deserved shower.
Today promised to be an interesting day. We had planned to stop at some most unusual places (like yesterday wasn't unusual?) on our way to Rochester, MN. At 6:00AM it was 58°F. and foggy. Bruce smelled gas again, and Steve was having some clutch problems. Doesn't sound like a good start to the day, but things slowly improved.
Schell Brewery, New Ulm, Minnesota
By 10:00AM we were in New Ulm, MN, home of Brown's Music Store which carries a vast amount of sheet music for the accordion. After driving from one end of town to the other and not finding it, Steve stopped (again) to ask for directions (go figure). Brown's had been closed for about a year — bummer.
So instead, we stopped at the August Schell Brewery, established in 1860. We were greeted by several peacocks who were fascinated by their reflections in PRNCZ's chrome bumpers and hubcaps. We also saw a peahen with three chicks. After touring the museum, gift shop and gardens, we motored over to see Herman the German. Herman is the patron of all things German in New Ulm. There is a huge monument in his honor on a hill overlooking the valley.
Diane, Spammy & Steve
On the recommendation of the clerk in the Schell Museum, we had lunch at the Kaiserhoff Restaurant in town. All three of us ate way too much wonderful German food. Steve tried the Schell beer which didn't get high marks, but refreshing, nonetheless. Isn't all beer? (from Diane, the non beer drinker).
Our next stop for the day was Austin, MN, home of Hormel Foods and the Spam Museum. Not only is the museum free, but it is also very informative with many historical displays, videos, audios and a decent gift shop. Bruce spent most of his souvenir money here, buying stuff for his grandsons.
We wound our way to Rochester and ended up at our motel, right next to the county fairgrounds. And the fair was in town. Back in February when Steve was making motel reservations on-line, he didn't think to check the dates of the fair. The place was packed and noisy, plus the motel did not honor our non-smoking reservations. We got upgraded to a "suite" (oh, boy), but that didn't help much. Steve and Bruce went next door to Denny's for dessert and brought a salad back to Diane who opted to veg out.
Our last day on the road. No matter how long it takes, and no matter the physical cost, we will be sleeping in our own bed tonight! 6:00 AM one last time; it's 55° F., sunny and dewy.
Diane Having Ketchup Applied
Traveling through Minnesota farm country this early in the morning, we passed literally hundreds of pheasants grazing alongside of the road. From one clutch to the next was never more that 100 ft. We could almost reach out and grab one by the neck if we wanted pheasant for dinner that evening. What a pattern: meadowlarks, quail and now pheasants.
We traveled along the Mississippi River for a while; didn't see any eagles here but did pass many motorcycles headed to Sturgis. Enjoy the heat, guys!
Lots of pretty, winding roads through Wisconsin, and then we were in Spring Green. We decided to stop at the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesen Visitor Center for a cup of tea and some shopping. Diane bought a Robie doormat which would only fit in the passenger side of Bruce's A - thanks, Bruce!
In the parking lot was an SUV with the most beautiful wooden canoe on top. Diane spoke to the owner and found out that the canoe was #43 by Tranquility Canoes: everyone has an interesting story to tell - especially about their hobbies. Just ask us!
Lunch was coney dogs at the Rumble Seats Drive-in where Steve took Diane's picture with the resident hero. Actually, Steve believes this is a relative of the one he photographed in Mitchell, SD.
Mustards at the Mt. Horab Mustard Museum
After lunch, there were more winding, country roads until we reached Mt. Horab, home of the Mt. Horab Mustard Museum. We watched the video, toured the museum and waited while Bruce spent the last of his change on stuff for the grand kids. Sadly, we missed the annual mustard celebration by one day. Go Poupon U! Rah! Rah!
At 2:30PM we stopped in Janesville, WI for a refreshment break and another tech session with Bruce's points. Seems that the same problem he'd experienced in Lethbridge had visited him again. We grabbed the other distributor from the boot, reseated the points and replaced it with the one in the car. Total tech time: 15 minutes.
At 4:45PM, 5455 miles later, we were Home, Sweet Home. After celebratory drinks and showers, we headed to Kelsey's Road House for a relaxing dinner. Then.... our own bed. Ahhhhhhhhh.
We slept in — 7:00AM. When Bruce was ready to leave, Ole Blue started but the alternator was not charging. Steve reassured Bruce that with a full battery charge, he could drive home without problems, provided he didn't use his head lights or heater motor. It's only a four hour drive. They put the charger on, and we went out for breakfast. Bruce was on his way home before noon.
What a fabulous three weeks we had! Great scenery, good roads, good company, mostly good weather, fabulous, little cars and the most enjoyable GT and MGAdventure.
Today, hm ... maybe tomorrow, we'll... start planning for GT-33 in Champion, Pennsylvania. See you there!