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September 9, 2006

GTTSR: Day Five

Filed under: 06 GTTSR,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 5:11 pm

Stick a fork in us. We’re done.

We arrived in Red Lodge around 1pm. Somehow we were the first car here. We were one of the last to leave Helena this morning, and I only recall passing two rally cars, so how we got here first is a mystery to me. The route book did have two mistakes in it, so maybe people took wrong turns and were delayed. I only took 12 photos today, as I did most of the driving and after you’ve seen a few pictures of rolling plains, you’ve seen them all. 😉

Tonight we’ll have the Rally’s closing reception, and tomorrow I’ll begin my drive home. We took a southern route out here, I’ll likely take a northern route home, hopefully US 2. My friend Brian Medley will be joining me as co-driver, as Mom & Dad will be heading south for home in Colorado.

I’ll try and update the missing bits from the adventure soon. Thanks so much for coming along!

–chuck

BTW: Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. Sue deserves a big thanks for allowing me to be 1000 miles away having fun without her. A dinner at Bistro San Martin awaits her upon my return.

September 8, 2006

GTTSR: Day Four

Filed under: 06 GTTSR,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 9:08 pm

Glacier National Park, and a taste of the Plains.

Sorry about the lack of a lot of text last night. Yesterday was a long, fun day, and I was just too tired at the end of it to write. I promise I’ll go back and update that page with the full story when I get the chance. I have notes, photos, and the route book to jog my memory. For the time being, I’ll make up for it with tonight’s addition:

Today?

Well today was just another awesome day on the road in Montana. 🙂


Above: The bonnet of the 65E’s Coventry Cousin. A 1966 Triumph TR4A, driven by Bill Warden and Ray Martinez. These guys drive this car at the limit! Fun to run with! They told me yesterday that they loved the sound of the Jaguar’s exhaust note. That would explain why they always waved me by, but then stuck to my rear for as long as the little Triumph could.


Above: The 1965 Alfa Veloce Spider, driven by Mitch Katz, and Bradley Goldstone leaves the hotel in Whitefish as Dad emerges with his luggage.

We started with a great breakfast in the tent where we spent the night before having fun. It was chilly, and the cars were covered with dew. It made sense since we were on the “wet side” of the Continental Divide. The weather is more like my part of the world, where the westerly winds pile weather up against the mountains to the east and force the moisture from them before they move on east. Indeed, there was little of the smoke and haze in the Whitefish area compared to points south and east. This is not to say that we were “smoke free” as fires still rage in Idaho and Washington, and indeed all over the west, so things were far from clear. In many ways this has been the “Going To The Smoke Rally” as hazy smoke from forest fires have been the dominant theme. I have to do a lot of manipulation of my histograms to get the mountains to pop off the hazy grey-brown sky in a lot of these photos. Thankfully for me the Knoll brothers created some good software.


Above: Rally Organizer Jim Sitton drives his 1956 Jaguar XK 140 OTS through Whitefish.

Leaving the hotel we made our way through the relatively built-up area around Whitefish and made our way to the west entrance of Glacier Park. Dad & I went along in the Jag, coats and winter hats on our heads, but clad in shorts and the heater going to keep our legs warm. We knew we were headed for the vast hot plains east of the Divide. An hour of running the heater was a small price to pay in exchange for the convenience of being in shorts later. I have visited the area around Glacier before, but only on the Canadian side of the border. This was my, and my father’s, first drive over the Going To The Sun Road. I have seen a million pictures of it, so I knew what to expect to a certain extent, but it didn’t lessen the adventure a bit.

Before we got to the climb though we rounded a corner of the road and my Dad saw two or more Black Bears in a creek, so we stopped the car and tried to see if we could look down and see them. As we had stopped, several other people did too. We were all trying to spot the bears down below, when somebody said “Look up there!”

Sure enough, about 10 feet above our heads in a tree was a cub. Having spent many years travelling in the backcountry, I knew that was our sign for a hasty exit, so I snapped one photo and we hopped in the car and got out of there. Earlier we passed a drive-through bear wildlife park on US 2 whose sign read “Your Car Is Your Cage”… I joked to Dad at the time with the punch line: “crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside!” Black Bears are generally harmless, with the single exception of a mother bear with cubs. I had no interest in finding out how protective this particular mother bear could be.

A short time later we rounded a curve and were presented with the headwall of a mountain, and upon closer inspection, could make out the road!


Above: The Going To The Sun Road. I’ve highlighted the road cuts so you can make it out.

Occasional glints of sun off of car windows confirmed that this was indeed the fabled road, the namesake of our rally. Let me describe this road. You start at a relatively low elevation for Montana and the Rocky Mountains… ~3000′. The road is following a valley floor and above you looms a wall. The road goes first left and up, then after a long way, switches back right, and never stops going up until it has reached the sky. That is the Going To The Sun Road. Here is a hybrid sat image from Google maps:

It was different than the Beartooth Highway, but certainly as spectacular. Very narrow, with some places with rock cliffs towering over your head, AND falling away off the passenger side of the car. Not a good place for people with acrophobia. I took a lot of photos, and one in-motion movie. I’ve labelled where they were shot in the map image above to help present for you a sense of scale.


Above: “Pic 1” taken shortly after the switchback on an outside curve, looking out over the abyss towards the mountains across the valley.


Above: “Pic 3” taken at a wide spot, where the road takes an inside curve and the slope above and below is relatively gentle compared to the headwalls on either side. I took quite a few shots of cars passing here.


Above: Jerry & Kathy Nell’s Series Three E-type powers up the grade.


Above: Leslie & Patricia Rich’s 1960 XK 150 almost runs me over. 😉

After I had shot a bunch of pics (see the “all photos” link later for more) we hopped in the Jaguar and also powered up the grade to near the top of Logan Pass, where I took this photo. If you look closely you can see the line of the road going down the slope on the right and into the valley below!…

Awesome.

We had to wait for a bit of construction at the actual summit of the pass, and then we began an equally spectacular descent to St. Mary Lake and the east entrance of the park.


Above: St. Mary’s Lake. Full Disclosure about this photo… A Jeep Cherokee has been photoshopped out (see the original in the “all photos” link later.) I had set up this shot by parking as far away from other cars as possible. There was actually a crowd further down the pullout all looking UP at some big horn sheep, or maybe mountain goats… I don’t know. But I wanted another “Jag in a pretty spot” picture, but this guy in an SUV came and parked RIGHT in front of me AS I WAS shooting the picture! Oh well, ….so I erased him. 😉

Check out the “all photos” link for more shots of this spectacular lake… as if you haven’t seen enough in your life as it has appeared in innumerable places!

So we are heading for the east entrance, and I’m stuck behind a Ford Explorer, and contemplating passing him… but decide against it. As if to punish me for that grave error in judgement a few moments later a full grown adult Black Bear crosses the road in front of us, but since the gigantic ass of the SUV was in my way, I wasn’t able to get a photo. Oh well.

The top of Logan Pass is the Continental Divide, and east of Glacier park the wide expanse of the high plains reaches up to touch the Rocky Mountains. The foothills barely exist here. We popped out of the mountains like a cork from a champagne bottle.


Above: A 270° panorama looking from S to E at the East Entrance to Glacier Park.

Once we ran through a bit of foothills, with the recent evidence of a big fire, as well as some loose livestock on the road for increased motoring thrills, we found ourselves out upon those Great Plains. They stretch for a thousand miles to the east from here, and we were on their very western edge, but anyone who has ever travelled the American middle knows this view:

Well, OK, they may not have seen that EXACT view, with the impressive bonnet of a Jag out in front of them and the snarling of an XK engine throbbing in their ears, but that ribbon-straight road going over the horizon is a frequent vision here west of the Mississippi river. I thought I took a LOT of interesting photos here, of landscapes, cattle in the road, and mountains in the distant haze… but I guess my camera batteries were at their limit and I notice now that I have very few of what I captured. Here you go:


Above: The Nell’s Jaguar E-type runs with the Draper’s ’61 Ferrari California Spyder. (what a gorgeous car!) And we outran them both!

I drove along these open plains like they were meant to be driven… with a grin on my face, and my right foot down. We arrived in the wheat farming and railroad community of Choteau, the northern terminus of US Highway 287… a road I have now almost travelled in it’s entirety in bits through my life. (the southern end is in Port Arthur, Texas.) Lunch was in a community hall, and was composed of some awesome homemade soups, and some build-your-own sandwiches made with fresh baked local bread, from local wheat. Washed down with a nice mixture of fresh Lemonade & Iced Tea… it was heavenly.

We sat with Jerry & Kathy Nell, and talked about Jaguars, and when Dad said how the car was running well now that I was the owner Jerry cracked “That’s because he drives it fast like it is supposed to be!” 😀

When we headed out we found the 65E’s starter heat-soaked and refusing to turn over the engine. It was hot out, and we’d run the car hard. I’ve dealt with this before, even on flat surfaces like this, so I had Dad sit in the driver’s seat and manipulate the clutch and gearshift at my command while I rocked the car back and forth, moving the starter with the engine… a sort of backwards dance to rearrange the internal bits of the starter into a different location. Presto! The XK engine rumbles to life and we take off with Dad at the wheel, and me taking pictures. Unfortunately the camera was acting as wonky as the starter (which by the way is a Nippondenso starter, NOT a Lucas so dispense with those “Prince of Darkness” thoughts!) and wasn’t taking most of the pictures I was. I missed the warning beeps in the wind, engine, and exhaust noise. I did however manage to capture the most interesting thing of the day. We were cooking along the plains at speed when we noted on object in the road and started to slow down. We could not quite figure out what it was. The shape was certainly not an open range steer, or any other livestock. It wasn’t a car, or a pickup truck. It kind of looked like a motorcycle, but something about it said that it wasn’t. As we approached within a quarter mile or so I figured out what it was and grabbed for the camera. Thankfully this time it worked!

It was: A Boy & His Dog… on a 4-wheeler!

We roared down the plains and down into the spot where the Rockies thrust eastward and so pulled us into the mountains again. Unfortunately we were almost out of gasoline. Thankfully we met up with I-15 and the small one-gas station town of Wolf Creek. I bought fresh batteries for the digicam while dad filled up the car. One other rally car was there, the pretty little white Alfa driven by Mitch Katz and Bradley Goldstone. It had a voltage regulator replaced the night before and when they went to start got nothing. Some investigation found the battery terminal not connected fully, so the generator was not charging it. Some jumper cables were borrowed from a nearby truck and we pressed the Jaguar into service to jumpstart it. (The first time this car has saved another!) The cables were odd… blue and black color, and universally covered in dust to the point of making the colors indistinguishable from each other. I hooked up my end to the battery proclaiming “Black is negative, blue on positive.” Mitch hooked up his end and was greeted with a shower of sparks! A double-check of my end revealed that I had in fact put blue on neg and black on pos. D’oh! A quick switch (and me feeling REALLY stupid) and the little Alfa fired right up. We both jumped on the freeway for the 30-some mile run to Helena. I was hoping to get some shots of the Alfa, but they flew off down the road, leaving Dad far behind in their wake. Oh well.

We rolled into Helena, found the hotel, and as soon as I appeared online several friends all started chatting me on AIM. Weird when that happens. One of them, Bill Woodcock did provide a great suggestion for a place to eat in Helena, which I plan on using on my return trip back home in a few days. Thanks Woody!

Dinner tonight was again excellent! I brought the laptop along to show the photos I have taken, and people loved seeing a view of the event to-date.

I hope this post makes up for my lack of one yesterday. I really have to get some sleep now. You can see all of my photos from today here.

September 7, 2006

GTTSR: Day Three

Filed under: 06 GTTSR,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 10:06 pm

Wow, what a day.

High speed runs with Jaguars leading Muscle Cars, “Deer on the road!”… “stuff on the road!”, IDIOTS on the road!, an awesome lunch with the Igniters in Libby, cooler weather on the “wet side”, the “Better Than Sex Highway” a car wash, a serendipitous meeting with a reader of this blog(!), and a wonderful evening of music and huckleberries!

I’m too tired to relate it all now, but I promise to back-fill the story later. Really!

In the meantime, you can look at all my pictures here.

September 6, 2006

GTTSR: Day Two

Filed under: 06 GTTSR,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 11:04 pm

Day two of the Going To The Sun Rally dawned with an excellent breakfast at the Spanish Peaks Club, followed by a group photo with a selection of the cars, including the 65E (proudly plastered with bugs!) The photographers were up on a crane, with the cars below, and the people up on the balcony above. It went pretty well, and we stayed there for the driver’s meeting.

After I had parked my car, but before the group photo, I walked around and shot some car photos, including the one below. It is a Sunbeam Tiger, reflected in the finish of a Shelby GT350-H (the original from the 60s). I took a bunch of other shots too, which you can see via the usual “all my photos” link at the bottom of this post.

While the official photogs shot the big group photo, I squeezed off a shot of some folks and cars below. So when you see the final product, you can spot me on the balcony above by this arrangement below. 😉

The Driver’s Meeting commenced right afterwards, and I took the above picture as people listened.

We all left the Spanish Peaks Club and headed out of Big Sky. We took a detour to our friend’s house to say “bye” to my Mom and drop off some excess stuff. We then fuelled up at the Conoco station on US 191 and headed north. The drive down the Canyon was wonderful, though crowded. The Gallatin Canyon is no longer the sleepy place it was when I was a kid.

We took a left at Gallatin Gateway and made for Ennis. Unfortunately it was still very smoky from forest fires and the spectacular Montana Rockies were obscured in the smoky haze. Along the way I zipped along at “Ludicrous Speed” with a race-prepped Sunbeam Tiger. I lost him when he passed a truck, which I got stuck behind due to Murphy’s Law of Mountain Driving (“the solid yellow line will not leave your lane until oncoming traffic appears.”) I did however overtake the Davis’ very nice old red Corvette and manage to catch some photos of it as we approached Virginia City.

David E. Davis is the editor of Winding Road The car mag that printed my letter last week. It was cool to meet him, and we’ve had a few opportunities to converse with him and his wife this week. Great folks. Nice car too.

We had a scheduled break in Virginia City, one of the old territorial capitals of Montana, and a place steeped in old west history. I haven’t been there since I was about 8 years old, but to be honest, I spent most of my time here today shooting photos of rally cars. The sacrifices I make for my readers! Here is a sample:

You can see the rest in my “all photos” link below.

After the break we took some wonderful roads through southwest Montana (minus a short run on I-15) and on to lunch in Jackson.

Lunch was a sandwich buffet, which really hit the spot for me, with some iced tea. I also had a chance to say something I’ve always wanted to. Two folks that my Dad knows from other vintage rallies were having car troubles. One was driving a Corvette and the other an Olds 442. Both muscle cars were having carburetion and fuel consumption issues, perhaps due to the altitude. The E-type has been running well and using gas at a very reasonable rate (17-20 MPG, amazing given our occasional high speed runs!) So I leaned over and said:

“You should really get rid of those unreliable American cars and get yourselves one of these Jaguars!” 😉

After lunch we went 20-some miles to the next town (Wisdom MT) to get gas.

It was funny because when we arrived this gas station had FOUR Jaguars fuelling up, two XK 150s and two E-types. The locals were all staring at us in disbelief. The Healey pictured above showed up as we were leaving, altering the all-Jaguar chemistry. It was still like being on Mars for the locals, who rarely see anything but pickup trucks.

We actually saw a bit of rain as we approached Lost Trail Pass. I hope it puts out the fires, but I doubt it. It was refreshing to get hit with a few big cold drops though!

We climbed up to Lost Trail Pass, and joined US 93 which took us down into the Bitterroot valley, and Darby, Hamilton, and Missoula. This was a familiar road for both me and the 65E, as it was how my son and I passed into Montana back in 2003 on our summer roadtrip. This valley gets more populated as you travel northwards, so progress was frustrating compared to the open roads of earlier in the day. The smoke was again pretty thick, with sights such as Trapper Peak being almost completely obscured. If I didn’t know exactly where to look I would not have seen its vague outline in the haze. My dad drove from lunch to Hamilton, and I took advantage of the situation and limited navigational duties and took a little nap. This is not an easy car to sleep in (unless you are a nine year old!) but I somehow managed 40 winks somewhere between Darby and Hamilton. We switched drivers in Hamilton and I drove the rest of the way to Missoula. After being on the open roads, Missoula was a bit frustrating, but we managed to find the hotel. As is to refute my statement earlier, the 65E started idling fast (1200 RPM). We’d dropped a lot of altitude since I had adjusted the SUs a bit in Big Sky, as when we arrived it was idling too slow (300-400 RPM). Thankfully the SU carburettor is a stunningly simple design, and I was able to get all three adjusted within a minute or two and idling well at 700 RPM.

We checked in and went to the room, where I did some photo editing before dinner. Dinner was awesome. I once again was about to order salmon when the little voice inside my head said “You are in Montana ferchrissakes, take the beef!” So I ordered the rib eye, and it was awesome. I’ll start eating salmon again when I get back to the Seattle area. 😉

I even had enough time tonight to throw some basic captions onto my “all photos” page! You can ssee them all here.

See you tomorrow!

–chuck

September 5, 2006

GTTSR: Day One

Filed under: 06 GTTSR,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 10:23 pm

Today was the first actual day of the Going To The Sun Rally. We basically retraced our drive from yesterday, going back to Big Sky from Red Lodge. This time I have fresh batteries in my camera and was able to capture (just slightly) the awesome beauty of the Beartooth Highway. Unfortunately it was very hazy from forest fires, so the mountains were kind of barely visible. I focussed my efforts on capturing the road.

We left Red Lodge among the last rallyists, stopped for gas, and caught up to a few on the climb up the Montana side of the mountains. The road gains nearly 6000 vertical feet. The car ran great, and I had Dad driving so I could shoot photos. Wherever there was something to see, I had him stop so I could shoot more.

I had Dad stop at the exact place where my camera batteries died, so I could re-climb the rock pinnacle and shoot the panorama I started when the batteries failed me. I also had him perform a drive-by so I could capture it on “film“. Let me know what you think.

After the Beartooth Highway, we went into Yellowstone, and went for the West Entrance, skipping the “sights” as we’ve both seen them before. It was at this time that we passed most of the rally. We did stop at “Tuff Cliff” and ate a box lunch supplied by the rally. On the way we saw a zillion bison in the Lamar and Madison valleys. In fact in the Madison we had two of them on the road! (see the photos linked below.)

We left the Park, and bombed up US 191 to Big Sky, stopped to see my Mom, and then up to the Spanish Peaks Club for dinner (awesome) and a place to sleep. I’m too tired to provide much more info, so this is all you get today. 😉

You can see all my photos from today here. There are a LOT of them. 😉

–chuck

September 4, 2006

GTTSR: Arrival

Filed under: 06 GTTSR,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 11:11 pm

What an awesome day.

We slept in a bit, enjoyed a great breakfast at our friend’s house in Big Sky. After breakfast I took her for a ride in the Jaguar, heading up to where I spent my summers as a kid. Then Dad & I packed the car and headed out. Down US 191, to West Yellowstone, and into The Park. I am very familiar with Yellowstone, having driven through it innumerable times on my way to Montana, and also having extensively travelled in the backcountry on foot in the 70s and 80s. I had not visited the park since the huge fires in 1989, so this was an interesting drive. Areas that used to be Lodgepole pines as thick as hair on a bear’s back were now cleared and just now beginning to grow back. Vistas that previously were obscured, were now open. In the Madison Valley, and elsewhere. Very interesting. The speed limits are low (25-45 MPH) in Yellowstone, so we just ambled along and enjoyed the views. We saw lots of elk and bison.

Above: The E-type below Mammoth Hot Springs.

Above: Heading out towards the Northeast Entrance. (I scraped an exhaust hanger on this roadbed getting back on.)

We took the north loop road, over to Mammoth Hot Springs, then over through the Lamar Valley. We then proceeded out of the park via the Northeast Entrance and US 212 over the Beartooth Highway. I have never driven (but always wanted to!) the Beartooth. It is spec-frikking-tacular. We switchbacked up through mountain lakes and peaks, ever upward. Once at the first summit I snapped off the panorama you see at the top of the page. I then scrambled up to a rocky peak above it and started building a more impressive panorama shot when my camera batteries died! Grrrrr! I climbed back down, frustrated, and found the car would not start due to the starter being completely heatsoaked. GRRRR! Two guys on bikes helped us get it pushed around and pointed back downhill (thankfully it is a very lightweight car!) and the ample grade made a roll start an easy thing. Without a camera I could not capture the rest but I have to say it is THE MOST AMAZING road I have EVER driven. Thankfully we are retracing our route from today again tomorrow, so I’ll be sure to get a lot of shots! I promise. In fact, I’m going to make my Dad drive so I can shoot a zillion of them.

We arrived in Red Lodge, found the hotel (in complete chaos… our room was still not ready even at 5pm?) so we checked in for the rally, and then I walked over to a grocery store 3 blocks away to get some extra batteries! My rechargables are powering up now, and my spares are in the camera. Tomorrow will be better!

We then put the car number on… for some odd reason they gave us #13(!) Given how UNLucky this car has been, I find it ironic that we’ve been assigned this one, but hey… go with the flow. So I blessed it with a clover leaf and the word “Lucky” with a green marker I had in the car:

I spent some time photographing the cars. There is a nice collection of machinery here, so I should have a great photographic week. Here is just a small sample:

We had a brief wine & cheese thing in the hotel bar, along with an intro meeting. The 65E was awarded the “Dirtiest Car” award with some cleaning supplies as the prize. Given that we drove almost 900 miles to get here I’m proud of that distinction! Cars are meant to be DRIVEN, not mollycoddled on trailers! 🙂

The drive out here was a great warm up for the event, and I’m really glad we did it. We then went into the hotel dining room for dinner. I excused myself midway through to drop off my cleaning supplies in the car and get it buttoned down for the night. It is all ready to go, and I hope you are ready to (virtually) tag along with us.

All my pictures from the day are posted here.

–chuck

September 3, 2006

Day Two: Missoula – Bozeman – Big Sky

Filed under: 06 GTTSR,Cars,life — chuck goolsbee @ 10:46 pm

Today was a short driving day. We left Missoula bright and early, heading east on America’s Autobahn, I-90. It may be a potholed “turnpike” in places out east, and it even is a pair of floating bridges that are a commuter’s nadir at its western end, but here in Montana it is an illustration of how well truly open roads function. Other than large trucks and RVs on steep grades, I never saw anything going LESS than 85 MPH today. Nobody was having accidents, nobody was recklessly endangering anyone else… we were all just driving. Everyone was reasonable and prudent when in proximity to other vehicles, but once alone, we all went as fast as we were comfortable going. For me that was 90-100 MPH. It is amazing how much ground you can cover at that speed.

Anyway, we left Missoula and passed a group of old Ford Model As heading east on I-90. I waved at them all. I soon left Mom & Dad in their truck behind, cruising in the E-type as its makers designed it to move. Then as I approached Drummond I realized that I was running low on gas, so I eased off to the posted speed limit (75 MPH) and watched the world pass me for a while. Eventually my parents caught up just as I was exiting to get gas. A fellow western WA native stopped to talk to me about the car as I filled up. I told him about the fires and smoke in Washington, and he filled me in that it was just as bad east towards Butte.

Once refilled I felt confident enough to run the car at speed again. Just some observations: At 4000 RPM the XK engine gets pretty loud. At that revs, with my US spec rear end ratio it is indeed being “driven in anger”, and holding it there for miles at a time the roar is a bit – well “roary”. As much as I enjoyed “making the ton” I found that easing off a mere 300 RPM (which dropped my speed to 90ish) was easier on the ears. That said, I did put my iPod in one ear (the left, which gets the lion’s share of wind buffeting) and let it roar for quite a while at 4000 RPM. 😉


Above: The author, grinning like the Cheshire Cat at Ludicrous Speed.

Butte required slowing to posted speed limits. It is a bit crowded in Montana terms, plus they have the road torn up and re-routed for construction. As I left Butte my eyes were stinging due to the amazing amounts of smoke. I-90 climbs up and over a big pass just east of Butte and the road was relatively crowded with big trucks and lumbering RVs. It wasn’t until I was down the far side that I returned to the flat valley bottom, was able to go fast again, and cleared from the really bad smoke.


Above: Looking back towards the continental divide and the thick smoke. In fact, you really can’t see any mountains, just the smoke!

In what seemed like a very short amount of time, I arrived in Belgrade, and stopped for a driver pit stop, plus top off my gas and oil. Mom & Dad arrived a bit later and informed me that we were going back onto I-90 for a run into Bozeman for lunch. We met some folks that will also be on the rally and ate at a car-themed place called ‘The Garage.” I had a great burger. Afterwards we headed south on US 191 towards Big Sky.


Above: Another roadside attraction south of Gallatin Gateway, MT.

I spent a good part of my childhood in this region. The Gallatin Canyon, Big Sky, Bozeman, etc. It is one of the places I have always considered “home”… though other than visits for weddings and funerals of family friends, I haven’t visited much in the past 20 years. My best friend was killed in a car accident here when I was 18 and after that, I left… finished college, and rarely came back. The memories are good, but being here, for a long time for me… was painful. So I stayed away.

It was odd to be here today. We drove up the Gallatin Canyon, and to the house of my dead best friend’s mother. (an odd way to refer to her here I know, but the most expedient and clear) When I was a kid, she was like my second mom. It was wonderful to see her. Great to see this landscape again too. The place has changed a LOT in the past quarter century… no longer a quiet little place in the middle of nowhere, but now a bustling, very expensive resort with condos and expensive homes everywhere that used to be sagebrush and lodgepole pine forest. It isn’t the place of a few hundred people I recall from the 70s anymore. My friend’s mom though lives above it all on a hillside in a wonderful home. Truly serene and relaxing. We spent the afternoon catching up (showing pictures of my kids, etc) and enjoyed a great dinner and wine, followed by drinks on the deck under the hazy, smoky moon and stars.

Tomorrow we leave my mom, here with my “second mom” for the week, while dad & I head off to Red Lodge for the rally. Ironically we’ll be back here at Big Sky the first night of the rally, but at a fancy hotel. Should be interesting to see my “hometown” as a tourist.

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