Ever wake up with that feeling that shit’s gonna hit the fan? Well today we did.
Skipping across the far north eastern corner of Idaho without incident, we arrived into Montana in the dark and had a sweaty palms moment when Betty started to lurch under a bit of uphill pressure. Unable to take anymore after a long day driving we decided to spend another evening parked up for free at the closest rest stop (clean facilities, drinking water, spectacular sunset and sunrise, what more could you want?), leaving next morning with the hope that, like us, she was just tired. Not so. With just under 1,000 km to go before we hit Vancouver and 40 miles until the closest town of Missoula, Betty blew her third cylinder (only five out of eight now working) and refused to budge another inch. A couple of profanities and some tyre kicking later, we agreed that we knew this moment would come, thus making the decision to abandon her on the interstate, hitching a ride into town to organise a tow truck. Fashioning a couple of ‘Broken down, Missoula please’ signs from some plastic lids we stuck our thumbs up and only two minutes and six cars later the American hospitality prevailed and we threw our bags in and hitched a ride with John the rest of the way to town.
John was a Vietnam veteran who was on his way to Missoula before departing on a month long trip to Vietnam, the first time he’d been back since the war. An interesting character, the most memorable comment came when he stated that we had some damn crazy gun laws in Australia, to which we responded ‘By crazy do you mean we’re not all allowed to have them?’. Yes, that was in fact what he meant. Because we can’t all just stroll into Kmart (Australia’s Walmart equivalent), buy a gun and fill our pockets with ammo, our gun laws are damn crazy. They take this whole 2nd amendment thing pretty seriously over here. About halfway to Missoula John pointed out a natural spring/swimming hole right beside the interstate, before dropping us in the centre of downtown where we stumbled across the inviting Liquid Planet coffee shop. A top recommendation for coffee, cake and wifi if you’re ever broken down out this way!
Our next stop was the local Roemer’s Tire Factory, who weren’t able to help but directed us to Unique Auto Service and Red’s Towing, letting us use their phone to make a few calls. Having left the bikes in the van, we opted for a long hot stroll rather than forking out for a cab, figuring we’d probably need every penny to get back on the road. Arriving at what would become our Missoula home base (we spent most of our time here), we were pleased to note that the four corners of the intersection of Russell Street and Montana encompassed Red’s Towing, Unique Auto, a small non-descript farm (which we’ll mention later) and the local Bayern Brewery.
Long story short, we were quoted around $5,000 for a new engine and arranged a tow with Matt going along for the ride. The driver Joe pointed out the same spring/swimming hole as John had done earlier. Sarah stayed at the brewery to look for a hotel for the night. She went one better. Sitting out back a couple of friendly young local guys tried to buy a cigarette off her, she refused their $2 unless they had another $4,998 to help with the engine, then hearing the accent they struck up a conversation. After hearing of our plight within a few minutes they’d bought her a pint and invited us to come and stay with them. So we did.
Riding the bikes down the road we pulled up out the front of the bachelor pad which Steven (aka Sven) and Alex shared with some mates, where we spent the night drinking beer, shooting a kick arse paintball gun at Matt’s bike, being treated to Famous Dave’s mouth-watering pulled pork burgers with Famous Daves BBQ sauce oozed on top for good measure. as well as trying (and failing) to teach a bunch of American’s how to play the didgeridoo.
Waking the next morning we said our thanks and goodbyes as the boys left for work one by one, offering if we wanted to we could stay the whole week. Champions! But with time ticking away on our BC registration we had to decline, not before making the most of the offer of a hot shower. Riding back to Unique Auto, they informed us that they’d found an engine but wouldn’t be able to get Betty back up and running for at least a week. Having weighed up the options, reminding ourselves we’d got her dirt cheap to begin with, we’d decided to bite the bullet and get her fixed. What could we say, we’d fallen in love with this old van that had become our home. So we paid our deposit, grabbed the license plates and organised a hire car for the next day.
The guys at Unique Auto were kind enough to let us spend the night in the back (it’s not like we were going anywhere anyway), right opposite the non-descript farm we mentioned earlier. Sitting out the back of the van enjoying the sun we waved at the friendly farmer on his tractor as he came past, to which he responded ‘We’re doing the ice bucket challenge!’. With a tractor. Well we weren’t going to let this chance slip, so we headed over to the farm to join them. You can check out the video of ice bucket challenge Missoula style on our Facebook page. Properly drenched we retired for (hopefully) our last night in a broken down Betty.