Waking early to the sound of mechanics, we realised we were too tired to even notice the ‘Do not start’ sign taped to the steering wheel. Allowing the guys a few more hours to get the beaten Betty up and running, we headed back to Liquid Planet coffee shop. The outgoing staff, vast selection of teas and coffees on offer, graffiti quotes all over the baby change tables in the bathrooms together with their mantra “shop with conscious, drink with intention” make this the best coffee shop we’d come across on our trip so far.
Caffeine injection complete, we stopped by the Missoula Carousel, a true show of what community spirit can do. Four years and 100,000 hours of volunteer work saw the promise of local cabinet maker Chuck Kaparich come true. He promised that “If you will give it a home, and promise no one will ever take it apart, I will build a Carousel for Missoula”, and so he did. People came together to donate time, skills, pennies and more and it’s touching to see what can be accomplished. Afterwards over 4,000 volunteers came together to build Dragon’s Hollow playground next door, if you were a kid you’d be in playground heaven. Missoula is town that retains the community vibe along with being very accepting of one and all. An attribute we discovered and found time and time again.
We then took a frustrating tour around Missoula’s banks trying to find somebody who would happily exchange our CAD for USD without us being a registered customer, managing to find just the one. With a limit of $2,000. We needed $3,000. Piling our bank cards together we exchanged and withdrew our hearts out until we could afford to pay the balance and get the van back.
After a nervous first turn of the key, Betty roared to life and we were back in action, ending up back at Unique Auto five minutes later when we realised the odometer wasn’t working. As our warranty depended on it (not to mention it’s the only way we know when to fill up with fuel as the fuel gauge doesn’t work), the guys got it working while we wasted an hour across the street having a final pint at Bayern Brewery. We particualrly loved the Amber and the Dragon’s Breath Dark Hefewiezen
Heading north from town we were soon on the 93 heading for Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park, and couldn’t help cranking the volume when the first song on the radio happened to be ‘Panama’ by Van Halen. Having just got the van back on the road, a song named after our final destination was a good sign surely!
Montana in August (summer) turns into Huckleberry country. Move over raspberry and blackberry, there’s a new favourite in town, we both fell in love with this amazing little berry after our first huckleberry shake a few weeks back, so there’s no way we were passing by the Huckleberry Patch store without grabbing a piece of mouth-watering huckleberry pie. Entering the store we had a Bubba Gump moment whilst taking in the purple surroundings. You can get huckleberry pie, huckleberry ice-cream, huckleberry fudge, huckleberry chocolate fudge, huckleberry vanilla fudge, huckleberry caramel peanut fudge, huckleberry jam, huckleberry maple syrup…we could go on and on.
Pie safely stashed away for that evening’s dessert, we drove clockwise around Flathead Lake passing the picturesque marina of Somers before arriving at Wayfarers campground where we spent the night. The campground is situated right by the lake, so we threw our bathers on and headed to the water in time for sunset. Flathead Lake. Named after the Salish Indian that use to inhabit the southern end of the lake it is Western US’s largest natural lake. As the sun was still high enough in the sky, and we were probably overdue a shower, we took the cold plunge and enjoyed a brisk yet refreshing couple of minutes enjoying our surroundings while floating in the lake.
Given the stunning location, it’s no wonder this campground is also a bear haven, and the numerous animal trails coming out of the bushes straight into your campsite are slightly unnerving as the sun settles into darkness. Unable to get a fire going as we didn’t have any wood we were worried the lingering smell of a recently cooked meal would attract unwanted friends so we retired to the van for the night, making sure the doors were securely locked.
Yes, we’re well aware that bears cannot open car doors, but we were still both sure we heard them scratching to get in in the middle of the night.