The journey over the Bitterroot Mountains was quite a ride! The Continental Divide at Lookout Pass is 5,650′ – climbed from 2,420′ and then came back down to 2,150′. Contessa does a great job climbing the elevation and then she LOVES to run downhill. The descent was a 6% grade for 7 miles and there has not be a nickel of infrastructure money spent on I-90 in Idaho!
We safely arrived at Wolf Lodge Campground, which was a very nice campground except for its proximity to the interstate. We booked these reservations last September and it was the only thing available – July 4 is a major family holiday and the start of summer here in the northwest!
Brother Roger arrived from Minneapolis about noon the next day – and then, the long awaited meeting with his daughter, when our niece Kellie came in early afternoon. She and Josh, her daughter Allison and his daughter Livie arrived together. Later that evening, Josh’s older daughter Leanna arrived and the next morning Kellie’s son Ben/Joey joined us. Roger had his teardrop camper and Kellie had her camper and two tents. We made quite a compound!
We spent 4 wonderful days together – laughing, sharing stories and getting to know each other. How magical to find a daughter/grandchildren/great-grandchildren for Roger five years ago and a lovely niece (both inside and out) and family for us!
Kellie owns her hair salon in downtown, so she & I had some lovely time together as I got a fabulous haircut! We all then headed up to her home, so we could envision her there with her family – and of course, Daisy Mae, her silver laborador.
Over the course of the four days, we cruised on Lake Coeur d’Alene, played horseshoes, the kids rode bikes and we tried to take a hike. Unfortunately, the night before we had a major downpour, so trails were pure mud – so we went back and Bill made his fabulous Sausage Gravy & Biscuits.
On Monday, Brianna (Kellie’s elder daughter) and her family came out to spend the day. Unfortunately, the weather was less than hospitable – cloudy, rainy and cold. Imagine Livie (age 5), Cade (age 4) and Addie (age 8) playing hide-and-seek in Contessa with six adults in residence – and Bill did NOT loose his mind!
We decided to bundle up and head back to Kellie’s house for the afternoon. Not only did Leanna & Allie have room to “do their make-up”, Joey had room to play with the birds, and Livie, Cade & Addie had room to play. And then the sun came out! It was time for a picnic and birthday cake for Kellie – and then off to the fireworks downtown.
The area at the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene is popular during the day for boating, swimming and socializing. For the 4th of July, it is THE PLACE to be for fireworks!
Unfortunately, the rain had brought in a cold front, so by the time the fireworks went off at 9:50p, it was 540 F.
The next morning, it was time to bundle up and head our separate ways. With much love and many hugs, we promised to talk, text and laugh together more and soon.
The Captain & Admiral did our normal preparation, hooked up the toad, checked the lights and headed back across the Bitterroot Mountain & Lookout Pass. As impossible as it seemed, the east bound lanes were rougher as we climbed toward the peak. We hadn’t been on the road 15 minutes when our turn signals, rear camera and emergency flashers quit working! With no place to stop, we continued across the pass and stopped at the first rest area about ten miles down the Montana side (total of about 65 miles).
Again, methodically, we went through the fuse bay checking fuses & connections. Sure enough, the “flasher” had been jarred loose as we bumped our way along Interstate 90!
As part of the diagnostics, we turned the ignition on and closed the entry door – which locked the door! So, there we stood – keys in the ignition, spare key for the coach in the Jeep but the Jeep keys were in the coach LOL! Luckily (or by the Grace of God), I had opened the driver’s window to talk with Bill who was outside at the fuse bay. So, just picture me climbing up the side of the coach, using the tire but it only got me part way – but close enough to open the screen. Then the Captain gave me a hefty push and in through the window I went – head first. Turned off the ignition and door unlocked – we checked the lights and everything was working!
We left I-90 at St. Regis and headed north following along the eastern foothills of the Bitterroot Mountain Range and through the Lolo National Forest along the Clark Fork River. It was a tough day of driving and we were thankful to pull into our campground in Lakeside, MT on the shore of Flathead Lake.
The next day (Wednesday) we explored Whitefish, Kalispell and Lakeside. Whitefish was a division point for the Great Northern Railway from its founding in 1904 until 1955. It served as a hub for both passenger and freight transportation. The two story tudor-style building, designed by railroad architect Thomas McMahon, housed the railway’s division office on the second floor, while the first floor hdlc the yard office, freight and baggage rooms, ticket office, general waiting room and telegraph office. It also had a men’s smoking room and a ladies’ rest room.
The Amtrak station remains a key transportation mode for visitors to Glacier National Park 35 miles away, but also to the ski slopes that are a major economic component of Whitefish. There are two trains a day – one from the east and one from the west. While the depot still functions for Amtrak, a large area on the first floor is now a very well-done museum of the railroad and the town. The docent that day was so nice – a native of Whitefish, she and her high school sweetheart went away to college and then they came back to teach at the local school for 34 years!
This Great Northern Locomotive #181 was one of seven built in 1942. It had a maximum speed of 65 mph.
North of town, toward the ski slopes is Whitefish Lake. In the summer, it’s a mecca for boaters and swimmers. In the winter, it is just as busy with snowmobiles and ice fishing!
The town itself was delightful, with a Main Street of classic 1880 building structures, housing hotels, restaurants, service businesses and tourist shops.
Kalispell is the county seat for Flathead County and a much larger town than Whitefish. While the downtown held some real charm, there’s much more evidence of “progress” with car dealerships, chain fast food stores and even a Costco. As we learned more about this region, it became clear that “business is done” in Kalispell.
It was early afternoon, so we made our way to SunRift Brewery and had a delightful lunch and conversation with Cory, the bartender. Born to American missionaries, he spent the first 18 years of his life in Limerick, Ireland. He came to the USA to go to college and then found his way to the Flathead Valley.
We continued south to return to Lakeside, where Contessa waited for us. Edgewater RV Park & Cabins was directly across from the City Marina and Volunteer Park. We had a lovely stroll along the shore of Flathead Lake.
Tomorrow we head back north to Glacier National Park!