Like the title says, you just haven't lived until... you've traveled down the amazing, precipitous, wild Going To the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana -- in a tow truck pulling your 30-year-old RV, in the dark, at about 10 miles per hour.
The earlier part of the day had gone well: a nice group of readers at a book club in West Glacier welcomed me graciously. They listened, talked, laughed, bought some books, and had me sign their books.
I'd figured, if I'm going up to West Glacier, why not go into the park and do a little camping in the RV?
We chugalug-lugged up and up and up Going To the Sun, and on the top -- Logan Pass -- I decided it was time for a potty break. When I began driving out of the parking lot up there, Dusty Rose the Gypsy Wagon stalled. Then she stalled again. And again.
Then she wouldn't start at all.
There we were, near a curb but partially blocking a main bottom area of the Logan Pass parking lot, where people drive (often way too fast) to the exit. What to do? What to do? I turned on the hazard lights, tried to stay calm, and just hung out for a while thinking a ranger would come by.
It was after 5 p.m. I guess that means the rangers have gone home. Most of them, anyway.
I flagged down a couple of helpful shuttle bus drivers, who radio'ed my situation to their dispatch people. They did the best they could. They were very nice, and helpful.
The sun was sinking and I got worried about having those hazard lights on. I was trying to be calm, but I was worried about EVERYTHING and felt like crying. I turned them off and hoped for the best. By then there were far fewer people driving around up there.
Ranger Nancy came by because she was keeping an eye on a bunch of tourists getting awfully close to the six bighorn sheep who frequent the Logan Pass parking lot area. She sat on the rock wall and radio'ed in my dilemma, relaying a request for AAA emergency road assistance. She suggested opening the hood to see what we could see, and also to signal to drivers that the rig was disabled.
The open hood attracted several men, one of whom asked me, "Do you ever check the oil?"
That was it. Mind you, I had just checked the damned oil in West Glacier, not that oil had anything to do with the break-down, and not that it was any of this creep's damned business. I was trying not be feel stressed, but I was stressed. I'm just not that good at being calm when my old RV takes a dump on top of the remote Crown of the Continent.
"Hey," I told the guy, "I'm pretty stressed out and if you're going to say rude things to me, I want you to leave."
He left in a huff. Good riddance!
Ranger Nancy sympathized with me, but had things she had to do. I thanked her, and hung out on the rock wall some more.
"You need help?" a slim young man asked.
"Uh, do I ever."
He gestured toward his four-wheel-drive SUV that had a towing winch. "I can pull you into a parking spot."
"That would be great!" I told him. "Then I can relax, more or less, and even sleep up here if I need to."
So this nice young man from Lethbridge, Alberta hooked up to the front of Dusty Rose and pulled us into a spot. Yay! What a nice guy. To thank him, I offered him a cold beer and food, if he wanted some. He thought a beer would be good, but declined the food. He joined me and my dog in the RV and enjoyed a beer and some peanuts. Soon another Logan Pass visitor came by and visited, comparing notes on overnight parking up there and hiking trails. Then Ranger Nancy came back to check on me. What a nice woman! She said there would be a park ranger coming up from the east side to talk to me. I thanked her again and offered her a cold beer now that she was off duty. She declined, but appreciated the gesture.
As we visited in the rig, the bighorn sheep ran around the parking lot in the dimming light of dusk, licking the asphalt. I guess they like antifreeze, and don't get sick from it. A handful of tourists were still up there. Some of them actually pursued the rams, trying to get better pictures (REALLY???). At one point the rams were hanging out right next to Dusty Rose, so the Alberta guy and I got close-up views. A couple of the rams tussled, butting heads. I think they were going into their rut. Feisty! (perhaps not the best time to chase them trying to get a photo?)
Having just had her dinner, my sweet black lab Peaches slept on the bed through the whole thing -- almost. Twice she lifted her head and growled ferociously.
"Impressive," I told her.
Then my Alberta friend had to head for home. Soon after that, the ranger from the east side showed up and said it would be three hours before a tow truck could get up here. OK, I said, thanks. The ranger had to get going. One of the things he had to do, apparently, was chase the bighorn sheep off the parking lot with a special horn on his car.
Meanwhile, storm clouds were gathering south of the pass as the sun set. Lightning flashed and rain filled the valley just east of the pass. The storm swooped around the high country, thunder booming off the mountains. The setting sun lit some of the western clouds from below. It was stunning. A couple of tourists could not resist running around in the hard-driving, large-dropped rain and wild lightning, trying to get pictures of everything (again, REALLY??? on top of a high mountain pass in lightning?).
In the dark I changed into more comfortable clothes and rested on the RV sofa, enjoying the smell of the mountain rain. I love that aroma! I was just about to eat a peach, get out a sleeping bag, and lounge on the bed with my book and flashlight when the tow truck zoomed in.
It was Dirk the Whitefish Tow Truck Guy to the rescue. He was all business, hooking up Dusty Rose. Peaches had to ride in the RV, because Dirk needed to make sure he could see his side-view mirrors on the challenging drive down the cliff-hugging ledges of Going To the Sun Road. He had to make sure he didn't hit the rocks, and also make sure my rig behind us didn't hit any rocks. Mind you, the tow truck with my RV was much longer than what's usually allowed on Going To the Sun.
Off we went, down down down the steep western slope. Thank goodness for light traffic up there, because most of the time we took up the whole road. We saw a porcupine along the way. Dirk even backed up to get a better view of the critter. He carefully, skillfully navigated us down from the pass. We saw a truck blocking one lane. It was stuck because the driver had hit a big rock on the edge with his back wheel, breaking a leaf spring and his rear axle.
"See?" I said to myself, "Things could be much worse."
It's true. Things could be so much worse. Dirk towed Dusty Rose 110 miles to Polson. We exchanged stories and opinions about everything from disgusting baby diapers to snobby rich people. He's a great guy. A million thanks, Dirk!
Home sweet home.