Monday, August 09, 2010

Summer Vacation: Miserable in Montana

Because of the window situation getting into Yellowstone was very frustrating.  Unfortunately the frustration did not end there. On our whole big trip across the entire United States, visiting numerous campgrounds, National parks, State parks and parking lots never once did we have difficulty finding a place to park and camp for the night until we got to Yellowstone.  We couldn't find a campground on the way in, we couldn't find one anywhere on the loop (all the reservation AND no reservation campsites were full--less than 10 campgrounds on the whole 150+mile loop--  ridiculous and frustrating) and we couldn't find a place on the way out.  We had wanted to spend two days at Yellowstone but without a campsite that wasn't going to happen.  We stopped for the night at a rest area outside of Bozeman, Montana, about an hour or so out of the park.

Since we didn't want to backtrack an hour into the park we woke up Tuesday morning with the intention to instead travel to a nice campground outside of Coeur d'alene, Idaho.  We wanted one on the river so the boys could do some fishing and the girls could do some swimming and I could do some sunbathing. We set our GPS, made a few phone calls and were on the road by about 8 am, but not for long--our brake warning light came on.

Fortunately we were passing a Ford dealership with a lot of RV's out front so we quickly pulled in to see if we could get the brakes looked at.  We would be driving through mountain passes for the next few days and needed a good set of stoppers.  We did not want to be using a runaway truck ramp!

The dealership sent us to a small shop on the outskirts of town where we sat and waited for 40 minutes to be looked at.  After looking at the set up they said it would be a few hours of work.  Dave decided to take the mechanic up on his offer to have his daughter drive the children and I to the local mall so we wouldn't have to sit in the trucker waiting room (use your imagination!) while he was working.  Dave waited in the small, one chair, office lobby.

It was about 11:30 when we arrived at the mall.  It was a decent little place with a few shops in their food court, three big anchors (JoAnns, JC Penney, and Macy's) and all but 2 of their small spaces full.  Within an hours time we had walked up one side of the mall and back down the other stopping at Claire's boutique and Eddie Bauer.  The kids were hungry and no one was interested in the food court offerings so we walked across the street to Taco Bell. It was perhaps 1:30 when we finished there; RV should be done anytime I thought.  I called Dave.

Dave said it would be another hour or so.  We walked back to the mall and noticed a theatre at the end of the mall, wish I'd known that when we arrived, we could've seen a movie by now, I thought.

Back at the mall we walked up and down again this time exploring a few stores we had avoided before: Barnes and Noble, a toy store, the Sunglass Hut, JoAnn's. Two more hours had passed when I received a text from Dave, "Go see a movie".

Well that's not good! I thought.  We walked down to the theatre to see what was offered and when.  We had just missed the 3 o'clock showings of Despicable Me and Beezus and Ramona.  The next shows didn't start until 5:30.  Bummer!!  We walked back down the mall to the Food Court, I bought a super huge Orange Julius for us to share and we sat down to read some free publications that were lying around while the girls played at the play area.  I gave each kid $2 in quarters to use at the mini arcade.

When 5 o'clock rolled around and I was still stuck at this mall with four kids in tow and nothing to do I started getting very frustrated.  There was no way we were going to be able to make it into Idaho, no way we were going to go fishing or swimming or sunbathing and I was starting to think that there was no way I was going to be leaving this podunk little town anytime soon.  I felt trapped.

I called a friend in Missoula and begged a parking spot in their driveway for the night--hoping that we would at least get there--and texted Dave.  He still didn't know how much longer.  We walked down the mall one more time to the movie theatre where we discovered that the movie times were not 5:30 they were 5 and we had just missed those ones too.  Not knowing what else to do I took the kids back over to Barnes and Noble where we purchased a couple of games and puzzles and plunked ourselves down at a cafe table outside.  After playing both our games and determining that the cafe table would not be suitable for building a puzzle at, we packed up and went for one more walk down the mall.  The girls wanted to do some school shopping at the tiniest little JCPenney I store I've ever been into.  We searched through every rack within 15 minutes of arriving.  The boys looked around and found a few items too.  At 7:15, just as we were checking out I got a text from Dave "On my way. Be there in 7m"

Hallelujah!!! We were saved.  We finished our transaction and ran to the front of the mall to meet him.  The kids were so happy that they were dancing on the sidewalk as he drove up.

After nearly 8 hours of waiting at a little mall (the kids and I) and a little office room (Dave) our brakes were still not fixed, they were rigged and we were warned to be very careful.  The proper parts would take several days to get into Bozeman and by that time we needed to be at home.  The mechanic, thankfully, only charged us for a few hours of his time and a minimal amount for the parts he did install.  We hoped and prayed that we would make it safely the 3 1/2 hours to our friend's driveway in Missoula.

In retrospect I am very grateful that we did not find a campsite at Yellowstone.  The climbs and descents on the Yellowstone roads, not to mention the road construction too, could have spelled a tragic end to our trip via failing brakes. No pictures of this rotten day. 


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