How Well Can You Spell Kalispell?

“Life’s short. Live it up.” – Nikita Kruschev

Greetings from Kalispell, Montana. Sometimes I start these posts with a little background or trivia about where I’m staying. Truth is, there ain’t much to Kalispell, short of this city of 20,000 being the “Gateway to Glacier National Park.”

Well played, Kalispell.

Since my last post from Jasper, we’ve had a couple of amazing touring days. I’m also a little worn out from riding nearly 2,400 miles over 13 days (with two days off, which, if you know us, usually means “hit the bricks” and check out the surrounding attractions), so I’m going to be less wordy tonight (you’re welcome) and cut to the chase with the good stuff.

On Monday, we left Jasper and rode the Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93, which ends somewhere in Arizona, to Banff. The Icefields Parkway is a scenic route (an understatement, truly) that parallels the Continental Divide along the Canadian Rockies and links Jasper National Park with Banff National Park. In addition to being the home to a number of active glaciers, the Icefields Parkway also has some serious eye candy — ice-carved canyons, mountain peaks, lakes and waterfalls.

From Banff, we continued south on Highway 93 to lovely Kalispell (sorry, all you Kalispellians) and a dream destination (not really into the concept of “Bucket List”) for the both of us: Glacier National Park.

Glacier is one of the national park system’s crown jewels. It has everything, from lakes and rushing rivers to glaciers and grizzly bears. The best way to see Glacier is by taking the famous Red Bus Tour through the park and along the Going-to-the-Sun road. Aside from the almost motorcycle-like feeling you get from traveling in a distinctive, bright red open-top bus, technically a handmade White Motor Company Model 706, made in 1936, using an oak frame and with original coachwork still in place, we found our guide, Marlon, to be exceptional. He really put the majesty, geology and history of the park into perspective. And he’s a funny dude, too, for a retired high school science teacher. If I’d had Marlon for 11th grade biology, I might’ve found science more interesting and paid better attention (and would’ve probably still got a “C”).

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That’s a real glacier, folks. One of, like, 10 we saw along the Icefields Parkway.

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The view from Mt. Edith Cavell near Jasper. Ignore the man in the photo.

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Athabasca Falls along the Icefields Parkway. We live in a drought-affected area of California. All I could think about was how more water went by every five seconds than we’ve been allocated by the water provider for July and August.

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This is Dee’s view every ride day. Mine is sightly better.

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In Canada, they call this “poutine.” In the US, we call this fries, gravy and cheese chunks. Tastes better than it looks — or sounds.

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Baby rolled over to fifty grand 15 miles north of the US border. I’ve never owned a bike with this many miles — and all ridden by me. Heck, most of my other bikes wouldn’t have survived that long. Who’s a good girl? Baby’s a good girl! Yes you are! Yes you are!

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Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. Note to great-nephew, Gavin: Skipping “Flatty-Rock-Skippers” is a must-do here. I got a “7-skip!” Beat that!

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The famous Red Bus, handmade in 1936. The park owns 34 of ’em. I got to ride shotgun and keep an eye peeled for grizzlies. Sneaky bastards. Saw only one measly, small black bear — and from a safe distance. BTW: “Riding Shotgun” no longer seems to include shotguns. Now they tell me.

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Two views from the Going-to-the-Sun road, one of the most popular motorcycling roads in the US — and for good reason. Not bad in an open-top bus, either. Photo on the right shows where the road was cut into the mountain using pickaxes and shovels between 1924 and 1931.

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Logan Pass at the top of the Going-to-the-Sun rod, where east meets west at the Continental Divide. Two full tour buses sang “Happy Birthday” to Dee and our guide gave her an ornament for our tree. I got her the usual for her birthday, absolutely nothing. But I did offer to drive the rest of the way home.

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Marlon is the tour guide to ask for when you take a Red Bus Tour. Informative, funny and didn’t drive off any cliffs. I’m still kinda tweaked about the no shotgun thing, however.

It might be a few days before I get the chance to post again. Heading tomorrow to Joe Phelps’ place, Rancho Relaxo, near Livingston, Montana and next to the Yellowstone River. After that, Yellowstone! The last time I was at Yellowstone was 1965 when I was seven. I remember that trip mostly from the home movies my dad shot and especially the reel where he hand feeds a bear out of the window of our 1962 Chevy Impala and how the bear tried to climb into the car to see what my mom was eating. It was sweet — the car, not the bear. I didn’t realize my mom could make that sound.

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Butt hurts. Check. Back aches. Check. Inside of helmet stinks. Check. Good to go!

5 thoughts on “How Well Can You Spell Kalispell?

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