"A bachelor's life is no life for a single man."
THE SEATTLE DIARY
by Stefan Posthuma
August 10, 1993
The machine rages in my head as I am sitting in the airplane
waiting for takeoff. Funny how life twists and turns and you
cannot do anything but hold on tight for the ride. My life has
gotten slightly too complicated for my comfort so I booked a
flight to Seattle, arranged for a big car and decided to drive
around the northwestern US and Canada for a while, regain my
senses a bit. The Rocky Mountains are a bit different from
Middle America but I guess this is the way it is supposed to be
even though my heart still cries out, a silent scream drowned in
the mayhem of life around it.
I know what to expect, the stretches of highway, the comforts
of an American car, but most of all, the mountains I am looking
forward to very much. I will be on my own in the beginning, camp
out on some mountain somewhere, hopefully relax a bit.
But first, some 10 hours on an airplane, I will be glad when I
will be able to unfold myself at Seattle airport.
I am surrounded by massive pine trees, camping out in Mount
Rainier national park. I just bought some supplies, a few cans
of Bud Dry, a bag of ice to keep them cool, some firewood and
some snacks. The campsite is called Ohanapecosh and it's one of
those typical sites with a picnic table, a patch of clear ground
for your tent and of course the ever present barbecue where I
will be lighting my campfire as soon as it gets dark.
I came off the airplane feeling a bit dazed, and went through
customs without any trouble. I remember previous visits to the
States where the official would eye me with a deep suspicion and
ask all sorts of strange questions but this time he glanced at
my passport and rammed a stamp in it without any kind of
ceremony. I ventured out into the baggage claim and hung around
the belt for a while until I spotted my stuff amongst the
multitude of bags and suitcases that where on display on the
endlessly churning machine. I didn't have a dollar in quarters,
I had no US currency at all, so I couldn't get a baggage cart.
My suitcase weighed about 500 kilos and the bag with the camping
stuff at least half of that so I was staggering around the place
covered in luggage while being sniffed at by a whole pack of
hounds. Yes, Seattle airport seems to be filled with dogs, from
small enthusiastic beagles that can smell a miniature piece of
salami from a mile, to large, lumbering and glazed-looking
smackhounds who's only turn-on lies in gear, pot, grass, coke,
crack, or any other mind-expanding substances. You name it and
they sniff it. Cool dogs these, and they all bypassed my bags
which' only addictive contents were a large box of 'drop', black
Dutch liquorice, a substance most indispensable to the travelling
After the formalities at the Hertz desk (I came this close to
renting a convertible, was it not for the fact that they didn't
have any Mustangs at that moment) I became a little anxious.
Still hauling my massive luggage, I was making my way to the
rental car pickup garage to retrieve my Ford Thunderbird, the
car that was to transport me for the next three weeks.
Such a nice car, so much bigger and more spacious than my
trusty little Alfa I have back home. I am a tall bloke (6 ft 4)
but I can stretch my legs completely while driving, a manoeuvre
what would result in me inserting my feet into the engine of my
car back home. Also, the automatic gear, the power steering and
the massive 3.8 litre V6 engine make this car a delight to
I headed out of Sea-Tac airport and on highway five north
towards Seattle. After about 10 minutes downtown Seattle with
the typical highrise, the UFO shaped kingdome stadium and the
majestic Space Needle were displayed before me. It reminded me
of my first view on San Francisco a little more than a year ago
and I knew I was back...
Moments later I was off the freeway and into downtown,
surrounded by the skyscrapers. I had no idea where I was going
and drove around randomly for a while, still in a daze and
monumentally tired. After about an hour I found myself in a
massive hotel room of a Best Western somewhere in north-Seattle
off I-99, the hot shower bringing me back to reality once more.
I didn't sleep very well that night, jetlag and sheer excitement
taking their toll.
Around 10:30 the next morning I was out of the room and headed
for downtown once again, this time a little less spaced out and
ready to explore the depths of the city. Following the signs for
Seattle Centre, I passed a massive Tower Records. I pulled into
their parking lot and dashed into the store, ready for massive
amounts of grunge. There was a lot of it in the 'local' section,
but I really didn't know very many of these bands so I just got
the Stone Temple Pilots. Their 'core' CD is a true masterpiece,
brilliant and smashing guitar stuff. I also got the Stereo MC's
'connected', for 12 dollars each, a most ridiculously low price.
I also gathered up some CD singles and did the second (the first
was the motel the evening before) assault on my credit card, a
piece of plastic that would be shamelessly abused in the weeks
I parked across the lawn in front of the Space Needle and
joined the small queue at the entrance of the tower. In the
elevator, a cheerful college girl started explaining facts about
the tower but I was too absorbed by the fascinatingly bulging
and shiny jogging suit of a particularly large tourist that had
cornered me with her bulk. Also, a Japanese man was filming the
inside of the elevator while uttering enthusiastic sounding
comments to his two identical children and his wife. Now there
is a gift shop at the base of the tower where I browsed while
waiting for the elevator, and there is also a gift shop at the
top of the tower where you can buy the same stuff. Postcards,
calendars, little statues, tribal wood carvings, native pottery,
scarves, T-shirts, sweaters, baseball caps, glasses, mugs, wind
chimes, books, folders and piles of other tourist stuff. I found
two useful items, a map of Washington and a very amusing hand-
drawn map of Seattle. It folds out to mammoth proportions and
has a detailed map of downtown with all shops and hotels and
stuff on it. On the reverse there is a big map of the
surrounding area with points of interest.
Of course there is a nice round gallery built around the gift
shop where you can admire the view of Seattle and surrounding
waters and mountains. I could see for miles, Mount Olympus to
the southwest across the blue expanse of Elliot Bay, and Mount
Rainier to the southeast. Seattle itself sprawled below me, I
could see the Tower Records like a shoebox far below and my car,
a shiny piece of metal amidst the grey concrete of the parking
lot. There is a lot of Seattle, a massive city all around but
the big waters and mountains in the distance promised a lot
more, and I felt anxious once more, ready for the coming days
where I would venture out into the mountains, deep into nature
During my 360 degree walk I was followed by three elderly
ladies dressed in jump suits and sneakers who were loudly
discussing the view. They kept asking me to take their picture
and they also took one of me, nonchalantly leaning against the
railing with the outstretched view behind me.
Back on solid ground I explored Seattle Centre a bit, it was
quite deserted, I guess school holidays where over and the
tourist season was nearing its end. The map showed a monorail
leading into downtown, so I headed for the station in the middle
of Seattle Centre. Ten minutes later I stepped out of the
monorail and out into Westlake Centre, a beautiful and shiny mall
in the middle of downtown. In fact, the monorail platform exits
into the food plaza of the mall and once more I was reminded of
the abundant junkfood culture that thrives in the States. At
least 10 different vendors assaulted me with a turmoil of
screaming colours, smells and the sight of dozens of people in
the middle of it all stirred faint hunger feelings in my
jetlagged system. Yet I merely walked around, checking all the
types of food, from deep fried potato skins with sour cream to
spaghetti with tomato sauce and italian sausage.
The mall contained a score of expensive shops, and I gradually
worked myself down the three floors and out into the streets of
Seattle. The skyscrapers all around me managed to impress me
again, no such stuff where this boy comes from. A glance at my
watch reminded me of parking time expiring and I headed back to
the mall and into the monorail after picking up some more maps,
Oregon and Idaho/Montana. I would need those in the weeks to
I decided to head for the waterfront, the Pike Place market was
supposed to be good. It took me quite some trouble finding a
parking space, but I finally pulled into a large garage across
the Seattle Aquarium. From there I took an elevator up and a
footbridge led me to the market. It's an amazing place, a sprawl
of about 600 (!) merchants across the edge of town in a multi-
storey, multi-layer maze. From its many windows in the various
stores it overlooks the piers and the Alaskan Freeway, a raised
freeway skirting the bay, like a belt around the belly of
Seattle. An exotic place, this market. I literally got lost in
the labyrinth, discovering passage after passages, store after
store and small stairways leading to 'even more shops!' as the
colourful signs shouted. You can buy anything there, from massive
slabs of smoked salmon to wind-up toys and a million things in
between. I lunched in a seafood bar overlooking the bay, enjoying
the sunshine and the gorgeous waitress. After I finally escaped
from the sprawl I walked down to the boulevard and strolled past
the Seattle Aquarium, Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe and the many
waterfront restaurants and bars. The cool ocean breeze with that
typical salty smell and the sunshine made me feel great, I had
forgotten about most of the troubles back home already. To enrich
my collection, I bought a Seattle T-shirt from a merchant on the
It was late afternoon by the time I returned to my car and
decided to go to west Seattle, see some more of this great city.
But traffic was heavy and I wasn't completely accustomed to U.S.
traffic yet, it's in some way very different from what we have
here in Holland. I got confused and very, very lost. Exits
disappeared, roads didn't go where I thought they would and I
found out that it's quite hazardous to drive and map read at the
same time! After foolishly mistaking left for right and thus
missing the West Seattle Freeway for the third time I gave up and
drove off towards the mountains which where visible in the far
distance. I took highway 169 towards Enumclaw and two hours later
I was in this small town at the base of the Cascades. I checked
into the very nice King Motel, very tired and very impressed by
Seattle, a city certainly worth coming back to!
Jetlag has no mercy and I woke up with a nagging headache. But
I set off cheerfully, headed for those massive mountains which
where close now, and indeed, minutes later I was heading up, the
popping sounds in my ear revealing the changes in altitude. That
feeling went though me again, being amidst nature, mountains,
forests, all of an indescribable beauty. If you live in a flat
and featureless place like Holland, mountains tend to trigger
strange emotions in you.
The rest of the day was like a dream. Small windy roads across
mountain passes overlooking valleys and green slopes filled
with pinewood forests. The sky was pure blue, dotted with some
small white clouds and the sun felt warm and healthy. Highlights
of the day where Sunrise and Paradise. Two places in Mount
Rainier National Park that overlook the glacier-covered 14,410
foot peak of Mount Rainier. The sight of the dazzling white
peak jutting out of the rugged and grey mountains is utterly
breathtaking and I stood there for a while, admiring this thing
of incredible beauty. I realized then that it was yet another
thing that would be filed under 'unforgettable experiences' in
my life's memory. It's already getting a bit crowded up there,
Glacier Point, Grand Canyon, the deserts of the southwestern US,
Niagara Falls, Guatemala, and a lot more.
Another thing I enjoy about mountains is the driving. Small,
windy roads don't exist in Holland so I love driving on them,
especially in a car like the Thunderbird with a beast of an
engine which effortlessly hurls the car up the steepest roads. I
had a lot of fun yet managed to keep myself under control and
remember safety for I had no intention of ending up a bloody
mess at the bottom of some canyon.
So far, this vacation has been great, and being here in this
forest on a camping listening to some music makes me feel great,
completely detached from my life back home, a life that was
becoming a little too much for me.
Dusk is slowly falling and all around me I see the soft glow of
campfires and the smoke plumes of barbecues. I guess it's time
to get my own fire started, but first I'm going to dig up
another Bud from that bag of ice...
I'm sitting on a wooden bench of the boardwalk in Coeur
d'Alene, a little town on lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, just
across the Washington border. A very beautiful lake set amidst
soft sloping hills that are covered with the massive pine trees
that seem to be everywhere. It's early, 9:45, and the town still
seems to be asleep. Once again, the weather is great, I'm being
very comfortably warmed by the sun at the moment.
The campfire was a glowing success, I spent hours playing with
it. I even got it to a point where I was able to melt my empty
beer cans in the red glowing embers.
After breaking up camp during which I was carefully watched by
a small chipmunk who had found my half-empty bag of crisps, I
took highway 12 east to Yakima. It was early, and there was a
lot of morning mist, vapour rising off the forests warmed by the
morning sun. This created a remarkable sight, the mountains
seemed to be wrapped in white fluff and from the valleys the hot
rising air carried the low hanging clouds up the mountain
slopes. Sometimes I would enter such a cloud resting against the
slope of the mountain and I would find myself in a deep fog,
breaking through it seconds later to be presented with another
Yakima is a medium-sized town without anything interesting to
see, at least according to the girl at the Subway (a sandwich
shop) where I breakfasted. From Yakima I took I-82 north towards
Ellensburg where I turned onto scenic highway 136 east to
Vantage. The landscape became very barren and dry here and I
stopped somewhere at a place where there were some petrified
trees buried in the hills. The dry heat and savage landscape
reminded me of the dry hills of California and the big
rattlesnake warning filled me with caution as I worked myself up
the hill, admiring the view and the occasional stump of
petrified tree. It was hot there, very hot. No cool ocean nearby
to temper the heat and no Coke machines to soften my parched
From Vantage I proceeded north-east past Ephrata and stopped
for lunch in Soap Lake. This little town lies on the south point
of the lake with the same name, it's called Soap Lake because
the water contains natural oils and minerals and it indeed feels
smooth, soapy. I had a burger from a local diner and strolled
onto a field where a lot of custom cars where on display.
Hotrods, restored classics, radical custom jobs, basically a
collection of insane cars, something you can only find in the
U.S. After taking in some more sun and observing the people on
the beach of the lake for a bit I got back in the car and
followed highway 17 north along the lakes until it joined
Interstate 2 which goes straight east towards Spokane.
Spokane is a big place and I planned on staying there, maybe go
to the cinema, see "Jurassic Park". I drove around the place
randomly for a while, finding most of the motels full and no
cinema in sight. When I finally did find one and it turned out to
be closed I discarded the idea of staying in Spokane and headed
for Coeur d'Alene 27 miles east. I found a nice motel there with
a massive room. After a shower I headed back to the centre of
town and had dinner there. Ordering the special of the day,
rainbow trout with goodies was quite the event. The waitress
greeted me enthusiastically and I decided to go for the special
because I was starving.
"I'll have the special."
"Great sir, would you like that with potatoes or rice?"
"Mashed, fried or baked?"
"With sour cream, butter or both?"
"Make that both."
"What would you like for a starter, soup or salad?"
"Soup would be nice."
"Tomato, chicken or beef-vegetable?"
"And what would you like to drink tonight?"
I imagined her listing twelve different kinds of beer, draft or
from a bottle, import or local so I decided to be very clear.
"A bottle of regular Budweiser."
She checked her notepad and disappeared. My mind dazzled when I
thought of the thousands of permutations possible for one meal.
I speculated on what kinds of rice they would have, (wild,
normal, steamed, with/without sesame seeds) and the dozen salad
dressings you would be able to get. Mad place this.
I slept well in the massive bed last night and now I will have
a look at the maps, my next destination is Yellowstone National
Park. But first I want to do something, there are many
activities going on at the lake. Jet-skiing, parasailing and
The Hilltop Inn, Kalispell is a nice little motel at the edge
of town. I arrived here after two long days that were once again
filled with incredible impressions, Yellowstone National Park
and Glacier National Park.
Before I left Coeur d'Alene, I decided to do something, partake
in one of the many lakeside activities. Now I had a choice of
jet-skiing, parasailing or flying in a small airplane. Jet-
skiing or parasailing involved having to go to the car, taking
my suitcase out for dry clothes and so on, so I decided to join
a small group of people for a 'scenic flight'. The airplane was
an eight-seater and had two of those big floats which allows it
to take off and land on the water. The other people on the plane
were a Japanese family, a couple of two tiny people with even
more tiny children. They all smiled a lot and took a lot of
photographs. I love those stereotype people! One more passenger
was an elderly American gentleman who just sat there and enjoyed
the ride. I sat next to the pilot and was able to observe the
man while he operated the plane, it all seemed quite simple
really. The flight was indeed scenic, the whole lake was visible
and the surrounding hills and distant mountains were a sight to
behold. Half an hour later I was back on solid ground, and into
the car, I had a lot of driving to do.
The I-90 east took me to Missoula, I arrived there in the
afternoon after a long drive through endlessly stretching hills
and forests. In Missoula I found a big mall where I had some
lunch and found a wonderful black Levi's jacket which I bought
almost immediately after I saw it. From Missoula I took the I-90
again and after about an hour I turned south on highway 1, the
hills getting rougher and the forests deeper. It was nearing
seven when I passed Philipsburg, a small town but I felt like
camping that night so I carried on towards a cluster of
campsites visible on the map. I found one just off Georgetown
Lake, and after setting up my tent I had a chat with the
campsite host, a grizzled old man who told me that the nearest
place to eat was the '7 gables bar' about ten minutes up the
It turned out to be a local hangout, and I sat there at a table
eating charbroiled chicken with fries, washing it all down with
a large Coke. The place was busy with people enjoying
themselves, and they all gave me a friendly but inquiring look,
this strange youngster all on his own sitting there studying his
maps. After I finished my meal (it was great), I got some cans
of Bud from the guy at the bar (he was the first one not to ask
me for ID) and fifteen minutes later I was back at the tent,
nicely filled and ready for a the night, it had become totally
dark and it was quite cold too.
And cold it was, I think the temperature plummeted down to
about 3 to 5 degrees celsius, alright if you're in the comforts
of a motel room but downright lethal if you're in a little tent.
Now I had gone through the experience before, last year in
Yosemite National Park where I camped on about 8,000 feet and
the temperature dropped to about 4 degrees. I had a very
uncomfortable night to put it mildly. So this time I was
prepared and when I had finished playing with the campfire and
had given the glowing embers one last mesmerizing stare, I went
to bed. Inside the tent, I put on some sweatpants, a T-shirt, a
sweatshirt and some socks and cocooned myself in the sleeping
bag. The bag has a hood with a cord through it so I can cover my
head with it and pull the string so only my face is visible. I
lay there for a while, feeling the warmth of my body spreading
through the many layers of clothing and sleeping equipment. I
felt strangely serene, an blissful equilibrium that was
momentarily interrupted by the fact that the light was still on
and it took a great deal of squirming to turn off the flashlight
that was suspended from the tent canopy.
Hours later I woke up, like I usually do after drinking beer
the night before and was momentarily freaked out by the total
absence of the usual things like light and sound. It was
perfectly dark in the tent, to my eyes it seemed like there
wasn't a single light particle present. Quite desorientating if
you wake up totally covered by a sleeping bag and the air feels
freezing cold and it's pitch black and eerily silent. It took me
a while before I figured out where I was and what I was doing
but then the consequences of my urge dawned upon me. I had to go
After a lot of fiddling and squirming I managed to free myself
from the sleeping bag and was groping around in the dark for the
light. When I turned it on, light screamed at my eyes and the
tent was lit up as if by a nuclear blast, I could almost feel my
pupils contracting, trying to become as small as possible, hiding
from the callous, intense light. I put on my shoes and unzipped
the tent door, a sound that's perfectly normal but now seemed to
be amplified a thousandfold by the silence all around and I
expected angry co-campers to come out any moment and shout at me
for waking them all up.
After two steps I scrambled back into the tent to fetch the
light because I felt like I had stepped into some void, I guess
I know now what matter feels like when it gets sucked into a
I was more awake now and became quite fascinated by the forest
at night, a collection of looming shapes gathered around the
yellow cone of the flashlight. I selected a nice looking tree
and relieved myself of about three cans of Bud Dry. After this I
felt a lot better and puttered around the trees a bit,
experimenting with the flashlight, seeing the distant
reflections of cars in the other campsites. There was also
another sight to behold, the sky was clear so I could see about
a trillion stars and the white blurry stripe of the milky way
through the canopy of the trees. Fascinating stuff, I never knew
you could have so much fun out in a forest in the middle of the
night, armed with a flashlight only.
It was then when I felt that it was rather cold, my breath was
leaving small puffs of vapour in the air (great for showing the
beam of your flashlight) and I retreated myself into the tent,
going through the sleeping-bag ritual again and minutes later I
was fast asleep once more.
After having breakfast at Arby's in Anaconda, I joined the I-90
again and a 100 miles later I took the 191 south towards the
town of West Yellowstone, the entrance to the world famous park.
I arrived there mid-afternoon and walked around the place a bit,
checking out the souvenir stores and buying some candybars to
nurture my travel-weary being. Yellowstone National Park. The
oldest park in the United States, 3,472 square miles of rugged,
sometimes surreal countryside. 200 to 250 active geysers and
about 10,000 thermal features shroud the landscape in mists and
strange smells. 600,000 thousand years ago the last of the
catastrophic volcanic eruptions on the continental divide that
runs straight through the park spewed out about 240 cubic miles
of debris and formed the caldera, the volcanic basin that looks
like a miniature version of Venus. Bubbling mud basins, erupting
geysers, pools of boiling water reeking strongly of sulphur,
acrid stretches of land with underground caves belching fumes.
Surely one of the most bizarre places on Earth, but also one of
the most fascinating, it once more makes you aware of the powers
of Nature, and how tiny humankind really is.
There is a paved road that runs around the park, from West
Yellowstone I entered the state of Wyoming and followed the
Madison River until I joined the looping road and entered the
caldera, heading south towards Old Faithful, the most famous
geyser in the park. Every couple of miles there would be a place
where you could park your car and join a wooden walkway leading
around a particularly interesting piece of bubbling or
flolloping mud field. It took me quite a while to cover the 16
miles to Old Faithful, and I already felt quite impressed when I
reached the small village built around this phenomenon. I
managed to phone my parents, told them I was doing fine and was
having a fabulous time. I bought some postcards in the gift shop
and joined the steady stream of people heading towards the site
of the geyser. It was supposed to erupt in about fifteen
minutes, so I had some time to write my postcards while sitting
on a wooden bench overlooking the white pimple on the barren
landscape that was supposed to be the geyser. A tiny curl of
smoke was coming from the tip of the mound, but other than that
no evidence of a great spewing geyser was to be observed. But
suddenly the pimple belched some water, superheated steam rising
in great clouds. Still not the Great Ejaculation I was waiting
for. But it had my attention now and the crowd hushed, people
aiming their camcorders and cameras. A small girl armed with a
Polaroid ventured beyond the small fence onto the mineral-salt
covered grounds around the geyser and hurried back after it spit
out another bubble of water.
I was now watching the while bulge intensely, and the slightest
of tremors ran through the earth and then a massive spurt of
water erupted. It seemed unreal through the small eye of my
camera but it was great, massive amounts of hot water being
hurled at least thirty feet into the air. The spectacle lasted
for about thirty seconds, and I became aware of a steady buzzing
sound, the dozens of cameras being employed all around me.
After the geyser had once more resumed its peaceful state I
went back to the car, thoroughly impressed and desperately
curious about the rest of Yellowstone.
After a breathtaking drive along the shore of Yellowstone lake,
and admiring places with inspiring names like 'Mud Volcano' and
'Sulphur Caldron' I reached another Masterpiece of Nature, Grand
Canyon of Yellowstone. Its two viewpoints, Artist Point and
Inspiration Point offer views of the deep, twisting canyon and
the Upper and Lower Falls which are yet again awe-inspiring. This
day was getting ridiculous, so much stuff to store in my little
brain, it was spinning with the effort. But the drive wasn't over
yet, I had to cover another 58 miles of magic wonderland before I
exited the park at the North Entrance (entering Montana), late in
the afternoon and thoroughly impressed by all this natural
beauty. I also regretted the fact that I didn't have more time to
spend in this wonderful place, so I could at least follow one of
trails, there are many of them in the park, covering about 1,000
I followed highway 89 north until I came to Livingston, where I
drove around for a while looking for a motel. No such luck
though, and I had to settle for a RV park where I had to setup
the tent by the light of the headlights of the car. It turned
out to be a site close to the railroad and a busy I-191 so all
night I was aroused by the thunder of freight trains and massive
trucks passing by.
So the next morning I wasn't particularly feeling fresh and new
yet I had a massive distance to cover, about 300 miles to
Glacier National Park just below the US-Canadian border. After
crossing the Little Belt Mountains and passing through Great
Falls where I had some lunch, I entered the great plains of
Montana, 130 miles of utter Nothing which consisted of endlessly
stretching hills with the odd miniature town thrown in for good
form. I think I crossed an area roughly the size of Holland that
day, not encountering more than a dozen towns, Great Falls being
the only noteworthy one. Amazing stuff. I picked up a
hitchhiking cowboy who had to go 'just dawn the rawd' which
turned out to be about 10 miles to a 'town' which consisted of a
few houses and a small store. He told me he had never been in
Yellowstone, something I found quite incredible, since the place
was only a few hours away. He also told me if I wanted to see
real empty country, I had to go to east Montana. But I had
another destination, Glacier Park and the next day, Calgary in
Around five that day I arrived at St. Mary. A small town at the
eastern entrance of Glacier National Park. It was raining, a
steady downpour making the mountains seem painted grey and
covered in heavy clouds. There is one road cutting straight
through the park, about 50 miles of twisting and turning
pavement cut out of the mountains. The 'going to the sun road'
it's called, but that day there wasn't much sun. In fact, it was
still raining but this created a kind of strange atmosphere, the
low-hanging clouds forming a surreal cloak around the mountains
and there were many small waterfalls and streams forming all
over the rocky slopes. Now I know that I have used many
superlatives already in this story but I have to say that the
'going to the sun road' is one of the most beautiful drives I
have ever seen. It cuts right across a mountain range that is
just incredibly beautiful and I really cannot describe it
properly. Once, while completing yet another hair-raising turn I
was presented with such an amazing view that my breath halted
and a big lump formed itself in my throat. The road seemed to
form a tunnel through the green vegetation covering the slopes.
Low hanging branches dripping with the rain and many, many
flowers creating a patchwork of brilliant colors all over.
Beyond this natural tunnel, a newly formed stream whirled its
way down a rocky slope and the rain-heavy clouds were resting on
the rugged top of the mountain further up. The grey and white
dome of the sky arched above this all, and I felt like I was
beholding a giant painting, the ultimate masterpiece of a
brilliant artist who was inspired by the very earth itself.
Slowly I drove up the slope, taking in this sight, etching it
into my brain, making sure I would never forget this view again.
This moment alone made the entire trip worthwhile, and the
realisation of all I had seen already and all I would still
experience filled me with a warm happiness that stayed with me
while I completed my drive through this totally incredible piece
of the planet we all live on.
I left the park at West Glacier and made my way south-west,
looking for a motel to spend the night. It seemed many had
preceded me, all motels along the way were totally full. I
passed through the towns of Coram, Martin City, Hungry Horse,
Columbia Heights and Evergreen before I finally found a motel in
Kalispell which wasn't totally booked. With a deep sigh I
dropped on the bed and lay there for a while, focusing on the
day that just passed, the incredible experiences of driving
through the emptiness of Montana and the unbelievable beauty of
Glacier National Park.
The shower did me good and twenty minutes later I was in the
local Sizzler, digging into a massive salad and a steak & salmon
dinner. After this I crossed the road to the cinema and saw
"Jurassic Park". I went back to my motel, head spinning with
images of brilliant computer-generated dinosaurs, awesome
mountains, endless hills and that night I slept and slept and
I'm currently lying on the guest bed of the Steen residence in
Millarville, Canada. After being in a totally relaxed
environment for a while I realized just how exhausted I was when
I arrived here yesterday afternoon. The first week of this
holiday is over and it has been a tremendous success. I already
have seen and experienced so many wonderful things, and I still
have two weeks to go. But all the travelling and the driving
have taken their toll and I surely can use a few days out here
After I left Kalispell I headed back to Glacier National Park,
and did the same drive as the day before, but in the opposite
direction this time. Now it was quite cloudy and rainy when I
crossed the park for the first time so I didn't take any
photographs, hoping for clearer weather the following day. No
such luck, in fact the clouds and fog banks were even heavier,
obscuring most of the mountains and filling up the valleys. Yet
there were enough sights left for a couple of pictures and the
mists gave the mountains a certain sinister appearance that
greatly inspired me. I was once again feeling great while
zooming up and down the slopes in the big T-bird, sometimes
slowing down to a crawl when entering a thick fog bank or
stopping at a pullout to admire yet another view.
10 miles north of St. Mary I crossed the Canadian border,
feeling a little excited for I had never been in Canada before.
I immediately noticed that distances were indicated in
kilometres instead of miles, something different!
After the rugged mountains of Glacier, the soft sloping plains
of south Alberta reminded me of Montana again. Rain was falling
down in torrents now and I was getting suddenly very weary of
all the travelling and I felt a bit worried, I was to meet a
friend of mine in Calgary and all I had was a phone number. I
was hoping she was there because although I am perfectly capable
of taking care of myself, I was looking forward to some company.
200 miles later I was in Calgary, in an enormous mall and on the
phone, anxious to talk to my friend Tara.
I met Tara last year near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. She was
travelling around the US as well and although we only spent one
evening on a campsite around the campfire we stayed in touch
throughout the next year. Tara just finished University in
Winnipeg and was in the middle of moving to Vancouver. She got a
ride with her friend Laurie who lives just outside Calgary. Since
I was 'in the neighbourhood', I decided to drive up to Calgary
and take Tara to Vancouver, a drive that was to take us through
Banff National Park which is yet another amazing place.
Laurie's mother gave me the number of the office where Tara and
Laurie were busy writing their resumes and letters of
applications on Laurie's dad's computer. It was right in the
middle of downtown Calgary, and I walked into this office (a
stock market broker) feeling very tired and very excited to meet
Tara once more.
A few hours and a nice dinner later we drove up to Laurie's
house, southwest of Calgary in the foothills of the Canadian
Rockies and frankly, in the middle of nowhere. A very nice
looking nowhere it is, and I was very impressed by the house, a
big wooden place on the top of a hill with a large patch of
ground around it. Some horses grazed in a field nearby and a
path lead up to a small cabin overlooking the valley and the
distant mountains. The thought of spending the next few days
here just hanging around with Tara and Laurie, reading a bit and
enjoying the weather (the skies cleared as I approached Calgary
and the sun was shining cheerfully) made me feel pretty good.
That night I was in bed early, after a chat with Laurie's
parents and watching a bit of Canadian TV. I slept like a baby
and woke up to a warm summer morning, the sun peeping through
the blinds. I was greeted by my Canadian hosts who were busy
doing their portfolios and ventured out onto the veranda where
some deckchairs were strategically located. I installed myself
there with a book and a large glass of orange juice and let the
sun soothe my still tired body.
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