Sunday, August 29, 2010
A Jammer bus ride, Glacier National Park
Yes, we moved to Montana in 2007, but then the jobs went away, and people stopped spending money. So, my hubby got a job back in Massachusetts in 2009, and as you know from reading this past winter's posts, that's where we were this past winter and spring. Cape Cod was cold, Cape Cod was so rainy in March that it was literally off the charts, and then summer came with the traffic jams and accidents. I made it through the Fourth of July madness, which I actually like, but then the traffic really got to me. So I escaped to our home in Montana. Big hay bales in the fields, lots of sunshine, and not many people. One million people and three million cows, that's Montana. I have to say, I'm a lucky lady to be living in two "M" states, with family members in both locations.
I've been here in Montana, body and soul, but my mind's been back on Cape Cod in the 1880's- fact checking and re-editing and re-editing my historical novel. I have finished my book, and it will be published soon. . . self-published because I feel my mortality every day, and want the book out there. It deserves to come off my desktop, and I must stop obsessing over it and release it to the world. Eva and Henry, A Cape Cod Marriage should be on the Internet bookstore shelves within the month. Should be. I've been saying that a lot. Glitches, witches. . . something's been holding back the release, perhaps it is the very close position of Mars to the planet Earth, but the spell is about to break, I can feel it. I needed to do something to get my brain here, too, and take in the scenery.
And so. I decided to take a visiting friend for a ride, a very physical as opposed to mental thing, and I hope it rates as one of the rides of her life. Not a horse back ride, because I really wanted to relax and not worry about the safety of my non-riding friend. A Jammer ride. Yup. In our very own citizen-owned Glacier National Park. You really ought to add that park to your bucket list. Before the Glaciers melt for good, which they are doing rather quickly. Sadly. But back to the ride. . . check this out-- copy and paste www.allglacier.com/glacier_national_park/red_jammer_buses.php
A Jammer is a reconditioned very cool touring bus, the bodies originally built in the 1930's. About ten years ago or so, Ford motor company very graciously re-conditioned all of them and put in automatic transmissions, which makes a tourist feel far safer on the way up and down the mountains on Going to the Sun Road to the top of the Continental Divide. The driver no longer has to jam the gears down on the way down the grade as a braking aid. So, no more real jamming, but the name stuck.
Here we are, traveling along with the canvas roof rolled and snapped back. Looking through the windshield, you really cannot see what's up above your heads- some of the most dramatic peaks in the Rocky Mountain system. And in the 1910, the brilliant engineers of the day surveyed a road through the Logan Mountain Pass, and built it. Yes, we went up a road that is 100 years old. I believe the president or vice president may soon travel up that road in honor of the big birthday, but it does clash with the big birthday of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown on Cape Cod. Big birthdays in both my favorite places.
Our driver/guide, Matt, was very knowledgeable about the formation of the mountains by the heaving of the seas and the shifting of the plates, and he actually pointed out some really cool rock which was embedded with ancient sea creatures and now rests about 5000 feet above sea level. He called the rock stromatolite, and I thought he might be making up a word to hoodwink us tourists. But then I looked it up on Wikipedia when I returned to my abode, and lo! By golly, there is a picture in Wikipedia of the exact stromatolite that he had pointed out to us. Have a look-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stromatolite For you rock lookers (do not even think of carving a hunk out of this rock) it is located just beyond the tunnel heading up the west side of the Going to the Sun Road. So it will be on your right, and on your left will be. . . a huge empty space where the side of the mountain drops away. Get used to it.
Matt wouldn't say how many eons ago this rock was formed, though, probably because he has learned that people with different religious notions about when God got things started can get puffy and huffy about scientific facts. (My interpretation, based on my own experience in Montana and elsewhere, as to why he wouldn't say when asked, "What era?".) He did say, "I don't like to say." But he was very knowledgeable, and very friendly, and a very good driver, and had been driving his Jammer for 11 summers. Which is why I didn't have a heart attack looking over the 1000 foot drops. A million people will have visited the park this birthday year, and Matt is probably getting ready for his hibernation. He told us that in the long off season, he lives OFF THE GRID. He has to hike in to his house (or cross county ski when the snow piles in) for a mile or so from the road. Wood stove, hand pump for water, a few solar panels, a composting toilet, and no utility bills. Can't get cell reception. His choice. His preference.
Of course, when he is really tired of himself, it's summer again, and he gets to drive the bus and talk to people from all over the world for three glorious months. He lives in the National Park dorm-like employee housing with other full time jammer drivers. Neat life, Matt from Montana. The ultimate solitude and the ultimate driving experience with the ultimate views (check out the above inserted website on Glacier National Park) Can't beat that no how.
So back to the ride. We saw wildlife, but no bears. The highlights were nanny mountain goats with their kids, right beside the road! And bighorn sheep (licking anti-freeze. . . sweeeet.. . . off the parking lot. shoo! shoo! bad for you!) Lots of little marmots. Birds of prey. Forests, waterfalls, mountain peaks, the dissipated glaciers, and the other Jammers coming toward us on the road so we could see how scenic we were. And tourists from all over. Including me and my friend.