31
DAYS

The Trans-America Challenge 2012

7th May - 8th June 2012

DAY
16

Great Falls to Kalispell

MAY 23RD, 2012

Through the Blackfeet Nation.

It was much colder this morning but it was dry at least. We were heading north west all the way to the Glacier National Park and we could see the mountains in the distance almost from the hotel car park. 

This was planned as a short but intense day, the MTC was at lunchtime so we could take time to explore the Park in the afternoon so we set out along the good, fast and straight interstate 89 past the aptly named Freeze Out lake. We were still in Montana and still under those wild skies although today they did have much more of a threatening snowy look to them.

Through Choteau, the Teton ski area, through Bynum and past the Two Medicine Dinosaur Centre to the first test at Gypsy Basin. This was 7.5 miles of regularity played out against a very dramatic backdrop. Glowering mountains on the left, bright green fields of young wheat along the road and beyond that, bleak barren open farmland. This epic gravel track swept us past an incongruous drilling rig with a couple of wide turns and a switchback hairpin. The wind was strong and knifing cold. The crews in the open top cars suffered but not many of them bothered with the hood. The temperature of 10°C was much lower when you added in the windchill. This looked like it was going to be a tough day in the mountains.  On finishing the first section there was a short Tarmac stretch but then it was straight back to the gravel.

The second, Heart Butte regularity came soon after and in its ten mile length there was the usual well graded gravel and long straights heading initially south westerly and then north westerly towards the mountains rather than running alongside it. Then we got into the hills and enjoyed poplar and birch lined hairpins as the route rose and fell with the broken landscape. It was a tricky piece of timing work and only three crews cleaned this section Paul and Sandra Merryweather car 41, Alistair and Dorothy Caldwell car 33 and Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson car 39 with the rest losing a few seconds here and there.

Car 25, Hans-Erik Rhodius and Sabine Letzer in the Ford Escort Mexico Mk1, however was another story and just made the time control, due to a navigational error they ended up 15km off course. When they realised their mistake they made every effort to get back on schedule and slithered into the control seconds before it closed. From the end of this section it was a short hop to the MTC in the Two Medicine Grill where the atmosphere was, to say the least highly charged. Soup, burgers and grilled chicken are all you need when you start with gravel, altitude, fine roads and exquisite scenery. The crew of car 20, Werner Esch and Patrick Fisbach were looking very pleased with themselves and had thoroughly enjoyed the morning.

John and Melinda Raker who are driving the touring route in their Jaguar were once again delighted with the scenery, especially a 'found metal' sculpture of two Native Americans on horseback that they'd spotted alongside the road.

This is Blackfeet Country, the tribe indigenous to this region who's 'nation' spreads throughout Montana into Alberta, Canada (where they're called Blackfoot). They originally owned the land which became the Glacier National Park but they sold it to the US Government in 1896 who hoped to find mineral deposits. None were found however and the land was set aside as a Park in 1910.

After lunch we joined much of the Rally on the drive up to the Glacier Park and Logan Pass. The road wasn't completely open due to snow that hadn't been cleared since the winter so we couldn't do the entire route but what we did see left us wanting more.

Sadly though the rain that had been threatening finally came and many of the fine views were obscured by low cloud, rain and even sleet. This weather followed us all the way back to the night halt in Kalispell and while it may have dampened our clothing it did nothing to dampen the memories of another fine day in the high country.

Incidents today were thankfully few and far between Car 18, the Volvo of David Inns and Pamela Wallis suffered a puncture today and spent most of the evening sourcing a new tyre. When they sat down to dinner they'd manage to find one to fit with a little help from the hotel although the profile is not quite correct.

Finally we hear that Terry and Sheila Wright are due to receive parts for their MGB GT tomorrow and will catch the Rally at the rest day in Osoyoos.

 

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