We pulled up to our friends' tiny cabin in the hills of Montana in Columbia Falls that evening and greeted them with smiles. We met Mandy and Lyam when we lived in Maui (when they also lived in Maui), and hadn't seen them in over a year. They have two amazing kiddos Lolah and Xander - Lolah is just over two years old and Xander is one month younger than Ember. Last time we had hung out with them, Mandy and I were both pregnant with Xander and Ember, so this was the first time we got to meet our littlest ones. Ember was in heaven playing with both of them.
We pooled our ingredients for a dinner of chicken, quinoa and salad, and caught up on each other's lives from the past year while the kids got acquainted with each other and played in the floor.
The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast together before the boys set out to try to fix the propane tank on our camper.
The valve (or something) had broken a couple of days before we left, and there was no time to even mess with fixing it. We had been managing, but our propane heater sure would've been nice to have on those cold nights at Yellowstone; it would've been convenient to be able to use our propane stove on those dry camping nights in the Walmart parking lots; and our propane fridge would've been nice to use instead of buying ice for the cooler every day and then having cooler water leak into our food. We managed, but were really hoping for some propane!
So when the boys came back with news that they found a propane solution, I was more than a little thrilled. The internal tank was apparently not fixable, but they ended up deciding to buy an external tank that would lay on its side in the outside compartment. This was a much cheaper option than replacing the internal tank, and something that we could do right away while in Columbia Falls, instead of ordering a piece and waiting a few weeks (which we didn't have) for it to come in.
After we got the propane figured out, we all loaded up into our campers (yes, they have Harvey's cousin!) and headed to camp at Glacier National Park, just about 45 minutes up the road from where they live.
It was a bit rainy, so we fixed some simple Mexican food inside. After the rain cleared up a bit, the boys made a fire outside and we enjoyed roasting some marshmallows and making s'mores.
Then we walked down to Lake McDonald as the sun started to disappear and enjoyed the dusky night sky over the clear glistening lake.
Mandy and I had seen a sign the day before at the village down the road for "Hot Fresh Mini Donuts", so naturally we decided we needed to go. We all ordered hot fresh mini donuts and coffee. ... Not the best quality in the world, and definitely didn't meet our expectations. But we decided they have the perfect business model - good enough marketing and signs to lure you in to make your purchase, and the quality can be sub par because they don't need return customers since they're a tourist attraction.
At this point, it had been raining all morning and a bit chilly - not ideal weather for hiking, especially with young youngsters. We hoped it would clear up by the time we finished our coffee and donuts, but had no such luck. Also, because of the recent and late-in-the-season snow they had in that region, the famous "Going-to-the-Sun" road was mostly closed, leaving a lot of spectacular hikes and views unavailable. So we made the decision to head back down to their house in Columbia Falls - a better option than sitting in our campers, waiting for the never-ending rain to quit while trying to entertain our cooped-up little ones. We drove up the "Going-to-the-Sun" road a little bit to a lookout over some raging rapids, then headed back down to Columbia Falls.
On the way back down through the park, the Harvey's clutch started acting up and it quickly worsened. Once it was past first gear, it was a little better but Brannon could barely get it into first from a stopped position. Obviously a cause for concern. We hobbled back to Columbia Falls, calling local mechanic shops along the way only to get endless ringing on the other end or a voicemail saying that they were closed for the weekend (it was Saturday evening in a smallish town).
With no other option, the boys popped the hood when we got back to their house and started troubleshooting. Lyam had gained some knowledge on clutches from a previous experience and was thankfully able to successfully navigate through the issue. A call to my dad confirmed his suspicions of what was wrong - a bad master and slave cylinder. The boys bought the inexpensive parts (thankfully - only $40!) they needed to complete the job, and had it fixed in no time. We were worried that it was going to delay our trip, and that we'd be rushing to get to Washington on time (for my brother's wedding). But have no fear! Lyam is here! The propane tank AND the clutch issue were fixed in the two days we stayed with them. How blessed that we were there when this happened! Completely God's provision. After they finished, we drove to Whitefish to eat some yummy local pizza at Mackenzie River Pizza Company, then rented a movie and fell asleep in the floor of their living room.
We woke up expecting to bid farewell to our friends, but were thrilled when they decided to jump in their camper and follow us down the road a bit. (Love having last-minute spontaneous go-with-the-flow kind of friends who also love to camp!)
Adventures in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
We didn't have any camping reservations - Brannon and I had just planned on staying at a Walmart overnight en route to Lynden, WA. Lyam had heard that Coeur D'Lane, ID was a beautiful area, so we decided to head there to camp.
When we arrived, every campground seemed to be full or overpriced. Since it was nearing the kids' bedtime, we decided to head to the city park to grill some burgers so we could at least get the kids fed before bedtime. Then we could just find a place to park overnight - we didn't need a campground or electricity.
As we headed downtown towards the park, there were roadblocks everywhere sending us on detours to try to bypass them to get to our destination. It wasn't until we finally reached the park that we saw the Ironman banners everywhere, complete with a finish line at our destination and huge tents covering almost every inch of the park. Suddenly the full and overpriced campgrounds made sense.
After pulling over on the side of a downtown street to have a "next steps" conversation, we spotted a few campers and VW vans across the way in a gravel parking lot. We wandered over to scout it out and ended up talking to a lady in a camper that said she'd been camped out there for 4 days and no one had bothered her.
We were able to safely park there for free, and set up camp in the midst of the hubbub - camp chairs, baby gear, grill and all. We sat in our chairs, ate burgers and drank beer while watching the Ironman participants hobble to their cars, leaning on the support of their significant other. We giggled at the irony, while clenching our burgers a little tighter. Suddenly, the beer in our hands tasted a little sweeter...
The next morning was my 29th birthday. A memorable way to spend your birthday indeed. We took a stroll down to the lake, then packed up and drove up the street to Jimmy's Down the Street Diner - because diners are my favorite.
Sidebar: Remember that post where I talked about how we were going to try to hit some of the restaurants that were featured in those type of food TV shows? And somehow each attempt was blocked by some reason or another? Just take a guess at whose picture we saw as we walked up to the door...
Yep. Apparently, we just have to not try to go to one of those restaurants and we'll end up there.
We ate a lovely brunch then said goodbye to our friends. We promised to meet again soon and look back on this time with fondness. We are so thankful for like-minded friends in our lives!
Ember and I explored the town a bit while Brannon worked.
Then we got back on the road to head to Lynden, WA for Evan and Lindsey's wedding week.
We met a few other fellow RVers while we were filling up - Jordan, Brittany, and Logan are organic farmers traveling from farm to farm, working in exchange for room and board. You can read about their journeys at ourtravelingtripod.blogspot.com.
The 9-hour drive (slow vehicle + highway traffic at a standstill for an hour) was the longest stretch we had driven thus far, and we were feeling it. Our feet were SO glad to hit the pavement again when we reached Lynden. It was a breath of fresh air to meet our family there and Ember was excited to see her grandparents, uncles, and aunts again. Let the wedding week festivities begin!
BONUS baby pics: She can't crawl yet, but somehow she can scoot and climb. If there's something there for her to climb on, she's immediately climbing over it. But flat surfaces are just a little tougher… Go figure.
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