Sunday, July 28, 2013
Sylvia was in need of some junk-yard parts that were days away so I emptied her out, we bid her adieu and hopped into our Ford F-150 rental with bikes loaded in the back and stuff piled up around the boys. Over pizza we pondered the fate of the upcoming week before we detoured to Fairmont Hot Springs so the boys could ride the water slide. As we meandered closer to home we stopped at the Sacajawea Hotel for dinner, something we've been meaning to do for a long time. We re-realized over the course of the day that we live in a pretty amazing place, where people fly into from all over the world to recreate, and maybe we should take the week to enjoy it. It was settled....we were opting for a staycation. We adhered to a strict regime of alternating days of mountain biking/climbing all week long, with one rest day in Helena to visit family, and capping it off with an epically beautiful hike up Elephant Mountain. Exhausted and happy, we spent the next week recovering. We are no longer twenty.
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Saturday, July 13, 2013
There's something about Butte that wants to keep Sylvia forever. Two years ago, on our first attempt to pass through the boom-and-bust-copper town, her engine imploded and she sat in the shop for a month getting a rebuild. This summer, on attempt number two, her wheel bearing seized up encouraging her wheel to try to fall off and we just barely shuddered into a mechanic before her nose ended up on the ground.
We had grand plans to camp through the Seeley/Swan/Flathead Lake area on our way up to Glacier/Waterton National Parks. Jason had even taken time off for our family vacation so we could explore our own state a little bit. Butte had other plans. We set off on a Friday to the Pipestone Pass area where we leveled Sylvia onto two flat rocks in a remote campsite close to climbing. We spent the afternoon bouldering on the outcrops of rock dotted throughout the area and in the evening we built a fire and warmed ourselves around it in the drizzling rain. Everyone was happy to be back in the camper van. The next morning we headed down the dirt road to the mountain highway where we caught the first sounds of impending trouble. On the highway the sounds became much more distinct, but it was only occasional at this point....maybe just a rock catching in the wheel. As we got closer to Butte the frequency increased and I began to scour the Internet for mechanics open on Saturday. We spotted a mechanic almost instantly as we entered town and pulled over. They only worked on truck engines but they informed us that there was another mechanic a mile and a half down the road that was open. Jason eased Sylvia into reverse and cranked the wheel to back out. It was here that we heard a crack and got a very good listen to the now much louder grinding noises that were emanating from below. We hobbled out of the parking lot, with the wheel grinding and the front of the van swaying to and fro.....but we only had a mile and a half to go, right? It became very apparent, very quickly that this distance was much too much so we pulled over and called for a tow. We were informed that a tow was three hours out and none of us were too keen to sit in the entrance of the Butte airport for that long so we gave it another shot. With emergency flashers flashing, we inched along the side of the road hoping the wheel would stay on long enough for us to make it. I should also mention that at this point we virtually had no brakes. Each time we would get close to a stop light we would hold our breath and hope that we would roll to a stop in time. Luckily, we were moving very slowly and we managed to hit all the lights just right. With much relief we made it to the mechanic where we hung out, soaked up the Butte culture and listened to hair bands blair over the radio.
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