Many Glacier Tour, East Glacier Park

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Since we can’t drive through the park, we are retracing part the route we drove yesterday to get back to the east side. We were told that we should take an alternate route, Looking Glass Hill Road, to get to St. Mary. The road skirted the park and was a bit rough in places, but better than the road to Ryan Dam in Great Falls. The views more than made up for the twists, turns and bumps. We stopped several times to admire the views.

Luckily, we did this trip in the morning, because thunderstorms hit East Glacier shortly after noon. It’s also a lot cooler on this side. Even after the rain subsided, the mountains were mostly clouded over.

Friday, June 25

The sun was shining this morning, although there were some low lying clouds around the mountains. Today’s activity was the Many Glacier Tour. We left our lodge early since we didn’t know how much traffic there would be. The traffic wasn’t bad, but the roadwork was! We were stopped a couple of times to allow oncoming traffic to use the one-way road. Much of the road into the park was dusty gravel, but next year it will be a beautiful paved road with several pullouts for tourists like us. At one point, we were told that the wait would be 15-20 minutes. Turns out that was enough time to get some great shots of the entrance to the park.

While waiting for our tour to begin, we spotted a brown blob in the lake. It was moving! I took my camera, zoomed in, and saw a moose cow crossing Swiftcurrent Lake. Very exciting. A few minutes later, I spied a fox enjoying a snack near the lodge. This was a pretty good way to start the day!

Our boat tour began by crossing Swiftcurrent Lake in one boat, disembarking and hiking to Lake Josephine and boarding another boat to cruise that lake. Fortunately, it was a little warmer than yesterday, but it’s still cool on the water. The views were simply amazing. The glaciers are not as massive as in other parts of the world (Glacier Bay in Alaska for the United States), but the mountains and lakes more than made up for that.

After the tour, we headed back to our lodging in Whitefish. Even though we’ve driven this route three times in as many days, it doesn’t get boring. We get back on the train early tomorrow morning to return to Minnesota.

One of the things we are bringing back home is a newfound love of huckleberries, very popular in Montana at this time of year. They are closely related to both blueberries and bilberries. We have sampled huckleberry pancakes, huckleberry pie, huckleberry soda, huckleberry with dark chocolate, huckleberry syrup, but haven’t found any huckleberry liqueur yet. If we do, it will come home with us along with syrup, jam and candy.

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Going Halfway to the Sun, West Glacier Park

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The drive from Great Falls to Glacier took most of the day. We learned online that the only way to drive the Park’s Going to the Sun Road is to have an entry pass, have a park tour booked, or to stay at a lodge in the Park. The passes were gone within minutes of becoming available. We did book a tour for the east side, but all of the tours were gone on the west side, and there was no lodging available in the park. We drove into the west entry anyway, and spoke to a very helpful park volunteer. She’s from Rochester, Minnesota, and truly espoused the concept of “Minnesota Nice.” She told us that no entry pass is required after 5pm, and since the sun doesn’t set until almost 10pm, we would have plenty of time to explore. She suggested that we wait until 5:45, because a lot of people will be lined up at 5, and the wait will be shorter later. We had hoped to do the entire Going to the Sun Road, but it’s actually blocked by snow about half way through!

The road was built between 1921 -1932, and it has been named an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. It’s the only road that crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass (snowed in today). The road is considered one of the most difficult to plow in the spring, with up to 80 feet of snow accumulating on Logan Pass. The Park’s website recommends waiting until June 20 to drive the road to be sure it is free of snow, but that still wasn’t late enough!

Established in 1910, Glacier National Park covers over 1 million acres in northwestern Montana. Besides glaciers (only about 25 considered active,) there are over 700 lakes and 200 waterfalls. The mountains in and around the park were carved by huge glaciers during the last ice age. Evidence shows that over 300 glaciers have disappeared over the past 170 years. If we’d waited much longer, we might have missed them entirely. Along with Alberta, Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, the two parks combine to serve as the International Peace Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site bin 1995. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions prevent us from visiting the Canadian side on this trip.

Our evening drive on the Going to the Sun Road turned out to be very lovely. There wasn’t as much traffic as we’d feared, and we had no problem stopping at several locations. We were able to go about 15 miles into the park before the road was closed.

Lake McDonald was simply stunning, both the water and the surrounding mountains. Like Flathead Lake, the beaches are pebble, not sand. The water is very clear; it is an oligotrophic lake (relatively low in plant nutrients and containing abundant oxygen in the deeper parts), typical of a lake that is created after a glacier disappears.

Besides all of the water in the park, there are more than 1,000 species of plants and hundreds of species of animals, including grizzlies, moose and mountain goats, the official park symbol. Sadly, we didn’t see any of them during our evening drive.

McDonald Falls was quite impressive, and we were able to view it from a few different spots.

We paid a visit to Lake McDonald Lodge as well, where Snyder Creek empties into the lake. Although the water is cool, about 68 degrees right now, we saw several people swimming and floating on the water. It looked very inviting.

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Dam Hard to Get To!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

We drove north to Great Falls, Montana, home to five hydroelectric dams on the Missouri River, including Ryan, Rainbow, Black Eagle, Morony, and Cochrane, all providing power to the area. There are also five waterfalls: Rainbow, Black Eagle, Crooked, Colter and Big Falls, all within about 10 miles of each other. We figured we’d spend a little time locating each one of them. Easier said than done!

We located the dams on the map, and thought we’d shoot for the northernmost one first – Morony Dam. After going a short distance on Hwy 87, we came to a stop for roadwork. We sat there about 15 minutes, and turned around to look for another route. Bootlegger Trail looked like it would take us north of the roadwork, which it mostly did, but we had to cross the area being worked on to get where we wanted to go. The road was being completely rebuilt, traffic was led through one way, then the opposite side was led through. We were allowed to cross to the other side when an opening occurred. Bootlegger Trail was an adventure in itself; the part that was paved was full of potholes.

Morony Dam was OK, but barely worth the trip. However, the next stop was at Ryan Dam, built at the Great Falls themselves. Here, we could walk over to Ryan Island Park for great views up and down the river, as well as of the dam and the falls. This was definitely worth the effort to get here.

We did manage to see two more of the dams and waterfalls – Black Eagle (near downtown) and Rainbow, but there were no open roads to Cochran’s.

Giant Springs Park is between Black Eagle and Rainbow, and is home to one of the largest natural springs in the US. This spring produces over 156 million gallons of water per day. The water is pure, but visitors are discouraged from drinking from the spring because of the fish and waterfowl (I guess they poop in the water!) Lewis and Clark stopped here on their journey to the Pacific in 1805. Blackfeet people used these springs for their water source in winter. Settlers began arriving in the mid-1800s, and the town of Great Falls was established in 1884. Today, some of the water is bottled for consumers.

The springs flow into the Roe River which soon empties into the Missouri River. The Roe, named for a fish hatchery in the park, is only 201 feet in length, and was once called the shortest river in the world by Guinness. However, there has been an ongoing battle with the state of Oregon over whether their own D (creative name) River is actually the shortest. The length of the D varies with the tides, 120 feet at high tide, and 440 feet at low tide. It was also once named the shortest by Guinness. To avoid the conflict, Guinness no longer lists either one. Fame is fleeting.

Final stop of the day was at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, just up the road from the park. This area was challenging for the expedition because of the number of waterfalls, so they spent a great deal of time portaging.

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Old Faithful

Monday, June 21, 2021

We drove through Grand Teton National Park again to reach Yellowstone National Park, but this time on a different route. It was great to see the Tetons with the morning sun shining on them.

After entering Yellowstone, we drove along the Lewis River, which empties into Lewis Lake, the second largest lake in the park. It’s a very popular place for fishing, with several species of fish.

Yellowstone was named our country’s first national park, giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy the 3,500 square miles of geysers, hot springs, wildlife and more. Millions of people visit each year. The biggest draw, of course, is Old Faithful, so named because of the regularity of its eruptions, between 60 and 110 minutes. It spouts between 100-180 feet, sending up between 3,700 – 8,400 gallons during each eruption.

We arrived at Old Faithful just after an eruption, and the next one was estimated to be about 90 minutes later. This gave us plenty of time to get my National Parks Passport Book stamped, take care of personal issues, and walk the boardwalk around the geyser. The boardwalk was already filling up with people close to the Visitor Center, but we found a less crowded spot on the other side.

The eruption started slowly, with a few minutes of teasers. At one point, we did see some water spray, but the full eruption didn’t occur for about five more minutes. It was well worth waiting for. The water from the geyser flows into the Firehole River at different spots.

The park is teaming with wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, grizzly bears, cougars, gray wolves, red fox, river otters, moose, bighorn sheep and bison. In 2020, 4,680 bison were counted in two primary breeding herds. There are at least 300 species of birds, several native fish species, frogs, salamanders and toads, and six species of snakes. We did manage to see a small herd of bison with a few young ones.

We encountered some clean up work on our way to the west entrance, caused by a landslide. Apparently, this area has not yet found its “angle of repose.” We learned this term while cruising through the Panama Canal, in a section that continues to have landslides 100 years after its opening.

We were glad we made it to Yellowstone and Old Faithful before noon. Although it was crowded, the traffic going to the park was not too heavy yet. When we were leaving, the lines of cars stretched as far as the eye could see.

After enjoying the park, we drove north to Helena. This evening, we took some time to explore Last Chance Gulch, where gold had been discovered in 1864, and the town of Helena was founded by four gold miners who struck it rich here. They had spotted signs of gold in the Helena area while on their way to the Kootenai country. They soon decided to take“one last chance” on finding gold and returned to Helena. Good decision!

Last Chance Gulch had the second biggest placer gold deposit in Montana, producing $19 million worth of gold in just four years. In 1875, the city became the capital of Montana Territory, and in 1894, the capital of the new state of Montana. William Andrews Clark, of Butte fame, had a hand in making that happen.

The historic Main Street was built here, meandering around numerous mining claims. Some say it was designed that way to reduce fatalities from stray bullets. Maybe so? The street was renamed Last Chance Gulch in 1953, but continues to function as a main street for the area. Several old structures still remain, including some cabins and commercial buildings. Many other buildings were destroyed by fire in 1928.

The area is very walkable, and the gulch is now home to shopping, entertainment and dining establishments. It was busy here tonight, and it was challenging to find a place to eat that didn’t have a long wait. We managed,though, and returned to our hotel fully sated.

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Grand Teton National Park

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Before leaving Idaho Falls this morning, we stopped at the Japanese Friendship Garden on the River Walk. It was a lovely interlude before driving to Jackson, Wyoming.

About 20 years ago, I visited Jackson, Wyoming, hoping to see the Grand Tetons. I could only stay one night, and the mountains were fogged in the next morning. It was such a disappointment, so I knew I had to return some day.

Grand Teton National Park includes several major peaks of the Teton range within its 300,000 plus acres. Humans have occupied this region at least 11,000 years. White explorers arrived in the 1800s, looking for beaver. Now they come to ski, hunt and hike. The Town of Jackson, at the south end of the park, with only 10,000 residents, can attract as many as 40,000 visitors per day in the summer. This year, after a year of minimal travel due to COVID, the town was even busier than usual.

The Menors Ferry Historic District, just north of Jackson, was once home to a ferryboat across the Snake River that operated from 1894 to 1927, when a bridge was built south of the ferry. The ferry was a platform set on two pontoons, with a cable system across the river.

The weather was perfect for visiting the park today. We stopped several times to take photos. Lunch was at the Jackson Lake Lodge, where we could look out their large windows toward Jackson Lake.

It would be easy to stay here for several days, there is so much to explore, but we are on a tight schedule, so on to Yellowstone tomorrow.

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The Copper King of Butte, Montana

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Our lodging last night was at the Copper King Mansion, which now operates as a bed and breakfast. Our stay included a tour of the mansion. The 34 room home was built between 1884-1888 for William Andrews Clark, at a cost of about $500,000 at the time, equivalent to about $16 million today. Clark was one of three “copper kings” of Butte. The house is of Romanesque Revival Victorian style, with all of the newest technology available, including gas and electric chandeliers. All of the wood was hand carved, no two panels were the same. Each room featured a different type of wood. The house has about 97 doors, pocket shutters on many of the windows (they fit into the wall when not in use.)

After Clark died, his son, Charles inherited the house. Unfortunately, Charles had a gambling problem and had to sell it to cover his debts. All of the furnishings were sold as well. The house was purchased by the Catholic Church and used as a convent and school for girls for several years before being purchased by Mrs. Anna Cote. Fortunately, the nuns left most of the features intact, so we were able to see what it looked like in its days of glory. Mrs. Cote and her daughter, Ann Cote-Smith were avid collectors, and filled the house with furnishings from the Clark era. There are also collections of dresses and hats, dolls, steins, and more.

The Bed and Breakfast is now owned by Mrs. Cote’s granddaughter, Erin Sigl and grandson, John Thompson. Along with Erin’s husband, they have been operating it for several years.

In the 1860s, Clark staked a gold mining claim near Bannack, about 90 miles south of Butte. He worked the mine for a couple of years, then decided he could make more money by helping miners manage their findings. He was right, amassing a fortune estimated at $50 million by 1900, equivalent to $1.6 billion now. Clark became a banker, and acquired several mines when owners defaulted on their loans. Clark also owned several newspapers, a sugar plantation in California, and land with oil wells. He personally financed the building of 1,100 miles of rail which became part of the Union Pacific Railroad. One of the businesses Clark purchased was the United Verde Copper Company in Jerome, Arizona, which was rich in copper, silver, and gold. We have visited Jerome a couple of times and toured their mining museum.

Clark had a colorful history. He campaigned successfully to have Helena named the state capitol, instead of Anaconda. Perhaps that was because Anaconda was founded by one of his competitors for Copper King, Marcus Daly. He had political ambitions, hoping to serve in the US Senate. At the time, US Senators were selected by the state legislators. After being elected to the US Senate by the Montana State Legislature, the Senate refused to seat him, claiming that he had bribed the legislators to vote for him. He was sent home, and campaigned for the seat a couple of years later, successfully, and served one term in the Senate. He supposedly said “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale.”

Regardless of some of his more unsavory practices, he apparently treated the miners and their families very well. He built an amusement park, Columbia Gardens, in 1899, which sat on the site currently occupied by the Berkeley Pit until it burned down in 1973. The 68 acre park had flower gardens, a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and greenhouses. Rides were free to the miners, their families and city residents.

Before leaving town, we visited the Granite Mountain Speculator Mine Memorial, which commemorates the death of 168 men who died on June 8, 1917 when a fire started in the Granite Mountain shaft of the Speculator Mine.

This location provided some great views of the Berkeley Pit. When we viewed the pit yesterday, we saw only a fraction of it. It is truly immense.

A little trivia about Butte: It is the birthplace of Evel Knievel, a famous daredevil who was born in 1938 and died in 2007. He is buried in Butte.

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The Richest Hill on Earth

Butte, Montana

Friday, June 18, 2021

We arrived in Butte this morning, and first visited the Montana Mineral Museum at the Montana School of Mining. The school was founded in 1900, and the first artifacts acquired in 1901 for teaching purposes. Over the past 120 years, the number of items in their collections has grown from 177 to over 13,000 from all over the world, of which about 1,000 are on display. The museum is located on the college campus and is free to the public.

We next stopped at the Berkeley Pit, which was mined for copper from 1955 to 1982. The pit is about 1800 feet deep, over one mile long and nearly a mile wide. Several neighborhoods were removed to allow for the mining operations. The owners were compensated at market value for their homes, then given the option to buy them back for $1 and move them elsewhere. Homes not repurchased were demolished. About one billion tons of material were removed: copper, silver and gold, which gave Butte its nickname “The Richest Hill on Earth.”

While the pit mine was in operation, groundwater was constantly being pumped out. Once the mine closed, the pit quickly filled up. The water is extremely toxic, containing high concentrations of copper, cadmium, cobalt, iron, manganese and zinc. It also contains arsenic. Nothing can live here. Migrating waterfowl have made the mistake of landing here, drinking the water and dying shortly thereafter. Ongoing efforts, including noises, predator drones and even wind are used to deter waterfowl, proving to be about 99% effective. Maybe we can try something like that at home to keep the geese out of our yard!

The Berkeley Pit is the largest Superfund Site in the United States. The water level must be kept below 5410 feet above sea level to prevent it seeping into the surrounding land. Butte sits at about 5800 feet above sea level. A water treatment facility on site pumps water continuously from the pit, treats it and releases it into Silver Bow Creek. At that point, it is clean enough to drink.

Overlooking the mine is Our Lady of the Rockies, a 90 foot statue that sits on the Continental Divide.

We then headed to The World Museum of Mining, which was founded in 1963 while mining was still big industry in the area. In just over 100 years, 3 million ounces of gold, 700 million ounces of silver, 850 million pounds of lead, almost 4 billion pounds of manganese, almost 5 billion pounds of zinc and over 20 billion pounds of copper were mined here.

The Museum is located on a mine yard, the Orphan Girl Mine, where silver, lead and zinc were mined. Many artifacts remain at the site, including the Hoist House, headframe, ore bins, and rail cars. You can visit a re-creation of an 1890s mining town and take an underground mine tour. We’ve done a few in other locations, so passed that up today.

We enjoyed cocktails at the Fifty One Below Speakeasy in the old downtown area of Butte, then dined at Mac’s a couple of blocks away. We recommend both.

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Riding the Rails

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

This is our first overnight train trip. We’ve enjoyed the short train trips we’ve taken in the past, and thought this would be an adventure we would enjoy.

Amtrak (a portmanteau combination of the words American and track) is celebrating 50 years of operation this year. The Rail Passenger Service Act was signed into law in October, 1970. This act created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to take over responsibility for operating intercity service from railroads. At that time, 20 railroads offering intercity passenger service joined Amtrak. The number of operating lines were cut in half – from 366 to 184.

Today, there are 33 routes that operate in all but two of the 48 contiguous states in the US. Wyoming and South Dakota are the only states without Amtrak service. Over 300 trains provided service to 32.5 million passengers in 2019. Those numbers dropped significantly in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, but the numbers are ticking up.

Amtrak has never been self-sufficient, and in 1997, after provided a $2.3 billion tax refund to ease Amtrak’s cash flow issues, Congress declared its intention to terminate funding of Amtrak’s operating losses. However, it was determined that Amtrak would not be able to function without federal subsidies, so pulled back from that declaration. Amtrak survives because of the benefits it provides to the nation, including energy efficiency, reduced traffic congestion and less air pollution, fewer fatalities, as well as providing an alternative method of troop transport if interstates and highways are damaged.

We are taking the Empire Builder route, which was scheduled to leave St Cloud, Minnesota at the insane hour of 12:24 am (just after midnight.) However, it was late getting to the station, so we boarded about an hour late. Then, we encountered a slowdown due to freight traffic. Amtrak rents the rails, so has to wait behind any freight trains.

We had booked a bedroom so we can sleep on the way to Whitefish, where we were scheduled to arrive at 8:23 pm tonight. Again, that was a little over an hour late, not too bad.

The sleeper room is cozy, but a pretty efficient setup, with one bed converting to a sofa during the day, plus an in-room shower and toilet. The upper bunk was as hard as a board, but the bottom bed wasn’t too bad. The bottom bed is a small double, and we can both fit as long as we like each other! The car was a little outdated, could use some TLC, but it worked pretty well. Masks are required to move about on the train, to sit in the lounge/observation car and the dining car. As long as we stayed in our little nook, we could spend the 20+ hours in maskless comfort.

Meals are included with the sleeper cars. In normal times, there are chef-created meals, but for now we are eating food that was prepared ahead of time and then heated up on the train (sort of like airplane food.) We learned from staff that whoever plans for provisions didn’t send enough food. No omelet for breakfast because they had run out already, no wine at dinner because they had run out already. There were few options but we didn’t starve. Staff was very apologetic about these shortages, and were encouraging riders to complain to headquarters.

We slept through Minnesota and part of North Dakota. The land is pretty flat here, but we started to see some changes in terrain about mid-morning. Mountains became visible in the afternoon. There are some nice views, but they are hampered a bit by the dirty windows.

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Flathead Lake and Missoula, MT

Thursday, June 17, 2021

We picked up our rental car this morning, and headed out to explore Whitefish a little bit. We have a couple of goals for this trip – finally visit the states of Montana and Idaho, and visit several national parks. When we’re done, we’ll have only one more state to complete the entire 50 – West Virginia (scheduled for September this year.)

Then, we drove south to Missoula, stopping for a while at a couple spots on Flathead Lake. This is the largest freshwater lake in the US west of the Mississippi River, and it is considered one of the cleanest. Volunteer Park, in the town of Lakeside, has picnic areas, pebble beaches, swimming rafts and public docks. It was very well kept, clean and welcoming. Several people were enjoying the water while we were there.

During the last glaciers, a massive glacial dammed lake was formed – Lake Missoula. Flathead lake is a remnant of Lake Missoula. In 1930, Kerr Dam was built at the south end. The dam provides hydroelectric power and water for irrigation.

A few miles down the road we saw a sign for the Flathead State Park, and pulled in for some more good views. Montanans can enter any state park free, but out-of-towners are supposed to pay an entrance fee. The very kind gate staff decided that the Montana plates on our car were good enough to let us in free. Nice people are everywhere, not just in Minnesota!

Mountains were all around us on our drive – the Flathead, Swan and Mission Ranges to the east, and the Salish Range to the west. We are always impressed by the mountains we see, as the highest peak in Minnesota is only 2,300 feet high.

After checking into our lodging, we spent some time at Historic Fort Missoula, which was built in 1877 to protect settlers from native American attacks. Beginning in 1888, it housed the Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Regiment. These soldiers of color were given that nickname by the native Americans during the Indian Wars.

The fort was home to the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps in the late 1800s. Soldiers were trained for long treks, including an 1,900 mile trip to St. Louis which took 41 days. The bicycle corps idea was abandoned as the US faced imminent war with Spain.

Fort Missoula was renovated in 1904, and then used as a military training center to train truck drivers and mechanics during WWI. It became the Northwest Regional Headquarters for the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, serving as a center for dozens of CCC camps until 1942.

The fort was used as a military training center to train truck drivers and mechanics of the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) during World War I, but was almost abandoned by 1921. However, it was designated as the Northwest Regional Headquarters for the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. Fort Missoula served as the administration, training, and supply center for dozens of CCC camps in Montana, Northern Idaho, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park until June 1942. During WWII, it served as an internment camp for both Italians and Japanese. The fort was decommissioned in 1947.

We enjoyed a beautiful Iris garden at the park, sponsored by the Missoula Iris Society. I had never seen so many colors of iris before – truly lovely!

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Hunkered Down in Austin, Texas

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

We left South Padre Island on Monday, and headed to Brownsville, where we had hotel reservations for the night. The hotel had several electric vehicle chargers, all but one occupied by non-electric vehicles. We squeezed our Tesla in and didn’t leave until we checked out the next day. Before we left the island, we stopped at the supercharger, which worked just long enough to get us about 5% more energy than we had stored.

Many thanks to the Homewood Suites in Brownsville for letting us into our room mid-morning. They even offered a dinner that evening. I doubt we would have found any restaurants that were open. Once again, I have to recommend the HiltonHonors loyalty program which has helped us out of jams more than once.

To add to our worries on Monday, our car’s communication system went down. Tesla uses the AT&T network, so we think their cell towers were down. The car was drivable, but we had no GPS, nor any way to see if other superchargers along the route would even be powered. Fortunately, it was back in service by Tuesday morning, so we were able to head out. We kept our speed under the limit to conserve power, just in case any more of the superchargers were down.

We had some food and beverages left over from our condo stay, so we weren’t too concerned about starving. At one stop by an H-E-B grocery store in San Marcos, the line to get in was stretched about a block. With more bad weather on the way, people were stocking up. At another stop, we went into the nearby convenience store to pick up a few things, but the power went down before we could pay.

Along the way to Austin, we saw cars that still hadn’t been pulled out of the ditch from the last storm. We also saw the effects of several accidents that had occurred this afternoon. Icicles hang from road signs, snow blows off of passing trucks, overpasses and underpasses are treacherous since the ice forms there first, and melts last. Electronic signs on the freeway recommend no travel.

Much of Texas is still without power, and other areas are experiencing rolling blackouts. The wind turbines are not winterized, so many of them have become inoperable, which is a small part of the reason for the outages. Much of the natural gas and oil industry as well. Texas was completely unprepared for this type of emergency. Much of the power grid is shut down during the winter months, and not brought back on line until summer when there is increased demand for air conditioning.

We drove by a few tent communities in Austin, and I do hope those people have been able to find warm shelter somewhere. The roads are slippery, sidewalks are not walkable, lights are off at many of the establishments we passed.

We’re so happy we made our hotel reservations yesterday, as it was sold out by the time we got here. We are staying at a Homewood Suites, a fairly good sized one, and only three people were able to make it to work here today. They are doing all of the checking in (and turning people away), housekeeping and other services. These hardworking young people are doing an amazing job. Reminder to self: Big Tips!

We were told that a local pizza joint was still open, but the line was around the block. We have tuna, meat, cheese and crackers, not a feast, but it works. We will stay here tonight and tomorrow night for sure, then decide if we can hit the road again. The plan is to be home in Minnesota by next Tuesday at the latest, but we’ll see. What an adventure!

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