Jeff and John 2015: Truly the Universe Favours Those Who Persist

Day 12: June 24, 2015


Destination: Calgary, AB
End of Day Odometer: 77,269km
Total Distance Travelled: 8,098km
Progress Map:
With a long day of driving ahead of us, we had decided to try to leave by around 7:00 AM, but with taking a few “alternative routes” last night, we got to the hotel at around 11:30 PM and so wanted to get a bit more sleep before heading out. I didn’t really mention it yesterday when we got to the hotel, but the room we were in felt like (and smelled like) we were sleeping in a tent trailer from the 1970’s. It was almost fully wood paneled, it had 1970’s correct carpet and everything creaked when you touched it. There was a small 2-burner stove for some reason and a weird mini-fridge. It was an odd experience, but on the plus side, we only expected one bed and there were two, so we didn’t need to have a cuddle-fest or use one of our sleeping bags. I lament taking no pictures of the room, so can only do my best to describe it.
After finally getting on the road it was very apparent that the car’s turbo was struggling to survive after what we had put it through over the past eleven days. We passed a few people on our way up to the Beartooth Pass, but tried to keep the turbo in the happy non-boost range. It was a serious buzz-kill on what would turn out to be one of the best drives on the trip.
The Beartooth Pass isn’t quite like other mountain passes in that it actually goes up the mountain to the Beartooth Plateau, which is very grassy and flat. After driving up an extensive series of switchbacks and inclines you are presented with a flat plateau at just over 10,000 feet. It’s a bit of an odd feeling, but it quickly passed as we continued to make our way through the delightful curves and wiggles on the highway. Time and again on this trip we drove on amazing roads that were too narrow to pull off of and so I struggled with how to show them in photos taken through the windshield of the car. As it got more and more plastered with bug guts the camera struggled to focus past the glass and I was forced to focus manually, balancing a smaller aperture to keep things in focus and a fast enough shutter speed to keep things from blurring. I hope that at least some of the wonder and awe is conveyed, but really you should just plan your own trip and take it in for yourself. You can only live vicariously through my blog to a point, and then, you’ll need to get out and drive!
After passing the summit the elevation down was less pronounced than on the way up, but the great driving didn’t stop, it just changed. Combination of scenic and driving, this section of road was definitely one of the best we had done. It really was a shame that the turbo was eating itself, and causing us to be light on the throttle. Eventually we reached the horrible, horrible place that is Yellowstone National Park. If I had known we had to drive through Yellowstone and what kind of traffic there would be there on a Wednesday, I would have had us stop and go back to Red Lodge to avoid it. I’m probably being a bit too hard on Yellowstone, but it just doesn’t make sense to me, I mean there is seriously way better scenery before and after it in most directions and on top of that you don’t have people stopped on the side of the road every 5 feet looking at: you guessed it, nothing. Nothing at all. A whole line of people just standing there looking at a hill with nothing on it. There were a few herds of buffalo which were actually very cool, but the herds of people detracted so much from the place that even their awesomeness was beaten into a sad state of submission. We were counting the inches until we were out of there and on our way north.
Approximately 3 to 4 times throughout the day, I said to John, “what?” after I heard what sounded like him quietly yelling “aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.” It wasn’t him, it was the turbo. I’m assuming all of the pressure from making a couple of wrong turns last night combined with the car’s woes caused him to miss seeing just one more sign for the highway we wanted to be on. After spending about 25 minutes driving towards Billings on the I-90, we realized our mistake and changed our route to get back to where we needed to be going. After deciding to take the 191, we passed a sign stating there was construction ahead and that motorcycles may want to find an alternate route, sounded innocent enough. John had been commenting earlier about how they kept closing lanes for miles at a time for one guy or one piece of equipment way later and how it was dumb. Well apparently Montana goes both ways, because one second I hear “pavement ends, what?” and the next the car launched from the road onto what appeared to be some sort of Afghani warzone road. I have rarely ever experienced that kind of surprise while driving in a car with the exception of a deer that lunges from the side of the road in pitch black night. Montana decided that in order to fix this particular section of road, they just needed to blow up about 15 miles of it and let cars do whatever they wanted to in order to get through. It was not Supra-friendly.
After finally getting back on to the road and cursing that horrid experience, I made sure John knew that it was his fault we were on that road and they if we had just stayed on the route I had planned it all would have been fine. That was until we hit another section of removed highway. Curse you Montana! How is this a thing?! At least it was a much shorter section before we reached Great Falls. With the turbo making continually worse and worse noises, it seemed prudent to try to do something about it. My course of action was to try to disable it by way of keeping the wastegate open. With no time to let things cool down, we pulled into an Ace Hardware and I managed to get the two bolts off of the wastegate and jammed it backward to try to get it to hold the wastegate open. It was a marginal success as we were now experiencing the joys of the 1JZ-GE. I only burned my hand a little bit, but at least it evened things out since it was the opposite hand that I had burned a couple of days ago.

After making the car slow, we decided our last meal in the USA would need to be somewhere we’d never been before, so we headed over to Fuddruckers, which as I understand it used to be in Canada, but no longer is. It’s a pretty cool place and while they claim they have the World’s Greatest Hamburger, I don’t quite think they are there yet. From my experience that honour goes to Holy Chuck in Toronto, ON. Still, they were very good, worth eating for sure.
At this point we were so far behind schedule due to leaving late, Yellowstone, wrong turns and lack of pavement that we figured we might as well just embrace it, so we stopped in at an Albertson’s in Shelby, MT as well as a gas station to top up the tank before we headed back to the land of expensive gas. I grabbed everything I saw with Reese’s in it that I hadn’t seen in Canada, along with a few other items not available in the Great White North.
(Suck it, Drew!)
We finally got back into Canada at about 10:00 PM, and back into Calgary at around 12:30 AM. Meaning our 11-hour drive ended up taking us about 16 hours. The car made it back but is feeling a bit worse for wear. The exhaust scraped on enough edges and pavement that it is now leaking. The turbo is pretty dead but continues to get worse and the A/C is on its way out. Still, it was an endurance test and we’ve found areas of weakness. The car will only get better from here, this trip was a massive success compared to 2013. What an adventure, what a drive!
Below is a ranking of the sections of highway that I thought were the best. It is extremely subjective and involves combining things like the drive itself and the scenery into an overall enjoyment rating of the experience the road provided.
  1.  Pikes Peak, Colorado
  2. Million Dollar Highway (Red Mountain Pass, Highway 550), Colorado
  3. Highway 129, Washington
  4. Columbia River Scenic Byway (Highway 30, The Dalles to Mosier), Oregon
  5. Beartooth Pass Highway (Highway 212), Montana and Wyoming
  6. Highway 36 (Fortuna to Platina), California
  7. Highway 120 (Highway 395 to Benton Hot Springs), California
  8. Highway 12 (Missoula to Lewiston), Montana and Idaho
  9. Highway 143 (Highway 148 to Panguitch), Utah
  10. Skyline Drive (Canon City), Colorado
All of these drives are definitely worth seeing, anything not on this list is kind of a take it or leave it. I would almost classify Skyline Drive as a take it or leave it drive as well, but it is included on this list for two reasons: it’s very unique, and it has a pretty great name. If you’re near it, do it, but it’s slow and short and you’ll be seeing some much more breathtaking views from other roads nearby.
Next Destination: Unknown

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