For the Cascade Regional Group of Western Washington, even in August it seemed traditional o begin a club tour in the rain! And so it was on Sunday, August 13 as eleven V-8’s and two modern vehicles set out on a seven-day journey around the “Selkirk Loop”, from eastern Idaho into British Columbia, in the northern Rocky Mountains, planned for us in every detail by our President and First Lady, Gerry and Jo Herber. After the morning’s wetness, our cars suffered from western Washington sunshine, a tail wind, and the slow speeds of an earlier accident backup, causing several of us to roll to a stop, hot and dribbling, to wait it out. The breeze cooled us, but not our cars! We enjoyed a mid-afternoon picnic lunch at Moses Lake, and continued west. Sage puffs and plowed fields and gray metal silos slid behind us: 54 miles per hour was just right! The afternoon events included a split radiator hose, a stop to relatch a popped hood, and a truck lid left open when radiator water was dug out. We hoped this would be the end of our misadventures for this trip!
By 9:00 on the second day our line of old shine rolled north on route 9, and in twenty miles turned east toward the southern, deeper end of Lake Pend Oreille. Our destination was the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center. Hidden in acres of wooded seclusion high above the lake were hangars, shops, and warehouse sized metal buildings filled with the artifacts and memorabilia of the passions of Dr. Forrest Bird. He was an aviator, and inventor of a series of respirators and pediatric ventilators used in hospitals all over the world. Also on display were airplanes, helicopters, military aviation history, and inventors’ official prototypes of products we all recognized, such as the Apple computer, Tidy Cat, and Jiffy Pop. After lunch we had the rest of the day to explore the Sandpoint, Idaho area, so about half our group did so on board the lakeboat “Shawnodese”. For an hour and a half we enjoyed sunshine, crisp freshwater breeze, and stories from the Fist Mate about resident osprey and bald eagles, which were able to spot twice on our cruise. We learned also about the geologic history of Lake Pend Oreville, the second largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi! In ancient time Glacial Lake Missoula covered thousands of square miles, held back by a vast ice dam, which, when it broke up, raced through Idaho and eatern Washington, gouging its way to the Pacific Ocean through the Columbia River Valley.
Of course an old car trip really does require time at the end of the day for sharing and reliving our adventures, so as soon as we could gather our snacks we met around the hotel pool: a few feet were dangled in, wine poured, and a row of us collapsed into colored lounge chairs in the shade. Day three began with staggered start times: it was an “all skate” day, with events and intervals determined by the tourers. The air was noticeably hazier, and the hillsides got grayer as we drove north, due to the great number of forest fires in southern British Columbia this summer. North of Bonner’s Ferry the views wee more rugged, with sudden, high mountains rising on both sides of a wide and undulating valley of fir corpse and wheat fields. It was peaceful and little populated farm and ranch landscape. We crossed into Canada in the afternoon and spent the night in Creston, where a few of us found two of the local wineries and enjoyed tastings of estate grown white and fruit wines.
Our fourth day was filled with amazing sights and artisan shops and fewer than sixty miles on the road. North of Creston a sign directed us to the “Glass House”, perched on the solid rock edge of Kootenay Lake. But we were heard to call it curious, peculiar, fanciful, and bizarre! Built by one man in the early 1950s of over 500,000 empty, square embalming fluid bottles he had collected in his trade, it contained a round kitchen, living room and bedroom, a patio, and a maze of landscaped steps and walkways clinging to the lake view. The builder’s son and family sill occasionally stay in the home. After another short drive we were beckoned by the “Gray Creek Store”, an old time general store that has remained in the same family since 1913, and is ready to sell you any nut, bolt, fastener, or hand tool you could need, a 1950s used hardback book, or any Jotul stove ever produced! In a few more miles our parade of V-*s pulled into Crawford Bay, an art and crafting community stretched along the highway. Here we found blacksmiths, potters, weavers, jewelers, and the “North Woven Broom” workshop, proud makers of 00 of the “Harry Potter” movie’s Quiddich flying booms!
And the excitement was not over! Just around a corner and down an 8% grade to Kootenay Lake was the longest free ferry ride in the world! We enjoyed the fresh breeze, the views of glaciered mountains, and the glint of afternoon sun on our old cars. This day ended at the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, where hot mineral waters gush directly from a mountainside spring into the pool. A few of us even braved the cave tunnel, an arched passage waist deep, dripping, walls shining with cream colored calcium deposits. It was one-way walking, all bodies sloshing together, sometimes passing heads along the sides that we quickly understood were attached to persons who were sitting on benches to cook in the 100-plus degree water!
After a final mineral soak we started day five, with somewhat clearer views of the mountains across this narrower end of the lake. We stopped for coffee and a meander in the restored heritage village of Kaslo, took advantage of the Visitor Center bathrooms (“washrooms” here, eh?), and admired the “S.S Moyie”, the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler. Our history lesson continued in New Denver at the Nikkei Internment Memorial, and intact collection of buildings constructed early in WWII to house Japanese Canadians. It is one of the only locations of Japanese relocation evidence that the Canadian government ha allowed to remain. We relaxed with a “share-lunch” picnic on the shore of Slocan Lake, and continued the journey, south now: a few ups and downs, stunning scenes of the lake, and a lot of heat! But by 5:00 most of us had checked into the elegant, restored Hume Hotel in downtown Nelson: dark wood, sinky carpet, three restaurants, and vintage wrap-around photomurals on the stairway landings. Happy Hour conversation focused first on possible alternate routes for tomorrow, since forest fires were intermittently closing our intended border crossing at Nelway. But fun prevailed, and soon we were singing Happy Birthday to one of our members, and to our President’s 1951 Mercury!
It was in the breakfast room that we learned how day six would unfold: the expending fore had pushed our route west, to a quiet border crossing south of Rossland. And there was the site of our first all stop, hood up, dead car event of the trip. A ’36 Fordor that had been consistently reluctant to start now refused all efforts, including a bag of ice cubes on the fuel pump! So scene 2 opened with four old guys bent over the rear bumper, running. Not enough slope. Scene 3: a big yellow tow rope appeared, and in 200 feet we heard, “He’s got is started!” Not to appear too cooperative, that same ’36 surprised its owner with a flat rear tire at our lunch stop in Colville! With the usual jump-in-and help efforts of several members the tire was removed, transported, fixed, and replaced in short order. But the afternoon of tribulation continued for some of us as we headed for the last hotel night. We had one stop for a boiling radiator, one car that couldn’t stop for any reason, and a confusion of road signs, road Ts, maps, dropped phone calls, and walkie-talkie fadeouts. In frustration three of us hesitated at a Y, and one member flagged down a slowing vehicle to plead for directions. The driver said, “Sure, follow me!”, so we did! After twenty miles in the wilderness the huge, black Chevy pick-up dustclouded into a pullout. Three doors flew open, two guys reached to the floor, then swung out onto the gravel. The thin faced driver with a four day scrubbed face cane around, blue Bud Lite can in hand, and the three of them stood beside us, grinning. “Cool car!”, said one from under his cap. In the next three minutes we were told that they were soon going to take another road, and here’s how to get to Post Falls from here! Just another adventure on the V-8 road!
Thankfully, the seventh and final day of our journey, we across the heated flats of eastern Washington, was uneventful. Once again our classic cars and their arm-strong drivers got us home safely.