Your car is your cage

Driving from the east coast to Walla Walla, we stayed in all manner of hotel accommodations. The overdone casino hotel on the reservation in Niagara Falls to the bare but tidy room in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, we had pretty much seen it all, or so we thought. Spending one night in the lodge on McDonald Lake in Glacier National Park, we drove down and under the park, coming out on the other side in East Glacier, Montana.

The innkeeper was decidedly pessimistic about the likeliehood we would keep our reservation.

“We’re just opening up for the season, so we don’t have the cable TV working yet,” she said. “It’s okay if you want to stay somewhere else.”

That would have sounded self-sacrificing if it weren’t for the fact that there were no other hotels open that weekend in East Glacier, and that she had left out one little issue that was actually much more important than the lack of television.

The entire town was under a boiling water ordinance because there was too much particulate matter in the water. Apparently it was safe to shower in and brush our teeth. But who wanted to chance that? I lied under the top sheet later that night, trying not to think about the water the linens had been washed in, and how many microbes were immune to the heat of the dryer, and now staking land claims on my skin. Helpfully, exhaustion from hiking set in, and I slept soundly on the listing mattress, and then we were off to Canada, the next morning. O, Canada!

We had time to look around a little while we traveled. Our favorite (?) parts of Montana, other than the truly majestic beauty of the park, were the town of Hungry Horse and the “Bear Safari” west of the park. It is one thing to name one’s town after emaciated livestock, but quite another to use the town name in logos for local businesses. It just didn’t have quite the same cache as say, fat pandas do for Chinese restaurants. Nobody in our party wanted to eat at any grill featuring horses with exaggerated rib cages.

The Bear Safari was a wild idea, the Wild West’s version of an alligator park, I presume. The idea was you drive through an enclosed area where someone has purposefully placed some number and variety of bears. Real bears. The tagline, “Your Car Is Your Cage,” did not instill us with a sense of comfort. Perhaps if we had been driving a Hummer. And even then, I still wouldn’t drive into that. I should see how long this place has been around, or stake out the opposite side of the street to observe which crazy people actually pay admission to this thing.

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