Being the thrifty sort, and living by the maxim that the cheapest car to own is the one you already have… I drove a van that had over 300,000 miles on it (until a deer took it out). Yes, it was the original engine, which still ran great. I had replaced the tranny, electric window parts, water pump, CV axle, alternator, and the pesky windshield motor parts multiple times (that criss-cross design is fraught with problems) and more. It’s entirely possible that I was spending more than a car payment every month on repairs. We won’t talk about the many deer strikes that have crumpled the hood and destroyed several headlights. People used to say such a vehicle was “nickel-and-diming” you to death.
Still, there was much to love about the old van: easily accessible cargo space for delivering The Attraction Menu, space in back for the dog or camping gear, space between the front seats for a rack holding a few hundred Menus, my clipboard, and most importantly, our “water bucket” a cooler without a lid that accommodates my coffee mug and several water bottles. Most of all, because we’re both tall, it’s a vehicle that has plenty of head room and the seats give us tons of leg room.
But I digress! The purpose of this post is not to give a car review, but to share some of the perks of having breakdowns. In Western Montana there’s beauty on any route we drive. A recent breakdown was at the Overlook just South of Saint Ignatius. Not a bad place to wait for a tow!
The we had some repair work done in Stevensville at Don’s Auto. It’s a short walk from there to the trail along the Bitterroot River. This trail connects to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.
I walked a good mile along that trail and enjoyed the quiet along the river, listening to birds, and watched a bald eagle for a bit. It’s a beautiful riparian area. Picnic tables and benches are scattered along the trail. Some are set back in to the forest just enough that one can unobtrusively sit and observe birds and wildlife.
Although having the car in the shop again is a little painful, and interrupted deliver of the Flathead, Glacier, & Kootenai edition, the walk along the trail was a great break.
Editor’s note. The good old Montana van met its match in a deer crossing Hwy 93, in near darkness on a rainy night. The old van was a total loss and now we are breaking in another hardy, used vehicle. Fortunately we weren’t seriously injured, but the deer didn’t fare so well.
Don’t forget the Attraction Menu when you are planning your next Montana Adventure! And keep your eye open for wildlife along the road!