The second annual Western Canada Power Cruise was, to say the least, very short (for a few Canadian drivers), but sweet just the same.
For the second time in as many years, two “crazy Americans”–my brother Dan, and I, drove our Cadillacs and joined 57 Canadians on a road trip–the ultimate destination being Goodguys 13th Annual Great Northwest event in Spokane, you can read about that here.
Our trip started in Denver, ColoRODo, Monday, August 11th. The destination was Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, to connect with the WCPC Cruisers. It took two full days of driving to get to Medicine Hat, Alberta. On our first day out, we overnighted in Sheridan, Wyoming, and got there early enough to swing by a HAMB buddy’s silk screen shop. Stutz (Scott Stalick) was expecting us, and we spent some time chatting and looking at his projects.
Tuesday, we left early and wanted to visit another HAMBer–Verbal Kint (Scott Dobbs) in Billings, Montana. We got there late morning and visited him at Augie Bentz’s rod shop–Augie’s into Pontiacs of all years. After lunch we headed north for the small town of Havre, Montana, on two lane roads for our second overnight.
Havre, Montana has a population of 10,000. We thought it wouldn’t be a problem finding a motel, but boy, were we wrong. Every motel in town was booked because of several construction projects. We finally found an old 1960s mom and pop motel off main street and spent $64.00 to rent two beds–does that give you any idea what the place was like?
We arrived at the Canadian border early Wednesday with only a couple of hours driving left to Medicine Hat.
Chris McMillan (with a nod to Rob Shuba for his help) had organized three tours from other regions of Canada: Tier one from Grande Prairie, Alberta, to Medicine Hat which had the most registered with 31 cruisers. Tier two from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Medicine Hat with 22 cruisers, and Tier three from Merritt, British Columbia, to Medicine Hat with four cruisers.
A total of 57 cruisers met in Medicine Hat Wednesday. From there, the tour would continue to Cranbrook, British Columbia, and then into Spokane. Eighty percent of the cruisers joined us Thursday morning in a great long line on Canadian Highway 3 and the other twenty percent headed back home, having enjoyed the trip to Medicine Hat with rodding friends.
Once Dan and I arrived in Medicine Hat Wednesday, it was time to change out American money for Canadian so we could find a car wash, grab some lunch, and head over to Preston Towle’s “Rodder’s Roost” shop for his 3:00 p.m. welcoming BBQ. Preston’s lovely wife, Lana, greeted each person coming thru the shop door. About half of the WCPC entourage showed up to rekindle past friendships.
Preston spent most of the afternoon behind the BBQ cooking burgers, dogs, and all the fixins. His flat black “just-finished-it-last-night” Ford Falcon convert was sitting out back ready to make its first long-distance trip. As you can see, Preston has a few other projects out in his back yard as well.
Organizer Chris McMillan had set up the Medicine Hat Come n’ Go Show n’ Shine for the participants and over 100 vehicles attended that Wednesday evening. An early Thursday morning start was announced and we met at the A&W Root Beer stand before 8:00 a.m for a 301 mile trip to our overnight stay in Cranbrook, British Columbia.
The day started out fairly nice but as we approached the Canadian Rockies and Crowsnest Pass late morning, the sky became darker–we were going to get wet. I just didn’t know how wet it would be.
Some 190 miles into the journey we came upon a view area known as Frank’s Slide. It seems that in 1903 the entire side of a mountain came crashing down on the mining town in the valley. A wedge of limestone nearly a mile wide let go near the top of the mountain at 4:10 a.m., millions of tons of rock slid into the valley and swept up the other side, wiping out half the town, burying half the residents, and destroying the roadway and railroad tracks.
The rain had let up a bit as we left the view area and headed for Crowsnest Pass but it didn’t last long. Dan shot this pic of the partial sign as he was moving. It really wasn’t much of a “pass” as we ColoRODans are used to, only 4,580 feet high, but the rain was cold and it felt like it would snow.
Most of the tour stopped in Blairmore for lunch, but Dan and I drove on to Sparwood, BC, to view the world’s largest Titan 33-19 truck. The one and only truck was built in 1978 during the coal mining boom. Kaiser Resources bought it specifically for hauling coal out of the mines. Its bed holds 350 tons and it used to work 24 hours a day. The truck stands 22.7-feet tall, has a 16-cylinder engine that produces 3,300 horsepower, and has a top speed of 43 mph.
Our next stop for the evening was the city of Cranbrook. The Reno Rodders, our official hosts for the WCPC, decided to “make a memory” that evening and got together for the shot pictured below. During the night it rained off and on, and in the morning Dan and I made a bee line for Spokane, 180 miles away, wanting to get to the fairgrounds before noon Friday.
We gassed up, Rain-X’d our windshields and headed for Idaho. We got as far as Sandpoint and had to take a detour, there’d been a serious accident on the bridge across the lake and all lanes were blocked. The back-up was lengthy and soon enough, we’d made a U-turn and headed back to an intersection that would take us west, through the mountains, but would allow us to drive into Spokane on the north side.
At the Goodguys event, several Canadians caught up with us while we were parked in the “You Gotta Drive ‘em” special parking area and asked where we were headed after this event. Most of them had parked in the “Canadian Corral” and one of our traveling mates, Clay Schweigert, had won a Goodguys Pick with his ’57 Chevy, congrats Clay. I don’t know how long it took Clay to clean his car from driving in all that rain, but I’d bet it wasn’t a quick wash job!
Sunday, after the awards, which officially ended the 2nd WCPC, Dan and I drove downtown to see Riverfront Park and Spokane Falls. The city was initially named Spokane Falls, but changed later. The world’s largest Radio Flyer wagon sits in the park. That evening we took a drive to Long Lake dam on the Spokane River and spotted Sasquatch hanging out in the forest.
Monday morning we headed for Post Falls, Idaho, and Russ Freund’s River City Speed & Kustom rod shop. He’d told us they were working on a ’55 Cadillac Eldorado convertible that they’d put a late Corvette suspension under and we wanted to see it. What he didn’t tell us was there was a ’32 Cadillac in his shop. I thought my ’55 Caddy was huge, but the ’32 dwarfed mine. Russ showed us around his shop and even let us view his “secret” project (sorry, no pix were allowed), scheduled for completion some time next summer.
Post Falls is south of Sandpoint, Idaho, and since we didn’t get to go across the bridge on Lake Pend Oreille on the way down, we wanted to this time. We drove around the lake for a while before we headed for our ultimate destination–Kalispell, Montana.
Tuesday morning we started out in the rain. Construction on Montana highways again reared its ugly head and we sat waiting for quite some time that day. Unfortunately, the rain had started and the construction area turned to mud. So, another motel, another night which meant we didn’t make many miles on Tuesday.
We arrived in Kalispell late Wednesday afternoon and found a motel. Our plan was to drive around Flathead Lake (the largest fresh water lake in the western US, with a shoreline of nearly 100 miles) on Thursday. It rained most of Thursday, but the trip around the lake was relatively scenic.
Friday morning was cloudy, so we worried about being able to see anything up over Glacier and the “Going to the Sun” road. It rained most of the way and at Logan Pass, the clouds were so thick I couldn’t see Dan’s taillights 20 feet ahead of me. Going down the eastern side at 5 mph was slow and took longer than we were expecting.
I swore my Cadillac would never be clean after this trip, but that’s a chance you take when you drive your classic. Once past the eastern entrance, we turned north and headed for Canada (again) and Waterton Lakes National Park.
We crossed the Canadian border one more time and arrived in Cardston, Alberta, late afternoon and found a motel. We had Saturday to do some sightseeing around the area before the Waterton Lakes car show on Sunday.
The Sunday show was down from the 160 cars they usually pull in because of rain with only 85 vehicles registered. It was a cool cloudy laid back day in the city park complete with wild deer feeding on the grass. This is a gorgeous area. The Prince of Wales Resort Hotel is in Waterton Lakes, it was built in 1929 and is still used today.
Monday morning we headed back into the US and up over Glacier on a sunny and clear day that allowed us to see mountains without clouds blocking the view. The nine miles of construction on the east side was relatively smooth, so the cars didn’t get as dirty.
It took two hours to go 31 miles that morning. Down from Glacier, we skirted Kalispell, past Flathead Lake, and grabbed Highway 83 going south, which was gorgeous. We passed through a long valley with mountains and tall pines on both sides of the roads. There were glistening lakes along the west side of the road for miles.
Somewhere before we got to Lincoln, Montana, we missed our turn and had to backtrack. We fueled up there in order to make it to Helena, Montana, our overnight destination.
Tuesday morning the weather was cool as we aimed for Yellowstone. The road out of Helena was fraught with construction again. Montana must have lots of money for road construction. Taking two lanes all the way south, we approached Yellowstone from the northwest. We stopped at Earthquake Lake to view the destruction of the roadway and lake caused by the 1959 earthquake. The whole side of a mountain came crashing down killing 29 people in a campground and damming the river.
We rolled into West Yellowstone at 11:00 a.m. and fueled up. The trip through Yellowstone was 72 miles from the west entrance to the south side entrance. With all the tourists present we knew traffic would be bogged down, and as expected, getting through took 2.5 hours.
Just past West Thumb, it was easy sailing to the Teton Mountains. We stopped a couple of times to shoot pics of the cars and the mountains.
We overnighted in Jackson, which, we found out, some people still refer to as Jackson Hole. Motel rooms were at a premium at 5:30 p.m. and it took some phoning to find one. We covered the cars in the parking lot and in the morning found out it had rained.
From Jackson, we headed south again, with our final sight-seeing destination being the Dinosaur Monument in Vernal, Utah. We ran into heavy rain just outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming, and drove in it all the way to Vernal. We ate lunch in a small café and fortunately it stopped raining while there. We drove to the monument on dry roads and it stayed dry while we touristed the monument.
From Vernal, Utah, it’s 320 miles to Denver, but at 4:00 in the afternoon, we wouldn’t have made it home that day. We set our sights on Craig, ColoRODo, 120 miles away, filled the gas tanks, Rain-X’d the windshield and set off.
It rained all the way to Craig. We arrived there at 6:30 p.m. and found a motel. We didn’t bother to cover the cars because of the rain. In the morning it was only 36 degrees, but that didn’t stop us as we drove to Steamboat Springs, got gas, Rain-X’d the windshields again and headed for Rabbit Ears Pass with an elevation of 9,429 feet. Clouds at that elevation certainly made for some tough driving, forcing us to drive only 30-35 mph.
We ran in rain nearly all the way to Silverthorne and caught I-70. Just before Eisenhower Tunnel it turned dry–two hours to home. When we finally got home, the cars were so dirty you couldn’t tell what color they were. I looked at my speedometer–3,890 miles on the total trip and probably the wettest trip we’ve ever done.