Park buses

These are buses used to schlep paying customers around the Park (with commentary provided by the driver).  These are NOT the shuttles used to transport visitors from point to point in an effort to relieve parking congestion.

The red buses are used at Glacier, the yellow ones at Yellowstone.  These are 14-to-17 passenger buses originally put in service in the 1930’s (the yellow one is a 1936 White Motor Company Model 706).  Glacier has a huge fleet of red buses – I saw them everywhere.  I only saw the one at Yellowstone but they have several more available.

The Glacier buses were taken out of service in 1967.  In a joint project with Ford Motor Company they have been refurbished with a more modern and fuel efficient powertrain, plus safety features, and were put back in service about 10 years ago.  The Yellowstone buses have been restored and upgraded as well, although two were left in their original configuration and are not actively used.

Each bus has a canvas roof which can be slid open to allow passengers to stand on their seats and stick their head out the top (as shown on the red bus) to take pictures, etc.  I presume for safety purposes this is only allowed when the bus is stopped.


I also saw a large number of vintage car replicas (think Model T) running around the area at Glacier.  I thought this was part of the tourist trade but when I was getting my oil changed at JiffyLube the other day a women in the waiting room said that there is some kind of convention that brought all those enthusiasts to town.

And speaking of open roofs, with the cooler temperatures (eat your heart out Durham) I am able to drive with the sunroof open in the mornings and evenings.  I don’t do it mid-day because I don’t want to burn my bald spot!  And I don’t stick my head out, when I am parked or otherwise.

On the way down to Missoula I saw a house on fire not far off the road.  The fire department was already there but the house had already suffered a substantial amount of damage.  I hope everyone got out OK.  I passed it about 930 this morning.

Mileage update – After two weeks and two days on the road I’ve traveled 7,746 miles.  For those of you who aren’t bean-counters that is about 480 miles average per day.  Two days I drove over 600 miles (one was getting from central Kansas up to Rapid City and the other was my first full day at Yellowstone).  What can I say – I love to drive.

And one final thought for the day – I’ve been chuckling to myself all day about the note I left for my Airbnb hostess in Kalispell this morning.  After I showered  (she has an old style bathtub, like in the Cialis commercials, with an oval shaped shower curtain rod and a curtain on each side) I discovered about a half gallon of water on the floor.  I know the liners were inside the tub AND the outside of the outer curtain was wet.  This really has me stumped.  Anyway, when I left this morning Danielle was already off to work so I left her a note that started:  “I really don’t know exactly what happened in the bathroom, but…”

More from Smokejumpers Base

When I left Kalispell this morning I headed south on a scenic road which took me back to Missoula MT.  When I was there last weekend I didn’t have time to do the hour-long tour of the Smokejumpers Base so I thought I’d go back, and boy am I glad I did!  Fascinating is not a strong enough word to describe it.

Our guide was Paul, who was a jumper for 30 years during which he went on 450 missions.  He said there are 80 jumpers based in Missoula.  Jumpers are comprised of both men and women.  Both must pass the exact same standards of skill and endurance.  An hour or more of daily physical exercise is a requirement, and the jumpers and support staff are constantly preparing themselves and their equipment for deployment. The military also sends people here for specialized training.

The top picture was taken in the “gear room” where each jumper has two lockers to store their gear.  They also have a “go bag” which is pre-packed with essential items.  They also have a bag packed with personal items (street clothes, toiletries and personal effects) in the event they expect to be on a mission for an extended period.  They either take it when they leave initially or it can be sent to them once the event length is determined (or they may go directly to another event elsewhere).

When the base gets called out the jumpers are expected to be on the aircraft within 7 minutes.  Once dispatched they want to get on-site as quickly as possible to assess, contain and hopefully extinguish the fire so that additional manpower and resources do not need to be expended.

At the request of another worker at the complex Paul told us about how he once used a parachute which had been packed by a blind man.  I don’t think he would have told us this true story otherwise.  There was a young man who worked at the base doing other chores and asked Paul how a parachute is packed.  Paul said “let’s go do it” and spent the entire afternoon with the guy explaining each step of the process and letting him actually do it.  Parachutes are inspected and packed on very long tables.  Once the chute was packed, under Paul’s direct supervision, Paul used it on his next jump.  Paul has achieved the status of Master Rigger and I think it is very impressive that he took the time to let the man experience for himself what is involved in such an integral part of the bases function.

Just before our tour was over the plane took off with two jumpers who did a practice jump from about 1,500 feet (not far from where I was parked).  Going back to the base  was the best hour and a half I’ve spent in a long time.