23 September 2013

Highways and Byways Road Trip, Part 3: Going to the Sun

Nine years ago, regular Montana visitors Jim Dolan, Brian Dolan, Dean Genge and Montana native Will Brewster created the Going to the Sun classic car rally as a way to show off their favorite part of the country to their fellow automotive enthusiasts. Named after the iconic road that climbs through Glacier National Park (site of that first event), the Going to the Sun Rally, or GTTSR, now attracts an impressive collection of collector cars and their owners, thanks to its fine mix of roads, fellowship and fun.

This year, Tim and Margie Suddard, owners of Classic Motorsports magazine, took us along on the rally. This is the second time that Tim has participated in the GTTSR, and he claims that of all the rallies he has done, this is one of the best.

“This event is about not only the roads and scenery, but the people, too,” Tim tells us. “The folks that we meet here are some of the nicest we have ever met.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the roads usually offer just the right combination of vistas, curves and speed as the rally travels through the high deserts, mountain passes and river valleys of the Northwest.

This year’s event eschewed past destinations in Montana and Wyoming to focus on portions of Idaho, Washington and even Canada as it traversed the wide variety of scenery that composes the mighty Columbia River’s watershed.

A highlight of the trip was the Okanagan wine valley of British Columbia. Most of the participants had never travelled to this area, and in fact few even suspected that this lush landscape, set against the stark relief of desert hillsides, even existed. Many glowing comparisons were drawn between the wine-growing regions of California and even Italy. This area is a must-see for any classic car enthusiast with a bit of wanderlust.

Stops included a delicious lunch cruise-in hosted by the Igniters Car Club in Libby, Mont., where this great bunch of hot-rodders shared their dubious-sounding, but wonderful, trash-can chicken. From there, even more challenging roads and breathtaking vistas took the group to the shores of Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho.

The next morning it was off through the northern tip of Idaho into northeastern Washington. A border crossing and trip up through wine country put the group in Kelowna, B.C., for two days. A trek back east led through the beautiful Selkirk Mountains to Nelson, B.C.

The next day the rally crossed back over the U.S. border into Idaho, then back through Libby, Mont., and a blast up the aptly named “better than sex highway” to Eureka. From there the group arrived back at the starting point of Whitefish, Mont., where the five-day-long experience was capped off with a final awards ceremony.

The Suddards were surprised with the “Lug Nut” award at that final dinner recognizing their perseverance before and during the GTTS event. The pair piloted their Shelby through more than double the rally’s 1,300-mile length thanks to their California journey the week before, and despite a few mechanical troubles completed the entire route in good shape and better spirits.

For any Hagerty customer seeking adventure and a real sense of camaraderie with their classic car, the GTTSR rally can be highly recommended. The Suddards are already making plans to return next September for the 10th anniversary running of the event, which will truly trace the path of Going to the Sun as it follows the first rally’s trek through Glacier and Yellowstone national parks.

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