When we got back from our drive, the two girls were finally persuaded to play at the piano at the Lodge. They played popular music to the delight of the guests and got a big applause from their audience.
The next day, discouraged by the weather, we decided to cut short our stay at Glacier and so I called our hotel in Helena to advance our reservation for a day. McDonald Lodge charged us $30 for the cancellation which I think is very reasonable and I was able to get a room at the Jackson Lake Lodge at the foot of the Grand Tetons in Moran, Wyoming.
When going to these National Parks it is better to stay within the park because distances can be very deceiving and you don’t want to be driving for a half hour to an hour to see the sites. These parks cover thousands of acres and states so going from one point to the other can take a couple of hours even though when you look at the map they are close to each other. You will be driving through the mountains and passes with many switchbacks so normal driving hours that you are used to do not apply here. The roads are very well-maintained but one has to drive with caution, requiring 25 miles per hour, two way roads where half of the time passing over is not allowed, hardly any shoulder without any guard rails and you’d be looking at a scenic precipice.
After a huge breakfast at McDonald we drove to Helena through the mountains, many times by a river or a lake, you wish you’ve brought your picnic basket but the weather was still cold. When we left Glacier the weather forecast wasn’t as promising as the day before but it wasn’t until we passed Swan Lake that we started seeing the blue sky which turned gray again as we approached our destination.
Helena is the capital of the state of Montana. It is a small town with a university. They had a small downtown and maybe because it was a Sunday afternoon, we didn’t see a crowd of people. Our hotel was centrally located but very quiet.
We asked the hotel for any Asian restaurants as we haven’t had rice since we left our homes. We were given two choices – a hole in the wall Thai restaurant and Chinese. Alyssa has seafood allergy so Aunt Claire thought it more prudent to go to the Chinese restaurant.
The Jade Garden was a stand-alone restaurant and their parking was filled and we waited for 10 minutes to be seated. While waiting I told my aunt that I suspect the restaurant is not Chinese-owned as all the front staff were caucasians. I’ve never been to an oriental restaurant where the staff are not members of the family of the owner.
Once seated I had a distinct feeling that I was in a diner. The Chinese decor stopped at the front of the restaurant, in the dining room it screamed of the Southwest with pastel chairs and cheap wall prints.
Their menu offered many choices, many I’ve never heard before but we stayed with the familiar dishes. Aunt Claire had the special pork ribs, I got the Cantonese noodles with shrimps, the kids split pot stickers and orange chicken.
My order came with a choice of sides so I thought wonton soup would be nice to warm me up. When it came we stared at my dark soup and I asked the waitress if there was a mistake although there were two dumplings in my cup. She confirmed that it was wonton so I tasted it. The soup was fine – they added soy sauce and the ginger was very pronounced. My dumpling skin was thick and raw.
My noodle was another disappointment. I wondered why it had a runny soy sauce and the noodle was only blanched. I ended up picking on the shrimps and vegetables. Chinese recipes for noodles would suggest the use of ginger in almost all dishes but if not tempered, the ginger flavor gets very strong and distracting to the taste. It should be subtle. Noodles are my favorite dishes, I almost wanted to go to the kitchen to see who was cooking.
The fried rice only had green peas and colored with soy, the ribs were tender and like the orange chicken, was swimming in sauce. I didn’t try the dumplings and my nieces said they were good. Servings were huge we had a doggie bag when we left which we ended up not eating anyway.
The girls went swimming before going to bed. They wished they could stay here longer. But we’re just passing through.