A tour bus driver shares
his love and the lore of Glacier National Park.
Like a superhero, Illinois farmer Joe Kendall, 81, turns into Jammer Joe each spring as soon as he climbs aboard one of Glacier National Park’s iconic red tour buses. This year, the Montana park’s 100th, marks his 12th as an East Glacier bus driver. (406) 888-7800, nps.gov/glac.
Q What’s a jammer?
A It’s short for gear jammer. You could hear the old buses’ manual transmissions throughout the park. Now they’re automatic, so we’re shiftless jammers.
Q Twelve seasons in Glacier?
A The mountains are huge. The air is clean and intoxicating. I never get tired of driving up into the mountains.
Q What amazes you most?
A How the mountains formed—five miles deep of sedimentary rock cut by three major ice ages. The glaciers sculpted deep valleys and sheer mountainsides. It took a long time. If you condense Earth’s history down to a year, we humans are in the last two seconds.
Q A don’t-miss vista in the park?
A Coming around Looking Glass Pass toward Kiowa Junction, you see all the way to the Sweet Grass Hills. The view into McDonald Valley from the Highline Trail, by Logan Pass, isn’t bad either.
Q And for wildlife lovers?
A I’ve seen moose, bobcats, wolverines. Wolves, a few times. Mountain goats, of course. My passengers always want to see a grizzly. When they don’t, I have a bear suit. I send them off to a waterfall, put it on, and wait on the trail. I’ve had more dang fun with that suit. The ladies always want a bear hug.
Photography by Sue De Lara
This article was first published in May 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.