musings from the
keyboard of Joni
Glacier National Park to
Southern Route /
New Orleans, LA to Santa Fe, NM
Farmington, NM to Las Vegas, NV
Kingman, AZ to Scottsdale, AZ /
Palm Springs, CA to McKenzie Bridge, OR
Portland, OR to Kallispell, ID /
Glacier NP to Fargo, ND
Bloomington, MN to Toronto Canada /
June 18th to June 20th
Glacier National Park, MT
Wednesday, June 18, - Kalispell, MT to Glacier National Park, MT
So, to top off everything else Gene does, he is also a chef. He was a chef for many years before he met Ann Marie. He made us Stuffed French Toast and an omelet for breakfast. The omelet was fluffier than any we have ever had. Gene told us the secret to making it but considering it took 20 minutes, I doubt we have the patience for that.
It was only an hour drive to Glacier National Park. We stopped at the Apgar area to get recommendations for hikes and take our first peek at the lake. It was another 9 mile drive to McDonald Lodge. Since our room was not ready yet, we decided to go on the boat trip. We had 20 minutes to get down to the dock and as we were at the car putting on sun screen, a man with a camera asked us where we were from. "PA" Fred said. The guy asked if we had a minute. Thinking he was selling photos or something, Fred said, "We need to get down to the boat dock". Turns out the guy was from the Great Falls Tribune and was doing a story on gas prices. We started talking and he interviewed us and followed us down to the boat dock to take our picture for his story. It will be in Sundayís edition.
The boat ride was an hour on the lake with a park ranger narrating. I was disappointed that we did not see any glaciers and then found out that the only glaciers visible were at the other end of the park. The glaciers are disappearing. There were 37 only a few years ago down to 28 now. The prediction is that the glaciers may be gone in 20 years.
The ranger had recommended Johnís Lake loop hike and since it was an easy 3 miles we thought that would be good for our first day. The hike started off through the woods where we wondered about the many fallen trees that we saw. (Later found out that they toppled due to the wet snow from last week. Since the trees already had leaves, the wet snow made them particularly heavy and when one tree falls, it hits another, and another, etc.) Then the hike crossed over the road and we were delighted by a view of the McDonald Creek. Creek? Ė it was more like a raging river. When Jeanne was in Oregon we were talking about what makes something a river, creek, stream, or rill (her word learned from crossword puzzles). I will have to look that up sometime.
We added another 2 miles to the hike by turning right when we got across the bridge and following the McDonald Creek. There were several scenic waterfalls. We met some people coming back and they said the path ended.
We walked for a little more and then turned around and headed back to the Johnís Lake Loop.
We had been advised to go left when the path split and it was good advice. The path followed along the creek and we got up close and personal with some of the raging water.
The hike crossed over a bridge where on one side we could see a waterfall and on the other side we could see where the creek entered the McDonald Lake. All of a sudden the raging water just stopped when it hit the lake.
When we got back to the lodge we sat on the balcony of the 2nd floor of the lodge, looking over the main level where a fire was burning and a very talented teenager was playing the piano. We took turns on the computer catching up on the journal and pictures. We ate leftover pasta and cheese and crackers while enjoying a Huckleberry Wheat Beer from the General Store.
Thursday, June 19, 2008 Glacier National Park
We had the buffet breakfast in the lodge dining room and got an early start to make sure we got a parking space at the Avalanche Lake trailhead. This is a popular hike and we wanted to be ahead of all the other carbon units. More than anything in hiking, we like the peacefulness of feeling like we are all alone.
The hike started out on the Trail of the Cedars on a boardwalk with nature signs. Since there is so much water here, the root system of the trees in this area is very shallow. We saw lots of cedar trees and one tree that had been upended. The root system looked like a work of art.
The area was a lush forest. The boardwalk continued along and overlooked a gorge that had been cut by the mountain snow run-off. We stopped to admire the scenery.
As we started up the Avalanche Lake trail, I had a moment of panic because we were going on a 5 mile hike and we had not brought any food. Fred said we didnít need any since we had a big breakfast so we had left our lunch in the car. I hope I donít regret that decision.
The path started uphill along the Avalanche Creek. Fred thought the ranger said that people should use their opera voice to scare off the bears so he is singing. That ought to keep them away. There are signs everywhere warning people to make noise on the trail especially when you go around a corner so as not to startle any bears. The ranger told us that someone had encountered a bear and the person curled into the fetal position and stayed completely still. The bear sniffed him and then just walked away. Another person had done the same thing and the bear came over to him and rolled him over. The guy stayed perfectly still and the bear sniffed him and walked away. I really donít think I can lay perfectly still while a bear sniffs me, and I never thought I would say this, but Fred keep singing please.
The water coming down the stream from the mountain looks so pure and clear that it seems like you could drink it. As we were walking along, we saw many many trees that had been sawed off to keep the path clear. I tried to make a chain saw noise but failed miserably. I made Fred do it and he sounded just like a chain saw starting up and cutting down a tree. We decided that it must be a gender thing that guys are so much better at sound effects then girls.
The trail was fairly easy and it seemed in no time at all we were at Avalanche Lake. There was a sign that said End of Trail but a path continued beyond it so of course we did too. Not much further and there was a path down to the lake. Avalanche Lake is gorgeous Ė an emerald aqua marine is the best color description I can come up with. We sat for awhile on some rocks enjoying the view of the lake ringed with pine trees.
To our right three waterfalls plunged 1,000 feet down the mountain behind the trees. Some carbon units passed behind us on the path but by the time we finished enjoying our view and got back on the path, we could neither see nor hear them. The forest was dense.
We continued on the End of Trail path along the lake and came upon areas where we had to jump from rock to rock to get over the water. It was fun and the water in the trail stopped other people from continuing on. We were hoping to be able to walk the whole way around the lake but the path ended at the upper end of the lake.
Fred continued on to get some privacy and I turned back. A couple from the Netherlands came up and I told
them the path ended and started to talk to them so Fred would not be interrupted. He came out of the woods and had blood running down his leg.
He had tangled with some branches. We chatted with the Netherlands couple. They had flown into Denver and were doing a US National Park tour for three weeks. As we were talking a deer came out to the edge of the lake. He didn't seem to care that we were watchng him. We saw him later walking on the path, taking his time before he ran up through the woods.
On the way back to the car we passed the area where we had sat quietly just an hour before. It was packed with carbon units of all shapes and sizes. It seemed that every log and stone along the lake was filled with a person. We knew this was a popular hike but were still shocked at the number of people. We were really glad we had started the hike early. My guess is that this is as far as most of these people will go. Fredís comment was that our National Park has turned into a Theme Park-a good description. We kept a steady pace back to the car.
We got lots of information from the ranger on our first day and one of the things he told us was that even though the road past the Avalanche Lake trailhead was closed to cars you could still walk it. He said he had done it last week and you notice the scenery more on foot than from the car.
We grabbed our lunch from the car and started walking out the road. We were only going to go as far as we needed to to find a good lunch spot. The road parallels the McDonald Creek and it didnít take long before we found a spot on some rocks by the creek.
We could not have scripted a better setting for lunch. The rocks were a purplish color and shaped like a lounge chair with enough room for the two of us.
The rocks were located at an S-curve in the river where the water came rushing down over many rocks. We never enjoyed a sandwich more. We decided this was the best place we have ever hung out.
We sat for over an hour enjoying the view, the sun, and our rock lounge chairs. We both took our shoes off and stuck our toes in the water Ė for only about 2.2 seconds. The water was freezing COLD. After we packed up we decided to continue on down the road to see what we could see. We ran into a girl pushing a baby stroller and she told us that only 45 minutes down the road was an exhibit sign and a view of the mountains.
So, we continued on and Fred wanted to keep going to see if we could see the Garden Wall, a set of mountains that we had seen from our boat trip. All told, we walked another 4 miles. What? Do we think we are in our 30ís?
Back at the lodge, we got the key for our new room. The first day we checked in the manager tried to get us a nice room since we were staying for 3 days but a tour had booked all the best ones. Our room-310-was in the corner of the building with a view of the roof and a tiny little bit of the lake. It was tiny. He said if we didnít mind moving he would try to get us a better room for the next day. Did he ever. Our new room-#301- is awesome. It is bigger and looks directly out on the lake and is one of the few rooms that has a patio. Awesome.
After napping and showering, we went downstairs and found two chairs on the porch of the lodge looking out over the lake. Fred downloaded the pictures from the day, and we had fun looking at them while enjoying beverages.
While I took the computer back up to the room, Fred went into the lounge and ordered the corn chowder soup and French Fries. We also had our leftover pasta and some cheese and crackers while sitting at a table looking out over the lake.
Then we went back to our room and sat out on the patio. I use the word patio loosely. Actually we pulled the chairs from the room out on the rooftop but it was spectacular watching the waning light over the lake and mountains. A bird sat on one of the beams on the roof and chirped and talked to us. I think he was trying to get us to move because he had a nest up in the rafter.
Friday, June 20 - Glacier National Park, Glacier, MT
After breakfast in the dining room, this time ordering from the menu and saving $12.00, we drove to the Apgar Lookout trailhead. On the way we noticed the lake was very calm and he mountains were reflected perfectly in the water. It was an awesome sight.
The trail was back a 1 mile paved road and a 2 mile unpaved road. We were afraid this trail would be crowded but there were only abut 5 cars at the trailhead. We saw three people getting out of a car and heard bear bells. They sell these bear bells in the gift shop and people think that will help keep the bears away. (The ranger told us that they found bear bells in bear scat-he many have been making that up). We decided to get out on the trail ahead of them because we did not want to hike with jingling bells the whole way.
The trail started out as an easy stroll along an old unused road, crossing over a creek and traversing over a few mud bogs where we had to step gently. Then the real fun began. The first of three switchbacks. We were not even half way up the first one when we stopped to talk to a couple from Chicago who were resting. They were blaming their tiredness on the fact that they had just arrived, it was a higher elevation, and it was hot. As we were standing talking, another hiker came along and asked if we had seen any bears. He had been hiking with two other people and one of the girls heard a twig snap and got scared that it was a bear and turned around. He had given them his bear spray but was going to continue the hike alone. We left him get a head start and then we said goodbye to the Chicago couple and continued our climb.
These were the longest freakin switchbacks we have ever been on. Each one went up and up and up and never seemed to end. Fortunately by the second switchback there were good views so we would stop every so often to look around and catch our breath.
I also found some wildflowers to photograph which was another good excuse to stop. The area we are hiking in was devastated in the fire of 2003 when acres upon acres of trees were burnt. Since then the rejuvenation
process has started.
The underbrush has re-grown green and tiny pine trees were reaching for the sun. The path is so steep that when we looked down the mountain we could not get a glimpse of the trail we had just come up. At one point we decided to try to walk for 10 minutes without stopping. I think of myself as being in fairly good shape but this was killing me.
Fred likes the maximum effort for maximum reward hikes and he got it on this one. The view from the top was worth every ragged breath. We were on top of the world looking out over Lake McDonald and the surrounding mountains. A stunning view.
We had lunch on a log and then climbed the fire tower for another look before starting down the path. Going down is not as hard on our breathing but definitely harder on the knees. We started down by 2:30 and figured we would be eating ice cream by 4:00. That was going to be my reward.
As we were walking down the path, Fred was leading and I stopped to take some pictures of wildflowers and the Lodgepole pine cones that were still clinging to life on burned branches. When we got separated I thought I heard twigs breaking behind me and my first thought was that there was a bear (we had been warned so many times). I quickened my pace to keep Fred in my view. I wanted to see a bear but only from a distance-a long distance.
We did get our ice cream and enjoyed it sitting on a bench by the lake in the Apgar Visitor Center area.
Back at the McDonald Lodge, we rested, showered and then got micro brews and sat out on a bench at the lodge with a view of the lake. We got our snacks out of the car and had our own little happy hour. Quite nice.
It has been wonderful to have three days with no cell phone, no internet, no newspaper, and no TV. You truly feel like you have shut the outside world out and it is just you and Mother Nature.
When you hike in the woods it is not just about what you see. For me, it is about what I feel. Touching a gentle wildflower that I have never seen before, observing the Lodgepole pines that were burnt in 2003 and marveling at how the sap in the pinecones when burnt release the seeds to start another tree, wondering how three white birch trees survived the fire and are still standing surrounded by blackened tree trunks, gazing out over the mountains into the valley and feeling small in this great big universe.
June 21st to June 22nd
Saturday, June 21 - Glacier, MT to Missoula, MT
After breakfast (which we said we were not going to do the buffet but did anyway), we rented a row boat and went out on the lake. We wanted to row down to where the creek comes into the lake but after Fred was rowing for 30 minutes, we realized we were not going to make it. We should have rented the motor boat. We traded places (and amazingly did not capsize), and then I rowed for a little while. We sat in the middle of the lake enjoying the
solitude and then rowed back to shore.
On the way back we got a thrill by going thru the mini rapids.
We went back in to the McDonald Lodge to admire the architecture one more time and sit by the fire before leaving for Missoula. We drove down thru the East Side of the Flathead Lake which is probably 10 times as big as McDonald Lake. Surprisingly there were a lot of orchards along the lake. The area must be ripe for that kind of crop.
I read in the AAA guide book about a tour of the Fire Jumpers Base center and we just made it in time for the 3:00 tour. Fascinating. Christine, our guide, on our own private tour, told us that 500 firefighters apply per year and only 24 are accepted at the Missoula School. Only 17 graduate. The training is rigorous. When there is a forest fire, these guys and girls are flown to the scene of the fire and parachute beside the fire where they dig a fire break to stop the fire. They can be there within 10 minutes of the call where it could take ground firefighters days to hike in.
We saw how they pack their gear, prepare for the fire call, what equipment and food they take, and how they check their parachutes. I thought it was interesting that all the Fire Jumpers learn to sew and make their own jump suits and backpacks. Christine said she canít believe she gets paid for working there among all those buff hot firefighters. Her father was a Fire Jumper so she grew up around the complex. Her sister is engaged to one of the Fire Jumpers.
We were starving so after checking in to the Mountain Valley Inn (I was not thrilled with the room-bad carpet), we walked downtown to the river area to a micro brew. Montana has interesting laws governing micro breweries which we found out from Michael, the owner of a camera store in town, who was sitting beside us at the Kettle Car Micro Brewery. They can only serve beer until 8:00 and only 3 beers per person. There are cameras on the wall where each micro brewery is monitored by the MLCB. I really liked the Cold Smoke, a double malt brew.
On our walk down to the micro brewery, we saw people surfing in the river. We could not figure out how they were doing it. At least 10 people were waiting on the bank and one person at a time would row out into the rolling water and surf in place. Michael explained to us that it is an engineered wave in honor of a world class kayaker who died in an accident. Wild that you can surf in Missoula, Montana.
Michael was in a movie back in the early 1990ís Ė A River Runs thru It with Brad Pitt. He was in the scene in the speakeasy wearing a brown suit and horn rimmed glasses dancing with a girl. We will have to rent it.
We were hungry so on Michaelís recommendation (it is always great to talk to the locals) we had dinner at the Iron Horse Brew Pub. Good food and nice people.
The Reverend Horton Heat is here on Tuesday. Tara and Roger have seen him several times.
We walked back to our hotel along the river. We stopped at a coffee shop because Fred wanted milk. Talked with the two University of Montana students and they told us what to do in Billings which is where they were from.
Sunday, June 22, 2008 Missoula, MT
Canyon River Golf Course in East Missoula was not on the original 50 under 50 list but it was on some other list we found. The entire course is located in a large canyon because it is surrounded by hills. The first 2 holes were wide open but number 3 had trees behind the green and a river on the right hand side of the green making it a pretty hole. Future houses are mapped out on the golf card so in 5 years this will be an entirely different course. There are long walks between some of the greens and the next tee and that is to allow future development. Of the houses that are built now, they are all stained a dark brown so they do blend in. Fred and I had a weird golf day. If we had been playing better ball, we would have kicked butt. On the front nine, I birdied 2 holes and pared 3 holes and Fred parred 5 holes on the back. We figured we would have had a 76 better ball score. We walked today and were tired by the time we finished.
We had dinner again at the Iron Horse Brew Pub since we liked it so much last night.
Monday, June 23 - Missoula, MT to Anaconda, Mt
We did a load of laundry, ate breakfast, and hit the road for Anaconda. Before we left town we took a short tour of the Univ. of Montana campus. Like most colleges in the northwest this one was picturesque sitting at the base of large hills.
On our way to our next stop we took the Pintler Scenic Road which started out through cattle ranches-very large cattle ranches. Beside the road was a stream that defined the word meander. The stream snaked along curving back and forth for miles. Then snow covered mountains from the Anaconda Range came into view.
With cattle, split rail fences, dark brown wooden farm buildings, dandelion fields of yellow, snow covered mountains in the distance, and a meandering stream, all the elements were here for an awesome picture but we could not get them in same scene. We will just have to remember in our minds.
We arrived in Anaconda in time to check in to the Marcus Daly Hotel where we had a stay and play package deal. The hotel is your standard basic hotel although the lady who runs it is very nice. When we got to the Old Works golf course we moved our tee time back so we could have lunch.
Anaconda Old Works Golf course is unique. Built on a Superfund clean up site where a copper mine once stood, the course was designed by Jack Nicklaus. Residents of the town formed a committee and went to city council to present this crazy idea to build a world class golf course on this eyesore of a property.
Not only is the golf course unique but so is the practice facility. The practice range is in the middle of the golf course and around the driving range are 3 practice holes to play to warm up before your round.
We rode today because we were still tired from walking yesterday and there were some large hills to climb. The tee box on Hole #4 is elevated and affords a view of the entire golf course. The backdrop to the green is an old mine shaft.
The greens are well protected which makes any kind of long approach shot difficult. Several times we tried to play the smart way and lay up rather than trying to get on in regulation and risk ending up in a sand trap. The sand traps are black slag shavings. They play like sand but are visually intimidating. Number 7 is a par 3 with an elevated tee box and basically an island green. But instead of water, the green is surrounded by black slag sand traps.
Sixteen is one of the most difficult holes but also one of the prettiest. Mountains are behind the hole, a pond is on the right hand side, part of the stone foundation from the copper office in on the left of the dog leg right hole.
The golf course won the Environmental Steward Award in 1999. After our round we enjoyed a beverage on the patio listening to the stream.
We walked around downtown Anaconda and admired the buildings that are still standing from the late 1800ís when the town was a copper mining town. There must be nothing else to do in town but drink because we counted at least 30 bars in this town of 9500 people. There is a bar on every corner and 2 in the middle of each block.
Dinner was at the Rocky Mountain Brewing Company.
June 24th to 25th
Tuesday, June 24 - Anaconda, MT to , Billings, Mt
Breakfast at Dominicís (or something like that) was just average. I did a little shopping in downtown Anaconda. The town is adorable.
We headed out at 11 for another pretty drive to reach Helena, the capital of Montana. It seemed like a nice town. With a population of 27,000, the town had a cathedral which we toured, an art museum which we perused, and a capital which we visited. The cathedral was quite ornate with carvings of cherubs and many small statues near the entranceway. It was based on a Cathedral in Vienna.
The outstanding feature of the capital building is the copper dome which has aged to a dark patina. The outside of the capital campus is plain with only a few flowers and lawn and 1 statue of a man on a horse. Inside was ornate with marble columns and paintings depicting early pioneer life. There is a Charlie Russell painting-his largest-in the House of Representatives but we could not find the House Chambers. I had a little situation in the bathroom involving my recorder, a toilet, and some water. Needless to say I am looking for a Circuit City to replace my Recorder. At our advanced mental state and all that we see and do in a day on this trip, Fred and I cannot remember what happened without the Recorder.
It was 2 hours from Helena to Bozeman-another drive of wide open spaces with glimpses of mountains every so often. We got to Bozeman around 4 which was too late to go to the computer museum but were able to go to the Rocky Mountain Museum located on the campus of Montana State University-home of the Bobcats. This Museum was something else.
There was a planetarium and prarie house from the late 1800ís that had been moved to this site from several miles away. The house was built by a pioneer couple who had homesteaded for 20 years living in a small home with their eight children. This was their dream house. It was furnished with period furniture much of which reminded me of the antiques my Mom and Dad collected. An oak washstand with a pitcher and basin of water along with slivers of soap in a blue speckled metal ware bowl reminded me of being at my Grandmother Millhousesís before they got indoor plumbing. Another reminder was the outhouse. Fred said the outhouse looked comfortable!
The highlight (for me) of the Museum was the dinosaur fossil display. Montana University must be well known for their fossil digs. There were over a hundred dinosaur bones. Various displays showed pictures of some of the discoveries. The one that fascinated me was the story of a guy at one of the digs who walked away from the group to have lunch. He finished his lunch, looked up on the hillside at the rock and saw a t-rex bone sticking out. How in the world do you recognize that? Anyway, he went back to camp, got his camera and verified that is what it was. This turned out to be a major find Ė over 50% of the dinosaur was excavated. These excavations take years.
The highlight (for Fred) was an exhibit of science fiction costumes worn in the movies. There were some from Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, Terminator and Star Wars. But the real treat for Fred was a collection from Star Trek, both the TV shoes and the movies. He was very excited. No pictures were allowed but we snuck a few anyway. Most of these exhibits were on loan from Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. He must be quite a Trekkie and found a use for his money.
After the museum we walked around campus and saw thousands of RVís at the football stadium. It looked like a huge tailgate party was going on. It was Airstreamís National Convention and all the owners convene for a giant party.
Campus was a mixture of buildings from the 50ís, modern highrises, and some old brick buildings from the early 1900ís. Many places on campus had a great view of snowcapped mountains; very scenic.
The next three days are completely open and we were going to stay 1 night in Bozeman, 1 night in Billings, and 1 night on the way to Bismark. We decided to continue on to Billings and stay 2 nights there so we could settle in and relax for a day with no driving.
By now we were starving and planned to get something to eat on the way out of Bozeman on the way back to Route 90. We found nothing so continued on to Livingston where we ate at Clarkís Family Restaurant. I was able to get on the internet and tried to get a Priceline room in Billings, but no luck. On the way to Billings, I called a few places but they were all over $115.
We really did not want to face another cheap dingy motel room for the next two nights but I could not make myself pay $115. We finally found the Cherry Inn for $59 and it was a very acceptable room. They are family owned and really try to make the place nice. We are located within walking distance to downtown Billings. By the time we got unpacked and settled in it was close to 10 but we decided to go for a walk. After being in the car most of the day, we needed the exercise.
Wednesday, June 25 - Billings, Mt
Overall, for the cheap price we paid, this hotel is good. The sheets are a decent quality, the towels are thick, and there is even padding under the carpet. However, when we went to have the Continental Breakfast that is included, all that was left were a few haggard looking bagels. So, we went to Dennyís Ė canít beat the Grand Slam Breakfast for $5.99.
Fred hung out at the hotel catching up on paperwork/computer work while I went to get the oil changed in the car (got a bargain there-had a $5.00 off coupon from phone book and I got a free car wash which we badly needed). Then I went to the Rimview Mall to get a hair cut and do a little shopping. I didnít notice it until I got back to the room but the left side of my hair is longer than the right side. Should I try to trim it myself? Oh the perils of being on the road!!!
Fred took a run while I went over to look at the baseball stadium located across the street from our hotel. The gates were locked but I saw a guy walk by so I got his attention to get the scoop. The stadium is brand new (built on the site of the former ball field) and the grand opening will be on Friday. It is the home of the Mustangs, a rookie ball league of the Cincinnati Reds. The guy let me in to take a look around and introduced me to the General Manager. We started talking and I told him about our stadium in Lancaster and how there was so much controversy and people did not want it at first but when it was built everyone supported it. He said it was the same there. Most people from Billings do not travel much so they didnít have anything to compare their stadium to and thought the old one was just fine. However, now that the new one has been built, he said he has only heard positive things and was looking forward to Friday when they had their first game there. Too bad we will be gone. Fred and I would have enjoyed going to a game.
Our evening got wilder than we had planned. We went into a bar in Billings, Montana and this bear walked in. He asked for a beer and the bartender refused to serve him. Anyone who knows Tara knows the rest of the story. If you donít know the story, ask Tara and she will be glad to tell you.
(Why did the bartender call me a bitch?)
At the Montana Brewing Company, we ordered the sampler. Their beers have won numerous awards. There were two that I particularly enjoyed-the Saison, an amber wheat and the Strawberry Blonde which was refreshing without being too sweet. While we were eating our brie and bread appetizer, the bartender told us we should come back after 8. It is kick the keg night and for $4.00 you get a mug and can drink the Sharptail Pale Ale until the keg kicks. We will be back.
The other micro brew in town, Angry Hanks, is one unique place. It opened last year and seems like a group of guys who liked to brew beer rented an old garage and set up a brew pub.
They throw open the garage doors and patrons sit at pub tables. There were pictures on the wall of the guys on camping trips, fishing, etc and stories about the names of the beers. Dog Slobber Stout, Anger Management Pale Ale, and Street Fight Red were the beers we tried. The pale ale had a 6.2% alcohol content. Angry Hankís is a brew pub so according to the laws in Montana each patron could only drink 3 beers and the pub stopped serving at 8.
On our way back to the Montana Brewing company, Fred bent over to pick something up and I hauled off to kick him in the butt. He got the last laugh because I ripped my skort in the process. Tried to kick my leg too high.
We got back to Montana Brewing Company around 8:15 to do our part to kick the keg. Instead we got kicked and were feeling no pain. We split a small pizza. While we were there it started to rain and everyone on the patio came running inside. I asked some of the other patrons if they knew of any bars in Montana that had a bear logo because I wanted to get a shirt for Tara but no luck.
Before heading back to our hotel, Fred wanted to stop at the Irish Pub which we did. Not much was going on in the bar. Most of the bars in Montana have video poker machines as did this one so we played for 20 minutes before we lost our $5.00. Cheap Entertainment.
We needed a nightcap so we went into a Perkins to get some chocolate milk and I had a huge …clair and Fred got an apple cinnamon muffin. Some nightcap!
Thursday, June 26 - Billings, MT to , Glendive, Mt
We got up late and both felt just a little under the weather. Must have been those late night sweet treats.
We took a detour on our way to Glendive, MT to go to Little Bighorn Battlefield. Our timing is usually good but we missed the 132nd anniversary of the battle by one day. (June 25, 1876 was when it happened). There was an annual prayer for World Peace Ceremony by Charles Little Old Man and Donlin Many Bad Horses. On Sunday there will be a 7th Cavalry Re-enactment.
We got a brochure and did the auto tour to follow the events of the battle. It was interesting to see where Custer was with his troops when he first saw the Indian settlement, where the Indians were camped, and wonder why Custer split up his troops. We spent almost two hours reading signs and learning about the battle. The Ranger said that the purpose of the National Monument is to promote peace through remembering what happened back in 1876.
We were starving and there is just nothing on the highway between towns. I looked in the atlas and was shocked to learn that North Carolina has 8 million people compared to the 910,000 in Montana. We finally came upon a McDonaldís and got cheeseburgers and fries and a vanilla milkshake. Fred said he should be wearing a wet bathing suit. Getting the milkshake reminded him of when he was younger and 7 kids would be crammed in the station wagon coming home from the pool and they would stop at McDonalds. 9 cheeseburgers, 9 fries, 8 chocolate and 1 vanilla milkshake.
Driving along the highway, the landscape turns to open prairie with rolling hills. The Bighorn River is visible. And, there is nothing Ėnot a house in sight Ė for miles.
There is a hidden gem in the eastern center of Montana called Makoshika State Park. We stopped at the visitorís center to get trail maps and information on the park. As we were driving through and hiking, Fred commented that this park is a mini version combination of other parks. Capstone rock formations had worn away exposing pillars reminding us of a mini hoodoos like in Bryce Canyon. Erosion had worked its magic to create a natural arch. There was a canyon-not Grand but majestic in its own way. The combination of it all Ėthe sandstone, mudstone, and clay-made the landscape appear to look like the Badlands.
We did the Diane Gabriel Trail and the Cap Rock Nature Trail. Both trails wound down into the canyons and former river beds. We saw no one else on either hike and as we were leaving Cap Rock, a guy pulled up, jumped out of his car and started to take some pictures. I asked him if he wanted me to take one of him with the landscape. We started talking and he is a train conductor from Bismarck, ND. I told him that is where we were heading and he told us that the Worldís Largest Softball Tournament will be going on in Bismarck. There will be games and a home run derby. He said it is fun and people take their coolers of beer and watch softball all weekend.
The whole time we were hiking the skies were threatening. Just as we drove to one of the lookouts, a bolt of lightening flashed across the sky. We tried to get a picture but of course I was too late each time. We could see for miles and watched the storm move across. We only got a few drops of rain and then the sun came back out along with a beautiful rainbow. Timing is everything.
By the time we got back to Glendive, we were starving and really wanted a Chinese Buffet to get some vegetables. We drove around but could not find one so went back to town and went to the Jordan Inn in the "fine dining" section. The good thing is that there was a salad bar. Glendive does not seem to have much going on.
Our hotel, The Best Western, is noisy.
June 27th - 28th
Friday, June 27 - Glendive, MT to Bismarck, ND
Just across the border in North Dakota is Roosevelt National Park, named for Theodore Roosevelt who had two ranches there and proclaimed he would not be the man he was if not for the time he spent in North Dakota. This stop was unplanned but we saw it on the map and stopped at the Visitorís Center to pick up a park map for a 36 mile driving route through the park. We stopped three different times to hike the trails. Each hike had a trail guide to explain what you were viewing. The prairie grasses, burnt out trees, canyons carved by the river, erosion of the sandstone, scoria, and burning coal mines were all on view. Coal deposits in the past caught on fire, caved in and the clay was baked forming red stone. We could see many levels of sedimentation in the rock.
We also saw 4 different prarie dog communities. Eash seemed to go on for miles with a thousand inhabitants popping out of their homes to see what we were up to. These critters work very hard, doing what I don't know. We were lamenting the fact
that we didn't see any buffalo until near the end of our trek through the park one was standing on the side of the road. We pulled up close enough to touch it but it barely acknowledged our presence.
All we wanted for lunch was a Chinese Buffet because we were craving vegetables. We stopped in Dickinson and I asked someone where to find one. We did and we pigged. But we had to first make a stop on our way. On the horizon we spotted Sally, the "largest" cow in the US. After a photo op it was time to eat.
We continued on to Bismarck and when I checked into the Select Inn the desk clerks were wearing buttons about the McQuaide Charity Softball Tournament. We started talking and they confirmed that it is the largest charity Softball tournament played on multiple fields in Bismarck and Menden. I found out where the games were being played so after Fred took a nap and I caught up on work e-mail, we headed out to find the tournament.
On the way it started to rain. On our way across the river we spied a bar called The Broken Oar. We had to stop and get a picture, which meant getting a beer, so we could show Tara and Roger. The Broken Oar in Wrightsville is one Taraís favorites.
On to the softball tournament. The guy we met yesterday was right. There were thousands of people here and it seemed like every single one of them was pulling a cooler.
People were standing around in groups laughing and having a good time. Teams were playing softball but the fans were partying more than watching the games. Because of my Conlin Field Concession Stand days, I always want a hot dog when I am at the ball field. The people here running the concession were overwhelmed and short staffed. If I was a little bolder I would have offered to help out. We got in the long line and before we got to the front, word passed through the crowd that they were out of hot dogs. Darn. We watched an inning of three different games and then headed out.
We stopped at pizza hut, played a South Park video game while waiting for our personal pans that we took back to the room to eat.
Saturday, June 29 - Bismarck, ND
Breakfast at hotel and then we started to walk to the Capitol Complex. The Capitol Building is visible from everywhere in Bismarck. Called the skyscraper of the prairie, the building is 19 stories high built in art deco style, in a town where the next highest building might be 8 stories, if that. We were about 5 minutes into our walk, when we realized that the wind was strong and it would be a better use of our time to drive to the complex and then walk around. When we got there, I saw in the AAA book that the tour hours were 9-11 and 1-4. We were bummed because it was 11:15 so we thought we were not going to be able to go inside. There is an observatory on the 18th floor with a view of the entire city. I told Fred I was going to check the door in case someone had decided not to go to lunch and would let us in. I walked up to the door and found it open, so I went in. A few minutes later Fred followed. (Did he wait to see if I was going to get kicked out?)
There is a Rough Rider gallery on the first floor with pictures of notable North Dakoteans which included Lawrence Welk, Peggie Lee and Louis LíArmour. There was no one around so we got in the elevator and went up to the observatory. On the walls were pictures of the Capital Building from the late 1800ís on.
At that time there was nothing on the land around the Capitol. Now we could see the city laid out below and beyond the city, there was prairie.
As we were looking around, a tour guide came off the elevator. The North Dakota accent is so recognizable, there was no doubt she was born and raised here. I asked if she minded if I joined her tour and she said happy to have you. Fred lurked in the shadows. She was a wealth of interesting information. Back in the early 1900ís when the Dakotas were a territory, the railroad ruled. There are still hard feelings to this day about the railroad. She said they took everything out of North Dakota and gave nothing back.
We had observed large trains pulling hundreds of coal cars throughout the state so I asked her about it. She said there is enough coal in ND to supply the country for the next 200 years. (I think I would need to verify that fact). She also said that there is oil in Northern North Dakota deep underground and that the technology to get it out has only recently been developed. The coal companies and oil companies must restore the land when they mine and drill.
The state income tax in ND is 6% and she was proud of the fact that they have a budget surplus and have never had a budget deficit.
She told us that ND has not gotten cold enough in the last several years to freeze the Missouri River. In the past they could ride their snowmobiles across the river. She also warned us several times about how dangerous the Missouri River is.
One interesting note Ė ND has the record for most snow angels at one time. I canít remember the number (11,000?) but they were done on the large grassy area in the front part of the Capitol Campus.
Before going to the golf course we stopped at K-Mart and I got a new Sony Recorder to replace the one that fell down the toilet.
Hawktree Golf Courseís club house sits on top of a hill overlooking the entire golf course. As we had lunch, the bar manager pointed out a hawk that was flying just outside the window. She showed us the "hawk tree" where 2 hawks have a nest out on the course. The course is basically out in the middle of the prairie and is unprotected from the North Dakota winds which were blowing 30-40 mph today. It will be a challenge out there.
The fairways were not in good shape but the guys told us it is because they did not get enough snow last year to protect the ground from the cold. Hmmmm is there a global warming problem in North Dakota?
Before we teed off Fred went to the driving range to see if he could work out the uglies that had appeared in his driver during our last round. As we met at the 1st tee, he told me that he saw a small snake trying to crawl through the grass. The wind was blowing so hard that the snake was unable to crawl forward, it kept getting blown sideways. A SNAKE. That freaks me out just a little and I was even more freaked out as I walked off the first tee box and saw a small snake slithering through the grass.
I had read a quote from the golf course designer (Engh?) that he strived to make every hole unique. He succeeded. The course was interesting and challenging without being unfair. There are the equivalent of 7 sets of tees because there is a card that based on the yardage you want to play, picks different tee boxes to reach that yardage. That way each player can play the yardage they are most comfortable with.
We were walking down the fairway on #3 when the rain started. Fortunately there were two trees that we pulled our clubs under and we stayed dry. We finished #3 and were walking across the bridge to #4 when the real rains came. Fred was standing on the bridge and I hunched down beside my bag. The rain was pelting and stinging. Several times it seemed as if it was letting up but then would start again even harder. After what seemed like a half hour but was probably only 7 minutes, the rain completely stopped and we continued on to the 4th tee.
As I was walking off the tee box a LARGE SNAKE was slithering through the grass toward me. I was freaked but fascinated. Then, as I walked way around the snake and down the fairway, a deer went bounding across the fairway. Itís a zoo out here.
The course was holding the North American Cup where the best golfers from Canada and North Dakota play a Ryder Cup match. By the time we reached the 5th hole the golfers were on our tail. We could not figure out how two of us could not stay in front of a four-some until we realized that they were playing alternate shot. Letting them play through was not an option because there were at least 10 foursomes out there. After nine, we grabbed a cart to help us move faster but we felt rushed the entire afternoon. Finally on 16 they all went into the clubhouse; the match had ended and we read in the paper the next day that the Canadians beat the Americans in alternate shot that afternoon.
After our round we put the clubs away and even though Fred was not a happy boy due to the uglies that dogged him all day, I convinced him to come into the clubhouse for a beer. We took our beers out on the patio and watched the two hawks put on a show in the sky. They were fascinating. As we were sitting there we were lamenting that we had not been able to enjoy the course due to feeling rushed all day. I got the bright idea that we should go back out and play a scramble. That may help Fred work the kinks out of his drives and we would be able to take our time and enjoy the course. Fred said I should ask permission but I didnít feel like dealing with the kid behind the counter and I knew there was no one on the golf course and plenty of carts sitting out front with keys in so I went out and loaded up our clubs. We had a fun relaxing nine holes where we scrambled to an even par. Fred played great, hitting an amazing drive on nine, an awesome approach, and sank the putt to birdie the hole. The uglies were gone. After our scramble, we did a dťjŗ vu and went back out on the patio and watched the waning sun create shadows over the golf course.
Sunday, June 28 - Bismarck, ND to Fargo, ND
Not more than 5 miles outside of Bismarck, the land turns into prairie again. To pass the time while driving through the cattle and prairie country, I looked in the atlas and saw that ND is the state with the 46th lowest population. We tried to guess and then I looked up the states with less population. Wyoming is #50 and has only about 100,000 more people in the entire state than we have in Lancaster County. Vermont is #49 in population so we decided we are moving to a small town in Vermont. In a quick glance, we picked Benington, VT but will have to do some more research.
We needed a driving break so we stopped in Jamestown, ND to look around. They were having an air show-the only one this year in ND we were told-so we hopped on the shuttle bus and went out to the airport. We saw a stunt plane performing and it was amazing to watch him go up, up, up and then cut the engine and start a free fall. Of course we found the beer garden but since we were more hungry than thirsty, we just split a Raspberry Mikeís Hard Lemonade. We headed over the other side of the airport to the food area but got sidetracked watching a demonstration of Bailey the drug sniffing dog. She was adorable and found the drugs without a problem. (were they real drugs and Fred wondered how many people actually try to smuggle drugs in their vehicles in North Dakota?) We also saw a parachute landing demonstration. Amazing how smoothly they landed.
This scene seemed right out of the small town America handbook. I hink he whole town of Jamestown came out to this relaxing Sunday afternoon event.
The food lines were long but I convinced Fred we should wait in line for a Brat. As we were waiting I saw people getting free gift bags at the ice cream stand so being me I had to go get an ice cream so I could get my free gift. The gift was a Bible and a book "Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith" plus a flyer from a local church. We finally got our brat and just as we were heading over to the Beer Garden, they closed off the runway because a commercial plane was coming in. Oh why oh why did we have to get stuck on the food side and not the beer side?
We followed some other people through a building to get back to the shuttle bus area. I could feel Fred steaming beside me as bus after bus came but none of them were going back to the Civic Center. He hates waiting in lines and after the Brat line this was just too much. We finally got a bus and got back to our car. Jamestown is celebrating their 125th anniversary and tomorrow there was going to be a tractor parade. Darn, we will miss it because we will be in Fargo.
On the way out of Jamestown we saw the Worldís Largest Buffalo but since we were on the highway we could not stop for a picture.
Arriving in Fargo, ND, we quickly realized it is a railroad hub so even though the streets are named using numbers it is not easy to get around because you have to figure out how to get over or under the RR tracks. We finally got to our hotel-a Candlewood Suites and found out they have a free laundry. Oh the things we find joy in. We threw our laundry in the washer and went for a run around the campus of North Dakota State University. The Redwings Baseball plays at the NDSU. Fred thinks that is where Chris Coste played. I want one of their hats.
We were in Fargo to go to Playmakers, one of the bars on the Top 25 list. Where it was supposed to be we found a nightclub. We stopped next door at the liquor store and I asked the "two rings through his lip" clerk about Playmakers. It used to be next door and was still there in a much smaller form as part of the nightclub but the club does not open on Sundayís until the students come back to town in August. Another top 25 bar bites the dust. I asked him for a recommendation and he suggested Side Streets.
Side Streets is part of the Howard Johnsonís and was dark, dirty, and dingy inside. We each got a beer and went outside to the patio where we drank our beers while listening to three kids talk about meth. We had to laugh at where we were compared to where we thought we would be this evening. As we sat
on the deck watching the finest of Fargo come and go, yelling across the parking lot, we could hear that North Dakooda accent. As we were leaving we took a picture of the sign. Good Food, Good Beer, Good Frienos.
We were hungry so we went to Buffalo Wild Wings where we knew the food and service would be good. However, the door was locked or so I thought. A kid (ok people in their 20ís are kids to me) walked up and I told him the door was locked. He exclaimed, "What? It canít be". He pulled on the door, and it opened. Did I feel foolish Ė what am I, a 90 pound weakling. (Ok. Ok not 90 pounds, just a weakling.) We laughed and Fred said to him, "stick around, we may need you later". The kid laughed.
We played Trivia using FromPA as our log-in and lost the first game on the last question. I said we were staying until we win and fortunately we won the 2nd game. I had a very healthy dish Ė corn dogs.
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