Archive by Author

America’s North Country Trip~ Part 16

3 Jan

A Slice of Life
 Bill Lites

 

 

Day 16 (Saturday)

This morning’s activities centered on getting ready for my flight home. After a great complimentary hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage links, a biscuit & gravy and orange juice, there at the motel, I took my remaining snack items out of my cooler, and left it with a note for housekeeping that the cooler and everything in it were for them. I finished packing, checked out of the motel and headed for the Eppley International Airport, there in Omaha, to turn in my rental car.

 

 

The rental car return went like a breeze, and now I had 1½ hours to kill until my flight left. I ate a granola bar and my last banana before I headed for security. At security I discovered that I not only didn’t have to remove my shoes (over 75 years of age) but when I told them I had an electronic device wired to my back for pain ( a tens unit), I didn’t have to remove that either. They did an individual body scan and that made the process a lot quicker and much easier for me.

 

 

My 2-hour non-stop Southwest flight to Orlando was very restful, and here again the peanuts and pretzels were fresh. DiVoran picked me up at the airport, and we had dinner just north of the airport at Sonny’s BBQ, right there on SR-436.

 

 

Then we made the short trip home to Titusville. Boy did it feel good to pull into our driveway and know I was going to be sleeping in my own bed tonight. I love going on these trips, and getting to see all the different parts of our wonderful country, but it is always nice to get home where everything is familiar and I don’t have to live out of a suitcase.

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed reading about this trip as much as I have writing about it. I invite you to join me to read about my next trip to new and different places, and where I may even meet some new and exciting people.

 

“Take me on your next trip Daddy”

—–The End—–

One of the many sites I was looking forward to seeing were the large herds of Buffalo that I had seen portrayed on TV documentaries in recent years. As it turned out, after driving almost 4000 miles through these six states, I never saw the first live Buffalo. Not even when I visited the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND! I saw a lot of stuffed Buffalo in museums along the way, but not a single live one. What a bummer!

America’s North Country Trip~Part 15

27 Dec

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

 

 

 

Day 15 (Friday)

 

Before leaving Lincoln this morning, I swung by the Frank H. Woods Telephone Museum but it wasn’t open. So, I just headed northeast on US-6 for the short trip it took me to find and visit the Greenwood Railroad Museum located at the Greenwood Village Park in Greenwood, NE. It was early when I got there and found that this small museum was only open by appointment.

 

 

Not to be deterred, I continued northeast on US-6 another 10 miles or so to visit the SAC & Aerospace Museum located just to the east of Ashland, NE. This is a very impressive museum, consisting of two large hangers where more than 40 nicely restored historic aircraft, missiles and space vehicles are displayed.

 

 

Next I made a side-trip to the southeast to visit the Brownville Historical Railroad Depot Museum, located in Brownville, NE. This museum turned out to be a small preserved 1875 depot, with local railroad artifacts related to the railroad’s influence on the surrounding area and a caboose.

 

 

There was not a lot to see there, so I went up the street to take a peek in the Sage Memorial Museum. This was a very small store-front museum highlighting Native American activity in southeast Nebraska, along with local artifacts and other memorabilia.

 

 

It appears, from an historical marker at the edge of town, that Brownville was first settled soon after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which permitted settlement of the territories west to the Missouri River. The city flourished until the railroad passed it by in the late 1860’s, and was soon thereafter almost completely abandoned. According to the 2010 census, only about 132 people now live in Brownville.

 

 

Now I headed north on I-29 to visit the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Center located just southwest of Nebraska City, NE. This interpretive center focuses mainly on the natural and scientific discoveries recorded by the Lewis & Clark expedition of 1804-1806, which included some 122 new animals & 178 new plants.

 

 

Next I made the short trip back into town to visit the Kregel Windmill Factory located in downtown Nebraska City, NE. This turned out to be one of the most fascinating museums I’ve come across. According to an historical marker out front, it is said to be the last intact historical windmill factory in the U.S. it consists of the original work shop, with all its equipment, where George Kregel built Eli-brand windmills from 1902 until 1941. The tour guide said that all of the equipment still worked, and there were even racks of stock still there ready to be made into the next windmill order.

 

 

Now I made my way back to I-29 and headed north to visit the RailsWest Railroad Museum located in Council Bluffs, IA. This museum is housed in the 1899 Rock Island Depot, which replaced the original 1869 depot that was destroyed by a rail car explosion in 1881. The museum displays artifacts and memorabilia related to the eight railroads that have served the Council Bluffs area until the mid-1980’s. Outside the museum are the Union Pacific locomotive #813 and the Burlington & Quincy locomotive #915, along with other pieces of restored rolling stock.

 

 

Before leaving Council Bluffs for the last time, I tried the CAF Museum located at the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport again, just on the chance that someone might be at the museum. Of course they were closed, so I just wondered around the ramp looking at the private airplanes that were tied down there. I said, “HI” to a young man heading for one of the planes there on the ramp. He would get into his plane and fly off to who-knows-where, and wished I could join him. Oh well, I would just have to wait until tomorrow for my airplane ride back to Florida.

 

 

So, now I headed west across the Missouri River to find my motel for the night in Omaha, NE. After I got checked in, I went looking for someplace to eat dinner. I settled on the “Twisted Fork Grill & Saloon” located in the Old Market District of Omaha. This restaurant’s claim-to-fame is that they say they serve American comfort food with a “Cowboy Twist.” I can highly recommend them if you are ever in Omaha.

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

 

 

America’s North Country Trip~Part 14

20 Dec

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

 

 

 

Day 14 (Thursday)

 

Today I started off heading east on I-80 to visit the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles located in Lexington, NE. This museum has an amazing collection of over 100 beautifully restored military vehicles, of all types from all military services, housed in a huge hanger and outside.  There is also a large number of displays of weapons, uniforms, engines, and other military equipment.

 

 

Next on the list today as I continued east on I-80 was a visit to the Chevyland USA Museum located in the middle of a cornfield just south of Elm Creek, NE. This is a one-man classic car and motorcycle museum, collected, owned, and operated by Monte Hollertz. Monte says he started collecting his cars in 1972 after he read the book titled “60 Years of Chevys” and just kept on collecting. The problem is, he has collected some 100 cars and motorcycles, and parked them and that is all. They are mostly in the same condition they were when he parked them in his museum building. Also, the lighting is poor, which is not good for taking photos.

 

 

Just 15 miles east on US-30, I visited the Classic Car Collection located on the east side of Kearney, NE. WOW! What a difference over the last museum! This collection of over 200 beautifully restored and displayed classic cars, dating from the early 1900’s to the present, is one of the best of its type I’ve seen. The displays are well positioned and well lighted so the visitor has a chance to get good photos of the collection. It’s hard to leave a collection or museum that is so well presented.

 

 

While I was in Kearney, I decided to visit the Trails & Rails Railroad Museum located just to the west of SR-44, on the south edge of town. This museum is situated in the restored 1898 Shelton Union Pacific Railroad Depot, and consists of artifacts and memorabilia related to the history of the great transportation routes that passed thru the local area over the years. The museum also has a restored 1903 Baldwin Steam Engine #481 with flat car and caboose.

 

 

Back on I-80, I headed east again to visit the Pioneer Village Museum located just north of Minden, NE at the intersection of US-34 & SR-10. This 20 acre museum complex consists of 28 buildings that display over 50,000 item dating from the 1830’s to the present. As part of the Village Complex, there are also restored frontier buildings, early automobiles, airplanes, tractors and a variety of other farm equipment, a motel and campground. Way too much to see all at one time.

 

 

I got back on I-80, heading east and got off at exit 312, and north on US-34/281 to visit the Stuhr Pioneer Village located in Grand Island, NE. This is another frontier village type museum, located on 207 acres, with several areas of interest. There is a pioneer settlement consisting of eight 1850’s log structures. There is also a Railroad Town where living historians. dressed in period costumes, tell you all about how it was to live and work there in 1897. There is also a 38-foot diameter replica of a 1830’s Pawnee earthen lodge showing where as many as 50 people would have lived. Here again, this was another case where there was just too much to see in such a spread out area, so this museum got a “hit and miss” visit from me today.

 

 

Next I stopped by to check out the Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward, NE to see if they had any airplane displays, but they were closed. So, while I was there in Seward, even though it was getting late in the day, I looked up Whisler Aviation located at the Seward Municipal Airport, but their hanger was also closed.

 

 

I thought I would try the Lincoln Airport to see if I could catch a glimpse of at least one airplane today, before I headed for my motel for the night. The Lincoln Air National Guard Base shares the airport facilities, but Greta couldn’t find their address for me. However, God was good to me, allowing me to see one of the most unusual airplanes I would ever have expected. It was located at the entrance to the Lincoln Airport. I couldn’t believe my eyes! But there it was, perched on its pedestal, in all its simplistic beauty. I just had to stop and take a photo. I’m sure you can see why.

 

 

After getting checked into my motel for the evening, I sat back, relaxed and tried to watch TV while I enjoyed leftover El Paraiso Mexican food. Of course there was nothing on the TV worth watching, but the leftovers were a treat.

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

 

 

 

 

 

 

America’s North Country Trip~Part 13

13 Dec

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

 

 

Day 13 (Wednesday)

 

This morning I headed east on I-80,across the border into Nebraska, to visit my first museum, the Mansion on the Hill Museum located in Ogallala, NE. This is the restored 1887 Victorian residence of former Opallala banker, H. L. Williams, and his family. The museum is beautifully furnished with original period furnishings, and includes a servant quarters. Other buildings on the premises include a 1902 one-room school house and an early 1900 homestead dwelling.

 

 

Just around the corner and up the street, I checked out the Boot Hill Cemetery there in Ogallala. Buried there are people from all walks of life, who found themselves in Ogallala, NE (Cowboy Capital) at the end of their life for whatever reason. RIP.

 

 

Now I headed east on I-80 again, and was hoping that Greta could help me find the Buffalo Bill Ranch located on the west side of North Platte, NE. The original Second Empire style home was built in 1886, and resides on what is now the 25 acre Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (also known as Scout’s Rest Ranch) adjacent to Scout Creek. The house is furnished with period furnishings, and includes servant’s quarters, an ice house, and a large barn.

 

 

As I headed toward North Platte, I stopped to visit the Lincoln County Historical Museum & Village, located just south of the North Platte River. This was another frontier village type museum, located on 8-acres, with a main building displaying local central Nebraska historical artifacts and memorabilia. There is also a restored early 1800’s “Main Street” town with several period buildings including; general store, schoolhouse church, blacksmith shop, and barn.

 

 

While I was in the area, just south a couple of miles, I visited the Golden Spike Museum & Baily Yard. The museum was an unusually shaped 8-story structure that gave the visitor a grand view of the huge “Baily Yard” operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. I had seen many very long coal trains during this trip, and I asked the tour guide how long the trains were. He said, “From 125 to 145 cars. We have a length restriction of 8-miles.” I was stunned, and asked him why 8-miles and he said, “Because the sidings are only 9-miles long, and the train has to fit on the siding.” Then I asked him how much coal each car could carry, and said, “Each car can carry 100 tons of coal, and each coal car weighs 20 tons.”  I did the math. WOW! What a load!   What did you get? I guess that’s why there are two diesel engines pulling and two diesel engines pushing those long coal trains across the open plains.

 

 

 

Now I headed across the north part of North Platte to visit the Cody Park Railroad Museum located just north of the North Platte River. This is a small museum with local Union Pacific artifacts and memorabilia in the restored train depot, and the only Challenger 3900 series steam locomotive on public display. The museum also has several nicely restored items of rolling stock attached to the locomotive.

 

 

Greta took me on U.S.83 south thru the city, across the South Platte River back toward I-80 to visit the Fort Cody Trading Post. This looked to me like nothing more than a big tourist trap, so I took a couple of photos and was on my way east on I-80.

 

 

I had picked up a brochure for a Pony Express station museum somewhere along the way on this trip, and planned to stop and check it out now if time permitted. I took the #211 exit off I-80, turned north across the North Platte River, into the city of Gothenburg, NE. I found the Pony Express Station Museum on the south edge of Ehmen Park in the middle of town. The museum was a restored one-room log cabin that had originally been used as a fur trading post and ranch house before being used as a Pony Express Station in 1860 – 1861.

 

 

The curator gave me a lot of information about the Pony Express that I had never known. First of all, I had no idea that the Pony Express was only in operation for 19 months in 1860-1861. Started by three business men in 1860, it was initially called the Leavenworth & Pike’s Peak Express Company, and provided “fast” (10 days) mail service between St. Joseph Missouri and Sacramento, California. The approximately 1900 mile route consisted of 120 riders, 157 Pony Express stations (spaced every 10 miles), 400 horses, and was manned by several hundred men. The express rider would stop at each station, change to a fresh horse, taking only the mail pouch called a mochila (Spanish for pouch) with him. The mochila was thrown over the saddle and held in place by the weight of the rider sitting on it.  The mochila could carry 20 lbs. of mail in four pockets (two on each side) that would be padlocked.

 

 

The initial price was $5.00 per ½ ounce to send mail by the Pony Express route. The transcontinental telegraph (Telegraph Act, authorized by congress in 1860) completed in 1861, put an end to the Pony Express, and it is said the investors lost over $200,000 (1860 dollars) during the short period of time their mail service system was in operation.

 

 

After that informative stop, I told Greta it was time to find my motel for the night, located down the road a ways in Cozad, NE. She did a good job, and before I knew it, I was there and checked in. The desk clerk informed me that there were very few restaurants in town that he could recommend, and directed me toward the ones he thought best. I looked them over and selected the El Paraiso Mexican Restaurant, where I had one of the best combination plates of chili relleno, enchilada and taco dinner I’ve had in a long time. Yummm!

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

America’s North Country Trip~Part 12

6 Dec

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

 

Day 12 (Tuesday)

 

This morning I headed east on I-80 to visit the Wyoming Frontier Prison located in Rawlins, WY. Construction of this facility began in 1893 as a replacement for the old Wyoming Territorial Prison, in Laramie. Even though new, the first 104 cells (cell block “A”) had no electricity or running water, and very inadequate heating when first opened. Over the years, Cell blocks “B” and “C” were added to handle the ever growing number of inmates. The prison employed several different means of discipline, including a dungeon, solitary confinement and even a “Punishment Pole” where men were secured and whipped with a rubber hose. Just one more remnant of the grizzly past of the “Old AmericannWest.”

 

 

While I was in Rawlings, i decided to check out the Carbon County Museum. This was a small museum, very nicely displaying historical artifacts and memorabilia associated with the surrounding southwestern Wyoming area.

 

 

Now I headed east on I-80 again to visit the Laramie Railroad Museum in Laramie, WY. This museum turned out to be located in the old Union Pacific train station (designated “The Overland Route”) of the Union Pacific System. Unfortunately the museum was closed today. So, I took a stroll around the small Railroad Heritage Park adjacent to the museum, where I took a photo of the restored Union Pacific locomotive # 535 pushing a snow plow and pulling a 6-man crew-bunk car and a caboose.

 

 

As I passed thru downtown Laramie, I pass the St. Matthews Episcopal Cathedral and just had to stop and take a photo of that majestic old structure. Built in 1892, it somehow reminded me of the Laramie city historical marker, I had just seen, that informed me that Laramie was founded in 1866, and was named after the fur trader Jacques LaRamie. Interesting how civilization and architecture had a way of pushing its way west, even in those early days of territorial life.

 

 

Next I visited the Wyoming Territorial Prison located west of the city on the Laramie River. Built in 1872, the prison was problem riddled with fires and jail breaks from the beginning. Of the 44 prisoners accepted in the first two years of operation, 11 escaped. Butch Cassidy was a prisoner there from 1894 to 1896. Prisoners were transferred to the new Wyoming State Prison located Rawlins, WY in 1901, the prison was closed, and in 1903 and the University of Wyoming used the facility to conduct experiments in livestock breeding until 1989. The facility was opened to the public in 1991 as the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site. If this prison was opened 11 years before the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Rawlings, I can just imagine what horrible things the prisoners had to endure in this prison.

 

 

Leaving Laramie I headed east on I-80 again to visit the old Cheyenne Depot Museum (AKA: Wyoming Transportation Museum) located in downtown Cheyenne, WY. This museum was located inside the reconditioned Union Pacific Railroad terminal which was built in 1886. The Union Pacific Railroad serviced its last passenger from this terminal in 1971, after which it was closed. The terminal was subsequently re-opened (after much renovation) to the public as a museum in 1990. The two-story museum displays exhibits related to the history of the Union Pacific Railroad, and its role in the development of the city of Cheyenne.

 

 

Across the street from the depot, is the Cheyenne Depot Plaza where you will see a number of 8’ tall painted cowboy boots. These boots are each painted to show a different part of the history of Cheyenne. You can take a cell-phone audio tour (looking for other Big Boots), that guides you to 19 different locations of interest in the city. Pretty cool idea, if you have the time and want to see the city.

 

 

Just a few blocks from the park, I visited the Nelson Museum of the West. This was a small museum, beautifully displaying artifacts and memorabilia from the surrounding Wyoming plains area, dating from the early frontier days to the present.

 

 

On my way to my next museum, I passed the Wyoming State Capital building and stopped to take a photo of that beautiful structure.

 

 

I hadn’t gone far before I saw another beautiful structure. This turned out to be the St. Mary’s Cathedral. I am always impressed with the architectural beauty of the various churches, cathedrals, and government buildings I see on my trips in different parts of this country of ours.

 

 

A little ways north of town, I decided to visit the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum located there in Cheyenne. This is a frontier town type museum, with restored buildings set up to represent “Main Street” in the early 1800 days in the Cheyenne area. The buildings are occupied with tour guides dressed in period clothes ready to tell you all about what it was like “back in the 1890’s old west days.” I just happened to be in Cheyenne the week of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo & Western Celebration.” This is a huge annual event in Cheyenne that had a big part of the city’s streets blocked off, and I was unable to visit the CDF Museum located close to the Frontier Park & Arena because of that.

 

 

Now I headed for a quick check to see if Greta could find the Big Boy No. 4004 steam locomotive located in the Holiday Park there in Cheyenne. It was one of the world’s largest steam locomotives ever built. Big Boy No. 4004 was one of 25 Big Boy locomotives built between 1941 & 1944 for the Union Pacific Railroad. It went into service in 1941; measures 132’ long, weighs 1.208,750 lbs. & carries 25,000 gal. of water. The Big Boy locomotives were so long that their frames had to be “hinged” or articulated to allow them to negotiate curves.

 

 

I headed for the motel there in Cheyenne, and after getting checked in I relaxed and enjoyed my leftover Baby Back Ribs from last night at the Open Range Restaurant.

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

 

America’s North Country Trip~ Part 10

22 Nov

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

 

 

 

 

Day 10 (Sunday)

 

Since the airshow gates didn’t open until 9:00, and it was located on the other side of the airport runway, I decided to check out the Red Barn Hanger there at the Idaho Falls Reginal Airport first. Built in 1930, the hanger served the city of Idaho Falls, during the early pioneering years of aviation, helping to provide a link between the eastern and western parts of the country. They hadn’t opened all the hanger doors yet this morning, but I could see a couple of modern twin-engine aircraft parked inside.

 

 

People were already beginning to stream thru the airshow gate by the time I got there and got parked. I showed my ticket, got my hand stamped and strolled over to one of the courtesy carts and asked for a ride to the flight line. It was a good ¼ mile to where the Blue Angles aircraft were parked. However, there were not too many people at the flight line fence yet, so I was able to get a clear shot of all the planes.

 

 

The visitor viewing area for the airshow was shaped like a triangle with about ¼ mile sides, and by the time I got back to the gate I was ready to sit down and rest. Did I mention that the temperature in this area had been really high, and today it was forecast to be 94 (feels like 104).

 

 

 

By the time the airshow activities started the temperature had gotten up to about 90 degrees and everyone was looking for some shade. But, there wasn’t any!

 

 

I ask the courtesy cart lady, who originally had given me a ride to the flight line, if I could sit in her cart when she wasn’t busy, and she said, “Sure.” This turned out to be the best seat at the airshow; I had a place to sit, the cart had a roof for shade, and I had someone to talk to about the show. Best of all, every time her support people came by to give her a bottle of water, she got one for me. Then when they came by and gave her a big sub-sandwich for her lunch she said, “I can’t eat that much.” and offered me half. What a deal that turned out to be!

 

 

Since this airshow was being held in a location where there weren’t any vacant surrounding areas where pyrotechnics could be used, it limited the activities of the show somewhat. They started the show with parachute jumper who came down with the American flag while the National Anthem played.

 

 

Then there several single plane aerobatic displays, where the pilots did some of the most amazing things with their airplanes.

 

 

There was a 4-plane AT-6 demonstration team that performed some really smooth formation flying.

 

 

And one of my favorites, Matt Younkin flying his Twin Beech 18, always puts on one of the most amazing and beautiful aerial flight demonstrations with a twin engine airplane.

 

 

There was a three-plane demonstration team consisting of a Mig 15, Mig 17 & F-86 Saber that was the first of its kind I had ever seen.

 

 

And there was a F-35 flight demonstration that was amazing. The pilot did things with that airplane that were just hard to believe any modern jet could do. All in all, they put on a good show, even though there was some really long “no action” periods between events. Of course everyone was really there to see the Blue Angles put on their airial demonstration. I had seen the Air Force Thunderbirds perform at our Valiant Air Command Airshow last year, but had never seen the Blue Angles perform. They put on a really impressive demonstration and I didn’t see anyone leave during their performance.

 

 

Since I was watching this while sitting in the courtesy cart close to the entrance gate, I was able to thank the lady driver who had been so kind to me throughout the entire airshow, and beat the crowd to my car and out to the street. The police had many of the streets blocked off to help clear the airshow crowd from the area. This didn’t help me in my effort to get to the Museum of Idaho there in Idaho Falls for a visit. By the time I got to the museum it was closed, so I just took a photo.

 

 

I had planned to stay in Idaho Falls for two nights, so by now Greta was familiar with how to get me back to the motel. A shower felt really good after a full day out in that blistering heat (even though I was shaded most of the time), and then I enjoyed my leftover Casa Ranchero Mexican dinner again. All that hot open air exposure, a cool shower, and delicious meal (and there was nothing good on TV) made it very hard to stay wake. So it was very easy to go to bed early tonight.

 

—–To Be Continued—–

 

America’s North Country Trip~Part 7

1 Nov

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

 

 

Day 7 (Thursday)

 

As I continued west on I-90 next I visited the Crazy Mountain Museum located in Big Timber, MT. This was a small museum in a lovely wooded location, and included a main building which displayed a 1/16th scale model of the town of Big Timber as it looked in 1907. Outside there was a restored one-room schoolhouse, a replica of a Norwegian Stabbur (storage building), and a restored sheep herder’s wagon (these could have been the first RV’s back in the day).

 

 

Continuing west on I-90 next I visited the Livingston Railroad Depot located in Livingston, MT. This museum is in the restored 1902 Northern Pacific Railroad train station and contains a large assortment of local railroad memorabilia. The waiting platform has been converted into a very nice patio café for visitors and locals alike.

 

 

On the way to my next museum there in Livingston, I drove past a Custom Car Restoration garage and decided to pop in to see what was in the works. As it turned out the owner was very friendly and showed me around his shop and some of his projects. He had several classic cars and trucks that were in various stages of restoration.

 

 

While I was in Livingston I also visited the Federation of Fly Fishers Museum just to see what it was all about. This turned out to be a small two-story building where both floors were filled (floor to ceiling) with every conceivable type of fishing fly. The museum owner’s wife was very nice and showed me a lot more than I would ever have wanted to know about fly fishing, tackle and the making of flies. She also introduced me to their National Fly Fishing Hall of Fame gallery which included famous Fly Fishing inventers and celebrities from all over the country.

 

 

Next on the list was the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, also there in Livingston. This museum consisted of a large 3-story building (plus a basement) filled with local memorabilia from the early western Montana area. The museum’s collection included restored wagons, buggies, fire wagons, a shepherd’s wagon, and of course, as with most museums in these Plaines States, a stuffed buffalo. Outside there was a one-room schoolhouse and lots of restored early farm equipment

 

 

Now I continued west on I-90 to visit the Museum of the Rockies, located in Bozeman, MT. This is a very large museum, and as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is known for its paleontological collections. It also claims to have the largest collection of dinosaur remains in the U.S. I was impressed with the number and size of their complete dinosaur displays.

 

 

It was getting late in the day, so I headed west to try to get to the Headwaters Heritage Museum located at the corner of Main & Cedar Streets in Three Forks, MT before they closed. This was a small museum, in a two-story downtown building (I think it was originally a bank), consisting mostly in local early American memorabilia. I was impressed with their display of over 750 different types of “bobbed wire” that has been used over the years. I didn’t spend much time in this museum as I was eager to get down the road to my ultimate destination for the day.

 

 

Now it was on west to visit the Jefferson Valley Museum located in Whitehall, MT. This was another frontier village type museum that depicts the early history and heritage of the local area, including Native American tribes, fur trappers, miners and homesteaders who raised horses, cattle and produce for the area’s mining camps and railroad workers. I opted not to walk through this museum village, and instead headed for my motel there in Whitehall.

 

 

On the way to the motel I spotted a KFC restaurant, and decided to have dinner with the Colonel again tonight. I really do like his chicken. I had their 3-piece chicken dinner again. This time I got cold slaw, mashed potatoes & gravy and I always get one of their homemade biscuits with butter and honey for dessert. What a great way to end a long day on the road.

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

America’s North Country Trip~Part 6

18 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

 

 

Day 6 (Wednesday)

 

I headed southwest on I-94 this morning. I had been noticing, for the last couple of days as I traveled through the North Dakota and Montana plains country, that the round hay bales were everywhere I looked! They were all over the fields, in huge stacks (40-50’ high & 200-400’ long) and even in the right-of-ways along the Interstate. This was a very unusual site for me, as I was used to the right-of-ways in Florida mostly being swales full of water.

 

 

My first museum visit today was the Range Riders Museum located in Miles City, MT. This was one of the most amazing museums I have ever seen! There were some 20 separate galleries under one huge roof, with 8 additional buildings outside. Every inch of every wall was covered with Indian, Pioneer, Homesteader, Westerner and Rodeo artifacts. I was informed that every single item in this entire museum had been donated by someone over the years, including the large main building.   I couldn’t begin to explain all there is or to try and show you about this museum adequately. Just Google “Range Riders Museum” and click on “Exhibits” to get a slideshow for a better idea of just how much there is to see.

 

 

On down the road a ways I saw a sign advertising the Brinton Museum Store located in Hysham, MT and decided to run up U.S. 10 a couple of miles to check it out. This turned out to be a one-room museum store consisting of a beautifully restored antique soda fountain and some local historical artifacts. The museum was closed but I was able to get a photo thru the front window.

 

 

Next I took a small side-trip, south on SR-47, to visit the Big Horn County Historical Museum located in Hardin, MT near the Crow Agency Trading Post. This museum is another frontier type museum with 24 relocated and restored buildings arranged to represent a 1850s Montana frontier village, with artifacts depicting those of that era in each building.

 

 

Another few miles down the road I visited the Battle of the Little Big Horn Monument, commonly known as the location of Custer’s Last Stand. This monument was packed to overflowing with visitors. At the battlefield there is a monument commemorating the 1876 engagement between the U.S. Army and the combined forces of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian tribes. There are headstones positioned on the hill where the 7th Cavalry solders died and were originally buried. There is also a new section set aside as a National Cemetery.

 

 

I was interested to learn that several relatives of General Custer were among those who died with him during this battle. There was Captain Thomas Ward Custer his younger brother, Boston Custer his second brother, 1st Lt. James Calhoun his brother-in-law, and Henry Armstrong Reed his 18-year old nephew. History seems to indicate that most of the Custer relatives (including General Custer) looked upon this trip as an opportunity to experience the west in all its grandeur and beauty. I think they got a lot more than they expected!

 

 

Now I headed northwest on I-90 to visit the Moss Mansion Historic Museum located in Billings, MT. I thought this was going to be a museum I could just walk thru, but no, it was a one-hour guided tour and I didn’t think my knees would be able to handle all those stairs. So I just took a couple photos and went to find the next place on my list.

 

 

That turned out to try to find the Boot Hill Cemetery there in Billings. When researching this trip I had discovered this location was going to be a little difficult to find, but I thought Greta (my Garmin) could handle it. However, now that I was relying on her to get me to the exact location, she was confused and was leading me in circles. I finally found it, using my trusty paper map, and was not impressed. I’ve seen much better Boot Hill cemeteries on other trips.

 

 

I tried to find the Rimrocks there in Billings, but here again Greta was unable to locate a specific address. I thought it was a city or county park, but as it turned out it was an area of high cliffs cut into the mountain side by the Yellowstone River that borders the east side of Billings.   I finally found the right road and enjoyed the natural beauty as I followed the road from the river level to the top of the high plateau.

 

 

By now it was time to head for the motel there in Billings, get checked in and relax while I enjoy my leftover CC’s Ground Beef Steak dinner which included green beans, mashed potatoes & gravy with Apple Crisp for dessert. Yummm!!

—–To Be Continued—–

 

America’s North Country Trip~Part 5

11 Oct

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

 

 

 

 

Day 5 (Tuesday)

This morning I headed west again on I-94 a short distance, to visit the Fort Lincoln Trolley Co. located in Mandan, ND. This is an attraction that utilizes 1890s open-air trolleys that travel from the old Third Street Station in downtown Mandan to the Fort Lincoln State Park and back. Since they weren’t open and I didn’t have the time to wait for the next trolley (1:00pm), I saved that ride for another trip.

 

 

While I was there in Mandan, I decided to check out the North Dakota State Railroad Museum. This turned out to be another small museum which was also closed. Their website indicates the museum displays mostly local railroad memorabilia; however, they do have several nicely restored items of rolling stock outside.

 

 

On the way to my next museum, I saw a sign for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and decided to stop in and see what it was all about. The park is located in western North Dakota where the Great Plains meet the rugged Badlands. There wasn’t much to see from the Visitor’s Center, and I didn’t want to take the time to drive around the “Loop” which would have passed the Maltese Cross Cabin where President Roosevelt once lived.

 


After using the restroom there at the Visitor’s Center, I continued west for a visit at the Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum located in Medora, ND. This museum tells the story of the northwest plains horse and cattle culture which is a unique way of life in western America, and includes the Native Americans of the area, Western Ranching and Rodeo history.

 

 

 

 

In the Rodeo Hall of Fame Inductees area I saw several photos mentioning the “North Dakota Six Pack” of Rodeo champions spanning the 1850s-1960s, when North Dakota rodeo riders ruled the National Rodeo Circuit. When I asked the curator where I could find additional information about these men, she directed me to the “Cowboy Café down the street, where the wife of one of the sons of a “Six pack” was the owner.

 

 

 

So I walked down to the Cowboy Café and ordered one of their special Buffalo Burgers. I asked the waitress if the owner was there, and she said she would get her from the kitchen. It turned out that she was the daughter of Thomas J. Tescher, who was one of the “North Dakota Six Pack” champions. His family had been cattle ranchers there in North Dakota for generations. She was very nice and gave me a quick run-down of the family history and their involvement in the National Rodeo Circuit. Her father, Tom, one of 15 Tescher children, entered his first rodeo at age 17 and went on to be ranked in the top 10 saddle bronc riders from 1955 to 1958, and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in Dallas in 1959.

 

 

Note: “The North Dakota Six Pack” was a group of North Dakota rodeo competitors who dominated the national rodeo scene during the 1950s and 1960s. They included (L to R Below) Tom Tescher, Duane Howard, Dean Armstrong, Joe Chase, Jim Tescher, and Alvin Nelson.

 

 

With a full tummy, I now headed west again, crossing the border into Montana, to visit the Wibaux Railroad Museum located in the little town of Wibaux, MT. This museum turned out to be one train car (the museum) one caboose, and a monument sign telling about Pierre Wibaux, the founder of the town of Wibaux.

 

 

Heading west again, I next visited the Frontier Gateway Museum located in Glendive, MT. This was a small museum that was a mix of displays including fossils recovered from the local area, Native American artifacts, homesteader’s items, settler’s tools, cattlemen’s paraphernalia, and Northern Pacific railroad information.

 

 

Located just down the street was the Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum. This museum has more than 23 full-sized dinosaur and fossil exhibits. It claims to be the largest dinosaur and fossil museum in the United States to present its fossils in the context of biblical history. This unique museum also sponsors “Dig-for-a-day” fossil digs in the badlands close to Glendive, which gives participants an opportunity to experience paleontology first hand as they learn how to identify, collect and interpret fossils from a Biblical creationist’s perspective.

 

 

While I was in Glendive, I stopped by to check out the Makoshika State Park. The word Makoshika (Ma-ko-shi-ka) is a variant spelling of the Lakota phrase meaning “bad land” or “bad spirits.” The park was closed and from the map at the visitor’s center, there didn’t seem to be much to see. So I headed for the motel, to get checked-in and look for a place to eat.

 

 

The motel clerk recommended CC’s Family Café down the road, so I headed that way and enjoyed their delicious Ground Beef Steak dinner which included green beans, mashed potatoes & gravey with Apple Crisp for dessert. Very satisfying!

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

America’s North Country~Trip Part 4

4 Oct

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

 

 

 

Day 4 (Monday)

 

Before I left Fargo this morning I stopped for a quick visit to the Fargo Air Museum, just a few minutes from my motel, located at the Hector International Airport. This was a nice museum consisting of many aircraft which the museum keeps in flying condition. Their collection included the famous DC-3 “Duggy” and a full-scale prototype model of the Northrop-Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

 

 

Now I headed west on I-94, about 25 miles, for a quick stop to visit the Cass Regional Airport in Casselton, ND. As it turned out I couldn’t find a museum at the airport, but I saw an open hanger door and ducked in to ask about a CAF Squadron. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a Japanese Zero getting a touch-up paint job by Roy Kieffer. He informed me that he had painted several Warbirds for various people and organizations there in that one-plane sized hangar. Who would have guessed?

 

 

On these trips I am always on the lookout for brochures advertising museums that I might be interested in visiting. That is how I came across a brochure for the Rosebud Railroad Visitor Center located in Valley City, ND. This turned out to be a very small museum (one restored 1881 Superintendent Rail Coach) housed in a replica of a 1850s freight depot. There wasn’t much to see, but they had a very nice restroom.

 

 

Now I made a short side-trip, off of I-94, northwest to visit the Midland Continental Depot located in Wimbledon, ND. This turned out to be pretty much a waste of time, since the museum was a very small restored depot building, which was closed, and a caboose out front.

 

 

On the way to Jamestown, ND to visit the National Buffalo Museum, I stopped to get a photo of the World’s Largest Buffalo Monument (26’ tall, 46’ long & 60 tons). I can’t imagine why anyone would put together something like that! I guess it is an advertising gimmick for the buffalo museum there in Jamestown.

 

 

However, one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing on this trip was the large herds of buffalo that the TV documentaries have been showing for the last few years. So here I was at the National Buffalo Museum to checkout that herd of buffalo. Well, you guessed it. There was not a single live buffalo to be seen. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see the first live buffalo during my entire trip. My friends tell me they are all somewhere in South Dakota. Right!

 

 

After leaving Jamestown I picked up I-94 and headed west again to visit the Historic Town of Buckstop Junction located on the outskirts of Bismarck, ND. This was another tourist trap setup to look like an early North Dakota pioneer town. One look at “Main Street” of the town and I was ready to mosey on down the road.

 

 

My first stop in Bismarck was to visit the Lewis & Clark Riverboat, located at the Port of Bismarck on the Missouri River. This turned out to be a dinner cruise type riverboat that took people and groups up and down the river daily and by charter. Since I wasn’t interested in a dinner cruise, I took a couple pictures and headed into downtown Bismarck.

 

 

I almost missed the Camp Hancock Historical Site there in downtown Bismarck. The original site was built-up as an infantry post in 1872, to help guard the construction of the railroad thru that area of North Dakota. In later years it was used as a quartermaster’s station and then as a weather station. The small site now consists of a restored church, weather station building and a locomotive.

 

 

I stopped at the Former Governor’s Mansion long enough to take a photo, and then swung by the North Dakota Capital for another photo.

 

 

Since it was after 5:00, I thought I would look up the local R/C Model airplane flying field to see if anyone was flying this afternoon. Even though it was a beautiful evening, no one was at the field, so I headed for my motel there in Bismarck.

This evening Greta had no trouble finding the motel and, after getting checked in, I settled down to enjoy my leftover Denny’s Ground Turkey Meatloaf dinner with all the trimmings.

 

 

—–To Be Continued—-

 

 

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