Tag Archives: American Museum tour

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 11

29 Nov

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

 

 

 

Day 11 (Monday)

 

This morning I did a little back-tracking north on US-20 heading for my first visit of the day to the Legacy Flight Museum located at the Rexburg-Madison County Airport in Rexburg, ID. This was a small one-hanger museum where all of their planes are flyable. I learned that several of the planes from this museum were at the Extreme Blue Thunder Airshow in Idaho Falls last weekend.

 

 

As I walked thru the hanger taking photos, I spotted a yellow P-51 Mustang that looked familiar. I asked the tour guide if that really was Bob Hoover’s “Ole Yeller” and he said, “Yes.” I asked him how it ended up in their museum, and he said, “Bob knows one of the owners of this museum, and when Bob was forced to retire from flying, he designated that his P-51 Mustang would be displayed, maintained and flown by this museum until a specified time, when it would go to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.” What an amazing man and airplane!

 

 

Now I headed east on SR-33, past a beautiful part to the Teton Mountain Range to visit The Teton Valley Museum located in Driggs, ID. The museum was closed, but I learned from their website that their exhibits mostly center on local history of the surrounding Teton Valley.

 

 

Just down the road a ways, at the Driggs Airport, I visited the Teton Aviation Center. This center houses a small FBO as well as an impressive collection of beautifully restored WWII warbirds. There is also the “Warbird Café” where you can eat a delicious meal and have a great view of the Grand Teton Mountains from your table.

 

 

In downtown Driggs I visited the Teton Geotourism Center just to see what it was all about. They advertise to be the world’s first Geotourism center which they say is the portal to an experience on the Teton Scenic Byway (a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem). Most of their exhibits are interactive, showing the Teton Valley in its best light. I did like the on-board husky-driven snow sled ride video.

 

 

As I headed south and west on SR-33 thru the Caribou Targhee National Forest, where I picked up US-26 in Swan Valley. I continued south along the Snake River, crossing the border into Wyoming, where I picked up US-89 into Afton, WY where I visited the CallAir Museum. This was a very small museum located in the Afton Civic Center building. I learned that the Call Aircraft Factory was founded in 1939 there in Afton, and went on to design and manufacture single engine passenger aircraft and crop duster aircraft until 1970.

 

 

Before I left Afton, I wanted to see and photograph what is advertised to be the World’s Largest Elk Horn Arch. The arch is 18 feet high and 75 feet wide, and is said to contain over3000 elk antlers. Sure enough, there it was, stretching across US-89 in downtown Afton, with a pair of elk sparing on top. Wow! That took a lot of elk Horns to build! There must have been a lot of elk roaming around these parts in the early days, as I have seen all kinds of elk Horn furniture in museums on this trip.

 

 

Now I headed south on US-89, skirting the Bridger National Forest, until I picked up US-30 just below Geneva, ID. US-30 continues south another 25 miles before it turns east, past the Fossil Butte National Monument, to where I could merge with I-80 near Little America Travel Center. Since it was only another 25 miles to the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River, WY were I had planned my next visit, I put off a potty break until I got there. As expected, this museum’s exhibits majored on the cultural heritage of southwestern Wyoming, including the early explorers, fur trappers, sheepherders, cowboys, and the Pony Express.

 

 

 

While there in Green River, I went looking for what I thought would be an old timey Wild West saloon where I could get a sarsaparilla. But the address for the Wild Horse Saloon and the Hitching Post were both the same, and I found out that they had been combined, and were now called the Hitching Post Restaurant & Saloon. Since I was sure this saloon would probably not be serving anything as mild as a sarsaparilla, I decided to look for the Island Park, down by the Green River, to relax while I called DiVoran. I couldn’t find the Park, so I just pulled up in a nice shady spot next to the river and made my call. The rustling water was very soothing.

 

 

 

Now I headed east on I-80 another 15 miles to Rock Springs, WY to look for my motel for the night. After I got checked in, I saw the Best Western “Outlaw Inn” across the street. They had a restaurant called the” Open Range” where I enjoyed a dinner of Baby Back Ribs with all the trimmings. What a great way to end a long day on the road.

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

America’s North Country Trip~Part 9

15 Nov

A Slice of Life
Bill Lites

Bill

 

Day 9 (Saturday)

This morning I had to do a little back tracking, as I headed south out of Missoula on I-90, back thru Butte, to pick up I-15 south toward Idaho Falls. The first stop was to visit the Beaverhead County Museum located in Dillon, MT. This was a small but very well kept museum situated in the Old Pacific Railroad train station. The station has been restored and now contains the Old Depot Museum, with local artifacts and memorabilia, the Old Depot Theater, and the Lewis & Clark Diorama Bird Display. Outside there was a restored one-room schoolhouse, a restored 1885 one-room log cabin and an early 1900’s Shepard’s wagon.

 

 

Now as I was leaving town, I happened to pass a curio shop with the sign that read “Bitterroot Trading Post” and I just had to stop and take a photo. For some reason, that sign just yelled out loud at me, “Come See the Pioneer West Here.”

 

 

At the suggestion of the tour guide at the Old Depot Museum, and just a few miles down the road, I visited the Bannack State Park located in Beaverhead County on Grasshopper Creek. The town of Bannack was founded in 1862 after a major gold strike was made in the area, and got its name from the local Bannock Indians. The town of Bannack grew so big that it served as the capital of the Montana Territory until the capital was moved to Virginia City. After the gold ran out and the last inhabitants left, the abandoned town, and its 60 buildings continued to decline, over the years, from wind and weather until finally becoming the ghost town that it is today.

 

 

As I continued south on I-15 I stopped at a rest stop to check out a sign for the Nez Perce War. As it turned out, the Nez Perce War was between the Nez Perce tribe and their allies the Palouse tribe and the U.S. Army in 1877. This conflict was motivated when the Indians (called “non-treaty Indians) refused to move to the Idaho Indian reservation. In fact it was a violation to the 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla for the Army to force the Indians to leave their established ancestral lands. The Indians resisted, and the Army chased some of them all the way to Canada.

 

 

Next I visited the Pacific Fighter Restorations, located at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport in Idaho Falls, ID. This was a one-hanger warbird restoration facility that had several WWII aircraft in various stages of restoration. The folks were very friendly and allowed me to walk thru their shop and take photos of their various projects, while they watched the airshow going on from their hanger door.

 

 

During the planning of this trip, I had researched 2017 airshows to be held in the U.S. and discovered there was one in Idaho Fall on the weekend of July 22-23 at this airport. That worked into my scheduled route, and I had purchased an online advanced ticket for the 23. While I was at the airport today, I checked out the parking area with Greta so I could drive right to it in the morning.

 

 

Now I headed south on I-15 for a quick trip to visit the Idaho Potato Museum located in Blackfoot, ID. This museum is located in what was the original Union Pacific Railroad train depot there in Blackfoot, and displays all sorts of potato industry related artifacts and memorabilia. I found the “Timeline History” of potatoe consumption in the U.S. very informative, as well as the 1600 year old Peruvian-made vessels that are believed to be the first ever containers used to store potatoes.

 

 

As part of the museum, they have a small “Potatoe Station Café” where you can get potato-themed foods of all kinds. I’m sure DiVoran would have liked their chocolate dipped potatoe chips. And then of course there is the Spud Seller” gift shop. They had a series of catchy video advertisements that I thought were very creative. Try the link below to see what I mean.

 

 

Now it was time to head back to Idaho Falls to find my motel and look for a place to have dinner. On the way, I stopped in Shelley, ID to see if anyone was flying model airplanes at the Red Baron R/C Modelers field. Greta had a hard time finding the field since it was located within the North Bingham County Recreation Area. The club has a nice field, but no one was flying this afternoon.

At tonight’s motel, there in Idaho Falls, I ask the desk clerk if she could recommend a good restaurant. She said she liked Jalisco’s Mexican Restaurant located not far from the motel. That sounded good to me, so I gave Greta the address and we were on our way. I tried their “Casa Ranchero” and it was wonderful. Of course there was way too much for me to eat at one sitting, so I would have plenty left to enjoy again tomorrow night.

 

—–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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