I Enjoy the Ride by traveling and seeing the world around me. We are so busy speeding down the freeways of life that we miss out on the back roads and all the wonderful little stories that every place offers. So, I try to take the less beaten paths and see the real world.
I have visited all 50 United States and many provinces in Canada, nearly all prefectures in Japan as well as Seaul, Korea, Shanghai and Suzhou, China and Cenu, Philippines. Also been to Mexico.
Father of five, grandfather of 10 and happily married to my sweetheart for nearly 38 years. Fluent in Japanese. Happy and well traveled. See details at http://www.sumoflam.biz/SumoflamBio.htm
Day 3 – March 10, 2013: A beautiful morning in Miles City, Montana. A cool 45 degrees and bright sunny skies. Should be a wonderful day to drive to Shelby, about 6 or 7 hours away. Following is the path I took to Shelby from Miles City:
Miles City is a town of about 8500 people in Custer County in the far southeast of Montana. The town was founded in 1877 by settlers who had been evicted by General Nelson A. Miles from the Tongue River Cantonment for selling alcohol to the soldiers. It is a typical Western town and actually similar to some Texas towns I have been to.
I took State Hwy 59 north out of Miles City towards Jordan. This took me through high prairies in lands dotted by cattle ranches, old cabins and grazing antelope.
Just before getting into Jordan, I made my way through the small town of Cohagen, an unincorporated sheep farming town. I was enthralled by the bar which also had a pretty old Squirt sign on it.
I also saw another old cabin, something I really enjoy finding on the road.
From Cohagen I went through Jordan and then headed west on Hwy 200 towards Lewistown. About halfway there I came to the Mosby Rest Area, a real nice rest area by the way. This rest area had a few historical markers and sits in a fairly scenic area.
Just up the road I crossed over the Musselshell River in an area where it is drying up.
Not too far west of the river crossing, I came to the town of Winnett. Usually I would pass right by, but their welcome sign caught my eye so I had to meander into this town, which is also the county seat of Petroleum County.
The small town of about maybe 200 people really does have some character. There is a small hotel, a little cafe (which I wish I would have tried out) and a couple of bars. There are some old signs, some nice old buildings and a great view of the butte behind the town.
Continuing west another 25 miles or so on Montana 200 , I came across another small town called Grass Range. Like Winnett, the town of about 100 people seemed to have some character, so I dropped in there as well, and I am glad I did. I think I was happiest about the old wooden grain elevator. What a taste of old western Americana.
The wooden grain elevator used to serve the old Old Milwaukee Road Railroad which ran from Milwaukee thru Montana and on to Seattle, WA. The electrified railroad was built around 1917, and eventually, the Montana portion was abandoned around March 1980, thus giving it “fallen flag” status. There are still remnants of this railroad, including the depot and grain elevator in Grass Range. There has even been a book written about the Montana portion of this unique railroad called Guide to the Milwaukee Road in Montana by Steve McCarter. The book takes you on a trip along the Milwaukee Road railroad across Montana, from the North Dakota border to St. Paul Pass in Idaho. There is also a unique video about it on YouTube.
From the high plains I continued north into the foothills of the geographic center of Montana, better known as Lewistown, the county seat of Fergus County. The town has a unique quality to it…on the edge of the wilderness yet still a population center. In fact, just about a mile before coming into town I saw a bald eagle sitting in a field. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the first bald eagle I had ever seen in the wild. And, in the field next to it I saw a second one take off in flight.
I also saw deer on a hill right in town.
One of the first things you see in town is the visitor’s center, which also has a rocket ship and a replica Statue of Liberty in the park next to it.
I would have to say that the most stunning piece of the town was the Fergus County Courthouse. It reminded me of some of the courthouses I have seen in Texas.
Built in 1907 from a design by Newton C. Gauntt. Gauntt used brick from Hebron, North Dakota to build it. Truly a spectacular old courthouse!!
After Lewistown I headed west towards Belt and then up through Great Falls and then into Shelby.
But, the best part of getting up to Shelby? Grandkidz!!
My first stop along the way was for gas. I stopped in Avon, MN…..which, I discovered, is also the home of the Lake Wobegon Trail. The trail is 46 miles long and 10 feet wide. It opened in 1998. Avon is the home of the Lake Wobegon Trails Association. Garrison Keillor, the creator of Lake Wobegon and the Prairie Home Companion show, lived in Avon at one time.
From Avon I proceeded north to Ashby, MN. This is home to a large metal Coot statue, which is what I was looking for. But, as I often discover, the town is also a quaint little place.
The coot statue stand outsides of town on Highway 78 and represents the largest Ashby area sportsmen club, Coots Unlimited (a parody of Ducks Unlimited). There is more about it here.
From Ashby I proceeded north to Fergus Falls, MN. The roads were a little better and my GPS had me taking a back road. I was headed first to the Continental Divide Marker and site, which was built in 2000.
From Fergus Falls I continued heading northwest on I-94. The roads were still icy, but had cleared up somewhat. I then took a quick swing off at Exit 38 (Rothsay) to get a photo of the 14 foot tall, 9200 pound cement prairie chicken statue. I have been here before (as well as a good part of the drive thru North Dakota – see my posts from 2005) . This time I was able to get a more unique view of the giant bird.
I then got back on the freeway and fought more fog. But the fog and snow make for interesting views that one would not see on a clear day. Many trees took on shadowy shapes.
Along the road I found a road sign that provided the perfect description of this day’s trip had been to this point – Downer, MN (exit 15 heading north)
Ironically, shortly after Downer, things cleared up again, just in time for my entrance into the border town of Moorhead, MN. Moorhead has a Norwegian population and is home to the Hjemkomst Center, which houses a replica Viking ship and the beautiful is the Stave Church, a symbol of the Norwegian heritage in the Red River Valley. Built by Guy Paulson, the church is a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Church in Vik, Norway. Norwegian Stave churches were built just after the close of the Viking Age in Scandinavia in the 1100 and 1200’s. The technique of using vertical posts-or staves- had been modified over time to become wooden architectural works of art.
From Moorhead I entered Fargo, ND and continued heading west on I-94. I passed thru Fargo so I could get to other sights along the road (and to also get out of the miserable snow!!) My first stop in North Dakota was Jamestown. Jamestown is known as the “Buffalo City” and one can find all kinds of Buffalo things, including “the World’s Largest Buffalo” statue the National Buffalo Museum.
The “World’s Largest Buffalo” is a in Frontier Village. It was commissioned in 1959 by local businessman Harold Newman, and built by art students from Jamestown College, under the supervision of art instructor and designer, Elmer Peterson. It is visible from Interstate 94, overlooking the city from above the James River valley. The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh.
Further west on I-94 is the small town of Steele, ND. There are about 800 people and one silver Big Bird! “Sandy”, as she is known, is a 40 foot tall 4.5 ton bird. It was constructed of rolled sheet metal welded onto a steel inner frame, which was built in three different sections. It was created in 1999 by James Miller, a resident of Arena, ND. The crane was built to bring attention to the fact that the Steele area is one of the best birding destinations in North America. Sandhill Cranes are some of the migratory species that nest here.
I loved the shot above. Tons of fun…
I finally made it to Bismarck, ND where I had a couple more interesting stops. Bismarck borders the Missouri River and there are a number of parks along river road. One is Keelboat Park. There is a large four headed thunderbird statue at the park and it is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms.
In Pioneer Park along the Missouri River, there is a fairly new sculpture called “Rising Eagle”, which was made by art students from the United Tribes Technical College. Dedicated in 2007, it was vandalized in 2010 and had to be rebuilt.
As I continued west of Bismarck on I-94, the weather was finally cleared up and there were sunny skies. The views looked great.
A couple of miles before Exit 72 (about 20 miles east of Dickinson, ND) I could begin seeing the following HUGE sculpture by local artist Gary Greff (from Regent, ND). Greff began his projects in 1989 and continues work today through donations from local people and many others. Named “Geese in Flight,” it is the gateway to the famous “Enchanted Highway” and is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture.”
Built in 2001, “Geese in Flight” is 154 feet long and 110 feet tall and weighs over 78.8 tons. The largest flying goose has a wingspan of 30 feet. Gary Greff used oil tanks and oil well pipe to make it. I kind of envision the big “eye” in the middle as looking over the Enchanted Highway.
The Enchanted is a 32 mile stretch of road beginning at Exit 72 on I-94 and then going south through Gladstone and then all the way to Regent, ND. Along the way there are a number of sculptures. Greff even made dozens of small geese that line the nice dirt road up to the Flying Geese sculpture.
From the Flying Geese, I did go south through Gladstone and then on for another 10 miles.
Then about three miles down the road, is “Deer Crossing,” the second of the huge sculptures down the road. The buck is 60 feet long and 75 feet tall. The doe is 50 feet tall and 50 feet long. These were erected in 2002.
I continued south in hopes of seeing more and made it ten miles to the “almost” ghost town of Lefor. The prairie scenery was great.
I made it to Lefor and gave up as I had more traveling to do to get to Miles City, Montana for the night.
There are a number of other giant sculptures along the road south of Lefor, including a 60 foot grasshopper, pheasants on the prairie (including a 60 foot long pheasant), a 51 foot tall Teddy Roosevelt and a “Fisherman’s Dream”, which was completed in 2007 and includes a metal fish leaping up 70 feet through a metal pond surface. Someday I hope to get back there to see all of these. At the end of the road Greff has built an Enchanted Castle Hotel for the final enchanting stop.
I returned back through Gladstone and took a quick spin through the town and caught one final small statue:
I made way to Dickinson and then on to the border of North Dakota and Montana.
A couple of days ago I was informed I have an opportunity for some work in Idaho, and possibly full time employment. They want me to come out for two weeks and suggested I drive out instead of fly, especially since they know I love to do that. So, today (March 8) I drove 848 miles over a 15 1/2 hour stretch, finally arriving in Savage, MN for the night. Following is the map of the trip:
I left Lexington at about 6 AM and just drove straight through Indianapolis and eventually made my way to Advance, IN. This is a small town located in Boone County. I went there because of the name.
Advance is a small town of about 500 people. Originally platted in 1820 and named Osceola, but, since there was already a town with that name in Indiana, the name of Advance was chosen “in anticipation of the advancement which the coming of the Midland Railway would bring to the community.”
Advance Water Tower
Perhaps the funniest thing for me was the bank in town. The State Bank of Advance is perhaps the funniest name for a bank since my visit to Tightwad Bank in Missouri.
From Advance I moved into Illinois. I first made a stop at the Salt Kettle Rest Area. Typically I don’t comment on Rest Areas, but I got a kick out of the name:
Apparently, there were pioneer salt mines nearby and thus the name. From the rest area, I took a quick drive to get a shot of the Possum Trot Supper Club. Once again, I thought it was a unique name. It really didn’t look like much from the outside….
From Oakwood, I drove by Bloomington and then was a few miles from Normal…(what else is new – never quite normal…). As you drive towards Peoria out of Bloomington/Normal I headed north towards Davenport, IA.
One of those “Roadside Attractions” was in a park in town…a giant Mother Goose…
From Davenport I headed west towards Iowa City and into Walcott, which is home to the Iowa 80 Truck Stop, which claims to be the biggest truck stop in the world…and it is really big!!
From Walcott I continued west and then north thru Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. I then made my way north on US 218 towards Charles City, where I came upon the Charles City Wind Farm which has 38 turbines. It was right at sunset as I passed by so I got the shot at the top of the page and the one below as well.
Just north of there was Floyd, IA, my last stop in Iowa for fuel. I stopped in the small town of about 300 at a unique truck stop that had a “Floyd Bear” and a wagon wheel.