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!!
Another great day of travel!!