Road Trip Home from Idaho – Day 1: Rexburg, ID to Shelby, MT

Gold Butte, Montana
Gold Butte in Northern Montana as seen from Frontier Bar near Shelby, Montana

Mar. 27, 2013: After almost two weeks in Rexburg working with my new employer DSN America, it was time to return back to Kentucky and home sweet home.  They had flown Julianne out to Idaho, so I was blessed to have my very best friend and sweetheart with me for the long drive home, with a brief stopover in Shelby, Montana to see our daughter and their kids.  It was an easy first day.


Rexburg, ID to Shelby, MT

We left Rexburg in the afternoon and eventually zipped up I-15.  We crossed over Monida Pass, which serve as the border between Idaho and Montana. The mountains were still snow covered and beautiful, especially as we came close to the Montana border.

Lima Peaks south of Lima, Montana
Garfield Mtn (R) and Lima Peaks just south of Lima, Montana

Lima, Montana is just a small dot on the map and there is not much there.  But, it is really a quite unique place.  There are barely 200 people living in the town at the base of the mountains.  Many of the buildings are really old.  In some respects, the town almost looks like it is a period movie set rather than a real town. The Red River runs nearby the small town.  Lima was originally called Allerdice until a train station for the Utah and Northern was built there.  It was changed to Spring Hill at that time.  It was eventually changed to Lima by Henry Thompson, who named it for his former home in Lima, Wisconsin.

Downtown Lima, Montana
Downtown Lima, Montana

We drove around the small town, much of which was dirt roads.  There is a woodworker that makes whirly-gigs, a couple of interesting buildings and a unique kitschy store front.

Down Moose Alley to the hand made wood toys place
Down Moose Alley to the hand made wood toys place
Wood Shop was closed when we got there.
Wood Shop was closed when we got there
Whirly-gigs
Whirly-gigs
Peat Bar and Hotel in Lima, Montana
Peat Bar and Hotel in Lima, Montana – Home of the Cook Your Own Steak
Peat Hotel - Lima, Montana
Peat Hotel – Lima, Montana
Peat Bar & Steak House
Peat Bar & Steak House

We also found the Lima Historical Society building, originally built in 1880.  It was originally called the Bailey Building, having been built and resided in by E.A. Bailey and sons, as a Mercantile.  It really did evoke an Old West feel to the place.

Historical Museum
Lima Historical Society Building – Lima Skyscraper
Historical Museum
Lima Historical Society

Perhaps the most interesting place we saw in town was the Wild West Weed Patch, at least that is what I think it is called based on the writing on the Saw Blade sign.  The shop was not open, but there were a number of unique things there.  Still,  I am certainly not sure what it is called.  The closest thing I have ever seen to this kind of hodge podge is Hillybilly Hotdogs in Lesage, West Virginia. (See my Trip Journal of my West Virginia Trip with photos)

The Weed Patch
The Wild West Weed Patch?? – shades of West Virginia’s Hillbilly Hotdogs
Weed Patch Sign
Wild West Weed Patch Sign – Lima, Montana
Steak and Burgers
Steak and Burgers – Lima, Montana
Ice Cream Cones
Ice Cream Cones – Lima, Montana
Lots of Stuff
Lots of Stuff
FJ's Skull?
FJ’s Skull?

After our little diversion in Lima we continued north on I-15 until we got to Red Rock Ranch Rd., south of Dillon.  On my trip down to Rexburg I had passed a ranch with hundreds of buffalo and I wanted a closer look on the way back to Shelby.  So, the night before the trip there I did some research and discovered it was one of Ted Turner’s Buffalo Ranches.  Called Red Rock Ranch, it could kind of be reached by taking Exit 29, north of Dell, Montana.  We went under the freeway and then turned right and almost immediately the road was a dirt road.  We followed it north, but alas, no buffalo to be seen.  So, after almost getting all the way to Clark Canyon Reservoir, we turned around.  Shortly down the road off to my left (the car window was open), I heard some birds squawking.  At first I thought they were geese, but they sounded different.  Then, all of a sudden I saw these two HUGE birds zip on past.  I whipped out the camera and took a bunch of shots hoping that one would reveal the secret.  Here are a couple of the shots of what I realized were Red-Crested Sandhill Cranes.  I had never seen these in the wild so it was a real treat.

Sandhill Cranes near Red Rock Ranch in Montana
Sandhill Cranes near Red Rock Ranch in Montana
Sandhill Cranes near Red Rock Ranch in Montana
Sandhill Cranes near Red Rock Ranch in Montana

Such beautiful birds!!

Well, we did finally get to see the buffalo, but not until we were continuing north on I-15.  I was determined to get some photos, so we stopped and I took these from my car on the side of the interstate.

Ted Turner's Buffaloes on Red Rock Ranch
Ted Turner’s Buffaloes on Red Rock Ranch
More of the Buffaloes
More of the Buffaloes
Buffaloes at Red Rock Ranch Rd. in Southern Montana
Buffaloes at Red Rock Ranch Rd. in Southern Montana

Thank goodness for telephoto lenses!!

We continued north and made a brief stop in Dillon.  I wanted to just kind of drive through the town and get a glimpse of it.  I had seen in my research that it had a very nice courthouse.

Dillon, Montana
Big Moose Statue in Dillon, Montana

I saw this moose, to add to my collection, but the lighting was not too good.  It was across the street from the post office.

Mural in Dillon, Montana
Mural in Dillon, Montana
Beaverhead County Courthouse
Beaverhead County Courthouse
Hotel Metlen in Dillon, Montana
Hotel Metlen in Dillon, Montana

The courthouse was one of the nice ones such as the ones can be seen in Texas and other places.  But, it was not the only unique building.  The Hotel Metlen was also a nice building. It was built in 1897 and is now apparently up for sale, based on the link above.

We then continued north on I-15 towards Butte and made a brief stop for fuel

Welcome to Butte
Welcome to Butte

After Butte we zipped up the interstate through Helena and and then a brief stop in Great Falls to get a birthday present before heading to Shelby.  Saw a nice George Washington statue at the Mall in Great Falls.  Similar to the statues I saw in Jackson, Wyoming done by Gary Lee Price, but I am not sure if it his work.

George Washington at mall in Great Falls
George Washington at mall in Great Falls
Cuddling with GW
Cuddling with GW

Finally, we made our way to Shelby to visit the grandchildren.  We spent three nights in Shelby and during that time did a number of things.  These will be noted in the next post.

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Road Trip to Idaho – Day 3: Miles City, MT to Shelby, MT

Antelope on the Run
Antelope on the Run

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 to Shelby, Montana

Welcome to Miles City
Welcome to 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.

Buffalo Statue
Buffalo Statue near my hotel in Miles City
Indian Chief and Horse statue above a hair stylist shop in Miles City
Indian Chief and Horse statue above a hair stylist shop in Miles City

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.

Montana State Highway 59 heading north
Montana State Highway 59 heading north
Pronghorn Antelope off if Hwy 59
Pronghorn Antelope off of Hwy 59 (also see photo at top)
Old Cabin in the Plains as seen on Hwy 59
Old Cabin in the Plains as seen on Hwy 59
Landscape approaching Jordan
Landscape approaching Jordan, MT

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.

Cohagen Bar, Cohagen, MT
Cohagen Bar, Cohagen, MT

I also saw another old cabin, something I really enjoy finding on the road.

Old cabin in Cohagen
Old cabin in Cohagen
Striped field as seen north of Cohagen
Striped field as seen north of Cohagen

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.

Stretch of highway 200 heading from Jordan to Mosby Rest Area
Stretch of highway 200 heading from Jordan to Mosby Rest Area
Bearpaw Shale Historical Marker at Mosby Rest Area
Bearpaw Shale Historical Marker at Mosby Rest Area
Kerchival City Historical Marker at Mosby Rest Area
Kerchival City Historical Marker at Mosby Rest Area
Fort Musselshell Historical Marker
Fort Musselshell Historical Marker

Just up the road I crossed over the Musselshell River in an area where it is drying up.

Mussellshell River near Mosby Rest area
Mussellshell River near Mosby Rest area

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.

Winnett, MT Welcome Sign
Winnett, MT Welcome Sign – Go Ahead and Blink

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.

Old Grain Elevator - Winnett, MT
Old Grain Elevator – Winnett, MT
Old Store Front - Winnett, MT
Old Store Front – Winnett, MT
Old Hotel Sign - Winnett, MT
Old Hotel Sign – Winnett, MT
Old Cabin, Winnett, MT
Old Cabin, Winnett, MT
Another Winnett Sign - on other side of town
Another Winnett Sign – on other side of 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.

Welcome to Grass Range, MT
Welcome to Grass Range, MT
Old Wooden Grain Elevator - Grass Range, MT
Old Wooden Grain Elevator – Grass Range, MT
Old Grass Range Depot and Elevator
Old Grass Range Depot and Elevator

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.

Mountains near Lewistown
Mountains near Lewistown

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.

Bald Eagle in field east of Lewistown
Bald Eagle in field east of Lewistown

I also saw deer on a hill right in town.

Deer in Lewistown
Deer on a hill in Lewistown

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.

Lewistown Rocket Ship
Lewistown Rocket Ship
Golden Statue of Liberty in Lewistown
Golden Statue of Liberty in Lewistown

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.

Fergus County Courthouse, Lewistown, Montana
Fergus County Courthouse, Lewistown, Montana

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!!

Old Barn west of Lewistown
Old Barn west of Lewistown

After Lewistown I headed west towards Belt and then up through Great Falls and then into Shelby.

Approaching Belt, Montana from the east
Approaching Belt, Montana from the east

 

Big John Statue - Great Falls, MT
Big John Statue – Great Falls, MT

But, the best part of getting up to Shelby?  Grandkidz!!

Grandkidz 1
Grandkidz 2
GK1
Grandkidz 1

Another great day of travel!!

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