A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 1: Lexington, KY to Walcott, IA

Danville, Illinois
Danville, Illinois

On September 9, 2013 I had the opportunity to accompany my daughter and three grand kids on a an adventure across the midwest from Kentucky to Omaha, Nebraska.  She wanted to visit her close friend there and needed a “tour planner and driver.”  I was free and able to make the journey.  All totaled, we spent 5 days on the road visiting spots in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.  This post covers our adventures on Day 1 as we made our way to Walcott, Iowa, home of the World’s Largest Truck Stop.


View Larger Map – Lexington, KY to Walcott, IA

We left plenty early so that we could hit Indianapolis by early morning with the intent to surprise the three grand kids with a “Dinosaur Sighting”.  As we arrived in downtown Indy near the Lucas Field, I saw my first “Football” Wall Art.  There was an entire wall of a building dedicated to the Indianapolis Colts.  Here are a few shots:

Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Mural
Indianapolis Colts Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural

A few blocks later we arrived at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Unfortunately, it was the first Monday after Labor Day, so the museum was closed.  But, our main concern was seeing the amazing dinosaurs busting out of the building.  Needless to say, the kids were thrilled!!

Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children's Museum
Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children’s Museum
Dinosaurs peek into the Children's Museum
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum
Dinosaurs "breaking out" of building
Dinosaurs “breaking out” of building
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!

After looking at the dinosaurs, we were walking past the building and peeking in.  The kids got all excited as there was a GIANT Transformer in the lobby.  To our total delight, one of the staff members came to the door and invited us in to see the Autobot “Bumblebee.”   This huge model was actually a prop from the original 2007 Transformers movie.

Transformer "Bumblebee" movie prop at Children's Museum
Transformer “Bumblebee” movie prop at Children’s Museum
Grandson Landen is loving his visit with Bumblebee
Grandson Landen is loving his visit with Bumblebee
Sumoflam and Bumblebee
Sumoflam and Bumblebee

The outside of the museum also has a couple of nice bronze sculptures of kids at play and a nice “Walk through History” of some of the unique buildings of the world…

Kids Playing at Indianapolis Children's Museum
Kids Playing at Indianapolis Children’s Museum
My grandkids emulate the statue at Indy Children's Museum
My grandkids emulate the statue at Indy Children’s Museum
The Great Wall in the Walk of History
The Great Wall in the Walk of History
The Sphinx and grandkids
The Sphinx and grandkids
Wall Art on a hardware store in Indy
Wall Art on a hardware store in Indy
Colorful Building Graffiti in Indianapolis
Colorful Building Graffiti in Indianapolis

This first part of our trip was a real splash for the kids and got us on the fast lane for the remainder of the day.   From Indy we headed west to Danville, Illinois.  Danville has put in a great deal of effort to color up the town with beautiful murals and the Lindley Signpost Forest.

Traveling I-74 west towards Danville, IL from Indy
Traveling I-74 west towards Danville, IL from Indy

Danville, Illinois is a town of a bit over 33,000 people.  It is literally on the border of Inidana. The town has a colorful history and was the home to famous actors Dick Van Dyke and Gene Hackman.  The Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount was also born in Danville.

Old Drive-In Burger place in Danville...60's neon.
Old Drive-In Burger place in Danville…60’s neon
Royal Donut in Danville, IL.  Great prices and old fashioned goodness
Royal Donut in Danville, IL. Great prices and old fashioned goodness

Today the charming town features antique shops and other shopping, a number of historical museums and a smattering of colorful Wall Murals created by Walldogs. In August of 2010, one hundred and sixty-two Walldog artists traveled to Danville from all over the world for a four day meet (see a complete Gallery here). During that span, they forever changed and enhanced the city with sixteen murals in a 7 block area.

Tiger Head Malt Syrup
Tiger Head Malt Syrup mural by The Walldogs
Hot Rod Lincoln mural by The Walldogs
Hot Rod Lincoln mural by The Walldogs
Historical mural in Danville, IL
Historical mural in Danville, IL
Colorful mural depicting Balloon Classic
Colorful full wall mural depicting Balloon Classic
Evel Knievel Wall Mural in Danville
Evel Knievel Wall Mural in Danville
Chuckles Ad with Evel Knievel flying over it....
Chuckles Ad with Evel Knievel flying over it….

And perhaps the best one of all of them….

Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Sumoflam and Dick Van Dyke
Sumoflam and Dick Van Dyke

Along with the numerous murals in town, Danville also set a park aside downtown to create the Lindley Sign Post Forest. This was created in honor of Danville resident Carl Lindley. He was a soldier who became homesick while working on the Alaska Highway in 1942. While there, Lindley erected a sign at Watson Lake in the Yukon showing how far it was to his hometown of Danville — 2835 miles. Since that time more than 40,000 signs have been added to it at Watson Lake. The Danville version of the Sign Post Forest was originally built in 2010 along with the painting of the Walldog murals.

Carl Lindley and his wife at the original Sign Post Forest in Alaska (photo from www.signpostforest.com)
Lindley Sign Post Forest Sign
Lindley Sign Post Forest Sign
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest

And following are a few more sign posts….

Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Another Long View of the Lindley Sign Post Forest
Another Long View of the Lindley Sign Post Forest

And a few more scenes from Danville….

The Old Fisher Theater in downtown Danville
The Old Fischer Theater in downtown Danville
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl

More on Danville USA Sculpture here

Colorful Birdhouses in a park next door to the Fischer Theater
Colorful Birdhouses in a park next door to the Fischer Theater
Interesting Jazz-themed mosaic sculpture in the small park next to the Fischer Theater
Interesting Jazz-themed mosaic sculpture in the small park next to the Fischer Theater
AMBUCS Playground for Everyone
AMBUCS Playground for Everyone

We let the kids play at the AMBUCS Playground for Everyone, which has been specifically designed to accommodate not only children, but also handicapped individuals and adults.  It was actually quite unique.

Fresh Pumpkins at Curtis Orchard
Fresh Pumpkins at Curtis Orchard

From Danville, it was westward to Champaign, Illinois.  Obviously, with the kids, I had hoped to get them to the Curtis Orchard Pumpkin Farm to see the Wizard of Oz themed things and for them to “follow the yellow brick road”.  Unfortunately, only the youngest, little Lyla, was awake.

Granddaughter Lyla follows the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards
Granddaughter Lyla follows the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards
Giant Indian at Curtis Orchards
Giant Indian at Curtis Orchards
Emerald City Mural on barn at Curtis Orchards
Emerald City Mural on barn at Curtis Orchards

From Champaign we continued northwest on I-74 through the windfarms near Bloomington and onward into Morton, Illinois, the Pumpkin Capital of the World and home of the Libby’s Pumpkin Canning Plant.

Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
I-74 west of Normal, Illinois
I-74 west of Normal, Illinois
Welcome to Morton, Illinois - Pumpkin Capital of the World
Welcome to Morton, Illinois – Pumpkin Capital of the World
We missed the Morton Pumpkin Festival by only a few days.
We missed the Morton Pumpkin Festival by only a few days

From Morton it was up I-74 into East Peoria.  This was a very hot day (around 100 degrees) and the kids needed some cooling off.  Where better than to go to the M & M’s Twistee Treat?  This is one of those iconic Ice Cream/Hot Dog places where going there is as much fun as eating the ice cream.

Sumoflam and Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL
Sumoflam and Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL
M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, IL
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, IL

Though built in the 1980s, there are flashbacks to the 1960s in here and also a collection of M & M stuff….

Starlight Drive-in Clock in Twistee Treat
Starlight Drive-in Clock in Twistee Treat
Old style counter and lots of M & M stuff
Old style counter and lots of M & M stuff
Big Ice Cream Cones at Twistee Treat
Big Ice Cream Cones at Twistee Treat

Just down the street from the Twistee Treat is Carl’s Bakery, home of the giant Rooster with a Top Hat.

Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl's Bakery in E. Peoria
Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl’s Bakery in E. Peoria

From Peoria is was north to Le Claire, Iowa.  My daughter Marissa was keen on visiting Antique Archeaology, home of the American Pickers TV Show.  So, we zoomed on up the freeway.

Peoria, Illinois skyline
Peoria, Illinois skyline
Murray Baker Bridge crossing over the Illinois River
Murray Baker Bridge crossing over the Illinois River
Rural Scene in eastern Iowa as seen from I-74
Rural Scene in eastern Iowa as seen from I-74

We arrived in LeClaire around 5 PM knowing that Antique Archaeology closed at 6 PM.  Marissa was very excited to visit.  But, lo and behold, on this, my third visit and her first, we saw the following sign when we got there….

Antique Archaeology closed for filming
Antique Archaeology closed for filming

That did not stop us from taking a few shots from the outside.  We also got a chance to meet Mike Wolfe’s brother Rob, who was on hand for the filming that day.  Danielle Colby was nowhere to be found, likely because she is running her clothing shop in Chicago.  Last year I did get a chance to visit her as well (and I have included that photo for fun).

American Pickers production staff takes a break
American Pickers production staff takes a break
Antique Archaeology Car as seen on American Pickers
Antique Archaeology Car as seen on American Pickers
Antique Archaeology picks
Antique Archaeology picks
Sumoflam and Rob Wolfe at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam and Rob Wolfe at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with Danielle from American Pickers (taken June 2012)
Sumoflam with Danielle Colby from American Pickers (taken June 2012)

And the best picture of all….

My Grandkidz at with the old Antique Archaeology Nash
My Grandkidz at with the old Antique Archaeology Nash as seen on American Pickers

Of course, LeClaire is not only known for American Pickers. It is also the birthplace of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in April 1846.  The family left LeClaire in 1853 to move to Leavenworth, Kansas.  Eventually, Buffalo Bill made his way west.  Cody, Wyoming is named after him and has a large museum (which I visited earlier this year).  We dropped by the Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire for a couple of shots to round off my visit to Buffalo Bill Cody Museums in two locations!

Buffalo Bill Museum - LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bill Museum – LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa

After our brief visit to LeClaire, we were hot, tired and ready to settle down, so we headed straight to our motel in Walcott, IA, next door to the Iowa 80 Truck Stop – the World’s Largest Truck Stop.

Sunset in Walcott, IA at the World's Largest Truck Stop
Sunset in Walcott, IA at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop – World’s Largest Truck Stop

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Road Trip Home from Idaho – Day 5: Des Moines, IA to Springfield, IL – Dutch, American Pickers and Cozy Dogs

Antique Archaeology
Antique Archaeology

April 3, 2013: Yet another day on the road home as Julianne and I take our time to see a few of the sites on the way.  This day we drove from Des Moines to a couple places in Iowa and eventually into Illinois. Here is our route:


View Larger Map – Des Moines, IA to Springfield, MO

First thing we did was head to Pella, Iowa, which is not too far from Des Moines.  Pella prides itself as being a “Touch of Holland” and indeed is very Dutch.  Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States.  Pella was originally settled in 1847 by about 800 Dutch immigrants.  They named the town Pella, which in Dutch means City of Refuge, due to the fact that these immigrants were fleeing religious persecution in their home country of the Netherlands.  Pella is also the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, the famed sheriff of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Downtown Pella
Downtown Pella
Welcome to Pella
Welcome to Pella

We had been advised by friends to definitely try the “Dutch Letters” while here.  Dutch Letters are a flaky almond paste filled pastry.  Shaped like an S, they were apparently a traditional Christmas pastry in Holland.  We stopped at the Jaarsma Bakery on Franklin Street in Pella to have some of these.  They would be our breakfast.  Turns out they have a lot of other goodies!!

Jaarsma Bakery - Pella, Iowa
Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Yummy Goodies at Jaarsma Bakery
Yummy Goodies at Jaarsma Bakery
Almond Pies at Jaarsma Bakery
Almond Pies at Jaarsma Bakery
Famous "Dutch Letters" from Jaarsma Bakery
Famous “Dutch Letters” from Jaarsma Bakery

Another treat we were advised to try was Pella Ring Bologna. There are two well known places to get this ring bologna in Pella and we stopped at Ulrich’s Meat Market which is a couple doors down from the Jaarsma Bakery.  Not onl is the ring bologna good — the meat sticks were fabulous!!

Try smoking Pella Bologna
Try smoking Pella Bologna
Pella Ring Bologna
Pella Ring Bologna

The town of Pella is quaint and picturesque.  It was a pleasure to walk around and see some of the scenery, including a few smaller windmills and the larger one.  Here are a few scenes from Pella.

Daffodils in Bloom - Pella, IA
Daffodils in Bloom – Pella, IA

Pella is famed for its tulips, but we were too early for them.  But, daffodils are another Dutch bulb plant.  And they were in full bloom.

Buildings fronts in Pella, IA
Colorful building fronts in Pella, IA
Unique building corner in Pella, IA
Unique building corner turret in Pella, IA
Small Clock Tower in Pella
Small Clock Tower in Pella
Old Brick Wall Advertisement in Pella
Old Brick Wall Advertisement in Pella
Dutch-style Tiled Walls in Pella
Dutch-style Tiled Walls in Pella
Dutch Wooden Shoes - Pella, IA
Dutch Wooden Shoes – Pella, IA

Of course, perhaps the most famous thing in Pella (besides the famed Pella window factory) is the huge authentic working Dutch Windmill.  The Vermeer Mill, as it is called, is an 1850s style working windmill.  It is 124 feet tall and is the largest working windmill of its kind in the United States.  The mill is totally wind powered and is actually used like the windmills of old to grind wheat into flour.  It was built in Holland and assembled in Pella in 2002.

Sumoflam and the Vermeer Windmill
Sumoflam and the Vermeer Windmill
Vermeer Windmill - Pella, Iowa
Vermeer Windmill – Pella, Iowa
Vermeer Windmill towers above Pella to catch the wind
Vermeer Windmill towers above Pella to catch the wind

There is a Dutch Interpretive Center and small Dutch Village attached to the Windmill.  Within its confines are a number of Dutch style buildings , including Wyatt Earp’s birthplace.  We didn’t go into the village since admission was $10 per person, which we though was rather pricy.

After a pleasant time in Pella, we were back on the road.  With my penchant for going to strange named towns, I wanted to make our way down some back roads to What Cheer, Iowa. Originally named Petersburg in 1865 but was renamed What Cheer in 1879 after the Postal Service declined the name of Petersburg.  The Wikipedia article linked here has some details as to the origin of the name What Cheer.

Welcome to What Cheer, Iowa
Welcome to What Cheer, Iowa

Ironically, as we drive through town, I exclaimed to my wife that the town name should be “What Cheer?” as the small town looks like it is falling apart and many of the businesses have been abandoned. There were a little over 600 people in this small town according to the 2010 census.

Back road to What Cheer, IA.... a six mile long dirt road
Back road to What Cheer, IA…. a six mile long dirt road.  My GPS took us this route!!
Downtown What Cheer - many abandoned buildings
Downtown What Cheer – many abandoned buildings

Reminiscent of downtown Pella, there is one nicely kept building in What Cheer, with the nice corner turret.  It used to be a bank, but is apparently now a residence.

Corner Tower on building in What Cheer, IA
Corner Turret on building in What Cheer, IA
What Cheer
What Cheer
What Cheer Post Office - even this sign is becoming illegible and run down
What Cheer Post Office – even this sign is becoming illegible and run down
What Cheer, Iowa
What Cheer, Iowa

There was one other refreshing site in town.  One home had some unique artwork surrounding the yard.

Bunnie's House in What Cheer, IA
Bonnie’s House in What Cheer, IA
Wheel Fence at Bonnie's house in What Cheer
Wheel Fence at Bonnie’s house in What Cheer
A "Flower Bed" in What Cheer, Iowa
A “Flower Bed” in What Cheer, Iowa

From What Cheer we made our way northeast to I-80 and then into Le Clair, Iowa, a small touristy town along the Mississippi River.  This was my second visit to Le Claire as I had been here before to visit Antique Archaeology,  home of the “American Pickers” TV show on History Channel.  On my previous visit back in June 2012 I even got to meet Danielle and get a shot with her.

Sumoflam with Danielle Colby Cushman - June 20, 2012
Sumoflam with American Pickers star Danielle Colby – June 2012

When I visited in June last year Danielle had a shop in Le Claire across the street from Antique Archaeology called 4 Miles 2 Memphis.  She is actually well known for “up-cycling” things and making them into clothing, jewelry, etc.  The shop has since moved to Chicago.

Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers
Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers
Antique Archaeology's famous old car
Antique Archaeology’s famous old car
Antique Archaeology
Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam at Antique Archaeology

There are lots of unique things for sale at the shop, many which had been picked from shows past.  Here is a small sample of some of the things in the shop.  Recognize anything?

Old boots and stuff - Antique Archaeology
Old boots and stuff – Antique Archaeology
Motorcycle Goggles and Hat - Antique Archaeology
Motorcycle Goggles and Hat – Antique Archaeology
Mike's favorite subject - Indian Motorcycles - Antique Archaeology
Mike’s favorite subject – Indian Motorcycles – Antique Archaeology
Yucky Mask - Antique Archaeology
Yucky Mask – Antique Archaeology
Old Motorcycle - Antique Archaeology
Old Motorcycle – Antique Archaeology
Laurel and Hardy and Sumoflam
Laurel and Hardy and Sumoflam

A video clip of the American Pickers episode with the Laurel and Hardy masks.

You would be mistaken if you think that Antique Archaeology is the center piece of Le Claire.  This unique little town is chock full of personality, antique shops and more.

Old neon for Pelo's Sundries
Old neon for Pelo’s Sundries
Old back porch behind Pelo's in Le Claire
Old back porch behind Pelo’s in Le Claire

 

Pelo’s is your typical old sundry and fountain type shop, except that it now has a coffee shop, open mike nites and more.

River Boats in Le Claire, IA
River Boats in Le Claire, IA
Wooden Flag in Le Claire, IA
Wooden Flag in Le Claire, IA
More Antiques - Mike and Frank are not the only pickers in town
More Antiques – Mike and Frank are not the only pickers in town
The Auction Center
The Auction Center
Old Milk Cans - Le Claire, IA
Old Milk Cans – Le Claire, IA
Lots of stuff - Le Claire, IA
Lots of stuff – Le Claire, IA
More stuff - Le Claire, IA
More stuff – Le Claire, IA
Whimsy in Le Claire
Whimsy in Le Claire

Julianne was thrilled to visit some of the shops, but her biggest thrill was being able to “pick” a 1930s quilt from a shop in Le Claire.  This hand pieced and hand sewn quilt was in a small shop along the river.  The gal in the shop obviously didn’t know quilts like Julianne does as she had this quilt for sale for $150!!  It was a splurge purchase for us, but, we believe that the value of this quilt is really closer to $800 or $1000 due to its age and almost pristine quality, along with all of the 1930s fabric.

Julianne all smiles after getting a steal of a deal on a quilt. She is a Real Picker!!
Julianne all smiles after getting a steal of a deal on a quilt. She is a Real Picker!!
Le Claire was fun
Le Claire was fun

We could have spent more time in Le Claire, but had to move on.  My ultimate goal stop for the day was to get to Cozy Dog in Springfield, Illinois.

Illinois Route 66
Illinois Route 66

Springfield is one of those iconic Route 66 towns and along this road is the Cozy Dog Drive In, which claims to be the home of the all-American famed Corn Dog!  Though there is some dispute as to the true origin of the corn dog, the Cozy Dog story is that Ed Walmire and his friend Don Strand invented the deep fried battered hot dog on a stick while stationed in Amarillo, Texas during World War II. They called them crusty curs, but, upon Ed’s return to Springfield, Ed and his wife decided on the name “Cozy Dog” and began selling them from their house and at the Illinois State Fair in 1946.  Ed’s wife designed the “hot dogs in a loving embrace logo” for the drive in. In 1996 they moved their Drive In a bit up the road to its current location and gave it a decidedly Route 66 theme.

Cozy Drive In - Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Route 66 Memorabilia in Cozy Drive In
Route 66 Memorabilia in Cozy Drive In
Cozy Drive In - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois
Typical Table Top at Cozy Drive In - Springfield, Illinois
Typical Table Top at Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive In is an official Route 66 attraction
Cozy Drive In is an official Route 66 attraction

And of course, this is why we come to Cozy Dog – not healthy at all, but sure Yummiferous!!

Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries - Cozy Dog - Springfield, IL
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
We got our kicks with a Cozy Dog!!
We got our kicks with a Cozy Dog!!
Sumoflam and Cozy Dog
Sumoflam and Cozy Dog

This was officially our final stop on the way home so it was a perfect place to “cozy up” with my sweetheart….

Cozying up at Cozy Dog
Cozying up at Cozy Dog

After spending the night in Springfield, Julianne and I booked it back to our old Kentucky Home in Lexington.  It was a long trip, almost 2,800 miles (including side trips into towns, etc.) and over 55 hours of driving time.  We traveled from Rexburg, ID to Shelby, MT (to see the grandkids) and then across northern Montana, south into North and South Dakota, east thru Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and finally home.  This was Julianne’s longest road trip ever (her previous one was when we moved from Mesa, AZ to Frankfort, KY in 1991 — that was about 2100 miles).

Map of our entire road trip - April 2013
Map of our entire road trip – April 2013 – over 2800 miles

Now that is how you ENJOY THE RIDE!!

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……


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Road Trip to Idaho – Day 4: Shelby, MT to Rexburg, ID

Cabin in the Snow
Cabin in the Snow

March 25, 2013: After a fabulous couple of days in Shelby, MT with my daughter, her husband and all the kids, it was back on the road for the last leg of the trip to Rexburg.  This was basically a straight shot down I-15 thru Great Falls, Helena and Butte.   Unfortunately, the day started off pretty snowy and yucky.

Gas Station in Shelby, MT
Gas Station in Shelby, MT
Interstate 15 heading South towards Great Falls
Interstate 15 heading South towards Great Falls

By the time I had hit the Great Falls area, the weather was basically clearing up and so it was more or less smooth sailing to Helena.  I was provided an excellent view of Tower Rock State Park.

South on I-15 towards Tower Rock State Park
South on I-15 towards Tower Rock State Park

Tower Rock State Park is a 400-foot high igneous rock formation that lies along a stretch of the Missouri River north of Helena.  The river has formed a deep gorge into the rock. Tower Rock was noted in the Lewis and Clark Journals. Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal on July 16, 1805: ‘At this place there is a large rock of 400 feet high wich stands immediately in the gap which the Missouri makes on it’s passage from the mountains… This rock I called the tower. It may be ascended with some difficulty nearly to its summit and from it there is a most pleasing view of the country we are now about to leave. From it I saw that evening immense herds of buffaloe in the plains below.’

Tower Rock State Park
Tower Rock State Park
Missouri River in Tower Rock State Park
Missouri River in Tower Rock State Park
Fishing on the Missouri
Fishing on the Missouri
Hardy Bridge in Tower Rock State Park
Hardy Bridge in Tower Rock State Park

I took Exit 244 for Hardy Creek on got on to Old US Highway 91 and followed it along the Missouri River.  This took me into the canyon area.  I then crossed over the Hardy Bridge and continued along the river.  Apparently, the silver steel bridge was the scene of the shootout between federal agents and rum-runners in the 1987 movie The Untouchables.

Along the Missouri River in the park - probably still how it may have looked for Lewis and Clark.
Along the Missouri River in the park – probably still how it may have looked for Lewis and Clark. This photo was taken with the iPhone Panorama function, thus the little shift on the left

Back on the freeway I moved a little further up the road to the Dearborn Rest Area in the Adel Mountains, a large stretch of volcanic remnants.  The volcanic remnants run about 40 miles in length and 20 miles wide, and the area of Tower Rock State Park is part of this old volcanic flow.

Adel Mountain Rest Area
Adel Volcanic Mountains as seen from Dearborn  Rest Area north of Helena

From the rest area I continued south to Exit 234 which brought me into Craig, MT. From what I could tell, Craig is all about fishing on the Missouri River and the other tributary creeks.  This section of the Missouri is apparently one of the premier trout fishing areas in the country.  As for the small town, it was named for local pioneer Warren Craig. In 1886 Craig built a log house, with a stone fireplace. Many times he had to defend his homestead from the Indians.  The house is located half mile from the Great Northern depot, but I was not able to get over it due to time constraints. In 1890 his son, John Craig settled in the area and Mrs. John Craig later served as postmaster.

Old Row Boat in Craig, MT
Old Row Boat in Craig, MT
Craig Train Stop
Craig Train Stop
Bridge over Missouri at Craig
Sign for Bridge over Missouri at Craig – Forrest H. Anderson Memorial Bridge

Ironically, my hope was a convenience store, but all that I could find were fishing related shops like the one below.

Headhunter Flies & Guides - Craig, MT
Headhunter Flies & Guides – Craig, MT
Geese hang around the Missouri River in Craig
Geese hang around the Missouri River in Craig

From Craig I got back on I-15 to continue south towards Helena.  I took exit 209 to see the “Gates of the Mountains.” Named by Meriwether Lewis on July 19, 1805 because of the 1200 foot tall towering limestone cliffs that seemed to block their way. He wrote, “this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. these clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of 1200 feet. … the river appears to have forced its way through this immense body of solid rock for the distance of 5-3/4 Miles … I called it the gates of the rocky mountains.” Since that time the area has become a National Wilderness area by an act of Congress in 1964.

Gates of the Mountains Info Sign at Turnoff
Gates of the Mountains Info Sign at Turnoff

At this visitor turnoff there are not only the signs, but there is a metal sculpture of a man and a dog that greeted me.  Behind them was a spectacular view of the area.

Man and Dog at Gates of the Mountains view point
Man and Dog at Gates of the Mountains view point

I am not sure (and have done a lot of looking!!) to see who made this sculpture.  There is no information that I am aware of.  Another view of it shows the Gates of the Mountains in the background.

Man and Dog with Gates of the Mountains
Man and Dog with Gates of the Mountains

I did drive a bit down the road to get closer, but it is quite a drive down there.  The lake is Upper Holter Lake.

Gates of the Mountains near Helena, MT
Gates of the Mountains near Helena, MT

After this amazing scene (which the photo does no justice to), I continued south towards Helena.

I-15 South towards Helena
I-15 South towards Helena

I decided to go through Helena and then through Montana City and then on to Butte.  I decided to stop at the Butte Berkeley Pit overlook for my next stop.

Berkeley Pit - Butte, MT
Berkeley Pit – Butte, MT

The Berkeley Pit is a former open pit copper mine in Butte. It is one mile long by half a mile wide with an approximate depth of 1,780 feet. The mine was opened in 1955 and operated by Anaconda Copper and later by the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), until its closure in 1982.

Berkeley Pit as seen from Downtown Butte
Berkeley Pit as seen from Downtown Butte

The viewpoint offers a couple of great sights.  First there is a spectacular view of the Anaconda Mountain range (also known as the Pintlars) east of Butte, which has a number of 10,000 foot tall peaks.  And, also from the overview point, to the west, you can see the 90 foot tall “Our Lady of the Rockies” statue 3500 feet above the view point (actual elevation is 8510 feet) .

Anaconda Range - east of Butte
Anaconda Range – east of Butte (tallest peaks include West Goat Peak, Mt. Evans, Mt. Haggin, Warren Peak and East Goat Peak – all over 10,000 feet tall)

The “Our Lady of the Rockies” statue was placed on the East Ridge on the Continental Divide overlooking Butte.  It is apparently the second tallest statue in the United States after the Statue of Liberty (see list of tallest statues on Wikipedia). The statue was built by volunteers using donated materials to honor women everywhere, especially mothers. The design for the statue was engineered by Laurien Eugene Riehl. He was a retired engineer for the Anaconda Company who donated his engineering skills to the project, specifically the statue would need to handle the intense winds at the top of the peak. A full photo of this huge beautiful statue is available here.

Our Lady of the Rockies statue as seen from the Butte Overlook
Our Lady of the Rockies statue as seen from the Butte Overlook
Our Lady of the Rockies info sign at Butte Overlook
Our Lady of the Rockies info sign at Butte Overlook

From the overlook I took a drive into Butte for fuel and a drive through town.  Here are a few sights of Butte:

Butte, Montana Welcoms sign
Butte, Montana Welcome sign
Mural on side of a building
Mural on side of a building
Old Building Advertisement, Butte, MT
Old Building Advertisement, Butte, MT
Acoma Restaurant Sign
Acoma Restaurant Sign
Lincoln Hotel Advertisement
Lincoln Hotel Advertisement
Colorful and Unique Architecture
Colorful and Unique Architecture

After the nice drive around Butte, it was back on I-15 heading south.  I was humored when I approached Exit 111 south of Butte.  The sign said Feely.  So, I took the exit just to get the sign…   Now I know how to get to Feely.  I just need to find Touchy next!!

Feely, MT sign
Feely, Montana sign

Not much further down the road was yet another interesting sign:

Divide Wisdom, MT
Divide Wisdom, MT

What I am wondering is if I need to really divide wisdom?  Can’t I keep the complete wisdom?  Actually, I would have liked to have made it to Wisdom.  I have been to Wisdom, KY.  I need more Wisdom!!

I-15 South of Divide/Wisdom, MT
I-15 South of Divide/Wisdom, MT
Union Pacific Bridge over the Big Hole River near Glen, MT
Union Pacific Bridge over the Big Hole River near Glen, MT

I continued south towards Idaho.  Though I was not able to get any photos, I passed by a HUGE Buffalo Ranch near Dillon.  I must have seen 200-300 head from the freeway.  Continuing south I passed the huge Clark Canyon Reservoir, with water frozen.

Clark Reservoir in Southern Montana
Clark Canyon Reservoir in Southern Montana

 

South on I-15 into Idaho
South on I-15 near Lima, MT

From Lima I soon entered into Idaho.  I ventured south into Spencer, Idaho, which is the home of the Opal Mountain Mine and is known as the Opal Capital of America.

Spencer, Idaho sign
Spencer, Idaho sign

Opals were apparently discovered in the Spencer area in 1948 and there is one big mine in operation.  there are a number of shops.  As it was a snowy Sunday, nothing was opened, but it was a unique little drive right off of the freeway.

High Country Opal - Spencer, ID
High Country Opal – Spencer, ID

 

Spencer Opal Mines
Spencer Opal Mines

 

Cabin in the Snow
Cabin in the Snow – near Spencer, ID

From Spencer I continued south and finally got to Exit 143 and headed east towards Rexburg, where I will be for the next couple of weeks.

East to Rexburg - notice big white temple n the middle of town
East to Rexburg – notice the big white LDS Temple in the middle of town and Tetons in the distance

Finally…hotel sweet hotel.  I am at the beautiful AmericInn Hotel.  My room even has a jacuzzi in it!!

AmericInn Rexburg Jacuzzi
AmericInn Rexburg Jacuzzi
Time for Bed - AmericInn, Rexburg
Time for Bed – AmericInn, Rexburg

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