U is for Unique Monsters: Dinos, Dragons & Other Monsters – #atozchallenge

People are enthralled by dinosaurs and dragons.  Maybe it is because humans have never really seen one alive.  All we have are fossil evidences and legends.

A roadtrip on the back roads of America will almost always present a dinosaur or a dragon.  I have seen hundreds in my travels.

Dragon Biting my head off – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin

In this post I hope to share some of the photos and fun of dinosaurs, dragons and other monster thingies as seen on the road.

Autumn and “Grampz” with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI

Let’s look at a couple of strange monsters first.  First there is the Hodag, a unique monster found in Rhinelander, WI.  According to an 1893 newspaper article it was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area.”

A giant monster sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller

Wisconsin really seems to be the monster capital of the country.  In Mt. Horeb, there is another cool looking monster statue in front of the visitor center.  Created by Wally Keller, an artist from nearby.

20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Of course, the premier “dragon” stop in Wisconsin is Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI.  Created by artist (and former attorney) Clyde Wynia, this large property has well over 1000 pieces of welded scrap metal art, including a few dragons.

Clyde has a number of stories about his “artwork fossils” and makes it a fun place to visit.  Note that it really is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit!

Big Dragon – Jurustic Park – Marshfield, Wisconsin
Welcome to Jurustic Park

And the afore mentioned Wally Keller, who passed away a few years ago, also had a nice menagerie in his front yard.

Hungry Dinosaur – Wally Keller collection near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Scrap Metal Dinosaur – work done by Wally Keller – near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

There is another scrap metal artist in Centralia, MO who also has created a number of similar dinosaurs.

Sumoflam and Larry Vennard at his Iron Sculpture Park in Centralia, MO
Larry Vennard’s Highway “T” Rex near Centralia, MO
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

One of the most interesting dragons out there is the Kaskaskia Fire breathing dragon in Vandalia, IL

This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. The 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!

 

A closeup of the fire!
Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon

There are, of course, many other dragons out there.

“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Dragon with Cowboy Boots at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, TX
Metal Dragon on a Building – Clayton, New Mexico
Guitar Playing Scrap Metal Dragon – Harrietsville, Ontario
Dragon head – Salida, Colorado
Impressive Dragon mural on a Chinese Restaurant in Oak Creek, Colorado
Dragon Mural in Broken Bow, OK

But, its the dinosaurs that impress.  Many have been built to the presumed size and shape of the various monsters.  In fact, there are a number of T Rex statues out there.

Skeleton Walking Dinosaur near Murdo, South Dakota
Head of the T-Rex at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Connecticut
A T-Rex at a miniature golf course in Ocean City, MD
A 15 foot dinosaur overlooks Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs – located in Choteau, Montana on the “Dinosaur Trail”
Big dino in Bynum, Montana
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY

Most impressive of all is the great escape of dinosaurs from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  Life size and REALLY REAL looking.

Dinos break out of Indianapolis Children’s Museum
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum

And here are a few more dinosaur shots from around the country

A Dinosaur Sighting outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural history
One of over 35 life-size dinosaur creations at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
Dinos at Wells Dinosaur Haven in Uncasville, CT
An outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Colorful Dinosaur near Carnegie Museum, originally part of DinoMite Days in 2003
Scrap Metal Dinosaur chasing a ram – Glasgow, Montana
Rudyard Dinosaur, Rudyard, MT
Dinosaur Statue – Clayton, NM
Grazing Dinosaur – Harrietsville, Ontario
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino, in Wall, SD

and finally, who can forget that cute little Sinclair Gas dinosaur?

Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America, WY

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Two Days to Dallas: Day 1 – Idaho Falls, Idaho to Eagle, Colorado

Flowery Meadows near Hayden, Colorado
Flowery Meadows near Hayden, Colorado

On June 12 I commenced on a trip to Dallas, Texas from Idaho Falls, Idaho.  This would be a long two day trip, but I certainly wanted to hit some places I had never been before.  So, on Day 1 I ventured south through Pocatello and then onto Eagle, Colorado, about 588 miles.  Following is my route map for Day 1.


View Larger Map – Idaho Falls, ID to Eagle, CO

Just near the hotel I stayed at in Idaho Falls, there was an amazing Eagle Sculpture in a roundabout.  This is a HUGE work and is quite stunning.  Called “The Protector”, it is touted as the “World’s Largest Eagle Monument” and was unveiled in the fall of 2006.  The work was done by Wyoming artist Vic Payne and portrays a mother eagle perched to feed her two young eaglets with a salmon that is held in her great talons. The father, “The Protector”, circles around his territory in majestic flight keeping a vigilant watch for anything that may bring danger to his family. Payne created the eagles 3 times life size with a 21 foot wingspan. Each of the eaglets are 4 1/2 feet in height.

The Protector by Vic Payne in Idaho Falls, Idaho
The Protector by Vic Payne in Idaho Falls, Idaho

Go figure…I will start the morning off with an “Eagle” and end the day in an “Eagle.”

Mother Eagle portion of "The Protector" by Vic Payne
Mother Eagle portion of “The Protector” by Vic Payne

I then proceeded south on I-15 to Pocatello.  This drive goes through volcanic fields and other geology.  An interesting drive.  As I approached the crest of a hill though, there was a stunning change in scenery as the lava fields turned into a huge field of yellow.

Highway to Pocatello
Highway to Pocatello
Amazing field of yellow north of Pocatello, Idaho
Amazing field of yellow north of Pocatello, Idaho

From Pocatello I continued south until I hit US 30 and then proceeded east towards Lava Hot Springs. This road leads into the hill country and offered more great views of flowery meadows.

Flowery meadows west of Lava Springs, Idaho
Flowery meadows west of Lava Springs, Idaho

I rolled into the small resort town of Lava Hot Springs, which is nestled in a nice little valley.  I didn’t have time to stop except for a photo or two.  But the Welcome Sign pretty much says it all.

Welcome to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Welcome to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho

This area was frequented by pre-historic Indians long before the white men arrived in 1812.  They used the hot water for bathing and processing hides.  It was also a major campground during the winter.  Now the town touts itself as a “Vacation Resort” with spas, water slides and more.

Lava Hot Springs Resort
Lava Hot Springs Resort

Not much further east is the town of Soda Springs. Like Lava Hot Springs, it sits atop of hot springs and has a geyser too!! There is a lot of history here.  In fact, Brigham Young, the great Mormon leader, even had a home here.  as noted, Soda Springs has the only captive geyser in the world.  It was discovered in an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimming pool.  On November 30, 1937, the drill went down 315 feet and unleashed the geyser.  The extreme pressure is caused by carbon dioxide gas mixing with water in an underground chamber.  The water is around 72 F.  It is now controlled by a timer.  It erupts every hour on the hour and reaches heights of 100 feet year round. 

Soda Springs Historic Marker
Soda Springs Historic Marker
Idan-Ha Drive In Theatre - Soda Springs, Idaho
Idan-Ha Drive-In Theatre – Soda Springs, Idaho
Main Street Soda Springs
Main Street Soda Springs
Murals in Soda Springs
Murals in Soda Springs
The Soda Springs Geyser - erupts every hour on the hour
The Soda Springs Geyser – erupts every hour on the hour

I really would have liked to have spent a couple of hours here.  It is a nice little town with some great history.  But, I had to press on to Montpelier, which is “Pioneer Central”.

Ranch Hand Trail Stop - Montpelier, ID -- Eat 3 pancakes Eat Free...
Ranch Hand Trail Stop – Montpelier, ID — Eat 3 pancakes Eat Free…
Welcome to Montpelier, Idaho
Welcome to Montpelier, Idaho

Montpelier, Idaho was founded in 1864 and received its name from Brigham Young in deference to his birthplace in the town of the same name in Vermont.  Mormon heritage in the Bear Lake area of Idaho.  Many Mormon families moved and settled in this area in the 1860s and 1870s.  Indeed, my wife’s direct ancestors were some of the families that came to the area.  In her case, her great great grandfather William Shepherd migrated from England and settled in nearby Paris, Idaho, which later became the county seat of Bear Lake County.  He was a shoemaker and a farmer and was considered a “leading citizen” of the county (see this article for more on the Shepherds). My wife’s grandfather Rulon T. Shepherd was born in Paris as was her mother Arlene.  Rulon and family eventually were some of the original settlers in Mesa, Arizona.  So, the Pioneer Heritage of this area has a special place in the hearts of my family.

Welcome to Montpelierr - Part II
Welcome to Montpelier – Part II

Montpelier is home to the National Oregon/California Trail Center, which is all about the pioneers. The Trail Center was built to preserve, perpetuate and promote the pioneer history and heritage of the Oregon/California Trail and the Bear Lake Valley.

Sumoflam at National Oregon/California Trail Center
Sumoflam at National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier, Idaho
Life size Pioneer Diorama on outside of the Trail Center in Montpelier
Life size Pioneer Diorama on outside of the Trail Center in Montpelier
Trail Center Covered Wagon
Trail Center Covered Wagon
Wildflowers at the Trail Center
Wildflowers at the Trail Center
The National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier, Idaho
The National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier, Idaho

I had to move on and into Wyoming.  I got to the border via US 30 as it wound through areas trekked on by pioneers

 

US 30 east of Montpelier
US 30 east of Montpelier, Idaho
Welcome to Wyoming sign on US 30
Welcome to Wyoming sign on US 30
Border, Wyoming sign
Border, Wyoming sign

From the border I headed into the small town of Cokeville, Wyoming.

US 30 heading south to Cokeville, Wyoming
US 30 heading south to Cokeville, Wyoming
Welcome to Cokeville, WY
Welcome to Cokeville, WY

Cokeville, Wyoming is a small town of about 535 people.  The town got its name from coal deposits found in the area.  The railroad arrived in 1882 and the town incorporated in 1910 and, in the early 1900s, was called the “Sheep Capital of the World” due to the number of sheep ranches. (Newell, SD is now called the “Sheep Capital of America”).  Perhaps the only really interesting thing I saw in Cokeville was the non-descript sign for “Blondie’s Cafe”.

Blondie's Cafe - Cokeville, WY
Blondie’s Cafe – Cokeville, WY

From Cokeville I continued s outh on US 30 until it turned east and then followed it on to Kemmerer.

US 30 South of Cokeville, WY
US 30 South of Cokeville, WY
US 30 turning east towards Kemmerer
US 30 turning east towards Kemmerer
US 30 heading east to Kemmerer, WY
US 30 heading east to Kemmerer, WY

 

Almost to Kemmerer sign...
Almost to Kemmerer sign…

Kemmerer, Wyoming and Diamondville, Wyoming are basically twin cities that reside in what is called “The Fossil Basin” due to the abundant fish fossils in the area.  On the way into Kemmerer I passed Fossil Butte National Monument, but did not have time to stop there. Some of the world’s best preserved fossils are found here including fossilized fish, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals.  They are apparently exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation.   There are also “Dig-your-own” fossil quarries located in the hills surrounding ancient Fossil Lake, just west of Kemmerer and Diamondville.  So, this is a haven for fossil enthusiasts.

Welcome to Kemmerer Diamondville
Welcome to Kemmerer Diamondville
Fish Fossil Sign
Fish Fossil Sign
Wyoming's Wonder Sign - Kemmerer, WY
Wyoming’s Wonder Sign – Kemmerer, WY
Oregon Trail SIgn
Oregon Trail Sign

The two towns boast a number of beautiful wooden signs that dot the area.  A few samples are above.

Kemmerer, Wyoming has about 2,700 residents and is the county seat of Lincoln County. The town was established as a result of the discovery of coal deposits by explorer John Fremont. In 1881 the Union Pacific Coal Company opened an underground mine in conjunction with the newly added Oregon Short Line Railroad.  The actual town was founded in 1897 and was named after Pennsylvania Coal Magnate Mahlon S. Kemmerer, who provided major funding for the mine operations. As a result of the mines, the town grew rapidly.

J.C. Penney Mother Store
J.C. Penney Mother Store

In 1902 James Cash Penney came to Kemmerer to open a business.  He set up the “Golden Rule Store” and opened its doors on April 14, 1902 in partnership with two other individuals. The partnership later dissolved, and, in 1909 Penney moved his headquarters to Salt Lake City to be closer to banks and railroads.  By 1912 he had expanded to 34 stores in .  In 1913 he made the decision to change their names to J.C. Penney Company. and the company eventually moved its headquarters to New York. An interesting side note of history: In 1940, Sam Walton began working at a J. C. Penney in Des Moines, Iowa. Walton later went on to found future retailer Walmart in 1962.  The “Mother Store” still operates in Kemmerer.

Wall Mural in Kemmerer
Harvey Jackson Wall Mural in Kemmerer

The town has a beautiful (and large) wall mural in the downtown area depicting the history of the area. It was done by mural artist Harvey Jackson in 2006.  I have wrote about another of his murals in Gillette, Wyoming in an earlier post.

Harvey Jackson mural
Detail of Harvey Jackson mural
Detail of Harvey Jackson mural
Detail of Harvey Jackson mural
Wooden Ma and Pa, Kemmerer, WY
Wooden Ma and Pa, Kemmerer, WY

I found this old wooden couple outside of Bob’s Rock Shop in Kemmerer. I didn’t stop in due to time constraints, but I had to get a shot of this fun couple!

Sumoflam with Ma and Pa
Sumoflam with Ma and Pa
Antler Motel Neon Sign in Kemmerer. Love old neon signs.
Antler Motel Neon Sign in Kemmerer. Love old neon signs.

Like Kemmerer, the small town of Diamondville, Wyoming got its start from Cole Mining when coal was discovered nearby in 1868 by a man named Harrison Church.  A tent town soon formed and eventually the town was established in 1896.  The town apparently got its name from the quality of the superior-grade coal that seemed to resemble black diamonds.

Diamondville Water Tank
Diamondville Water Tank
Diamondville Town Hall sign
Diamondville Town Hall sign

From Diamondville I proceeded east on US 30 towards the small town of Opal, WY.

US 30 east of Diamondville
US 30 east of Diamondville

Opal, Wyoming is practically a ghost town.  There are only a few occupied buildings and a number of old run down houses.  It was originally an old railroad town and is also a center for sheep and cattle ranching. According to one site, the town ships 10,000 head of cattle annually.

Old Mercantile Building, Opal, WY
Old Mercantile Building, Opal, WY
Pioneer Monument - Opal, WY
Pioneer Monument – Opal, WY

Continuing eastward, US 30 moved southeast towards Interstate 80 south of Granger, Wyoming.  From there it was on to Little America, Wyoming.

US 30 East near Granger, Wyoming
US 30 East near Granger, Wyoming
Approaching Little America, WY
Approaching Little America, WY

Little America got its name from the Little America motel, which was purposefully located in this remote location as a haven, not unlike the base camp the polar explorer Richard E. Byrd set up in the Antarctic in 1928, thus the use of penguins as the icons. However, being situated on a coast-to-coast highway and offering travel services, it thrived, launching a chain of travel facilities by the same name. Its developer, Robert Earl Holding, who died on April 19, 2013, with a personal net worth of over $3 billion.  Holding was the owner of Sinclair gas, the Little America hotel chain and the Sun Valley and Snowbasin ski resorts, among other businesses.

Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America
Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America

In 1974 I began work with a company in Salt Lake City called Alta Distributing.  It was a record and tape rack jobber and I was given a sales territory that included southern Utah, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming.  Once a month I made way from Vernal, Utah to Rock Springs, Wyoming and then west to Evanston and back to Salt Lake.  I always stopped in Little America…it was truly a haven and they had a great dining facility with amazing portions. It was one of my fonder memories.  Later, while in college, I worked for a short time at the Little America in Flagstaff, AZ and then, as a tour guide, made frequent trips to this classy hotel to pick up guests.

Famous Little America sign
Famous Little America sign

Heading east on I-80, the landscape is fairly bleak.  Lots of sage brush and high desert landscapes.  To some it is likely a boring drive.  But, there is plenty of life out there and, as one gets closer to Green River, the scenery starts getting more interesting.

 I-80 East of Little America
I-80 East of Little America
I-80 near Green River, Wyoming
I-80 near Green River, Wyoming – looking at Castle Rock on the right
Green River Tunnel east of Green River, WY
Green River Tunnel east of Green River, WY

From Green River it is a hop skip and a jump to Rock Springs.  I always remembered Rock Springs as a town full of singlewide trailers, but the town of 23,000 is actually quite vibrant due to the energy-rich region that contains numerous oil and natural gas reserves.

Welcome to Rock Springs, WY
Welcome to Rock Springs, WY
Landscape near Rock Springs, WY
Landscape near Rock Springs, WY

I continued east on I-80 until I got to exit 187 which linked with Wyoming HWY 789, which headed south towards Colorado. This exit had a couple of old gas station signs, remnants of a vibrant time now long gone.

Baggs Rd - WY Hwy 789
Baggs Rd – WY Hwy 789
Old Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming
Old Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming
Old Neon Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming
Old Neon Mojo Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming

The drive to Baggs, Wyoming on WY 789 is a 50 mile drive through some pretty amazing desert scenery. including colorful buttes, badlands, arroyos, wild horses and antelope.  I was quite thrilled to take this drive on a road I had never been on and on one that is obviously not heavily traveled.  At one time this was part of the Overland Trail and there are apparently still some ruts visible from the late 1800s when the trail was used.

The Overland Trail historic Sign
The Overland Trail historic Sign
Colorful buttes along Hwy 789 in south central Wyoming
Colorful buttes along Hwy 789 in south central Wyoming
Colorful hills on WY 789 South
Colorful hills on WY 789 South
Wild Horses as seen along Hwy 789 north of Baggs, WY
Wild Horses as seen along Hwy 789 north of Baggs, WY
Badlands north of Baggs, WY
Badlands north of Baggs, WY

The drive down Hwy 789 is also historic.  It is reputedly where the famous Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their “Wild Bunch” hung out.  Baggs is one of many towns in scenic Carbon County, Wyoming, which includes the towns of Rawlins, Baggs and a number of others.

Welcome to Baggs, WY
Welcome to Baggs, WY

Baggs, Wyoming is a short drive from the Colorado border and is only about 40 miles or so from Craig, Colorado.  To get there I continued south on 789 which turns into Colorado Hwy 13 heading into Craig.

Welcome to Colorado WY 789 and CO 13
Welcome to Colorado WY 789 and CO 13
Colorado Hwy 13
Colorado Hwy 13

The drive down Colorado 13 is scenic with rolling hills and lots of antelope.  I saw quite a few including the two below and then the amazing scene of the mother and two calves.

Antelope on CO Hwy 13
Antelope on CO Hwy 13
Pronghorn Antelope on CO Hwy 13
Pronghorn Antelope on CO Hwy 13
CO Hwy 13 in Moffat County
CO Hwy 13 in Moffat County
Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Another shot of the antelopes
Another shot of the antelopes

Along this highway one can see the “Fortification Rocks” which is an old basalt pillar that is believed to be used by Indians as a fortification. The historical marker for Fortification Rocks thew in some humor noting that “this area is better known as home to a large number of rattlesnakes.”  This structure juts out of the prairie like a sharp razor back and is fairly impressive.

Fortification Rocks as seen from the north on CO 13.
Fortification Rocks as seen from the north on CO 13.
Fortification Rocks as seen from the side on CO Hwy 13
Fortification Rocks as seen from the side on CO Hwy 13

Continuing southward towards Craig the scenery continues to get more impressive.

CO Hwy 13 near Craig, CO
CO Hwy 13 near Craig, CO

And, of course, my GPS knows me well as it sent me on a gravel road bypassing Craig and heading towards US Route 40 and Hayden, CO.

Gravel Road - Yoleta Trail Rd. east of Craig, CO
Gravel Road – Yoleta Trail Rd. east of Craig, CO
Old Cabin on US 40 west of Hayden, CO
Old Cabin on US 40 west of Hayden, CO
Elkhead Creek Valley west of Hayden, CO
Yampa River Valley west of Hayden, CO

Hayden is a small town of abut 1600 people just a few miles east of Craig, CO and west of Steamboat Springs, CO on US Hwy 40. The area was first settled in 1875, with the town established in 1894 and incorporated in 1906. Hayden was named for F.V. Hayden, head of a survey party for the U.S. Geological & Geographic Survey in the late 1860s. Hayden explored western Colorado during the late nineteenth century.  It has a small mainline passenger airport due to it’s proximity to some major Colorado ski resorts.

Welcome to Hayden, CO
Welcome to Hayden, CO

I continued east on US 40 a few more miles until I hit Colorado Hwy 131 which headed south towards Eagle through the Yampa River Valley and some wonderful late spring scenery of wildflower covered hills, as well as a drive by a huge Peabody Coal operation near Oak Creek, Colorado.

Mountains and meadows as seen from CO Hwy 131
Mountains and meadows as seen from CO Hwy 131
Flowery Meadows on CO Hwy 131
Flowery Meadows on CO Hwy 131
More flowers along the road
More flowers along the road
Closeup of flowers
Closeup of yellow wildflowers
Coal mining near Oak Creek, Colorado
Coal mining near Oak Creek, Colorado
Train coming out of Peabody Coal Mine near Oak Creek, CO
Train coming out of Peabody Coal Mine near Oak Creek, CO

From the Peabody Coal facility, CO 131 winds its way down into the small town of Oak Creek.  Funny how it reminded me of the drive from Flagstaff, AZ to Sedona, AZ thorough Oak Creek Canyon with the sharp curves.

Oak Creek, Colorado
Oak Creek, Colorado
Large wall mural on Chelsea's Chinese restaurant in Oak Creek, CO
Large wall mural on Chelsea’s Chinese restaurant in Oak Creek, CO
A mystic mural in Oak Creek, CO
A mystic mural in Oak Creek, CO

From Oak Creek I proceeded south to Phippsburg and then into Yampa, CO, where I caught a pretty amazing sunset.

Rocky Mountains south of Phippsburg
Rocky Mountains south of Phippsburg
Sunset hits Devil's Grave Mesa south of Phoppsburg, CO
Sunset hits Devil’s Grave Mesa south of Phippsburg, CO

I finally arrived in Yampa, Colorado at around 8:30 PM in time to catch a glimpse of a wonderful sunset on the hills.

Sunset as seen from Yampa, CO
Sunset as seen from Yampa, CO
Another view of sunset from Yampa
Another view of sunset from Yampa

The remainder of the drive was in the shady light of sunset as I continued south and crossed over the Colorado River at State Bridge Landing south of Bond, CO.  It was too dark to get any photographs but it was lit enough that I could imagine that it was a spectacular scene.  I eventually made my way to my hotel in Eagle, CO.  It was a long day after nearly 600 miles of driving…but left some lasting memories.

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A Few Days in Shelby, Montana and surrounding area

Shelby, Montana
Shelby, Montana

March 28, 2013:  On our way back to Kentucky from Rexburg, Idaho  we made a three day detour to Shelby, Montana to visit our daughter and her husband and their 4 children. During our three days here, we were very busy with a trip to the base of Glacier National Park, a drive around town capturing the “Neon Essence” of Shelby, and a trip north to Sweetgrass, just south of the Canadian border, where we also visited a Hutterite colony and learned of their amazing communal ways.  This post will cover these activities through photos and some details.

Shelby, Montana -- a train town
Shelby, Montana — a railroad town

Shelby is a city of about 3400 people (including 6 of my children/grandchildren!!). It was started as a railroad town and continues as such today.  Named after Peter O. Shelby of the Montana Central Railway, the town really got its start in 1891 when the Great Northern Railroad was making its way to the Marias Pass.  The story goes that the builders threw a box car from the train and called it a station.

Old Motel Sign in Shelby, Montana
Old Motel Sign in Shelby, Montana

One of the endearing characters of Shelby is all of the old neon signs still hanging around the town. Obviously, as an Amtrak town, there are still lots of motels in Shelby.  As well, it is a nice pit stop for many.

Vista Motel - Shelby, Montana
Vista Motel – Shelby, Montana
Sherlock Motel - Shelby, Montana
Sherlock Motel – Shelby, Montana
Big Motel sign in downtown Shelby
Big Motel sign in downtown Shelby
Old Motel Sign - Shelby, Montana
Old Motel Sign – Shelby, Montana

There are lots of bars and restaurants as well…

Oasis Bar - Shelby, Montana.  Love the old Dancing neon sign
Oasis Bar – Shelby, Montana. Love the old Dancing neon sign
Sports Club - Excellent Food - Shelby, Montana
Sports Club – Excellent Food – Shelby, Montana
Mint Club - Shelby, Montana
The Mint Club – Shelby, Montana
Montana Grill and Roxy Theater in Shelby, Montana
Montana Grill and Roxy Theater in Shelby, Montana

On a previous trip I took the kids to see a movie at the Roxy.  Old style theater still in operation.  It was fun.

Here are a few other scenes from around the town itself…

Wall Art in downtown Shelby
Wall Art in downtown Shelby
H-O Motor Supply - old advertising
H-O Motor Supply – old advertising
Bowling anyone? - this is the only place to bowl in Shelby.
Bowling anyone? – this is the only place to bowl in Shelby.
Unusual sign seen in a shop in Shelby
Unusual sign seen in a shop in Shelby
Iwo Jima Metal Art at Veteran's Memorial in Shelby, Montana.  This was made by local veteran John Alstad
Iwo Jima Metal Art at Veteran’s Memorial in Shelby, Montana

Vietnam War Veteran John Alstad of Sunburst created most of the pieces at the Veteran’s Memorial in Shelby. He estimates he spent nearly 700 hours working on the various pieces at the monument, the most prominent of which is the Iwo Jima piece.

Found this old truck driving through a neighborhood in Shelby
Found this old truck driving through a neighborhood in Shelby

As I noted, Shelby is a railroad town.  As I drove around town getting the shots above, we were stuck at a track for nearly 20 minutes as a long train made its way to a grain elevator.  The photo at the top shows the train at the elevator.

Long train running in Shelby, Montana
Long train running in Shelby, Montana

I have always enjoyed looking at the graffiti on trains.  You see it all over the country.  Here are a few examples I got as the train moved slowly past us.  I couldn’t go anywhere, so, why not?

Train Graffiti
Train Graffiti
Train Graffiti
Train Graffiti
Train graffiti
Train graffiti
Train graffiti
Train graffiti

After the trains, I drive a bit east of town on US 2 to get a view of Shelby from the hill.  We came across this unique Historical Marker.

The Oily Boid gets the Woim - a unique historical marker
The Oily Boid gets the Woim – a unique historical marker

One of the evenings Julianne and I went with my daughter and her husband to the “premier” steak place in the Shelby area. Trust me, you would never know how good this place was inside by driving by it!!  It is in an old whitewashed building literally in the middle of nowhere in a place called Dunkirk, on the outskirts of Shelby.  All that is indicated is the sign.

Frontier Restaurant near Shelby, Montana
Frontier Restaurant near Shelby, Montana
Mailbox outside of Frontier Bar and Grill
Mailbox outside of Frontier Bar and Grill
Hanging with the Frontier Guy
Hanging with the Frontier Guy
Frontier Bar in Dunkirk, east of Shelby
Frontier Bar in Dunkirk, east of Shelby
I guarantee that this place is no bull!!
I guarantee that this place is no bull!!

Once in the place, it is a whole different story.  Linen napkins and nice china. The water glasses were the nice stem ware one sees in an upscale restaurant.  The prices are also synonymous with ritzy…  But so was the meal.

Dinner at Frontier - 16 oz. Cajun blackened New York Strip with a huge potato and green beans.
Dinner at Frontier – 16 oz. Cajun blackened New York Strip with a huge potato and green beans

After a nice dinner, we walked out of the restaurant and OH WHAT A VIEW!!

Mountains to the north of Shelby, with an awesome sunset.
Mountains to the north of Shelby, with an awesome sunset
Close up of Gold Butte - mountains on fire
Close up of Gold Butte – mountains on fire

The next day my son in law Aaron, his two boys and I all took off west towards Glacier National Park.  Though it was officially closed, we were able to get close enough to the mountains to catch a beautiful sunrise.  I will have a special photo album of shots of the mountains, but will include a couple of them here as well.

We left early, while still dark and headed towards Cut Bank and Browning.  We then took Hwy 464 towards Duck Lake. As we headed north towards Babb, the sun began to rise.

Sunrise in Northern Montana
Sunrise in Northern Montana near Babb, Montana
Snow covered prairies north of Browning, Montana
Snow covered prairies north of Browning, Montana
First sunrise on the mountains of Glacier National Park near Babbs, Montana
First sunrise on the mountains of Glacier National Park near Babb, Montana
Sunrise a little later in Glacier
Sunrise a little later in Glacier – Chief Mountain on Right, Sherburne Peak and Yellow Mountain on the left
Chief Mountain at sunrise
Chief Mountain at sunrise
Heading to the mountains on Montana Hwy 464 near Duck Lake
Heading to the mountains on Montana Hwy 464 near Duck Lake
Clouds in the Mountains near Babb, MT
Clouds in the Mountains near Babb, MT
Old truck - Babb, Montana
Old truck – Babb, Montana
Babb Bar and Supper Club
Babb Bar and Supper Club

After the sun was finally up, we backtracked to Babb and dropped in at the Leaning Tree Cafe, which is about a mile from the US 89 Junction.  It opened at 8 AM and it was time for a great meal.

Leaning Tree Cafe, Babb, Montana
Leaning Tree Cafe, Babb, Montana
Leaning Tree Menu - lots of good breakfast
Leaning Tree Menu – lots of good breakfast
The kids were excited to eat at a place like this
The kids were excited to eat at a place like this
They sell grubs here too - didn't have any of those for breakfast
They sell grubs here too – didn’t have any of those for breakfast
Mary runs the Leaning Tree Cafe.  She makes a great breakfast
Mary runs the Leaning Tree Cafe. She makes a great breakfast
My breakfast at leaning tree - eggs, sausage, hash, potatoes and toast - YUM
My breakfast at leaning tree – eggs, sausage, hash, potatoes and toast – YUM
Happy after my breakfast
Happy after my breakfast

You can see a complete gallery of the Glacier N.P. Mountains –> Click Here

We headed back towards Browning, and along the way saw a couple of bison.  Not too good of shots, but, I didn’t want to get out of the car

Bison on Hwy 464
Bison on Hwy 464

We made our way into Browning, Montana.  The mountains were beautiful, but I was actually quite shocked at all of the garbage in the fields (mind you, I come from Lexington, KY which always looks like a park)

Browning, Montana - notice all of the garbage
Browning, Montana – notice all of the garbage along the fence
Don't Drink and Drive sign - makes for empty lodges
Don’t Drink and Drive sign – makes for empty lodges
Big Lodge Espresso - the Espresso Tipi in Browning
Big Lodge Espresso – the Espresso Tipi in Browning
Cowboy Museum in a Native American town
Cowboy Museum in a Native American town
Murals on the side of a shop in Browning
Mural on the side of a shop in Browning
Metal Teepees in front of a shop in Browning
Metal Teepees in front of a shop in Browning
Another nice mural in Browning, Montana
Another nice mural in Browning, Montana

From Browning we headed east again towards Cut Bank, we took a small detour off of US Hwy 2 to visit the Camp Disappointment historic site and monument near milepost 233.  There is a historical marker as well as a large obelisk monument dedicated to the site.

Camp Disappointment Historical Sign
Camp Disappointment Historical Sign
Camp Disappointment Monument west of Cut Bank, Montana
Camp Disappointment Monument west of Cut Bank, Montana

The biggest disappointment is all of the graffiti on the obelisk.  I don’t know why people feel like they need to vandalize monuments like this.

Close up of text on the monument
Close up of text on the monument
Another shot of Camp Disappointment Monument
Another shot of Camp Disappointment Monument

From Camp Disappointment we continued east into Cut Bank.  The skies were clear blue and it was a great opportunity to stop and get some close up shots of the Blackfoot Warriors, made out of scrap metal. These were created by native Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber and were commissioned by the Blackfeet Tribal Leaders.  They were created in 2000.  He actually created a set of these to welcome travelers into the Blackfeet reservation from all four directions — the northern site is at the US/Canadian border on US 89,  the eastern site in East Glacier on US Hwy 2, the western site is near Cut Bank on US Hwy 2 (these are below), and the southern site is on US 89 near Birch Creek and Heart Butte.

Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in Cut Bank, Montana
Warrior 1
Warrior 1 – by Jay Polite Laber, near Cut Bank, Montana
Warrior 2
Warrior 2 – by Jay Polite Laber, near Cut Bank, Montana
The Warriors, by Jay Polite
The Warriors, by Jay Polite
Closeup of horse
Closeup of horse

From the warriors we went through town and made the requisite stop at the world’s largest penguin!

Cut Bank Penguin
Cut Bank Penguin

Being another train town, there is a large Train Bridge in Cutbank

Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900

Even though we had a busy morning and got into Shelby around noon, we were then again back on the road north towards Sweetgrass and off to visit a Hutterite colony, which was an amazing experience.

Striped fields in Northern Montana
Striped fields in Northern Montana
Blue roofed church in Sweetgrass, Montana
Blue roofed church in Sweetgrass, Montana
Another view of the Blue Roofed Church
Another view of the Blue Roofed Church

From Sweetgrass we headed west on a dirt road  towards the Hillside Colony of the Hutterites.  AS we visited we learned some amazing things: the Hutterites are almost totally communal.  All of them share everything.  Unlike the Amish, the Hutterites have adopted technology and are fabulously industrious.  They make their own clothes, they grow most of their own food, they all live in a small community.  Their homes are sparse.  It should be noted that I took a number of photos, with their permission, but, by their request, very few and only select photos are being added below.

Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass

We saw the above rock formations on the way to Hillside.  However, these were just an inkling of the bigger ones, which I have visited in the past.

On the road to the Hillside  Colony
On the road to the Hillside Colony
The Hillside Community
The Hillside Community

As seen above, the Hutterites in Hillside Colony live in the prefab buildings as seen above.  The apartments are small and have little or no belongings in them.  Each of the steps represent a single domicile.

The belongings in the kitchen
The belongings in the kitchen

One thing noticed immediately, there are no stoves, ovens or refrigerators in the homes.  They have a couple of chairs, perhaps a bench, a bed or two and some dressers.  The bed frames, dressers, kitchen tables, the cup holder above and the chairs are all hand made in the community.

Home made chairs
Home made chairs
The hat rack - the men wear hats in the public
The hat rack – the men wear hats in the public
Laundry Carts are used and they hang the laundry out. They do use washing machines
Laundry Carts are used and they hang the laundry out. They do use washing machines
Communal Dining Room
Communal Dining Room

All meals are eaten together as a community — men on one side, women on the other.  The women prepare the meals while the men work out on the farms, the chicken coops, the woodworking section, or otherwise.

Hat hanger in the Dining Room
Hat hanger in the Dining Room
Hutterite Food Storage
Hutterite Food Storage

Overall, we were so impressed about the kindness of the Hutterite folk.  We picked up some potatoes, home made sausage and some of their wonderful bread.  They are as industrious as bees and ants and all share completely.  Each individual has their own assigned jobs, many for life.  It was a great visit.

Cousin Thomas
Cousin Thomas

One last little visit was made while we were in Shelby. We got to visit Harry J. Benjamin, who makes all kinds of trains and pedal cars.  Below is his “De-Railed” Steam Engine, which he shows off in parades in northern Montana. This engine pulls a set of cars that reaches 60 feet long.

Harry J. Benjamin
Harry J. Benjamin

Well past his 80’s, Mr. Benjamin, a former farmer and mechanic, is famed in the area for building things out of junk parts and pieces.  He has built a number of trains, some other vehicles for the local high school and a number of children’s toys.

Harry driving his smaller train
Harry driving his smaller train
Smokin...
Smokin…
Benjamin's creations - a couple of tractors
Benjamin’s creations – a couple of tractors
De-Railed
De-Railed
Toy Tractor
Toy Tractor
Grandkids Enjoy the Ride
Grandkids Enjoy the Ride

Here’s a video of one of his creations:

But, I must admit, the BEST part of the entire visit to Shelby was this….

....Reading to the Grandkids
….reading to the Grandkids

Next stop…heading home via US 2.  Watch soon for the next great adventures on Less Beaten Paths.

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