#TBT – Going Through Hell to Get to Grand Rapids, MI

(Note: This is a Throwback Thursday post of a trip I made to Michigan from Woodstock, Ontario in May 2008.  Main reason for the trip was to see an Arena Football game, but I made a grad tour road trip of it, including a visit to Hell (MI)!)

by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz (on the “Blaze Bench”)

May 31, 2008: This weekend was yet another opportunity for me to go see my friend Aaron Boone play football.  The Utah Blaze will play in Grand Rapids, MI tomorrow and I decided I would drive there to see the game.  It is actually the closest of the three games that
I will be able to attend this season. (The others were Cleveland and Philadelphia).  In looking at the map and trying to determine the places I would be able to see along the way, I found that Hell, MI was kind of on the way.  As I noted in my trip to Cleveland to see the game there, I lost my vehicle in a bad accident and practically went through hell to get to Cleveland.  This time, I LITERALLY went through Hell to get to Grand Rapids.  For my route I also went through the oil country of Ontario on the way over and, as always, I spiced up the trip with an assortment of places to stop.  The map below tells the geographical story of this two day adventure.

From Woodstock through Hell (#9) to Grand Rapids and back again in two days

The game would be held on Sunday afternoon in Grand Rapids, so I left early Saturday morning.  A drive straight through to Grand Rapids is about 4 hours or so.  But, I took the long way (don’t I always??) so as to see more countryside and places of interest
(at least to some folks).

By 7:30 AM I was on the Canada 401 Hwy heading west to London, Ontario where I would hop on the Canada 402.  I took exit 82 and then headed via back roads through farmland towards Oil Springs, ON.

A Barn near Oil Springs, ON – love the old wagon in front of the barn
A barn with an Airstream near Oil Springs, ON. Gotta love Airstreams….

I eventually made my way down Gypsie Flats Road and as I neared the intersection of Gum Bed Line I could smell the petroleum in the air.  The first things I see are an odd variety of old and new oil wells and a number of metal sculptures depicting the early oil industry.  These fit nicely into my “scrap metal folk art” collection so I got a number of photos of these.  All of these were on the Fairbank Oil Properties, named after John Henry Fairbank, who started these fields in 1861. Apparently all of these metal sculptures were made by local metal-worker Murray Watson, who owns Watson’s Machine Shop in Oil Springs and each of the sculptures is supposedly based on a real person connected to the oil business in the area.

A Horse Drawn Oil Tanker
Close up of the Oil Tanker worker…all made form Scrap Metal
Scrap Metal Horse
Driving the horses
Climbing the ladder of an oil well
An Oil Tanker Teamster
Must be the “big shot”
Steam engine driver

I was also interested in the variety of oil wells in operation. The “black gold, Texas Tea…” was flowing freely from these contraptions.  They are noisy and indeed were pumping away:

Old fashioned oil pump in Oil Springs, Ontario
Another unique style of oil pump in Oil Springs, ON
A “jerker line” in Oil Springs

These are called “jerker lines”, a method used to pump oil to the surface from multiple wells using a shared steam engine (see the lines attached)  This method was invented by John Henry Fairbank

I finally got into the small town of Oil Springs, which touts itself as site of the first commercial oil well in North America (they were celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2008, which celebrated the discovery of oil in 1858).  Ironically, just a week earlier I drove through Oil City, PA and nearby Titusville, PA which has the same claim (they claim theirs was the birthplace of the Oil Industry in 1859).  In any case, the oil wars continue today as I am (actually aren’t we all?) battling with $4.00/gallon prices in the U.S. and $1.30/liter (abt. $4.92/gal) prices in Canada. 

An old oil well
Welcome to Oil Springs, site of the first commercial oil well in North America
A scene from the Oil Springs museum

Oil Springs is home to the Oil Museum of Canada.  Unfortunately, it was still early so they were not open.  But I got out and walked around the grounds, got a few photos and visited the site of the first oil well.  The story, in a nut shell: Charles Nelson Tripp,  his brother and businessmen from Hamilton and New York City came together to form the International Mining and Manufacturing Company for the purpose of producing asphalt from the Ontario gum beds situated in Enniskillen Township. This was the first oil company formed in North America. Its charter empowered the company to explore for asphalt beds and oil and salt springs, and to manufacture oils, naphtha paints, burning fluids, varnishes and related products. Then  a manufacturer of railway carriages at Hamilton bought Tripp’s land and oil rights. Tripp stayed on the payroll as landman. Williams formed the J.M.Williams Company. After unsuccessful attempts at commercial production from the gum beds Williams hand-dug and cribbed a well 49 feet deep. It did not reach bedrock but produced as much as 150 gallons per hour by hand pump. The oil was refined for illuminating oil and lubricants. Then, in 1858, with stagnant algae-ridden water almost everywhere and, looking for better drinking water, Williams dug a well a few yards down an incline from his asphalt plant. At a depth of 20 meters, the well struck free oil instead of water. In 1858 it became the first oil well in North America, remembered as Williams No. 1 at Oil Springs, Ontario. (This was a year before Edwin Drake drilled his famous wildcat
in Pennsylvania in 1859.)  — This info comes from Petrolia’s Website.

After visiting Oil Springs I drove north on Oil Heritage Road into Petrolia and then on to Wyoming.  I had planned to stop in Petrolia, but I still had a lot to see so I skipped Petrolia and it was early anyway so the museum and other sites would not be open anyway.  I got through Wyoming and was back on the 402 heading west towards Sarnia, into Point Edward and over the Blue Water Bridge.  I have crossed this bridge a number of times, but have yet to actually stop and decided not to this time as well.  There are some beautiful scenes of Lighthouse Park (in Port Huron, MI) and I think the park in Point Edward, ON would offer some nice shots of the lighthouse over the St. Clair River, which serves as the border between Canada and the U.S.  Maybe on my next trip…..

I made it through Flint, MI on I-69 and then headed south from there on US-23.  The scenery was grand as I drove by glimmering lakes and ponds and through nice wooded areas.  As I got closer to my next destination I could see that there were a number of recreation areas.  I turned west on 9 Mile Road heading towards Hamburg and then on M36 into Pinckney.  I got there just in time for some big festival in town.  It was already crowded by 10:30 AM.  I knew that I had to turn from Pinckney to had south to Hell. I finally saw my sign:

I thought it funny that you turn on Howell to go to Hell

The drive to Hell, Michigan is actually quite scenic.  You take D19 south to Patterson Lake Road and then turn right.  This is about a five mile drive.  Hell is actually located inside Pinckney Recreation Area near four or five lakes.  It is also considered a part of the town of Pinckney.  According to the official Hell Website, the town got its name as follows:  Hell was first settled in 1838 by George Reeves and his family. George had a wife and 7 daughters – no reason to call it Hell yet… George built a mill and a general store on the banks of a river that is now known as Hell Creek. The mill would grind the local farmers’ grain into flour; George also ran a whiskey still, so a lot of times the first 7-10 bushels of grain became moonshine.  In turn, horses would come home without riders, wagons without  drivers….someone would say to the wife, where is your husband?  She’d shrug her shoulders, throw up her arms and exclaim, Ahh, he’s gone to Hell!”  In 1841 when officials from the State of Michigan  came by, and asked George what he wanted to name his town, he replied, “Call it Hell for all I care, everyone else does.” So the official date of becoming Hell was October 13, 1841… (you can click here for the LONG history of Hell).

Welcome to Hell, MI

Well, arriving in Hell was not as exciting as I thought it would be.  There are only three businesses operating there (that I could see). The population is around 74 they say. As well, according to the Screams Ice Cream shop the locals are referred to as hellions,  hellbillies or wannabes.

Hell’s Mayor’s office
Hellish Flamingoes
The Ice Scream Store signage
Directions to other interesting places
That way to Hell
Dam Fine Food
Survivor of Hell
Been to Hell and Back mugs
Been to Hell and Back T-Shirt
Hell Froze Over (and it does annually!)
I asked if there was a restroom and they sent me to the back to use one of these. So, bear in mind that if you go to Hell you will have to use the PortaPotty – No restrooms in Hell…
…but there IS a Post Office in Hell!!! (Zip 48169)

Enough about Hell.  A fun place to say you have been through…so, now I have been to Hell and Back. Now, on to more places….  In my research of where to go I noticed that just south of Hell is another interesting town called Chelsea.  I just had to go there since my daughter is Chelsea and since it was so close.  I took a number of winding roads and finally made my way to M52 and went south into
Chelsea.

Heading to Chelsea, MI
Welcome to Chelsea, MI

I actually found two places to visit in Chelsea.  The first actually has an official Guinness World Record.  It is the Chelsea Teddy Bear
Company
.  Their record is for the world’s largest “Teddy Bear Mosaic”. They also have “Goliath”, the World’s Largest Stuffed Teddy Bear (over 10 feet tall!!) and then there is the 7′ tall “Happy” Grizzly Bear.  Naturally, I got Chelsea a T-Shirt that she can wear proudly!

Chelsea Teddy Bear Co.
Part of the World’s Largest Teddy Bear Mosaic – made from 360 teddy bears
Guinness World Record Certificate
Sign says it all
Goliath, the World’s Tallest Teddy Bear
Happy Grizzly Bear at Chelsea’s

Chelsea is also home to one of my wife Julianne’s favorite products for use around Thanksgiving and when she makes chili.  It is the home of the Chelsea Milling Company, known for their Jiffy Muffin Mix.


Chelsea also has some interesting folk art in the town square area

The Chelsea Town Hall Clock Tower

I was now back on the road going from Corn Meal Mix to Cream of Wheat as I headed south to I-94 out of Chelsea towards my next destination. Once on I-94 I was heading west to Exit 138 to US 127 north to the small town of Leslie, MI.  Here I would find one of those real obscurities.  As I mentioned Cream of Wheat, the story will be told first:

Cream of Wheat boxes through the years: early 1900s, 1940s, current (minus the Nabisco logo)

The boxes were hand-made and lettered, and emblazoned with the image of a black chef produced by Emery Mapes. The character was named Rastus, and the image was included on all boxes and advertisements and continues to be used today with only very slight changes. A stereotypical black icon was fairly common for U.S. commercial brands at the time of the cereal’s creation; for other examples, see Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. It has long been thought that a black chef named Frank L. White was the model for the chef shown on the Cream of Wheat box. White, who died in 1938 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Leslie, Michigan claimed to be the
model for the Cream of Wheat box. In June 2007, a headstone was erected for Mr. White. The headstone contains his name and an etching taken from the man depicted on the Cream of Wheat box.

I made my way into town and then to Woodlawn Cemetery. There are two roads in, one paved and one dirt.  Take the dirt road under the Woodlawn Cemetery sign and take the fork to the right.  His is the first marker on ground on the right just off the road.

Frank L. White grave marker in Woodlawn Cemetery
Close up of Frank L. White picture engraved on the grave marker

Frank L. White: African American chef best known as the model featured on Cream of Wheat breakfast cereal boxes. White was born in Barbados in 1867 before immigrating to the U.S. in 1875 and
becoming a citizen in 1890. White lived much of his life in Leslie, Michigan, and was working as a master chef at a Chicago restaurant the time he was photographed for the cereal box in 1900. White died on February 15, 1938, and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. In June 2007, his grave, which was previously unmarked, received a headstone.

Now when you eat Cream of Wheat you can have this interesting story to tell.  (Please make mine lumpy!) He apparently never made a penny off of his image.

After paying homage to Mr. White, I continued north on US 27 to
just south of Lansing and then onto I-96 to head further west through Portland, Berlin and Boston, to Exit 43 where I would head north to Ada, MI.  Ada is home to one of 11 covered bridges in Western Michigan.  The Ada Covered Bridge spans the Thornapple River that runs through Ada.  It is 125 feet long and was originally built around 1867 using “Brown” trusses that were patented by Josiah Brown of Buffalo, NY in 1857. This particular bridge has had its troubles through the years and was eventually destroyed by fire.  The community, with help from nearby Amway Corporation, rebuilt the bridge in 1979.  This bridge is only for pedestrian use now.

Ada Covered Bridge
Entrance to Ada Covered Bridge in Ada, MI
Side view of the Ada Covered bridge

By the time I was done with the Ada Bridge, it was getting late.  I was just outside of Grand Rapids, so I checked into my hotel room at the Super 8 near the Gerald R. Ford Airport and then headed across town to meet Aaron Boone.  We met for dinner and then took a drive around Grand Rapids looking at some of the old churches as
well as a ride west towards Lake Michigan.  We made it to about 100 yards of the lake and didn’t know it and it was dark anyway.  It was a pleasant time talking about family, life, football, etc.

Hanging with Aaron Boone at Charley’s Crab in Grand Rapids, MI
The magnificent Basilica of St. Adelbert in Grand Rapids, MI
The Basilica was built in 1881
Extravagant and colorful stained glass on the Basilica of St. Adelbert in Grand Rapids, MI
One of many stained glass windows at the Basilica of St. Adelbert in Grand Rapids, MI
We saw this other church at sunset on the way to Holland, MI

June 1, 2008: Today was game day, but it was beautiful outside and so I decided to take a drive to see another of the covered bridges.  I had hoped to find it yesterday, but I got lost and it wasn’t signed very well.  This time I had specific directions and drove east on I-96 to the Lowell exit 52 and headed north through Lowell up Lincoln Lake Ave. to Fallasburg Park Dr., about 5 miles north of Lowell.  This is the site of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge. This bridge is a single span bridge also using Brown trusses.  It is 100 feet long and 14 feet tall and allows single lane traffic by car as it crosses the Flat River.  But, if you go faster than someone walking you will be “fined $5” according to the sign on the bridge. When I got there I was awestruck by the beautiful setting.  On top of that, there was a man there fishing and the shot was too tempting.   Barry O. gave me permission to photograph him and use it on the web.

Barry O. enjoying his retirement fishing on the river near Fallasburg Bridge
A care drives through the Fallasburg Bridge
A side view of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge
Front view of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge near Lowell, MI

Crossing over the river on the bridge and then up the hill takes you into the historic village of Fallasburg.  There are some historical buildings.

Old Fallasburg School House
A rustic barn in Fallasburg park
Purple Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis Matronalis)
These purple and white Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis Matronalis) surrounded the barn and were very fragrant
Rustic barn with Dame’s Rocket flowers
View of Flat River as seen from the Fallasburg Covered Bridge

After a nice morning visit, it was time to head back to Grand Rapids to get the tickets and get excited about the ball game. The Utah Blaze really needed a win here to stay in contention for the playoffs.
First of all, I sat on the “Blaze Bench” in Hell for good luck (see photo at top of page).  I had yet to attend a game played by Aaron Boone as an Arena player that they had won.  I was 0 for 5.  So, I hoped my streak would be broken.  I had to go through Hell to get here!!

The game went well. The Blaze won 63-56 over the Grand Rapids Rampage though Boone’s Touchdown streak was held to 13 games in a row as he didn’t get one this game.  But, my streak was broken and better yet, the Blaze stayed in contention for the playoffs!  Following are a few photos I took at the game.   I had great seats right behind the Blaze bench.

Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI
Ready for some football!
Utah Blaze offense
Then Blaze Head Coach Danny White
Head Coach Danny White gives instructions to QB Joe Germaine

Coach Danny White attended Westwood H.S. in Mesa, the same as my wife. My mother-in-law was one of his high school teachers. Germaine is also from Mesa and led Ohio State to a Rose Bowl win.

Aaron Boone on the field
The Utah Blaze receivers in 2008
Aaron Boone getting ready to run a route
The Utah Blaze win!

After the game I saw Aaron off and headed home.  It was Sunday and I had to be back at work in the morning.  However, on the way home I had one more place to visit. I needed dinner, so I would stop at a planned place.  I discovered this one on roadsideamerica.com and thought it would fit my eclectic style.

Travelers Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum in Okemos, MI
Travelers Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum in Okemos, MI

Yes, the name conjures up all kinds of imaginations.  But, as with other strange and wonderful places I have visited in the past, I needed to add this to my collection. (Note: As of this writing in 2015, the restaurant is closed, but is trying to reestablish in Lansing, MI) The TCIR and Tuba Museum not only has an interesting interior, but the menu is also a variety of Asian, ethnic, Greek, and whatever else they could conjure up. I actually had a Greek salad and a Buffalo burger…yes, Buffalo…not in Montana, South Dakota or Colorado…but in some little small town in Michigan!

Buffalo burger at TCIR

The real charm of this place is the decor…with all kinds of tubas everywhere

Tuba decorations everywhere
Old tubas adorn the walls of the Tuba Museum
A sousaphone on the wall
Sousaphones on the ceiling
More tubas, sousaphone and other assorted horns
One of the staff members hams it up
This guy really looked the part at this eclectic eatery

It was spring and the flowers were in bloom and the fountains were running.

Iris and lilacs adorned the outside of the Tuba Museum
The famed Sousaphountain….one of a kind

It was a pleasant ending to a rather long weekend.  Eye candy, good food and wonderful fragrance.  The drive back to Woodstock was uneventful and went quickly. It was a great time.

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#TBT – Yard Art, Swans and Mennonites in Southern Ontario

(Note: I was working at the Toyota Plant in Woodstock, Ontario as a Japanese interpreter at the time I wrote this post in 2008)

March 26, 2008: It was a beautiful day and I got off work at 4:00 and decided to head out on a small road trip around the region.  A couple of days ago I met with Cathy Bingham, Director of the Oxford County, Ontario Tourism Office in Woodstock. She had contacted  me about my Jakeman’s Syrup page and wanted to meet with me to give me more ideas.  We had a wonderful visit and she gave me some unique ideas, told me about the history of the area and focused me in on some different places to see, both in Oxford County as well as the surrounding counties.  One of the DEFINITE MUST VISITS was to see the Tundra Swans near Aylmer,  Ontario.  So, I decided to do that along with a couple of other side  trips.  Following is an overview map of the route I took…about 78 miles all together.

The first place I visited was just outside of Woodstock.  I left Toyota and headed down Highway 2 (Dundas St.) into town all the way to the Highway 59 turnoff heading north (Vansitart Rd.).  I crossed over the Thames River and up a couple of hills to see  another place that Cathy had recommended to me, based on my  yard art interests.  This particular place is the home of Cliff Bruce and his wife.  Cliff Bruce has an eclectic collection of Windmills, whirly-gigs and other oddities scattered throughout his yard. Following are just a few shots of the place:

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Welcome sign over the main driveway tells you where you are.
Push button
Push button to Open Gate – Do I dare?
Bruce Windmill Hill
Fun entry sign. I am still alive, so I must have missed the double shot gun day!

He calls it Windmill Hill.  There is a gate that keeps visitors out and  the dogs in, but the sign in the driveway says to “Push the Button” to open the gate.  I did that, but the gate did not open.  Since I did not know if today was the two double shot gun day, I decided to just walk around the outside and get a few shots of his yard decorum.

The first thing I noticed from the driveway was the working walk/don’t walk lights and the railroad crossing lights…which came complete with the bell ringing.  I wondered if the neighbors got tired of hearing the railroad bell go off every two minutes…for yes, there  are neighbors.

Walk/Don’t Walk Lights inside Windmill Hill
Railroad lights
Functioning Railroad Crossing lights go off occasionally
I would have walked had I been able to get inside the gate.

Then came the front yard.  He not only has windmills, but lots of unusual statues, etc.  Fun fun fun.

Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone waves at a whirly-gig from Cliff Bruce’s front porch
Bruce Windmill doll
Rent a birthday mannequin complete with the lingerie!
This cowpoke guards the place from American photographers…I had to be sneaky

From there I had to trudge through the foot deep snow around the south side of his house.  I was walking through some kind of field.  As I walked along the fence, the Bruce’s dogs paid me a visit (from the other side of the fence).  But I kept shooting away.  So many things…in so little space.

Windmill Hill
Numerous whirly-gigs and an old Texaco sign adorn the south side of the Bruce Windmill Hill landscape.
Tired snowman
A homemade Michelin man? Or is it a “tired” snowman??
Fascinating whirly-gig contraption.

One could really spend a couple of hours looking around this place. So many little things everywhere.

A red metal butterfly adorns the snow covered yard
A Clydesdale whirly-gig atop a pole
Fred Flintstone in flight

Cliff seems to have a fascination with flying things and moving things. He had a few small amusement airplanes and helicopters in the yard, like Fred Flintstone (above) and the plane and helicopter below.

A large toy plane floats above the yard at Bruce Windmill Farm
Planes, helicopters and other flying things.
A large amusement park style helicopter flies around. Even has a live-in pilot!

The menagerie in his yard  goes on and on.

A LIVE dog protects the whirly-gigs
A colorful tire adorns the yard
A wide shot of a part of the Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm.

From Windmill Hill I headed back into Woodstock and then on to the 401 freeway to head west towards London.  I got off at exit 203 to head south on Highway 73 (Elgin Rd.) towards Aylmer, Ontario (which the locals pronounce as “Elmer,” so I was initially confused in trying to find the place).  Along the way I went through the small village of  Harrietsville.  I was surprised to run across more yard art…in fact, a  place that fabricates yard art out of sheet metal and scrap metal.  I just had to stop!!

TCM Metal Art in Harrietsville, Ontario
A metal flamingo…but not too pink
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida!! An iron butterfly!!
A steel heron…or is it an egret?

On my stop at TCM I met an older man who said that he was one of four who owned and worked the place.  He makes the items with the stones while others do some of the metal work.  He told me about how he had a heart attack and the doctor said he could only be saved if he stopped smoking.  I asked if I could get his photo, but he declined.  Nonetheless, he was quite the talker.

Metal and stone flock of birds at TCM Metal Works in Harrietsville, Ontario
Lovely metallic flowers
Look at that snapper!
Metallic sunflower

i got a kick out of the guitar playing metallic dragon below:

Guitar playing dragon looks like he’s singing his heart out.
Opposite view of the singing dragon
A metallo-raptor?
Front view of metallo-raptor
Metallo-raptor head

Time was flying and the sun was beginning to get lower in the sky, so I shuffled off to Aylmer to go see the swans…the main goal of this  little excursion.  In speaking to Cathy, she told me that from her experience, the best time to see the swans is in the afternoon as they are the most active.  So, I took her word for it and hoped that my afternoon visit would pay off.

I drove down 73 until I got to Glencolin Line and at that corner was a nice blue sign with a swan on it and an arrow pointing left.  I followed Glencolin about 5 km to Hacienda Dr., where there was another sign pointing to the left.  Just shortly up the road was another sign pointing to the right.  This was the place – the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area:

Aylmer Wildlife Management Area – Aylmer, Ontario
The Blue Swan sign pointing to the Aylmer Wildlife Management area

A small jaunt down the road led to some viewing stands.  One was open and a couple more were enclosed with open windows. As I got out of the car I could hear an assortment of honks, hums, whistles and various other noises emanating from the small pond (named  Tundra Pond) where there were literally thousands of Tundra Swans (in fact, there is a group of volunteers that feeds them and counts them daily — today’s count was 4268).  In fact, the Aylmer Museum sponsors a Tundra Swan Line which allows people to call in and get a daily migration report and count of the visiting swans.  I had never seen more than one or two swans at a time, so this pretty amazing to me to see thousands of them.  And mingled in with them were a number of Canadian Geese.

First view of swans at Aylmer
Swans mingle with geese
Lots of swans in the Tundra Pond
Another view of swans and geese at Aylmer

I learned that the swans are in different groups.  Since they mate for life, the “married couples” are in one place, the singles are in another and then the young ‘uns are just out playing in the water.  Watching them fly was also cool as these birds are so graceful and their huge size really adds emphasis.  It was really an amazing visit!!

My return trip took me through the booming town of Aylmer.  I went through Aylmer and then ventured back along the back roads of Elgin County, Norfolk County and Oxford County, before returning to Brant County and Paris. Along the road I encountered Mennonites in their horse-drawn buggies.  Aylmer actually has a Mennonite Furniture Store.  I think the photos speak for themselves.  All told, it was a wonderfully adventurous afternoon and a beautiful one at that with partly cloudy skies and 45 degree temperatures.

A lonely Mennonite buggy on a road in Elgin County, Ontario
Look carefully and you can see a head through the window
Doesn’t look like a Canada Goose to me!!
Another Mennonite scene

The back roads of southern Ontario always offer some wonderful scenes.  So glad to have visited in 2008 and to be able to look back at these great memories.

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Montana Roadtrip: Taking the Hi-Line Across Northern Montana

US Route 2 Montana - The Hi-Line
US Route 2 Montana – The Hi-Line

My trip along Route 2 continued from Glasgow, Montana westward along what is known as the Montana Hi-Line (See my May 2013 post about a previous drive on a portion of the Hi-Line).  Back in May last year I drove through to Glasgow and then south.  On this trip I tried to spend a little more time in some of the smaller towns on the road and capture the essence of what I feel is a dieing breed hanging on.  In fact, to proclaim their existence, many of the towns have a big sign on the highway to proclaim “Hey, we’re here!”

Chester, Montana welcome sign on West side of town
Chester, Montana welcome sign on West side of town – one of many signs along the Hi-Line

Ultimately, I would drive Route 2 to where it intersects with US Route 89 on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. That would be the end of my 1165 mile jaunt on US Route 2. (According to Google Maps, it is 1165 miles from downtown Ironwood, MI to the US 2/US 89 Intersection near Browning, MT.)

Ironwood, MI to US 89
US Route 2 from Ironwood, MI to US 89 near Browning, MT
US Highway 2 in eastern Montana
US Highway 2 in eastern Montana, just west of Glasgow

After spending the night in an old 1970s style motel in Glasgow, Montana, it was back on the road.  My last trip through Glasgow was fleeting so I couldn’t capture some of the essence of this nice little town on the eastern edge of Northern Montana. The population of just over 3200 is friendly and accommodating.

Campbell Lodge neon sign in Glasgow, Montana
Campbell Lodge neon sign in Glasgow, Montana

Downtown Glasgow offers some old motel signs, ghost signs and some other unique sites.

Old Glasgow Courier sign on a building
Old Glasgow Courier sign on a building
Valley Cinemas has two theaters to accommodate the populace in and around Glasgow
Valley Cinemas has two theaters to accommodate the populace in and around Glasgow
Old Neon Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Old Neon Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Train mural in Glasgow Montana n the side of a building
Train mural in Glasgow Montana n the side of a building
Old Pool Hall Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Old Pool Hall Sign in Glasgow, Montana
Elk Mural in Glasgow, Montana
Elk Mural in Glasgow, Montana

A drive back to the east part of town leads to the bar with an airplane in the building.

Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana
Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana

This bar is unique….a real small plane stuck in the building and a dinosaur out front guarding the place.

Dino and Dave at Hangar Bar in Glasgow, MT
Dino and Dave at Hangar Bar in Glasgow, MT
A Tin Man Sign in front of an air conditioning business in Glasgow, Montana
A Tin Man Sign in front of an air conditioning business in Glasgow, Montana

As one proceeds west on US Hwy 2 out of Glasgow, you will see dinosaurs up on the hillside. These and the other animals and sculptures (as well as the dino at the Hangar) are all creations of artist Buck Samuelson, who offers them for sale.

For Sale by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
For Sale by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
Big Dino on hill made by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
Big Dino on hill made by Buck Samuelson in Glasgow, Montana
Buck Samuelson sculptures on a hillside in Glasgow, Montana
Buck Samuelson sculptures on a hillside in Glasgow, Montana

US Highway 2 has a number of historical signs along the way. The first one west of Glasgow is all about Buffalo Country.

Buffalo Country Historical Marker on US Hwy 2 in Eastern Montana
Buffalo Country Historical Marker on US Hwy 2 in Eastern Montana

The first town west of Glasgow is the Hinsdale, Montana.  Not much here, but they have a unique church building where the steeple is planted in the ground in FRONT of the church and not on top it.

Hinsdale United Methodist Church, Hinsdale, Montana
Hinsdale United Methodist Church, Hinsdale, Montana

The next little town on the way is Saco, Montana. This town would have faded away long ago if not for its unique place in history as one of the homes of news anchor Chet Huntley, whose father worked for the railroad.  There is one room schoolhouse in Saco that he attended.  As well, Saco had two years of bragging rights as the Guinness World Record holder for making the world’s largest hamburger, building the 6,040-pound burger from the beef of 17 cattle in 1999.

Welcome to Saco, Montana
Welcome to Saco, Montana
Wooden Grain Elevator in Saco, Montana
Wooden Grain Elevator in Saco, Montana
Saco Town Hall - another metal sign
Saco Town Hall – another metal sign
Old Lee Ghost Sign in Saco, Montana
Old Lee Ghost Sign in Saco, Montana
1970s Style Motel sign in the small town of Saco, MT
1970s Style Motel sign in the small town of Saco, MT
Remains of an old gas station in Saco, MT
Remains of an old gas station in Saco, MT
Blackbird perched on a post in Saco, MT
Blackbird perched on a post in Saco, MT

Just west of town is the “Sleeping Buffalo Rock” which is actually listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Sleeping Buffalo Rock sign near Saco, Montana
Sleeping Buffalo Rock sign near Saco, Montana
Sleeping Buffalo Rock, Saco, MT
Sleeping Buffalo Rock, Saco, MT

From Saco US Hwy 2 heads southwest as it circles around Lake Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. From there the road passes through Malta, Montana along nice grazing lands for cattle and horses.

US Route 2 west of Saco, MT
US Route 2 west of Saco, MT
Horses grazing on a ranch east of Malta, Montana
Horses grazing on a ranch east of Malta, Montana

Malta, Montana is a nice small town on the Milk River.  It has its share of old signs and old dinosaur bones.

Welcome to Malta, Montana sign.  Most of the towns along the Hi-Line have metal welcome signs.
Welcome to Malta, Montana sign. Most of the towns along the Hi-Line have metal welcome signs.
Villa Theater in Malta, Montana. One of many old theater fronts to be seen along the Hi-Line of Montana
Villa Theater in Malta, Montana. One of many old theater fronts to be seen along the Hi-Line of Montana
Old neon sign for the Palace Theater in Malta, Montana
Old neon sign for the Palace Theater in Malta, Montana
Ghost Sign in Malta, Montana
Ghost Sign in Malta, Montana

Malta is also home to the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station, which is part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. The Dinosaur Trail includes 14 different museums around Montana that feature remains and history pertaining to dinosaurs. There are eight locations on the Hi-Line from Glasgow to Rudyard.  There are a couple more on US 89 south of Glacier National Park.

Dinosaur Trail Banner in Malta, Montana
Dinosaur Trail Banner in Malta, Montana

The next stop on the road is the small town of Dodson, Montana.  They have a new post office, but the old post office sign still remains as a reminder of the past.

Old Post Office Sign in Dodson, MT
Old Post Office Sign in Dodson, MT
Old building in Dodson, MT
Old building in Dodson, MT
An old sign on a shop in Dodson, MT
An old sign on a shop in Dodson, MT
Old neon sign in Dodson, MT
Old neon sign in Dodson, MT

From Dodson, US Route 2 passes through the Fort Belknap Reservation, home of the Gros Venture and Assiniboine Tribes.

Welcome to Fort Belknap, MT
Welcome to Fort Belknap, MT
Horse Capture Community Park sign, another metal sign located along the Hi-Line in Montana.  This is in Fort Belknap.
Horse Capture Community Park sign, another metal sign located along the Hi-Line in Montana. This is in Fort Belknap.
When I passed through Fort Belknap, there was a Pow Wow going on.  You can see the Tipi over the fence.
When I passed through Fort Belknap, there was a Pow Wow going on. You can see the Tipi over the fence.
Fort Belknap Native Americans getting the cattle rounded up.
Fort Belknap Native Americans getting the cattle rounded up.

From Fort Belknap, US Route 2 heads northwest into the small town of Harlem, Montana.  This town is about 50% white and 43% Native American. Like the other towns, it has a metal welcome sign.

Welcome to Harlem, MT
Welcome to Harlem, MT
Downtown Harlem, MT
Downtown Harlem, MT

Not too far west of Harlem is the small dot of a town called Zurich (pronounced Zoo-rich by the locals). Like many small stations on the railroad, Zurich receives its name from an older, far more impressive city. Legend has it that to name many of their stations, railroad executives would open an atlas at random and point to a city. Although it may seem incongruous that a town on the plains be named after a noted European mountain city, from Zurich,  westward bound visitors could catch their first glimpse of the Bear Paw Mountains. It is now basically a place for picnics along the Milk River.

Zurich, Montana - a small dot on the Hi-Line
Zurich, Montana – a small dot on the Hi-Line
Old wooden elevator in Zurich, Montana.  One of the few buildings there.
Old wooden elevator in Zurich, Montana. One of the few buildings there.
One of many old deserted buildings in Zurich, Montana
One of many old deserted buildings in Zurich, Montana

The next stop on the Hi-Line heading west is Chinook, Montana.  This small town of about 1500 has some character.  It used to be the home of a large sugarbeet factory.  They do have one of the more unique high school sports mascots in the country — the Sugarbeeters.

Chinook Sugarbeeters logo
Chinook Sugarbeeters logo
Chinook, Montana
Chinook, Montana

There are still many evidences of the past in Chinook.  For instance, the Bear Paw Credit Union uses a remodeled old fashioned gas station that still has the old pumps out front.

Bear Paw Credit Union in Chinook, Montana uses an old gas station
Bear Paw Credit Union in Chinook, Montana uses an old gas station
Old Chinook Hotel neon sign
Old Chinook Hotel neon sign
Silos in Chinook invite you to get Lost in Montana
Silos in Chinook invite you to Get Lost in Montana (see link)

I had a lot of other photos of Chinook from a previous trip I took along the Hi-Line in March 2013.  You can see that post HERE.

Nez Perce Trail on US Route 2 near Chinook, Montana
Nez Perce Trail on US Route 2 near Chinook, Montana

Chinook lies along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail which goes from Wallowa Lake in northeast Oregon (near Joseph, OR — I visited there in 2007), then crosses Idaho and goes south along the border of Idaho and Montana, through Yellowstone then heads north though Billings, MT and finally ends at the  Bear Paw Battlefield, which is about 15 miles south of town.  The Battlefield Park commemorates the final battle of the Nez Perce War of 1877 where the Nez Perce ceased fighting on October 5th, 1877.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

It was at Bear Paw that Chief Joseph gave his famous speech in which he said, “Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” The Nez Perce Trail, like the Oyate Trail of South Dakota and the Trail of Tears in the Southeast US, among others, are integral parts of American history that help us to better understand the plight of the Native Americans.  I am grateful to continue to learn about these great people who lived on this land long before the Europeans found their way here.

Big Bison in Havre, created by Havre resident Cory Holmes
Big Bison in Havre, created by Havre resident Cory Holmes

From Chinook I zipped through Havre, having visited it extensively in 2013. But, I did stop briefly for a good shot with the large bison that had been made by Cory Holmes, who used three miles of old telegraph wire to create this nine-foot long, six-foot tall 2000 pound bison.

Cory Holmes' Bison in Havre, Montana
Cory Holmes’ Bison in Havre, Montana

Just west of Havre there is a road called Smith Frisno Road which crosses over the railroad tracks heading north. It eventually leads to a large ranch, but along the way many a visitor has stopped for a photo of an old abandoned schoolhouse that sits out in the prairie.  I visited there last year, but wanted to grab a couple more shots as this is one of those iconic places that begs to be photographed.

Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre. I wanted this one in black and white...
Old Prairie School House on Smith-Frisno Road west of Havre. I wanted this one in black and white…
Another shot of the old school house
Another shot of the old school house

The next town west of Havre is Kremlin, Montana.  Yes, an unusual name for a town.  But, as the story goes, the town had some Russian immigrants that were working on the Great Northern Railway who looked off in the distance at the mountains and were reminded of the Kremlin back home.  The name apparently stuck.

Kremlin, Montana -- USA Style
Kremlin, Montana — USA Style
A line of grain silos in Kremlin, MT
A line of grain silos in Kremlin, MT

After Kremlin there are a couple of other small towns before reaching the small historic town of Rudyard, Montana, which actually has three small museums – the Depot Museum, the Dinosaur Museum (part of the Dinosaur Trail) and a Vintage Auto Museum. Using the old railroad depot, the historical society renovated it for a museum in which to house both the written and physical history of the Hi-Line towns of Joplin, Inverness, Rudyard, Hingham, Gildford, and Kremlin.

Welcome to Rudyard ... one of the classic signs, "Lots of nice people and one sorehead"
Welcome to Rudyard … one of the classic signs, “596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head” And no, I am not the Sore Head!
Old car relics at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
Old car relics at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
An old tractor at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
An old tractor at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
The Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
The Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
Veterans Memorial at the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT
Veterans Memorial at the entrance to the Depot Museum in Rudyard, MT

Then there is my penchant for “collecting” scrap metal art.  I came across a place in Rudyard that had three pieces of scrap metal animals in the yard, including a bison, a deer and an elk.  I spoke to a guy there and he said “someone in town made them, but I am not sure who.” Surprising to me that in a town of just under 600 people that they don’t all know who does this kind of thing….

Scrap metal bison in Rudyard, Montana
Scrap metal bison in Rudyard, Montana
Scrap Metal Deer in Rudyard, Montana
Scrap Metal Deer in Rudyard, Montana

Then there is the semi-famous dinosaur skeleton sculpture just west of town on US Highway 2, probably advertising the Dinosaur Museum in Rudyard.  I was able to contact the Rudyard Museum and found out that this old guy was made by a farmer named Bryon Wolery, owner of Wolery Farms.  He apparently made two of them and one is on his farm.

The dinosaur sculpture off of US Highway 2 near Rudyard, made by farmer Byron Wolery of Inverness, MT
The dinosaur sculpture off of US Highway 2 just west of Rudyard, made by farmer Bryon Wolery of Inverness, MT
Sumoflam and the Dino
Sumoflam and the Dino

The road west passes through the small town of Inverness, MT and then past Joplin.

US Route 2 - The Montana Hi-Line - long and straight out of Inverness heading toward Joplin, MT
US Route 2 – The Montana Hi-Line – long and straight out of Inverness heading toward Joplin, MT
Joplin, Montana...Biggest Little Town on Earth
Joplin, Montana…Biggest Little Town on Earth
Joplin, Montana sign - another of the many metal signs on the Hi-Line
Joplin, Montana sign – another of the many metal signs on the Hi-Line

From Joplin it is another 20 miles to the next town, which is Chester.  It is much bigger than most of the towns between Havre and Shelby and functions as the county seat for Liberty County. Chester began as a watering and coal loading station for the Great Northern Railroad steam engines around 1891.  The name “Chester” was apparently chosen by the first telegraph operator in the town and named in honor of his hometown in Pennsylvania.

Chester, Montana welcome sign
Chester, Montana welcome sign on east side of town – showing its history with trains and grains
Main Street, Chester, Montana
Main Street, Chester, Montana
Wall Murals in Chester, Montana
Wall Murals in Chester, Montana
Old Sugar Shack Diner, Chester, Montana
Old Sugar Shack Diner, Chester, Montana

North of Chester the Sweet Grass Hills can be seen in the distance. They are actually in the northern part of Liberty County and are actually mountains. They are unique in that they are the highest isolated peaks in the United States.  Rising to nearly 7,000 feet, these mountains are volcanic in origin and believed to be millions of years old.

Sweet Grass Hills north of US Hwy 2
Sweet Grass Hills north of US Hwy 2
The Sweet Grass Hills road sign
The Sweet Grass Hills road sign
Close up of Gold Butte - mountains on fire
Close up of Gold Butte – one of the Sweet Grass Hills, rises about 6,500 feet (taken in 2013)

Between Chester and Shelby there is not much, but there is an old neon sign advertising the Galata Campground.  So 1960s….  The town itself is practically a ghost town.

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
Galata, MT
Galata, Montana is practically a ghost town

Shelby, Montana is another 25 miles down US Route 2 and is by far the largest town along the Hi-Line after Havre. I have written extensively about Shelby on a couple of occasions, so here is the token photo of this large railroad town.

Main Street of Shelby, Montana
Main Street of Shelby, Montana
Shelby, Montana -- as seen from US Route 2
Shelby, Montana — as seen from US Route 2

After driving through Shelby, US Route 2 gains altitude and the huge Glacier Wind Farm can be seen.  This is actually quite unique for at night all of the turbines blink bright red all along the hills west of Shelby.

Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
An old cabin falls apart in the midst of the giant wind turbines of the Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
An old cabin falls apart in the midst of the giant wind turbines of the Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby, Montana
These are giants out standing in their field!
These are giants out standing in their field!

From the top of these hills the snow covered peaks of Glacier National Park and the Rocky Mountains can be seen in the distance.  But one must pass through Cut Bank, Montana along the way.  Named after the creek that cuts its banks along the white clay, the town got its start in the 1890s. The Cut Bank Creek Trestle that crosses the 150 foot deep gorge was built in 1900 but is still in use by the Burlington Santa Fe as well as Amtrak. Today, the town is still vibrant with the railroad and Glacier National Park tourism.  It is also the eastern border of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Cut Bank is also home to the “world’s largest penguin” with claims to be the “coldest spot in the nation,” though most sites with “Coldest Spots” lists don’t include it. (See Site 1 and Site 2)

Cut Bank Penguin
World’s Largest Penguin in Cut Bank, Montana
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation
Blackfeet Chiefs guard the eastern gateway to the Blackfeet Reservation at the western end of Cut Bank
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana

After entering the reservation and not too far west of Cut Bank, there is an historic sign commemorating Camp Disappointment (see my 2013 post on this monument and more). This was the northernmost campsite for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Camp Disappointment Monument looking west towards Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment Monument looking west towards Glacier National Park
Sumoflam at Camp Disappointment
Sumoflam at Camp Disappointment
US Highway 2 near Browning, Montana and US Highway 89
US Highway 2 near Browning, Montana and US Highway 89
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument

As I closed in on Browning, Montana, US Highway 2 intersects with US Highway 89, one of the more spectacular N/S Highways in the United States.  This is the end of the approximately 1,169 mile long  trek along US Highway 2 from Ironwood, MI.

US Route 2 meets US Route 89 about 4 miles southeast of Browning, Montana
US Route 2 meets US Route 89 about 4 miles southeast of Browning, Montana
The end of this leg at US Highway 89
The end of this leg at US Highway 89

My next post will cover the trip south on US 89 from Browning all the way to Yellowstone National Park.

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