Category Archives: Montana

Montana Part VII: Missoula

By now you know I’m not a good passenger in the Monaco. The weather was awful on the day we were supposed to leave the West Glacier KOA. There was no color anywhere. Everything was grey. It was foggy and raining. Not good for a travel day. I decided the best way to make the 2+ hour trip from West Glacier to Missoula was to follow behind Mike in the Honda. I had looked at  google maps and it was a narrow road for most of the route. There was no way I would be able to hold it together on the twists and turns, especially when the roads were slick and visibility was bad. Mike agreed. The only problem was that I am usually the one that helps with directions so our Captain can focus on the road ahead instead of trying to analyze a map at the same time. We got the walkie talkies out of the drawer and decided we would try to communicate via those tools if the need arose. Mike had already memorized the roads and turns, so he felt comfortable navigating our path. The Honda was full of all of our outdoor stuff like dog kennels, the ladder, folding chairs, etc… so Piper and Cessna loaded up with Mike and we pulled out about 9:30, with me following. I was still nervous, but I was functional.

Highway 35 runs the length of Flathead Lake’s eastern shore. It is a two-lane winding road with no shoulder and STEEP drop offs to the water below. It seems like we were on that road FOREVER. Every time I saw the break lights go on I rejoiced. We were only driving 45 MPH, but I would have been happier crawling along at a 25 MPH pace. When we arrived at our destination campground I asked Mike if the drive was easier for him without me freaking in the passenger chair. He hugged me and told me it was “intense”. Then we high-fived because we made it safely with no problems. Looks like that drive wasn’t much fun for him either. Let’s just say I was overjoyed that we were staying in Missoula for two weeks. I would finally have a chance to let my nerves settle before we had to drive the rig again.

The Jellystone RV Park was on the northwest side of town just off of Interstate-90. The sites were not spectacular, but the place was clean and convenient. We were a quick 10-minute drive to downtown. Most of the guests at the campground were overnighters. There were only a few of us there for extended stays.

Missoula is a GREAT town! First of all, it is beautiful. Five mountain ranges converge where the Clark Fork River meets up with the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers. There is a beautiful view in every direction. It is a college town with the University of Montana positioned right next to downtown. There are great restaurants, cute shops, lots of live music, plenty of outdoor activities, and throngs of friendly citizens. We enjoyed every day of our visit!

One of my cousins, John, lives near Spokane and Coeur D’alane in Rockford, WA with his wife, Katie, and two kiddos, Kenna and Jake. They recently purchased a plot of land and are living the good life with chickens, pigs, bees and an enormous vegetable garden. From our spot in Missoula they were only three hours from us due west on I-90. Since we were so “close”, I decided to drive over and see them on our first Saturday. Mike stayed at the coach with the dogs. It was a long day for a short visit, but totally worth it. The scenery on my drive was majestic and their house-barn on the top of their hill in the middle of 50 acres is awesome! We will be visiting them again in the future because we will stay in Spokane for a couple of weeks during our stop in Washington. I can’t wait for Mike to see their set up!

As for our time in Missoula, we made the best of it. We spent lots of time in downtown and on the trails in and around the city. We ate at several good restaurants. I did some shopping. Mike found a fishing hole at a state park down the road from us. We went to see Clint Black in concert at the Wilma on a Saturday night. After two weeks of exploring and good times, my stress levels were back down to zero and I was prepared to ride in the passenger seat when we finally left Montana to begin our visit in Idaho.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn't want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn’t want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better that I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

Mount Sentinel

Mount Sentinel – Home of the M Trail.

Our site number 43 wasn't anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Our site number 43 wasn’t anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

www.roteltours.com I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east... but I actually have no idea.

www.roteltours.com
I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east… but I actually have no idea.

Full moon from our nightly dog walk.

Full moon on our nightly dog walk.

Starting up the trail to the M.

Starting up the trail to the big white M on Mount Sentinel.

M Selfie

M Trail Selfie

The trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

The M Trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

Missoula from the M.

Missoula from the M.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I've watched a guy surf in the city center.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I’ve watched a guy surf in the city center.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he's ever caught both on the same day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he’s ever caught both on the same day.

The X's by the depot in downtown Zootown.

The X’s by the depot in downtown Zootown.

I love a farmer's market!

I love a farmer’s market!

The Missoula Farmer's market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

The Missoula Farmer’s market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can't tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can’t tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune on its keys.

In addition to the downtown farmer's market, Missoula has a People's Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

In addition to the downtown farmer’s market, Missoula has a People’s Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too!

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too! During our stay we also enjoyed meals at Tamarack Brewing Company, MacKenzie River Pizza Company (twice… and bought a t-shirt), and the Big Dipper for some righteous ice cream.

Clint Black's bus.

Clint Black’s bus.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us... so it worked out great!

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us… so it worked out great!

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler's Rest State Park in Lolo.

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler’s Rest State Park in Lolo.

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us under the table.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us in their “tent” under the table.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Planes on a train, from Mike's fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

Planes on a train, from Mike’s fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

Our last hike in Montana was to the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Our last hike in Montana was in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

Montana Part VI: West Glacier

I had been dreading the trip to West Glacier since Mike made the plans to drive there in the Monaco when we were way back in Cody. I wanted to see Glacier, no doubt. I just didn’t want the Monaco to see Glacier! To be honest, I had never really settled down after the stress of being the passenger in the coach when we drove over the pass into Butte, or when we drove through the narrow construction lanes to Great Falls. I was doing my best to hold it together as we pulled out of Dick’s RV Park and back onto the northbound lanes of  I-15. Everything was fine on the big highway. I was a bit more nervous when we turned west on Hwy 44 and north on Hwy 80. Those roads were two lanes, but they had a shoulder, so it was bearable. That last leg of the drive was 55 miles on Hwy 2 along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. The scenery became more beautiful with every mile, and my anxiety became more acute at the same rate. I will have to admit that I pretty much lost it for the last nine miles. But, of course, Mike did a great job of driving the rig and we arrived safely with no incidents.

We stayed at the West Glacier KOA, which wins the award for nicest campground we’ve ever stayed in. The facility was amazing. They had RV sites available with differing lists of amenities and prices. They also had tent sites, cabins and cottages laid out in the most magnificently landscaped environment I’ve ever seen. There was a family pool and an adult pool (complete with two hot tubs). They even had a small restaurant that served breakfast and dinner, and an ice cream shop that opened in the evenings. It was more of a rustic resort than a campground. I would recommend this lodging option to anyone, regardless of whether they are in a motorhome or not!

We were in West Glacier for two days and three nights, so we decided we would spend one of our days in Whitefish and one of our days in the National Park. We picked the rainy day to visit Whitefish and we saved Glacier for the sunny day. When we met Jim, Deb, Mike and Vicki at “The Kill” in McLeod they told us to go to Casey’s Rooftop Bar when we got to Whitefish. The charming town has about 7,000 residents – or less. The quintessential downtown is set against the backdrop of a mountain and ski resort. The community has lots to offer with its quaint architecture, outdoor activities (including a lake within walking distance of downtown), art, food and shopping. We spent a couple of hours walking through the local shops and galleries. At one point we found a fabulously eccentric grandfather clock that a gentleman had built of out birch and other pieces of wood collected from the forests in the area. However, it was $26,000 and we would have to build a stately cabin in the woods complete with an entry that could facilitate its grandeur… so we decided to pass on the purchase. If I ever win the lottery I’m going back to Dick Idol Signature Gallery to buy something. We did go to Casey’s but the weather was not conducive to spending time on the rooftop bar, so we settled for a drink at the luxurious interior bar instead. After that we walked over to the Craggy Range for another drink and a light dinner. The Craggy Range was hosting a Grand Re-Opening Party after an extensive remodel of the interior and their menu. It was a fun atmosphere to enjoy during happy hour!

We got lucky when the weather forecast actually held true and the day we set aside to visit Glacier was beautiful. The temperatures were brisk and the sky was a clear bright blue. The environment was nothing less than perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Dogs aren’t allowed on most trails in the park, so we walked Piper and Cessna down the road from the KOA to Hwy 2 and back, and then left them at home when we went to Glacier. The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road was not open for the season, so we were only able to drive 16 miles into the park before we had to turn around.  We parked  where the road ended and walked past the barricade for a little while, then we turned around and hopped onto The Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. This was a popular and easy trail, and since it began and ended at the place where the road reached a dead-end, it was packed with humans running the spectrum of ages and nationalities. The crowd factor meant we had to spend a little less time marveling at nature and a bit more energy maneuvering around hopeless individuals with absolutely no cognitive awareness of anything around them. Other than that it was an enjoyable excursion.  We also stopped at McDonald Lodge to have a look at the lake and enjoy a drink and snack in the tavern. The historic lodges in our National Parks are all so wonderful in and of themselves!

Since this was such a quick stop, the rest of our time was spent enjoying the wonderful environment of our campground. I’ll just let the pictures finish off the remainder of the West Glacier story for me.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding... not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding… not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would pummel into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would plummet into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

The West Glacier KOA had several "tiers" of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table - umbrella included. Luxurious.

The West Glacier KOA had several “tiers” of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table – umbrella included. Luxurious.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn't mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn’t mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

Our view.

Our view.

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

The roof top bar at Casey's in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we've seen! I'm sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

The roof top bar at Casey’s in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we’ve seen! I’m sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer's market!

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer’s market!

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

My new favorite number.

My new favorite number.

Glacier.

Glacier.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

I've not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

I’ve not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

Mystical purple rocks.

Mystical purple rocks.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

Green.

Green.

How's this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

How’s this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

McDonald Lodge.

McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

 

Montana Part V: Great Falls

The route to Great Falls from Butte was north on I-15 the whole way. We drove through a canyon leaving Butte, and by the time we reached our destination the landscape began to widen into grassy rolling hills. I didn’t know what to expect when we got to Great Falls, and we ended up spending a nice weekend in the cute town. We were able to take advantage of walking trails near our campground, I visited the local farmer’s market, we explored two museums, and had dinner out at a local restaurant chain called Jaker’s. By the time we finished those excursions, it was time to get back on the road.

We drove north on I-15 from Butte to Great Falls. It was only a two-hour drive, but there was construction on much of the route and Mike had to deal with a rude Semi Truck driver that cut us off at a lane change, so we were happy to get set up at Dick's RV Park.

We drove north on I-15 from Butte to Great Falls. It was only a two-hour drive, but there was construction on much of the route and Mike had to deal with a rude Semi Truck driver that cut us off at a lane change, so we were happy to get set up at Dick’s RV Park.

Our spot at Dick's RV Park was nothing to remember, but the water pressure and location were both good.

Our spot at Dick’s RV Park was nothing to remember, but the water pressure and location were both good.

I went downtown on Saturday morning to check out the Farmer's Market. I bought some brownies, cherry strudels and grilled pork on a stick!

I went downtown on Saturday morning to check out the Farmer’s Market. I bought some brownies, cherry strudels and grilled pork on a stick!

We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the C.M. Russell Museum, but it was a highlight on our stop. The facility houses an amazing amount of art by Great Falls' Charlie Russell, as well as other notable western artists.

We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the C.M. Russell Museum, but it was a highlight on our stop. The facility houses an amazing amount of art by Great Falls’ Charlie Russell, as well as other notable western artists.

Another amazing museum in Great Falls was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Another amazing museum in Great Falls was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Giant Springs State Park is located adjacent to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center beside the Missouri River. It was a lush spot with lots of walking trails in each direction.

Giant Springs State Park is located adjacent to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center beside the Missouri River. It was a lush spot with lots of walking trails in each direction.

The water near the Giant Springs was crystal clear and shimmering with the neon green plants beneath the water's surface.

The water near the Giant Springs was crystal clear and shimmering with the neon green plants beneath the water’s surface.

The Missouri River in Great Falls.

The Missouri River in Great Falls.

The Great Falls were always there, and the man-made dam came later.

The Great Falls were always there, and the man-made dam came later.

This shot of the Missouri River is from one of the main roads in town.

This shot of the Missouri River is from one of the main roads in town.

Montana Part IV: Butte

We had always planned to see Glacier National Park while in Montana, only we had two different opinions on how to get there. Since I’m a panicky passenger and terrified on the winding mountain roads, my suggestion was to drive on I-90 to Missoula and stay in one spot for two or three weeks. We could leave the rig parked at the campground and take the Honda on a little side trip up into Glacier. We’ve done this before on our American Adventure, to the Outerbanks of North Carolina, Mackinac Island in Michigan and to downtown Boston. The problem with my proposal was that when leaving Missoula we would have to backtrack east on I-90 to Butte to get onto I-15 and head south into the next state of Idaho.

Mike didn’t want to backtrack, so he devised a different plan. His idea was to drive on I-90 from Big Timber to Butte and stay two nights (one full day). Then from Butte, drive north on I-15 to Great Falls and stay three nights. After Great Falls we would eventually leave the interstate and drive west on a winding Highway 2 along the southern edge of Glacier National Park, and end up at the KOA by the West Entrance into the park. We hadn’t even left Big Timber and I was already having anxiety about that last travel day in the mountains of the northern part of the Treasure State. Mike is the driver, so his idea prevailed.

It was only about a two-hour drive from Big Timber to Butte, so we got parked and set up early in the day. We took advantage of the city’s walking trail beside our campground and tuckered out the dogs after we arrived. The next morning we took a trolley tour to learn about the historic parts of town. I didn’t know Butte was a mining town with such a rich history and diverse cultural population. We were thoroughly entertained as a history teacher from the high school drove us around town pointing out significant buildings and telling stories about the local characters associated with them. After our tour we took Piper and Cessna on another long walk along the city’s recreation path, and then I went back to downtown to take some photos of some of the buildings I had seen. That night we went to eat dinner at a sports bar that operates from an old downtown bank building. We were only in Butte for a short stop, but I feel like we learned lots of stuff during our time there.

I-90 heading into Bozeman on our drive from Big Timber to Butte. It was a beautiful drive with a big pass at Goldflint Mountain near the end of the trip that had my nerves frayed. Semi trucks were going downhill in the opposite lanes at about 20 miles per hour because the grade was so steep. We were going about the same speed in the climbing lanes.

I-90 heading into Bozeman on our drive from Big Timber to Butte. It was a beautiful drive with a big pass at Goldflint Mountain near the end of the trip that had my nerves frayed. Semi trucks were going downhill in the opposite lanes at about 20 miles per hour because the grade was so steep. We were going about the same speed in the climbing lanes.

Piper looked so perfectly uncomfortable as we rolled down the highway.

Piper looked so perfectly uncomfortable as we rolled down the highway.

We arrived in Butte early enough to have a good walk along a city trail that skirted the KOA campground.

We arrived in Butte early enough to have a good walk along a city trail that skirted the KOA campground.

Our spot was tight and narrow, but we weren't there long enough to worry too much about it.

Our spot was tight and narrow, but we weren’t there long enough to worry too much about it.

Mounts of wildlife from the area in the Visitor's Center.

Mounts of wildlife from the area in the Visitor’s Center.

Trolley selfie. I usually go on these excursions alone, so I was astonished when it was Mike's idea to buy tickets for the local tour. A history teacher from Butte High School was our guide, and it was a very informative hour!

Trolley selfie. I usually go on these excursions alone, so I was astonished when it was Mike’s idea to buy tickets for the local tour. A history teacher from Butte High School was our guide, and it was a very informative hour!

Most of the town is oriented toward the mine. It isn't pretty, but it generates a strong local economy.

Most of the town is oriented toward the mine. It isn’t pretty, but it generates a strong local economy.

This is water that has seeped out of the underground tunnels at the Berkeley Mining Pit. It is toxic. It's levels are eminently approaching catastrophic depths. No one can decide how to handle remediation of this problem. So it sits. The mining company has to keep the birds away because the last time a flock of geese landed on the water, all three hundred - or so - of them died. The local government blamed the dilemma on a farmer in a nearby county. Said he had poisoned the flock and they all happened to die just as they flew over the "pit".

This is water that has seeped out of the underground tunnels at the Berkeley Mining Pit. It is toxic. It’s levels are eminently approaching catastrophic depths. No one can decide how to handle remediation of this problem. So it sits. The mining company has to keep the birds away because the last time a flock of geese landed on the water, all three hundred – or so – of them died. The local government blamed the dilemma on a farmer in a nearby county. Said he had poisoned the flock and they all happened to die just as they flew over the “pit”.

Immigrants from all ethnicities and cultures came to Butte to work in the mines, making the historic architecture of the city remarkably diverse. This wonderful building was built by the Irish.

Immigrants from all ethnicities and cultures came to Butte to work in the mines, making the historic architecture of the city remarkably diverse. This wonderful building was built by the Irish.

Montana Tech of the University of Montana (with the M on a Butte, no less), an old mine shaft and one of the dozens of churches in the small town. A tidy summary of the community's personality.

Montana Tech of the University of Montana (with the M on a Butte, no less), an old mine shaft and one of the dozens of churches in the small town. A tidy summary of the community’s personality.

The wealth generated from the local mines is evident in the historic neighborhoods near downtown.

The wealth generated from the local mines is evident in the historic neighborhoods near downtown.

The Hennessy Building was built in 1898 to house Montana's first department store. Over 100 years later it still stands proudly in all of its glamour and elegance. The department store is gone, but a market occupies the ground floor and offices still conduct business on the upper floors.

The Hennessy Building was built in 1898 to house Montana’s first department store. Over 100 years later it still stands proudly in all of its glamour and elegance. The department store is gone, but a market occupies the ground floor and offices still conduct business on the upper floors.

The Dumas Brothel was a bordello founded in 1890 to "service" the workers from the area copper mines. The business operated up until 1982 - making it the longest operating brothel in the United States. The building is now restored and operating as a museum. Several ghosts are also believed to occupy the structure.

The Dumas Brothel was a bordello founded in 1890 to “service” the workers from the area copper mines. The business operated up until 1982 – making it the longest operating brothel in the United States. The building is now restored and operating as a museum. Several ghosts are also believed to occupy the structure.

If you look closely, you will see that Mother Mary protects the City of Butte from a mountain high above the community.

If you look closely, you will see that Mother Mary protects the City of Butte from a mountain high above the community.

Inside the historic Metals Bank building - turned sports bar in downtown Butte. When the building was being constructed, this safe arrived into town by train. After it was off- loaded from the tracks, it took a team of horses TWO DAYS to get it up the hill of downtown and into the bank lobby.

Inside the historic Metals Bank building – turned sports bar in downtown Butte. When the building was being constructed, this safe arrived into town by train. After it was off- loaded from the tracks, it took a team of horses TWO DAYS to get it up the hill of downtown and into the bank lobby.

As we were preparing to leave Butte and travel to Great Falls, we heard a loud explosion and looked out the window of the Monaco to see a giant cloud of dust hovering over a group of tent campers sprinting toward the walking trail. An 18-wheeler loaded with cherries was traveling eastbound on I-90 when he stopped paying attention to driving and reached down to pick up something he had dropped (or so he says... was probably texting or working on his laptop). He immediately lost control, crossed the center median, clipped a mini-van in oncoming traffic (and sent it onto the shoulder of opposite lanes of the interstate), and came to rest upside down in a creek beside the walking trail next to our campground. Emergency workers had to cut the driver out of the cab. By the grace of GOD no one was killed. Needless to say, this did not put me in a relaxed state of mind as Mike rolled the Monaco out onto the interstate.

As we were preparing to leave Butte and travel to Great Falls, we heard a loud explosion and looked out the window of the Monaco to see a giant cloud of dust hovering over a group of tent campers sprinting toward the walking trail. An 18-wheeler loaded with cherries was traveling eastbound on I-90 when he stopped paying attention to driving and reached down to pick up something he had dropped (or so he says… was probably texting or working on his laptop). He immediately lost control, crossed the center median, clipped a mini-van in oncoming traffic (and sent it onto the shoulder of opposite lanes of the interstate), and came to rest upside down in a creek beside the walking trail next to our campground. Emergency workers had to cut the driver out of the cab. By the grace of GOD no one was killed. Needless to say, this did not put me in a relaxed state of mind as Mike rolled the Monaco out onto the interstate.

Montana Part III: Big Timber

We had to drive on a gravel road out of Cooney State Park for about three miles before we came to a paved county road. We waited to hook up the Honda until we got to the pavement so the rig wouldn’t spit rocks out onto the front of the car. After we were all in the same vehicle we took the narrow county road  to a slightly larger state Highway and eventually got onto I-90 at Columbus. From there we drove for a short while until we reached our next campground in Big Timber. The drive was pretty and quick, so it was an easy travel day.

Our reservation in Big Timber was only for one week and it turned out to be a good one. Big Timber is a small town of less than 2,000 in Sweet Grass County. The rolling hills of farms, livestock and sweet grass wave their way along the Yellowstone and Boulder Rivers toward shiny white mountain ranges on a nearby horizon. The Absaroka Mountain Range was to our south. Crazy Peak and Loco Mountain were to the north. I did not make that up. The Spring Creek Campground and Trout Farm was about 20 miles north of the Gallatin National Forest, just far enough off of I-90 for both easy access and peaceful quiet. The Boulder River bordered the eastern edge of our campground, and the roar it continuously emitted was enough to drown out the sound of birds when the water rushed strong enough. In the background it sounded like wind. The campground was immaculately landscaped. Most of the guests were there for one or two nights, but a couple of other campers were like us and were there for more than a quick stop. They also had cabins that guests could rent, and a tent camping area was on the far side in a grassy area close to the river. The dogs loved it because there were fields of pristine lush green grass to sniff and roll around on.  There was even a camp cat named Cookie.

During the times that we weren’t enjoying our campground, we kept busy with daily excursions. We went to see a waterfall in the National Forest. It is the first one I recall seeing that goes through a chute and explodes out the bottom of a rock. We went to mass at the Catholic Church, but the website was wrong so we were 15 minutes late. We met some friends for lunch (as if I can say that every day, ha). We found an ultra cool local bar called Holly’s Roadkill Saloon. In fact, we liked it so much when we visited on a Friday afternoon, that we went back on Saturday! We had dinner in the saloon of the Grand Hotel in downtown, and took the dogs to walk in one of the municipal parks on the river. As I said, it was a good week!

Our spot at Spring Creek Campground & Trout Farm. It was pretty tight. We never had any neighbors in the open space beside us, so it worked out just fine.

Our spot at Spring Creek Campground & Trout Farm. It was pretty tight. We never had any neighbors in the open space beside us, so it worked out just fine.

The Boulder River was the eastern border of the campground.

The Boulder River was the eastern border of the campground.

When we were at Cooney State Park we didn't have internet or phone service. By the time we arrived in Big Timber, I was starved for a "connection". We were down in a hole by the river, so our ATT signal still didn't work. However, the campground was supposed to have free wifi. We couldn't log on to the park's signal from our camping spot, and when I told the lady at the front desk about the problem her answer was "it should work". But it didn't. So for the first couple of days I hauled my laptop to the pavilion by the office to get online and work on my blog. It finally dawned on one of the staffers to reset the signal that pointed in the direction of our site. After he reset the switch we were good with a signal in our coach and I didn't have to go to the pavilion in the mornings with my coffee and laptop.

When we were at Cooney State Park we didn’t have internet or phone service. By the time we arrived in Big Timber, I was starved for a “connection”. We were down in a hole by the river, so our ATT signal still didn’t work. However, the campground was supposed to have free wifi. We couldn’t log on to the park’s signal from our camping spot, and when I told the lady at the front desk about the problem her answer was “it should work”. But it didn’t. So for the first couple of days I hauled my laptop to the pavilion by the office to get online and work on my blog. It finally dawned on one of the staffers to reset the signal that pointed in the direction of our site. After he reset the switch we were good with a signal in our coach and I didn’t have to go to the pavilion in the mornings with my coffee and laptop.

Cookie the camp cat. He helped me work on my laptop on the mornings that I worked in the pavilion. Later in our stay he ambushed Piper from under our picnic table by the Monaco. The dog came out of it with a scratch on his face and a renewed fervor for the destruction of all things feline.

Cookie the camp cat. He helped me work on my laptop on the mornings that I worked in the pavilion. Later in our stay he ambushed Piper from under our picnic table by the Monaco. The dog came out of it with a scratch on his face and a renewed fervor for the destruction of all things feline.

The trout farm part of our campground.

The trout farm part of our campground.

Natural Bridge Falls in the Gallatin National Forest was about 26 miles down the road from our campground. It was easy to find... just turn into the parking lot where the paved road ends.

Natural Bridge Falls in the Gallatin National Forest was about 26 miles down the road from our campground. It was easy to find… just turn into the parking lot where the paved road ends.

The Boulder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. It rises in the Gallatin National Forest in the Absaroka Mountain Range and flows north to Big Timber, where it hooks up with the Yellowstone River.

The Boulder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. It rises in the Gallatin National Forest in the Absaroka Mountain Range and flows north to Big Timber, where it hooks up with the Yellowstone River.

Some crazy rocks in the Natural Bridge Falls Recreation Area.

Some crazy rocks in the Natural Bridge Falls Recreation Area.

Wikipedia says the Boulder Rivers flows through a cataract under a natural bridge. So you are looking at a cataract.

Wikipedia says the Boulder Rivers flows through a cataract under a natural bridge. So you are looking at a cataract.

Taking it all in.

Taking it all in.

During late spring for about 4 or 5 hours (only), when the snowmelt is just right, the waterfall will go OVER the rocks as well as through the chute.

During late spring for about 4 or 5 hours (only), when the snowmelt is just right, the waterfall will go OVER the rocks as well as through the chute.

Mindy dog at The Kill. You might notice her collar says PLEASE DO NOT FEED ME. I don't think she can read because that doesn't stop her from asking anyone nearby to share their lunch.

Mindy dog at The Kill. You might notice her collar says PLEASE DO NOT FEED ME. I don’t think she can read because that doesn’t stop her from asking anyone nearby to share their lunch.

The view on the road into our campground was a good one.

The view on the road into our campground was a good one.

A sign behind the bar at The Kill.

A sign behind the bar at The Kill.

I thought Mike was taking a photo of me... but he was really capturing a picture of this immaculately restored 1940's Peterbilt.

I thought Mike was taking a photo of me… but he was really capturing a picture of this immaculately restored 1940’s Peterbilt.

The Max has the reputation for being the best band in Montana. They've been playing together for 30 years and they were GREAT!!!

The Max has the reputation for being the best band in Montana. They’ve been playing together for 30 years and they were GREAT!!!

A selfie from the summer bash at The Kill.

A selfie from the summer bash at The Kill.

Those are our friends that we met during the summer bash party at The Kill. Jerry, Vicki, Deb and Jim were passing through on their way to Chico Hot Springs. We struck up a conversation and enjoyed visiting with them until they got back on the road and drove west.

Those are our friends that we met during the summer bash party at The Kill. Mike, Vicki, Deb and Jim were passing through on their way to Chico Hot Springs. We struck up a conversation and enjoyed visiting with them until they got back on the road and drove west.

Even the band had an exceptional view on that fun Saturday afternoon.

Even the band had an exceptional view on that fun Saturday afternoon.

A drone was at the party. We all waved. A couple of girls (and by girls, I mean ladies in their early 60's) lifted their shirts!

A drone was at the party. We all waved. A couple of girls (and by girls, I mean ladies in their early 60’s) lifted their shirts!

Mike spotted this bald eagle on a fence post while we were driving back to our campground. It was gazing out at a pasture full of sheep. It started flying right as I snapped the photo.

Mike spotted this bald eagle on a fence post while we were driving back to our campground. It was gazing out at a pasture full of sheep. It started flying right as I snapped the photo.

Where is Cookie the camp cat???

Where is Cookie the camp cat???

My friend Nancy and her husband live in Houston (with their sweet pup Aro), but have a summer home in Sand Point, Idaho. They were literally passing through Big Timber on their way up north, so they stopped to have lunch with us. What a fun treat!

My friend Nancy and her husband, Wright, live in Houston (with their sweet pup Aro), and have a summer home in Sand Point, Idaho. They were literally passing through Big Timber on their way up north, so they stopped to have lunch with us. What a fun treat!

A small group of pronghorn antelope lived on the "hill" across from the entrance into our campground. This mama had two babies with her. We got to see them every day!

A small group of pronghorn antelope lived on the “hill” across from the entrance into our campground. This mama had two babies with her. We got to see them every day!

A typical view from Highway 89 driving south toward Gardiner - and the northern entrance into Yellowstone.

A typical view from Highway 89 driving south toward Gardiner – and the northern entrance into Yellowstone.

Chico Hot Springs Resort was a little over one hour's drive from Big Timber. I went on a solo daytrip to see the resort and soak in the hot springs.

Chico Hot Springs Resort was a little over one hour’s drive from Big Timber. I went on a solo daytrip to see the resort and soak in the hot springs.

The tourist literature says something to the effect of "guests ask us if we can turn down the temperatures in the pools, but we cannot because it comes from the ground".

The tourist literature says something to the effect of “guests ask us if we can turn down the temperatures in the pools, but we cannot because it comes from the ground”.

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa was established in 1900. I want to go back and stay there! In addition to the mineral pools, they have rafting, fishing, hiking, horseback tours, a spa, two restaurants and a bar with live music. In the winter they have skiing, snow shoeing and dogsled treks!

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa was established in 1900. I want to go back and stay there! In addition to the mineral pools, they have rafting, fishing, hiking, horseback tours, a spa, two restaurants and a bar with live music. In the winter they have skiing, snow shoeing and dogsled treks!

Is this not the best neon sign you've ever seen on a bar!

Is this not the best neon sign you’ve ever seen on a bar!

 

Montana Part II: Cooney State Park

Because of the size of the Monaco we like to stay on larger highways or an Interstate when we are traveling. We also prefer campgrounds with full hook-ups, because life is so much more convenient when we don’t have to worry about the amount of water we use and stuff like that. The western side of Montana was on our agenda after Wyoming (last fall we spent two weeks in Miles City, on the eastern side of the state).  Billings is just north of Cody… so as Mike was searching for places to stay in the Treasure State, I figured he would make a reservation for us somewhere with easy access to I-90. Billings is also the largest city in Montana, so it was likely they had some RV Parks near there that would suit our needs.

Boy, was I in for a surprise when he told me about his campground selection for the next leg of our trip. He had picked a state park off the beaten path with no water or sewer connections – only electricity (in some spots). Cooney State Park was about an hour southwest of Billings and 30 minutes north of Red Lodge. To add to my shock, they did not have a spot available for the full week we wanted to stay. Our reservation coincided with the Memorial Day weekend, and the park was going to be full. The plan was for us to check in to spot #7 on the day we arrived. However, it was only available for two days. On our third day we would move to spot #16. This spot had no hook-ups at all, and was also booked for part of our time. After three days in #16, we would have to move again – back to #7 for our last two days.

As Mike was explaining the logistics to me, I was wondering if maybe he had hit his head on something and wasn’t thinking clearly. I wanted to feel his forehead to see if he had a fever and might be slightly delirious. Instead, I just nodded and smiled. He is the one that does the research to find our campgrounds and make our reservations after all, so all I could do was smile and try to be supportive. The bottom line is that this trip is an adventure, and it is important to “go with the flow”. No one wants a travel partner who bitches and moans all the time.

On travel day, I was mentally prepared to “rough it” during our time at the state park. The campground was on a lake and the scenery was likely to be beautiful, so I figured I could easily go one week without regular showers. I noted to myself that I wouldn’t have to spend too much time on chores either, since laundry was going to be out of the question. I also bought extra paper plates at the grocery store so we wouldn’t have to do too many dishes. I was ready… or so I thought.

From Cody we drove north on State Highway 120, cut west on highway 308, and then went north through Red Lodge on 212. When we turned off of 212 toward the park, the road was ONE-lane and gravel. I checked the map on my phone, and saw we were still about 8 miles away from the campground. We kept driving slowly away from civilization and into a vast expanse of lush green hills covered in sweet grass. I calmly asked him if we were going to get to a paved road again soon. He said he didn’t know. At this point I wanted to ask him who he really was and what he had done with my husband. Instead I just muttered things like “OMG!  What if we come to a section of the road that is washed out? What if we come to a bridge that is too small to hold us? If we get stuck out here we won’t be able to turn around. What will we do then”? He just ignored me and kept driving – slowly.

We did finally make it to the park and it was gorgeous. It was Wednesday before the holiday weekend so only a few campers were set up. We quickly determined that there were three spots that had electricity and were not part of the reservation system. They were first-come-first-served. If they were open we could park there and not have to move. As we were consulting the map at the entrance and trying to determine the location of these three magical sites, another camper came in behind us and drove to the north side of the campground. We decided there was no time to lollygag, we had to find those three spots and see if any of them were open before any other campers came in and passed by us. We disconnected the Honda, left the Monaco at the entrance, and jumped in the car to drive through the park as quickly as possible. We found the three spots. One already had a camper set up. The guy that had just passed us had taken the second one, and there was one left!

I waited there while Mike walked back and drove the Monaco over to get us parked and plugged in. We tried to call the park office to make sure we could cancel the existing reservations in #s 7 and 16, but our remote location meant we had no cell service. Mike walked over to the camp host and talked to a very nice lady named Cynthia. He explained that we had reservations, but we preferred to cancel those and just stay where we had landed. Everything to that point had been done online, but we didn’t have an internet connection either. Without Cynthia’s help we were at a stand still. Lucky for us she was very accommodating. She made all the necessary changes to the reservation system and we were finally legitimate. Once again, we were feeling that luck was on our side during The Martin’s American Adventure.

It turned out to be a great week at Cooney. Since we were in the middle of NOWHERE, there was no noise. No traffic, no trains, no sirens, nothing. Just peaceful quiet and that big Montana sky. Mike fished quite a bit. The weather was warm, so I spent many hours napping in the sun. We went into Red Lodge a couple of times to find an internet connection and eat at some local restaurants. At the end of the week, we found another paved road leading back to Highway 212, so our stay even ended on a positive note!

We try to avoid traveling in bad weather when possible. It was raining on the day we drove from Cody to Cooney State Park, but we drove through to the other side of the weather pattern and it eventually cleared up. Luckily, it was dry when we hooked up at our new spot.

We try to avoid traveling in bad weather when possible. It was raining on the day we drove from Cody to Cooney State Park, but we drove through to the other side of the weather pattern and it eventually cleared up. Luckily, it was dry when we hooked up at our new spot.

Mike made the reservations at Cooney Reservoir State Park, and had mentioned to me that we would not have a water or sewer connection at the campground. He did not, however, mention the REMOTE location of the lake. When we turned off the paved highway and onto a gravel road, I was leery. After seven or so miles, I was a nervous wreck. We have never moved that far away from civilization in the Monaco before!

Mike made the reservations at Cooney State Park, and had mentioned to me that we would not have a water or sewer connection at the campground. He did not, however, mention the REMOTE location of the lake. When we turned off the paved highway and onto a gravel road, I was leery. After seven or so miles, I was a nervous wreck. We have never moved that far away from civilization in the Monaco before!

Being in the middle of nowhere does have its advantages... big sky, green hills, quiet.

Being in the middle of nowhere does have its advantages… big sky, green hills, quiet.

We called this the half and half tree. It couldn't decide if it wanted to live or die.

We called this the half and half tree. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to live or die.

Our spacious spot at the state park.

Our spacious spot at the state park.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Red Lodge is the cutest little town. There are about 2,500 citizens in town and about 4,000 if you include the ranchers out in the county. The summer season brings tourists and fly fishermen who are heading into the Beartooth Mountains down the road. The Main Street was full of historic buildings that housed shops, galleries, restaurants and other local service businesses.

Red Lodge is the cutest little town. There are about 2,500 citizens in town and about 4,000, if you include the ranchers out in the county. The summer season brings tourists and fly fishermen who are heading into the Beartooth Mountains down the road. The Main Street was full of historic buildings that housed shops, galleries, restaurants and other local service businesses.

The historic Depot Building is now an artist coop. The quality of the art available was quite impressive. I bought a small print from a Native American artist that lives in the area. Its called "Burnin' Love".

The historic Depot Building is now an artist coop. The quality of the art available was quite impressive. I bought a small print from a Native American artist that lives in the area. Its called “Burnin’ Love”.

I loved this carved statue outside the local Carnegie Library.

I loved this carved statue outside the local Carnegie Library.

The interior of the Red Lodge Café was so "Montana"!

The interior of the Red Lodge Café was so “Montana”!

Part of the Cooney Reservoir.

Part of the Cooney Reservoir.

Custer National Forest in the distance.

Custer National Forest in the distance.

Almost a double rainbow after the storm.

Almost a double rainbow after the storm.

Our campground in the distance.

Our campground in the distance.

A view from our daily walk.

A view from our daily walk.

We were there over Memorial Day weekend, and it was packed!

We were there over Memorial Day weekend, and it ended up being packed!

Absaroka Mountain Range

Absaroka Mountain Range

A flock of wild turkey.

A flock of wild turkey.

We stopped to chat with these deer on our way home from dinner one evening.

We stopped to chat with these deer on our way home from dinner one evening.

Our last sunset at Cooney State Park.

Our last sunset at Cooney State Park.

When we left Cooney Reservoir to drive to Big Timber, we took a paved road - but the lanes were still narrow with no shoulder.

When we left Cooney Reservoir to drive to Big Timber, we took a paved road – but the lanes were still narrow with no shoulder.

 

Montana Part I: Miles City

Our route planning for The Lower 48 in 48 Tour is typically pretty loose. This means we have a general direction in which we want to proceed but we don’t make reservations in specific campgrounds too far in advance. This way we can be flexible as we make our way through the country. The general rules are: north in the summers, south in the winters, from east to west. After that, we make it up as we go. In keeping with the North- in- the- summers, south- in- the- winters concept, our general idea had always been to turn south from North Dakota and start our way down through South Dakota, Nebraska, etc. After Mike started studying the map and the calendar, he decided to swing a little farther west when we left North Dakota. It was still September, so the weather was likely to hold out for a while longer before winter started to set in. Montana is a big state with diverse terrain ranging from mountains to plains.  The eastern part of the state is a vast land of grassy plains flanked with a rich native American history. We expect to spend some time next summer in the western part of Montana, but we wanted to see what the other part of the state was like too. We decided to put South Dakota on the back burner for a couple of weeks and visit Miles City. This historic western town had plenty of Indian history along with a proud heritage of cowboys, agriculture and livestock. Plus, Mike could dove hunt for free on public lands… during the times he wasn’t fishing.

Miles City is a legendary western town at he confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. In 1876 Col. Nelson Miles built a Cantonment in the area as a base for battle against hostile Indians in the area. As a result of the military installation, merchants and bar owners started sprouting up to service the soldiers. As the area began to expand with settlers, the soldiers began building Fort Keogh two miles from the original site. Here, many of the free Indians, weary of battle with cavalrymen, would surrender to Col. Miles and accept the reservation lifestyle. Miles City is in Custer County. No coincidence. Custer camped in Miles City only weeks prior to his death 135 miles away in the Battle of Little Big Horn.

We stayed at a KOA Campground. It was small, but nice, clean, quiet and within walking distance to downtown (and to a great fishing spot)! Mike had a great time dove hunting and fishing. I had a great time eating the birds and fish. I spent my time looking at the downtown shops and local museums. Our last two stops had been REALLY cramped, so we spent lots of time enjoying our camp spot again. I read my kindle. We walked the dogs through town. I visited the farmer’s market. Mike had a great time hunting. We had dinner at a couple of downtown restaurants. Mike hit some golf balls at the local golf club. We went to church. It was a nice and peaceful two weeks.

The Yellowstone River flows to the north.

The Yellowstone River flows to the north.

The Yellowstone River is approximately 692 miles long.

The Yellowstone River is approximately 692 miles long.

Flat tire. We were so lucky to discover this development after we were parked. A local tire company came out and took it off to find a huge hole exposing the interior metal of the tire. They couldn't patch it, so they located another one for us in Billings. A couple of days later, they were back out to get us totally situated. Flat tires are no fun and the $864 invoice at the end was not very exciting, but it was all okay because we did not encounter any danger on the road as a result of the puncture. I think this was the most convenient flat tire, ever.

Flat tire. We were so lucky to discover this development after we were parked. A local tire company came out and took it off to find a huge hole exposing the interior metal of the tire. They couldn’t patch it, so they located another one for us in Billings. A couple of days later, they were back out to get us totally situated. Flat tires are no fun and the $864 invoice at the end was not very exciting, but it was all okay because we did not encounter any danger on the road as a result of the puncture. I think this was the most convenient flat tire, ever.

Not only is there LOTS of hay... there are multiple varieties of hay too!

Not only is there LOTS of hay… there are multiple varieties of hay too!

The dove's view of Mike hunting.

The dove’s view of Mike hunting.

Mike's view while dove hunting.

Mike’s view while dove hunting.

A selfie from The Montana Bar.

A selfie from The Montana Bar.

The municipal swimming pool is a natural lake two blocks from downtown!

The municipal swimming pool is a natural lake two blocks from downtown!

College football season started while were at this stop. Mike is happy now. He would probably be a bit more happy if our Longhorns could win a game!

College football season started while were at this stop. Mike is happy now. He would probably be a bit more happy if our Longhorns could win a game!

More fish from the angler. A catfish, a white bass and a sauger. Piper is inspecting the loot.

More fish from the angler. A catfish, a small mouth bass and a sauger. Piper is inspecting the loot.

We were near the trail of Lewis and Clark in this part of the country. Local history says Captain William Clark, Sacagawea, her baby son Pomp, and 22 permanent members of the Corps of Discovery camped here at what is now Pirogue State Park in July of 1806.

We were near the trail of Lewis and Clark in this part of the country. Local history says Captain William Clark, Sacagawea, her baby son Pomp, and 22 permanent members of the Corps of Discovery camped here at what is now Pirogue State Park in July of 1806.

We usually don't get up too early. (For that matter, we usually don't go to bed too late either)! But Mike was up with the sun on most of our days in Miles City. He was drinking coffee in preparation for either dove hunting or fishing... or both.

We usually don’t get up too early. (For that matter, we usually don’t go to bed too late either)! But Mike was up with the sun on most of our days in Miles City. He was drinking coffee in preparation for either dove hunting or fishing… or both.

Some mule deer watching Mike fish from across the Yellowstone River.

Some mule deer watching Mike fish from across the Yellowstone River.

A deer watching Mike hunt for dove.

A deer watching Mike hunt for dove.

Some cream cheese and jalapeno stuffed bacon-wrapped dove fresh off of our grill.

Some cream cheese and jalapeno stuffed bacon-wrapped dove fresh off of our grill.

This is where Mike fished during our time in Miles City. It was at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. It was within walking distance of our camp and he always had good luck!

This is where Mike fished during our time in Miles City. It was at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. It was within walking distance of our camp and he always had good luck!

More fish from the confluence of the two rivers.

More fish from the confluence of the two rivers.

The back of our spot at the Miles City KOA.

The back of our spot at the Miles City KOA.

Sunset through the 100-year old Cottonwood trees in our campground.

Sunset through the 100-year old Cottonwood trees in our campground.

There is LOTS of hay in this part of the country. I guess they have to stock up for the winter months!

There is LOTS of hay in this part of the country. I guess they have to stock up for the winter months!

The 1880's era Olive Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A scene from the epic film Lonesome Dove was filmed in one of its rooms.

The 1880’s era Olive Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A scene from the epic film Lonesome Dove was filmed in one of its rooms.

We happened to be in town during the 28th Annual Classic Car Show hosted by the High Plains Classic Car Club. The entire park was filled with antique cars of all makes, models, and ages.

We happened to be in town during the 28th Annual Classic Car Show hosted by the High Plains Classic Car Club. The entire park was filled with antique cars of all makes, models, and ages.

There are two eagles that are long-time residents of Miles City. George and Martha built a big nest in one of the cottonwood trees in a city park near our campground. They grew out of that original nest and recently constructed a newer model in the same tree. They do leave for a couple of months each year, but they always return to raise their eaglets. They even have their own 24/7 eagle cam. The live feed runs when they are in town. Here is the link: http://53431558b81c6.click2stream.com

There are two eagles that are long-time residents of Miles City. George and Martha built a big nest in one of the cottonwood trees in a city park near our campground. They grew out of that original nest and recently constructed a newer model in the same tree. They do leave for a couple of months each year, but they always return to raise their eaglets. They even have their own 24/7 eagle cam. The live feed runs when they are in town. Here is the link: http://53431558b81c6.click2stream.com

This sign in the museum made me chuckle. A little bit more of a western slant as compared to the tone of southern charm!

This sign in the museum made me chuckle. A little bit more of a western slant as compared to the tone of southern charm!

This longhorn is a native Texan.

This longhorn is a native Texan.

There is a big history between the Native Americans of this region and the white man that invaded the land. This Reconciliation Blanket was given to the people of Miles City in 2008 (only SEVEN years ago) by the Tribal Council of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

There is a big history between the Native Americans of this region and the white man that invaded the land. This Reconciliation Blanket was given to the people of Miles City in 2008 (only SEVEN years ago) by the Tribal Council of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

This velvet quilt dates to 1720 and came from Sweden. It was also in the Range Riders Museum.

This velvet quilt dates to 1720 and came from Sweden. It was also in the Range Riders Museum.

A month after the defeat of Col. George Custer's troops at Little Big Horn, Congress established an Army post to be built at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. Building of the site commenced in August of 1876. The military function of the fort was shut down in 1908 and it became a remount station, providing horses for the military. During WWI, more horses were processed here than at any other U.S. army post. Now Fort Keogh is part of the Department of Agriculture and conducts scientific investigations to improve the sustainability of range beef cattle production and the rangeland on which they live.

A month after the defeat of Col. George Custer’s troops at Little Big Horn, Congress established an Army post to be built at the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers. Building of the site commenced in August of 1876. The military function of the fort was shut down in 1908 and it became a remount station, providing horses for the military. During WWI, more horses were processed here than at any other U.S. army post. Now Fort Keogh is part of the Department of Agriculture and conducts scientific investigations to improve the sustainability of range beef cattle production and the rangeland on which they live.

This photo from the museum cracked me up. Ladies night at Fort Keogh.

This photo from the museum cracked me up. Ladies night at Fort Keogh.

A photo from the Range Riders Museum. This is cowboy and indian territory - for sure.

A photo from the Range Riders Museum. This is cowboy and indian territory – for sure.

The Range Riders Museum near our campground was an amazing museum. This is a log cabin display in one of their 8 buildings.

The Range Riders Museum near our campground was an amazing museum. This is a log cabin display in one of their 8 buildings.

A stage coach at the Rough Riders Museum in Miles City.

A stage coach at the Rough Riders Museum in Miles City.

The bar at the Montana Bar.

The bar at the Montana Bar.

The Montana Bar could quite possibly be the most authentic bar I've ever been into. Dark. Nostalgic. Polished. The stuffed hamburgers were pretty good too!

The Montana Bar could quite possibly be the most authentic bar I’ve ever been into. Dark. Nostalgic. Polished. The stuffed hamburgers were pretty good too!

No Longhorn Network up in Montana. Mike listened to the game on his phone while we were at the sports bar.

No Longhorn Network up in Montana. Mike listened to the game on his phone while we were at the sports bar.

Lots of cool neon after dark in downtown Miles City.

Lots of cool neon after dark in downtown Miles City.

Kevin and his wife had recently purchased the KOA in Miles City (I think they had closed on all the paperwork only one month before we arrived). He was retired from UPS and they moved to Montana from Tennessee. It was fun watching this family becoming familiar with the routines of their endeavor and enjoying the new of every day! We were lucky enough to meet Grandpa too because he came to visit for a few days while we were there.

Kevin and his wife had recently purchased the KOA in Miles City (I think they had closed on all the paperwork only one month before we arrived). He was retired from UPS and they moved to Montana from Tennessee. It was fun watching this family becoming familiar with the routines of their endeavor and enjoying the new of every day! We were lucky enough to meet Grandpa too because he came to visit for a few days while we were there.

Some of the beautiful stained glass inside the historic United Methodist Church.

Some of the beautiful stained glass inside the historic United Methodist Church.

Some of the fresh catch Mike supplied to us during this stop.

Some of the fresh catch Mike supplied to us during this stop.

We had breakfast one morning at the 600 Café in downtown. It was all-60's reunion weekend, and I was able to listen in on lots of interesting conversations while we enjoyed our meal.

We had breakfast one morning at the 600 Café in downtown. It was all-60’s reunion weekend, and I was able to listen in on lots of interesting conversations while we enjoyed our meal.

The Saturday Farmer's Market was located at a park within walking distance of our campground. We bought fresh corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and cookies when we visited.

The Saturday Farmer’s Market was located at a park within walking distance of our campground. We bought fresh corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and cookies when we visited.