Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


A Cool Trip – Part 2

After leaving Washington and crossing the approximately 70 miles of Idaho panhandle on I-90, we arrived at the Montana border at Exit 0. From this point, high up  (4,710 ft.) in Lookout Pass which is in the Rockies in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of the Bitterroot Range, we began our descent into Montana. At Exit 16, the Silver Dollar Casino is a main attraction.

We don’t gamble, but we patronize the restaurant in this establishment, and we always fill our gas tanks there, both coming and going. Behind the casino, free RV parking with electricity is available. It makes our one-night stay there very comfortable.

Last year at this place, we saw wild turkeys just behind our rig. They were very daring (or stupid) because it was close to our Canadian Thanksgiving. But to give them credit, they were American turkeys so they wouldn’t have known that – American Thanksgiving being much later.

This night at Exit 16 was to be our last pleasant night for a while to come.



The Thing About Oil

Whether we like it or not, we need oil products in our daily lives. The Calumet Specialty Products Partnership helps to provide them. Part of their production takes place in a refinery in the city of Great Falls, Montana.

As we descend from the low hills on our way from Havre to Helena, the city of Great Falls, Montana, sprawls in front of us. It is named for a series of five dams built nearby on the Missouri River, one of which helped provide the electricity needed to run the refinery.

The refinery is a landmark of the city, and its presence is hard to miss. But locals are glad for its existence as it provides many jobs and  much-needed products.

When we have passed through we have sometimes taken the city center route and other times the Northwest Bypass. Either way, the refinery is unavoidable and so is the smell.

What amazed me is that right across the street the Montana Club Restaurant and a little farther on, the Wal-Mart and several other businesses, are bustling with customers and doing very well.

Obviously the refinery was there first.

We all hear about pipelines and air pollution and the bad petro-chemicals these days, but oil is part of our survival. We need to eat, and farmers need machinery, and that machinery needs to be oiled and fueled. Vehicles people drive need gasoline and oil. Other by-products like paint, solvents, candle wax, cosmetics, and asphalt  are less necessary, but still convenient to have. Whether we like it or not, it is difficult to do without many of these products for our economy to function.

Finding ways of minimizing the impact of oil product manufacturing is an ongoing challenge, but the people of Great Falls are glad for the jobs and proud of the important products they provide.



American Beauty, or Land of Broken Dreams?

Montana is a beautiful state, at least in the spring, summer, and fall. I would not want to spend a winter in Montana (because … okay, I admit it, I’m a wimp). Their winters  are harsh.

Seeing so many abandoned buildings in this state, I have come to think of Montana as a land of broken dreams (for many). In pioneer days, people must have come to Montana with hope and enthusiasm. They built their homes and tilled the soil, and waited for the crops to grow.

Then came the winter, the loneliness, and the difficulty in traveling the mile or two  in harsh conditions for a sanity-restoring visit with the nearest neighbour.

What if you had an emergency, an accident, or your child was ill, and needed a doctor?

Is it any wonder that sometimes dreams turned into nightmares?

Some of these abandoned homes may have been left standing empty when a newer, more modern house was built nearby, but many simply became a place escaped from, left for the coyotes and pigeons to explore.

Here is one house that has seen happier days.

And here is another.

If only the walls could talk, what stories we would hear!




Are you a gambler?

Driving past a collection of houses, many of them uninhabited, I noticed the sign on one of the buildings: Lone Tree Casino.

Gambling casinos are typical of the businesses you find nowadays on  Reserves. Some of these establishments are huge monstrosities, looking out of place on the undeveloped land. This one is unpretentious. At first I thought it was a derelict building, no longer in use, but on reflection, I may be wrong.

It seems to be a desolate town, and for those who regularly visit this establishment, a sad way to spend the time in this windowless building. But that’s just my humble opinion.

There has been improvement though. No longer should it be called Lone Tree Casino. I see many trees in the area now.


What’s in a Name?

Dunkirk, Zurich, Malta, Glasgow, Cleveland, Devon, Rudyard, Harlem, Jordan, Belgrade, Amsterdam-Churchill, Havre, and Manhattan. These are names of places all over the world, but they are also names of places in Montana.

On our way home we stopped for the night in Zurich. Not Zurich, Switzerland, but Zurich, Montana. It’s a tiny farming community where the people drive their ATVs down the middle of  the road if they’re taking their trash to the local garbage dump. You just have to slow down and wait until they make their turn into the dumping station up ahead on the left.

Then you can continue on to the little gem of a community park where they kindly allow campers to stay the night for a mere  ten-dollar fee for electricity. Such a peaceful location.

The community hall was not in use the day we were there, camped in the corner.

The view from my trailer window is of black cottonwoods that whisper as they drop their last golden leaves. The only notably loud sound was made by the pheasant who cackled enthusiastically before taking wing out of the creek bed beside our trailer.

I thought it odd that Montana has so many names that duplicate other places in the world, but on looking more closely at the map, I saw names of a completely different sort:  Poplar, Wolf Point, Plentywood, Buffalo, Cat Creek, Musselshell, Rattlesnake, Lodgepole, Sleeping Buffalo, Whitewater, Crow Rock, Grass Range, Forest Grove, Roundup, Deer Lodge, Cut Bank, Sunburst, Sweetgrass, Fox Crossing, Chinook, Gold Butte.

Montana names are such fun!



It’s Time

The autumn days are nearing their end. Nights are colder. Even though this coming week is one last promise of warmer weather, we know it can’t last. The RV park is emptying out. It’s soon time to go home.

It’s been a treat,

But where’s the heat?

A week’s reprieve

Will cold relieve,

The sun’s last rays 

Of autumn days

Will soon be gone

And cold comes on.

It’s time to go

Before the snow,

Back home to rain

And rain and rain.


Oh Deer, Deer.

Dear me, these mule deer are late for school. They are just down the hill from the school beyond the fence.

See them there, talking about whether it’s wise to skip school. The leader of the pack reminds them that this school has been closed since 1966, and the teacher is long gone.

But what to do about this fence. Who will go first to show how it’s done? Finally, one of them hops over and the rest follow, running until they are out of sight. They are already far away from me, but they’re taking no chances.

This white-tailed deer is a bit braver and as long as I didn’t try to get out of the truck it posed for a couple of pictures. You can see the line where I didn’t have the window lowered enough.

They’re only deer, whether mule deer or white-tailed deer, but I like to take a picture of them because they are such en”dear”ing animals. Maybe I watched too many Walt Disney movies, but I love seeing these gentle animals.

By the way, if there are any truck experts out there, I’d appreciate knowing the models and year of the trucks by the school.

I will be on the road for a few days, but will answer your comments when I am connected again.