After an all-night trip from Anchorage AK to Calgary AB and only piecemeal naps on two flights, the drive to Glacier Meadow RV Park in Essex MT on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, albeit short in miles, was onerous and wearisome. The drive and clearing U.S. customs went as smoothly as can be expected, and our post-sunset arrival at the RV park found us assigned to a site long enough to require only minimal set-up in the darkness – i.e., the electrical tether. We immediately settled in for a welcomed good night’s rest. Since I had given all the ketchup, mustard, etc. to our friends in Calgary before I placed the Bighorn in storage for six weeks, Wednesday found cousin Marilyn and me headed to the store for supplies as well as unpacking the suitcases and getting the “house” back in order.
Thursday morning found me checking the wildfire status in/near Glacier National Park – the reason for our stop in Essex. I learned all but a two-mile segment at the western end of Going-to-the-Sun Road
had been closed due to wildfires. Going-to-the-Sun Road is the 50-mile east-to-west scenic road connecting the eastern park entrance station at St. Mary’s MT with the
western entrance station at West Glacier MT. That short open stretch of Going-to-the-Sun Road allowed us to make our way to the Apgar Visitor Center where we looked at the exhibits and enjoyed a ranger presentation about bear encounters. Continuing with our “Plan B” drive (Plan A had been traversing the park on Going-to-the-Sun Road), we headed for Kalispell MT and then set out for Libby MT on US 2. I had driven this stretch of scenic highway in September 2014 – “ Home, Home on the (National Bison) Range” – Missoula MT. In Libby, we headed for new territory and turned north on MT 37 toward Eureka MT where we caught US 93 south to Columbia Falls MT and then the RV park. The drive was an excellent Plan B, but, having driven Going-to-the-Sun Road in the early 1990s, it wasn’t as impressive as my recollection of the Plan A experience.
Friday, September 14, 2018 we relocated to Dick's RV Park in Great Falls MT where we planned to see some of the sights and to spend some time with my cribbage-playing friends, Duane and Lori, who winter at Countryside RV Resort in Apache Junction AZ. We, and
another Countryside RV Resort winter visitor and cribbage player, Joanne, were invited to their home for supper on Friday. After supper, Marilyn and I learned a new card game. Saturday found us visiting Lewis & Clark Great Falls Portage
in Great Falls, a US Forest Service facility, where we learned that the fifteen-mile stretch of the Missouri River near Great Falls has not one fall but five falls with a total drop of 500 feet. This interpretive center (as does its cousins) has an overview of the entire journey of the Corps of Discovery but has a focal point – this facility’s being the formidable obstacles overcome during the fifteen-mile portage around the five Great Falls.
Just down the street, we made a stop at Giant Springs State Park
. Discovered by the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1805, the spring is one of the largest freshwater springs in the nation. Fed by the Madison Aquifer, the spring flows at a rate of 156 million gallons per day at a constant 54 degrees year-round. The Madison Aquifer, in turn, originates in the Little Belt Mountains and takes approximately 26 years to reach the springs. According to one web site I visited, “… during the cold winter months water
vapor covers the air and soaks the trees in the park, which then forms beautiful ice covered (sic) trees shining in the sunlight.” No, I have no plans to return in January to see the natural beauty! On the way to Lewis & Clark Great Falls Portage, we had passed the Montana Veterans Memorial
located in, ta-da, Veterans Memorial Park and decided to make a stop on our way to the next attraction. The memorial is nicely done and stands as a unique tribute to “honor and recognize all veterans of all branches of military service to the United States of America, in peace and in war.” After a stop at the uppermost of the Great Falls of the Missouri River and a nice Italian supper at MacKenzie River Pizza Co., we made our way back to Duane and Lori’s for some more cards and socialization.
I planned a short drive on Sunday and a one-night stay at Billings Village RV Park in Billings MT so we could make a stop at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
in Crow Agency MT. Without the assistance of Google Earth and a determination that there was ample RV parking available, I would not have planned the stop with
the Bighorn in tow, but Marilyn had never been to the memorial and it had been over 25 years since I had seen it. Since I knew the drive on Monday from Billings to Deadwood SD, our next overnight destination, would be relatively long, we got an early start on September 17, 2018. The drive and parking at the battlefield visitor center went well, and the attraction is nicely done as are most National Park Service facilities; but our two-hour stop didn’t even scratch the surface of the available activities, although we did manage to peruse the visitor center and to hear one ranger presentation about the battle before resuming the long journey.
By the time we arrived at Wild Bill's Campground, it was dark. I went to the watering hole adjacent to the campground, as instructed, and registered for our two-night stay. Monday morning found us heading to the first attraction of our two-attraction stop, Mount Rushmore National Memorial
in Keystone SD. Little Bighorn had been much as I remembered from a visit my late friend, Kent, and I had made sometime between 1989 (my divorce from my first wife) and 1993 (my marriage to my second wife) – a time
period in my life I refer to as “when I was between wives!” Mount Rushmore, however, was NOTHING like I had remembered. We parked in a parking DECK, walked down an “avenue of flags” and got a much more “up close and personal” view of the memorial than I recalled. I felt all the changes were positive, but Marilyn thought the alterations detracted from her recollections of the awesomeness of the memorial itself. Regardless, Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a worthy stop for any tourist passing near zip code 57732.
Onward to Crazy Horse Memorial
in Crazy Horse SD. Again, I had been here “between wives,” almost 30 years ago. Although the monument has been in progress since 1948, it still is nowhere near completion; however, significant progress has been made since my first visit. The visitor center hosts an interesting historical photographic review of the project, several presentations offer a look at the completed project, one area offers interesting histories of several Native American leaders and a great, reasonably-priced restaurant offers a nice menu. I had the daily special, a Native American stew that was very tasty. After lunch, we went to the patio for a performance by a Native
American dancer who not only performed but explained the history and meaning of the dance and the significance of the ornamentation on his regalia. Very entertaining and informative. Even though the grandchildren of my readers might not live long enough to see the completed project, this privately-funded piece of historical art is worthy of a stop for anybody interested in Native American history, art, engineering or a dozen other topics.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 found us beginning a two-day, attraction-void trek to Lake Iowa Park in Ladora IA for the first of two planned family reunions. As we neared Sioux Falls SD after sunset the first day, it began to rain and increased in intensity for the entire drive to Sioux City IA. At some points, I was driving only 30-40 miles per hour on the Interstate. Finding an RV park was not an option, so we made it only as far as the Sioux City Visitor Center Parking Lot. On day two, Thursday, September 20, 2018, we made a stop in Gowrie IA, birthplace of my father and home to Marilyn’s brother, Bud, and his wife, Donita. We shared lunch at a local eatery, went to the Gowrie
cemetery to reflect at the headstones of several of our ancestors and then stopped at Zion Lutheran Church. There we saw a 1926 Membership Quilt that is not only beautiful but contains the names of many of our ancestors. It had been presented as a going away gift to Reverend and Mrs. A.T. Lundholm at the time they left Gowrie for assignment to another church facility. It was kinda cool to see thirteen of my ancestors listed on an historic quilt.
We finished up the day by driving to Lake Iowa Park and securing a “first come. first serve” site. Knowing that our arrival would be later in the afternoon, I had planned for a Thursday arrival vs. a Friday arrival to serve as a buffer between those of us “coming-from-a-distance” and the locals who might have beaten us to the punch, err, campsite. Friday afternoon, cousin Loren arrived from Minnesota for the picnic, and, as planned, the picnic occupied midday Saturday where I had the opportunity to meet Marilyn’s third and only other sibling, brother Larry. He had driven north from Oklahoma City OK for the picnic, and we hit it off splendidly. Marilyn and I were going
… Before Performing the Dance
Crazy Horse Memorial - Crazy Horse SD
to go our separate ways after an Illinois family picnic, however, she had received several “add-ons” to the front end of her hip replacement procedure from the medical powers-to-be regarding tests and other particulars, so after the Iowa picnic, Marilyn and all three of her brothers headed for a short “sibling powwow” at the summer cottage in the Door County area of Wisconsin that Wayne and Rhonda had recently purchased. Loren slept on the Bighorn floor on Saturday night (he keeps impromptu sleepover supplies in his car) and hung out with me until early Sunday evening. Monday, I put the Bighorn in a nearby, recommended RV shop for a couple of repairs and some scheduled maintenance before heading to Rockford IL to connect with relatives and friends.
The trip from Calgary to my hometown had a few stops for interesting attractions and a visit with some friends. A picnic with relatives capped off an incredible trip of approximately 10 weeks. It started with a drive from Iowa to Calgary via Moose Jaw SK, a bus tour through the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver BC, a cruise on the ms Westerdam to Alaska, a four-week rental car excursion through Alaska, a
flight back to Calgary (via Seattle WA – go figure) and a drive back to Iowa from Calgary. Not only did we see get to see some incredible scenery by land and by sea, we visited some extraordinary historic landmarks and made stops to see friends and/or relatives in Minnesota, Saskatchewan and Alberta (as well as Iowa). I got to spend my 70th
birthday in Alaska – the major reason for making the trip in 2018 instead of waiting until 2019. Generally speaking, procrastination is not a good thing. At my age, it’s become a bad thing!
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