TimManBlog

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Mobile’s Mardi Gras

February 15, 2021
(Photos and memories from Sunday February 10, 2013)

I’m in Mobile, Alabama and Mardi Gras is going on all around me.

Mardi Gras parades on Dauphine Street. Mobile, Alabama

Dauphine Street is Mobile’s Bourbon Street, lined with bars and second story patios for looking down on the party below.  It’s still morning but the street is busy with drinkers. Rain is expected today; sorry for the gray-sky photos but it couldn’t be helped.

Mobile Mardi Gras 2013. The lady in the foreground must be sour-faced about the rainy weather. What else?

Technically speaking, it’s not Mardi Gras but Joe Cain Day in Mobile. The Sunday before Ash Wednesday is reserved for Mr. Cain’s memory – a man who basically started the Mardi Gras tradition in this town many decades ago.  The holiday has come to mean parades and family entertainment.

Dauphine Street with the Mobile skyline in the backdrop. Waiting for the Joe Cain Day parade to start.

The highlight of these parades is the opening float, reserved for the Merry Widows of Joe Cain.  These ladies, dressed all in black and wearing veils to keep their identities secret, wail for the memory of poor long-gone Joe Cain and compensate by throwing the crowds strings of black beads, the most coveted throw in Mobile’s Mardi Gras.  I caught a few strands of the blacks, but I also caught a few smacks on the head with throws I didn’t see coming.  Some of these were small Moon Pies, a favorite throw here in Mobile.

I also got a Merry Widow’s drinking cup:

Drink to poor Joe Cain’s memory!
Brought to you by the (not so sweet) Merry Widows of Joe Cain!

Afterwards, I’m at a bar called T.P. Crockmiers, on a barstool, bloody mary in front of me, eggs benedict ordered with a complementary glass of champagne expected to follow.  I trying to work off a headache caused by too many Moon Pies aimed at my head. My drink came in a plastic cup (suitable for take-out), adorned with lime and lemon slices, a celery top, and two pickled okra skewered by a toothpick.  One is always well taken care of in the South.

For those who prefer quiet museums to raucous parades, Mobile has just the place for you.

The Carnival Museum. Mobile, Alabama

Mobile was founded in 1702 and was designated capital of French “Louisiane” in 1711 by Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville. So Mobile does have a French heritage that goes with its Mardi Gras celebrations. Le Sieur de Bienville has a memorial in Bienville Square in the center of town.

Commemoration of Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville. Mobile, Alabama
Central fountain in Bienville Square. Mobile, Alabama

The Spanish controlled Mobile after the French. They’re remembered in Spanish Plaza, a few blocks from Bienville Square. These beautful porcelain park benches must have been gifts from the Spanish cities named on the benches.

From the town of Marbella, Spain, to Mobile, Alabama
From Madrid, Spain to Mobile, Alabama
From Barcelona, Spain to Mobile, Alabama
Statue of Hernando de Soto in Spanish Plaza. Mobile, Alabama

With both French and Spanish heritage, Catholicism is well-represented in Mobile.

Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Mobile, Alabama

There are two twin skyscrapers in Mobile and both are hotels, at least partially.  Nevertheless, this is a growing city, the kind of place businesses are looking to build in. The twin buildings are the RSA Tower and the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza (according to Google Maps). They are here:

Mobile’s twin skyscrapers

The late, great Hank Aaron was one of Mobile’s favorite sons. Hammerin’ Hank has a baseball park named for him in Mobile, called Hank Aaron Stadium. He is also remembered downtown with the Hank Aaron Loop.

Hank Aaron Loop. Downtown Mobile, Alabama

The city is situated on Mobile Bay, an important estuary of the Gulf of Mexico, so Mobile has always had a military presence — especially a naval one.

Battleship docked in Mobile Bay at Mobile, Alabama
Navy ships docked in Mobile Bay

The Mobile County Courthouse is a new and modern 7-story glass structure.  Their website expresses extreme pride for the building, saying how its open atrium draws people in instead of intimidating them the way traditional structures might. I don’t like that attitude so much; I appreciate a little grandeur in courthouses.

Mobile County Courthouse. Mobile, Alabama

I’ll leave you with a photo of the clean up after Mardi Gras. Who knows, perhaps they are still cleaning up today?

Mardi Gras clean-up. Mobile, Alabama

All photos taken by the author.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

January Calmness in West Texas

January 31, 2020

For several years running I would take a January trip down to West Texas to escape the bitter cold and snow of Colorado. The little town of Marfa is one of the places I would end up. In January, Marfa is warm and small and quiet, and the stunning ranchland views of the surrounding chocolate-colored mountains provide the respite needed after the hectic holidays of December.

Looking northwest from atop the county courthouse in Marfa toward the Davis Mountains

Marfa, Texas was founded in the 1880s as a railroad water stop in the deserts of Trans-Pecos Texas in between Midland and El Paso. Over the years it also served as a cattle stop, a trail stop, and a World War II army airfield training base, training thousands of pilots including television legend Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County, Texas but never grew beyond 4,000 souls. Its population is half that today, but subsists on ranching and drawing tourists and artists to its quiet streets.

Presidio County Courthouse. Marfa, Texas

At the very center of town, the three-story Second-Empire style Presidio County Courthouse can be seen from almost anywhere in Marfa. Built in 1886 of local materials, the courthouse features French-style mansard roofs and a central dome topped by a statue of Lady Justice. The grand old building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Presidio County Courthouse. Marfa, Texas
Central dome of the Presidio County Courthouse and statue of Lady Justice.

I was able to walk into the courthouse and climb the central tower for some photos of the surrounding town and landscape. Marfa sits in the midst of deserts surrounded by distant mountains:

Looking northeast from the courthouse to the Marfa water tower and the mountains beyond
View from atop the courthouse looking west
Looking north from atop the courthouse. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is below.

Marfa is a popular stop for tourists in January. Tourists need good accomodations, and the second-most impressive structure in Marfa provides just what is needed.

The Hotel Paisano. Marfa, Texas

The Hotel Paisano is just a block from the courthouse. Bring your red sportscar and park it out front, then enjoy a beverage in the courtyard. This is January, and the sunshine is warm but not hot.

Courtyard and fountain in Hotel Paisano. Marfa, Texas

This is an old-style hotel, built in the 1930s, so the hotel lobby and streetscape include gift shops.

London, Paris, Rome, Marfa. Gift shop wares near the Hotel Paisano.

Here are a few sights around town. Imagine lazily strolling past them without a jacket and while holding an iced tea:

Palace Theatre. Marfa, Texas
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Marfa, Texas
Brite Building. Marfa, Texas
Paisano Hotel and shops. Marfa, Texas

Information about the Hotel Paisano can be found here. It’s not particularly cheap, but you get what you pay for I suppose.

Finally, here’s a sign that tells a story, a story to bring you back squarely to where Marfa rightly belongs — in Texas:

A Texas story

Who knows if the story is actually true, but just talk to some folks around town and you’ll probably hear 10 more stories just like it.

Map of Texas with Presidio County highlighted (from wikipedia)

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken Friday January 13, 2012.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

For ‘Days Gone By’ in New Mexico

December 31, 2020

Today is New Year’s Eve and the haunting melody of Auld Lang Syne fills my head like a persistent earworm. The song is from an old Robert Burns’ poem, and its Scottish title translates to ‘Days Gone By.’ The last day of the year is a day to think of times past.

Few things remind me more of ‘days gone by’ than the remote town of Reserve, New Mexico (population 289) in Catron County among the west-central mountains of that state. A 1952 portrait of the old Catron County sheriff paints a vivid description of law and order in ‘days gone by’ in the rural West:

Sheriff Frank Balke of Catron County, New Mexico

Note the pearl-handled revolver and the belt made of rattlesnake hide. Sheriff Balke served three different stints as county sheriff in the 1930s and 1940s. His portrait hangs in the courthouse below, built in 1968 after Sheriff Balke’s times were themselves ‘days gone by’:

Catron County Courthouse. Reserve, New Mexico. Note the ‘Go Get Em Mountaineers!’ banner on the wall.

Catron County New Mexico has a population of less than 4,000, and that hasn’t changed much over the past few decades. The people here are a mixture of Hispanics and Anglos who settled the country along the San Francisco River in the late 1800s. The San Francisco River is an upper tributary of the Gila River, which flows westward through southern Arizona to meet the Colorado. The main town in the county is the village of San Francisco Plaza, but the county seat is the nearby town of Reserve, formerly known as Upper Frisco. Reserve was so named for the various Forest Reserves nearby (now called National Forests).

Reserve is the site of the siege of Elfego Baca, a local lawman who held off a gang of Texan cowboys seeking to kill him for arresting their fellow cowboy on a charge of drunkenness. The affair took place in December 1884 and became known as the Frisco Shoot-out. Badly outnumbered, Baca holed up in an adobe house as dozens of cowboys shot hundreds of holes into its walls. Baca was not wounded even once, while managing to kill four of his attackers during a siege lasting 33 hours.

What’s interesting about ‘days gone by’ in this instance is that fundamental facts are elusive — “Deputy” Baca may or may not have been an authorized lawman at all and the number of cowboys he held off varies from 40 up to 80. Many claim that the cowboys put over 4,000 holes into the adobe walls sheltering Elfego Baca. Regardless of how many bullet holes there were, the holes were real — they served as evidence in Baca’s acquittal at trial for murder.

Mural depicting the Frisco Shoot-out. Reserve, New Mexico

A statue of Elfego Baca stands at the center of town, and an historical plaque explains the circumstances of his fame:

Statue of Elfego Baca in Reserve, New Mexico
Historical plaque explaining the events of the Frisco Shoot-out. Reserve, New Mexico
Painting of Elfego Baca on a front door. Reserve, New Mexico

I was last here in December of 2012. Back then the “downtown” area of Reserve consisted of the county courthouse, a Mexican restaurant, a breakfast cafe, a small bank, two general merchandise stores, and a bar called Uncle Bill’s. It probably hasn’t changed much since then, nor had it probably changed much in ‘days gone by’ before 2012.

Ella’s Cafe. Reserve, New Mexico
The Black Gold Emporium: Gas, groceries, video rentals, etc. Reserve, New Mexico
Frisco Stables collectibles and visitor center, next to the Wild West Coffee Company. Reserve, New Mexico
Uncle Bill’s Bar. Reserve, New Mexico
Gas prices in 2012: $3.87 unleaded and $4.46 diesel. Reserve, New Mexico
Downtown traffic and mountains beyond. Reserve, New Mexico

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken either on January 25, 2007 or on December 12, 2012.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Stevenson, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge

November 29, 2020

Stevenson is an old Columbia River port town lying about 50 miles upstream from the Portland (OR)/Vancouver (WA) metro area. The town of 1,500 lies on the steep northern banks of the Columbia River at the western edge of the Columbia River Gorge. The high Cascade Mountains can be seen across the river on the Oregon side.

Downtown Stevenson, Washington, from the steps of the Skamania County Courthouse

Main Street Stevenson is called the Lewis and Clark Highway after the famous explorers. The Corps of Discovery, as Lewis and Clark referred to their expedition, came past this spot going downriver in November 1805, and again returning upriver in April 1806. They referred to the area as the “Great Shoote” for the difficult rapids at this spot.

Historical sign explainging the Lewis and Clark expedition’s travails at Stevenson

In the 20th Century a series of dams were built on the Columbia to help tame the river and to provide hydro-electric power. The Bonneville Dam, 10 miles downstream of Stevenson, was completed in 1937 and provides some calm to the river at this point. This is how the Columbia River at Stevenson looks today:

Columbia River at Stevenson, Washington

Stevenson is an old riverport town.  Little of the port remains but the government recently built a jetty into the river, some shoreline sidewalks, and a park to commemorate the old port. 

Columbia River jetty at Stevenson Landing
An historical sign explains the steamboat era at Stevenson

Stevenson is still small despite its location (within commuting distance to Portland). Today the town is half rural residential and half rural logging community.  There are a few diners downtown and a few brewpubs have been popping up to service the hiking, biking, and wind-surfing crowd.

Walking Man Brewing. Stevenson, Washington
Downtown Stevenson

It’s often cold and windy around here but I lucked out today.  Today is a clear, warm November day.  About half the autumn leaves remain on the trees, leaving the hillsides speckled with gold against an evergreen background.

Along the Columbia in Stevenson, Washington
Looking down toward 1st Street. Stevenson, Washington

The Skamania County Courthouse is a 1970s-style building three stories tall with a wide front lawn sloping down toward the Lewis and Clark Highway below.  The bright green of the Washington state flag reflects off the courthouse’s front glass windows.  Views from the building could be sold as real estate; they look up and down the Columbia River and include the steep green cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side.

Skamania County Courthouse. Stevenson, Washington
Skamania County Courthouse. Stevenson, Washington

A large tree stump from Skamania County’s logging days serves as the county veterans’ memorial. The best view of the Columbia River Gorge has been reserved for the veterans’ memory.

Skamania County Veterans Memorial

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on November 2, 2009.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

For Thanksgiving, 2020

November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It’s 2020, and what do I have to be thankful for? Well for one, the opportunities I’ve had to take to America’s open roads every once and a while. These “Freedom Voyages” (h/t to Elizabeth Rosas Barber for the moniker) give me the chance to see the country — its landscapes, its small towns, its cities, and its courthouses. Along the way I take and share photos of what I see and what I eat.

Want to live out a Freedom voyage vicariously? Here’s a photo log of the nine days I spent on the road last September, starting in Colorado Springs, Colorado where I live and traveling through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois to reach destinations in western Kentucky and southwestern Indiana.

I enjoyed Fall sunshine on eight of these nine days. Nothing better than sunshine on a trip! Enjoy!

Friday September 18, 2020. Day 1: Colorado Springs to Seneca, Kansas

I left home on a Friday morning at 5:30, before dawn and driving eastward to see the sunrise. I have plans and reservations for Friday and Saturday, but I’ll make decisions about the rest of the itinerary on Sunday morning. Across the Kansas state line I officially enter the Midwest and get a chance to enjoy Casey’s General Stores, their breakfast pizza and their new blueberry flips.

Casey’s General Store. Colby, Kansas. (lower gas prices than in Colorado)

A slice of Casey’s breakfast pizza was consumed too quickly to make the photograph.

Blueberry flip and coffee for the road.

From Colby I head northeast to reach U.S. Route 36 for the rest of the drive across Kansas. I turns out that this happens to be Treasure Hunt weekend all along Route 36, so each town has yard sales along the roadside.

Treasure Hunt in Norton, Kansas.

I stopped at several sales that afternoon, mostly for the conversations rather than the merchandise.

Improvised yard sale along Route 36. Farmlands near Esbon, Kansas.

After eight hours I arrive in Seneca, Kansas, a pleasant town of 2,000. I arrived early enough to take some photos in the evening light.

Fall home decorations in Seneca
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Seneca. It’s steeple is the highest point in town and can be seen for miles around.
Dinner (beef with tomatillo sauce) at El Canelo Mexican restaurant in Seneca, Kansas

Links:
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Seneca
El Canelo Mexican Restaurant in Seneca
Altenhofen Inn & Suites in Seneca

Saturday September 19, 2020. Day 2: Seneca to Clarinda, Iowa

Lazy Saturday in store today with a short ride into Nebraska, across the Missouri River into Missouri and then on to one of my favorite towns — Clarinda, Iowa. The first stop is Brownville, Nebraska, an historic old Missouri River trading town established in 1854 as a river port. The coming of the railroads drove most of the river traffic away, so today Brownville is mostly a tourist town with the air of a museum.

Didier Log Cabin. Brownville, Nebraska
Old Lone Tree Saloon building. Brownville, Nebraska
Brownville coffee shop and friendly door hostess
Welcome to Iowa!

Clarinda, Iowa has a population of about 5,000 and features a number of sites including the birthplace of Glenn Miller and the historic Page County Courthouse. First stop — the Robin’s Nest Cafe for lunch.

Reuben sandwich plus the best vegetable beef soup I’ve ever tasted!
Autumn colors starting to show on the tall shade trees in Clarinda.
Glenn Miller birthplace and boyhood home. Clarinda, Iowa
Glenn Miller home hours of operation.
A steak and potato dinner at J. Bruner’s in Clarinda, Iowa

The town of Clarinda was laid out in classic Midwestern fashion with a central square surrounded by the town’s small businesses. The county courthouse occupies the middle of the square:

Page County Courthouse at night. Clarinda, Iowa

Links:
Page County (Courthouse) in Clarinda
Robin’s Nest Cafe and Bakery in Clarinda
Cobblestone Inn & Suites in Clarinda

Sunday September 20, 2020. Day 3: Clarinda to Paducah, Kentucky

Sunday morning was decision time. From Clarinda I could head north into Minnesota, or Northeast into eastern Iowa and Illinois, or southeast to western Indiana and Kentucky.

I usually let the weather forecast make these decisions for me. Today, Indiana/Kentucky had the best forecast outlook for the week so off I went to the southeast. Sunday’s drive would take eight hours through St. Joseph, Missouri, across the state of Missouri on U.S. Route 36 to the Mississippi River, then southeast to St. Louis, across the Mississippi at that point into Illinois, then south to the Ohio River and across it into Kentucky.

But first, breakfast at the Robin’s Nest:

Meat-lovers omelette and raisin toast at Robin’s Nest Cafe in Clarinda. Hashbrowns are off to the side.
Lunch from a gas station in eastern Missouri.
Taken from the driver’s seat on Interstate 64 while passing Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Gateway Arch is in the background and the Mississippi River Bridge is just ahead.
Dinner in Paducah, Kentucky. The house chili plus a baked potato, veggies and bread.

Monday September 21, 2020. Day 4: Paducah to Owensboro, Kentucky

Breakfast at Burger King (my usual fully-loaded croissanwich), then a 2 1/2 hour drive to Boonville, Indiana, including a 1 1/2 hour stop at a Dairy Queen parking lot in Henderson, Kentucky to take part in business call. It’s nice not having to be chained to an office, isn’t it?

In Boonville I found a stately old courthouse…

Warrick County Courthouse. Boonville, Indiana

…a piece of Americana inside the courthouse…

Statue of an American bald eagle in American flag colors. Boonville, Indiana.

…a Lincoln-related historical marker…

…and some eclectic food choices from the bar in the town square:

Yesterdaze: Steaks, Fiddlers, Frog Legs, and Pork Chops.

Look at this business block. Couldn’t this be just about any Midwestern small town?

Locust Street businesses across from the courthouse. Boonville, Indiana

I had a footlong and a shake at a nearby Tastee Freeze.

T F Ice Cream at the corner of Walnut & Main Street. Boonville, Indiana

Upon seeing these photos April Gregory asked if I had seen Jack and Diane outside the Tastee Freez? Why yes I did April, just like in the song!

The Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial is 20 miles east of Boonville in Spencer County, Indiana. Lincoln spent his childhood years on his father’s farm here before going off to Illinois as a young man to be on his own.

Abraham Lincoln boyhood home (reconstructed)
Lincoln boyhood home — actual site and hearth
Gravesite of Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother

Off to Rockport, Indiana, county seat of Spencer County, on the banks of the Ohio River. The town is situated on a bluff above the river, allowing for some million-dollar views on a sunny September day.

Ohio River at Rockport, Indiana
Ohio River at Rockport. Homes line the crest of the bluff overlooking the river.
Classic home in Rockport, Indiana

I next drove downriver to Owensboro, Kentucky, for a night at the Holiday Inn Riverfront. But first, dinner at Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits.

Wedge salad for starters
Pecan pie topped with ice cream then whipped cream and then chocolate sauce for dessert.

I forget what the main course was.

Sunset over the Ohio. Holiday Inn Riverfront, Owensboro, Kentucky

Links:
Holiday Inn Riverfront, Owensboro
Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits, Owensboro

Tuesday September 22, 2020. Day 5: Owensboro to Tell City, Indiana

Sunrise over the Ohio. Owensboro, Kentucky

First things first — find the town’s signature diner. That’s Dee’s Diner on East 4th Street in Owensboro.

Ham slice with eggs at Dee’s Diner. Owensboro, Kentucky

No red gravy available with their signature ham slice. Drats!

Owensboro is a sizeable river town with a population over 55,000. It was settled in 1817 as “Yellow Banks”, and the downtown area boasts some fine 19th Century architecture.

Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits
Smith Block. Owensboro, Kentucky
Old Coca-cola sign. “Relieves Fatigue”

Look closely at the inscription on this monument and who it honors. Such monuments have come under fire in 2020.

Daviess County Courthouse and Civil War Monument. Owensboro, Kentucky

Modern Owensboro is known for its bourbon distilleries and for bluegrass music.

Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Owensboro, Kentucky

Heading out of town into the Kentucky countryside , I saw several celebrations of the Fall season:

Hancock County, Kentucky

…and just as many of these signs of the season:

Yard sign in Hancock County, Kentucky
Old Hancock County Courthouse. Hawesville, Kentucky

Lunchtime at The Brak Restaurant and Meeting House, Hardinsville, Kentucky. This is a small diner in a small, remote town. The Brak has no web presence, but the food is good and so is the company.

The lunch special of chicken fried steak, gravy, cole slaw, and sliced apples

Further on down the road:

Tobacco leaves drying in a shed. Near Stephensport, Kentucky

I next crossed the Ohio River into Indiana and drove downriver a ways to the town of Tell City. Tell City, Indiana was settled in 1857 by a group of German-speaking Swiss immigrants looking for a new life in the new world. As a side note, all the settlers of Tell City were German-Swiss; a settlement of French-speaking Swiss in Vevay, Indiana, 100 miles upriver from Tell City, was founded in 1813.

Tell City was of course named for legendary Swiss liberator William Tell. City Hall boasts a sculpture of an apple near its front entrance. The apple lights up red at night.

City Hall. Tell City, Indiana
Tell City, Indiana
Statue of William Tell and his son. Tell City, Indiana
St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Tell City, Indiana
Murals on Ohio River flood wall. Tell City, Indiana
Murals on the Ohio River flood wall. Tell City, Indiana

I was looking for a biergarten for dinner at Tell City, but the best I could do was a brewpub/sports bar called the Tell City Pour Haus.

Baby back ribs at the Tell City Pour Haus

Links:
Dee’s Diner in Owensboro
Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro
Tell City Pour Haus in Tell City
Holiday Inn Express in Tell City

Wednesday September 23, 2020. Day 6: Tell City to Vincennes, Indiana

For all the money people spend on “fine dining,” there’s actually nothing better than a great breakfast!

Swiss omelette with ‘scatter browns’ (hash browns covered with scattered cheese) at Julie’s Tell Street Cafe.

That’s a 3-egg omelette with bacon, sausage, ham, onion, peppers, tomatoes, and swiss cheese with a plate of cheesy hash brown’s on the side. No one needs a Michelin guide book to eat well.

The weatherman said that today would be dry but overcast, the only overcast day of my trip. My plan is to drive upstream along the Ohio River on the Indiana side for an hour or so, then turn north toward the towns of English and Paoli.

I stopped along the Ohio River at Rome, Indiana. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning. The waters are flat behind the Cannelton Dam just 10 or 20 miles downstream and the fish were biting like crazy! The overcast conditions come from some high clouds ahead of a tropical system coming ashore along the Gulf Coast.

Ohio River at Rome, Indiana
Ohio River at Rome, Indiana

My old high school friend Mark O’Donnell saw these photos on Facebook and gave me a thumbs way up. I wonder if he was planning on a fishing trip excursion to come down here from his home in Pittsburgh. This is a great fishing spot — quiet, plenty of fish, dozens of river-side rental cabins.

Frogs on a mailbox. Near Rome, Indiana

After winding east along the Ohio for an hour or so, I headed north through some hilly, wooded miles to the town of English, Indiana, perhaps the most remote county seat in the whole state.

Washed out bridge over Camp Fork Creek in English, Indiana

On to the town of Paoli, county seat of Orange County, Indiana. The courthouse here has been in use since 1850, and is still in use today. I went inside — all the basic offices were operating: county clerk, assessor, judge, etc.

Orange County Courthouse. Paoli, Indiana
View from the Orange County Courthouse balcony looking south toward Gospel Street.

This area is obviously very rural country, and in fact very hilly. Some Hoosiers actually refer to this part of their state as “Kentucky.” Appropriately, on my way driving out of the area I was able to stop at the hometown of “the hick from French Lick.”

Larry Bird poster in the pool room inside Legendz Sports Bar & Grill in French Lick, Indiana

I arrived in the city of Vincennes, Indiana around 6:00 pm, in time for dinner at Procopio’s Pizza and Pasta. I chose Procopio’s because it was highly rated on TripAdvisor, but going to Byron Bobe’s Pizza House as Stacy de Rose suggested would have been even better. Alas, I saw her Facebook comment too late.

Spinach salad at Procopio’s. Vincennes, Indiana
Alfredo at Procopio’s

Links:
Julie’s Tell Street Cafe in Tell City
Legendz Sports Bar & Grill in French Lick
Procopio’s Pizza and Pasta in Vincennes
Byron Bobe’s Pizza House in Vincennes
Holiday Inn Express, Vincennes

Thursday September 24, 2020. Day 7: Vincennes to Terre Haute, Indiana

It’s a bright sunny morning and I’m off early, driving north through the farms and fields of western Indiana. I was making good time until I saw a roadside establishment called “The Big Peach,” and couldn’t help but stop for some “supplies.”

The Big Peach. Along U.S. Highway 41 near Bruceville, Indiana.
A large bottle of Peach Cider for the road

Next stop, the town of Sullivan, Indiana, a beautiful Midwestern town basking in the shade of its tall trees.

Sullivan County Courthouse. Sullivan, Indiana
Pumpkins for sale at the town square. Sullivan, Indiana
Sullivan business blocks across from the courthouse. Sullivan, Indiana

The next county to the north is Vigo County, home of the city of Terre Haute and Indiana State University. “Terre Haute” is French for “high ground,” and there is a lot of French influence around town, starting with the courthouse.

Vigo County Courthouse. Terre Haute, Indiana
Vigo County Courthouse. Terre Haute, Indiana

The courthouse is a magnificent example of Second Empire-style structure.

From the Wikipedia entry on the Vigo County Courthouse:

“Designed by Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, the building was constructed by the Terre Haute Stone Company at a cost of $443,000. The courthouse is made from Indiana limestone gathered from Stinesville, Indiana quarries…Originally, the main floor consisted of offices, with two large, high-ceiling courtrooms on the second floor. Elegantly finished and furnished, the courthouse was heated with steam from a detached building to the south and featured a hydraulic elevator.”

Bustling downtown Terre Haute, Indiana
French influence in the buildings in Terre Haute, Indiana

Lunchtime in Terre Haute. Question: What’s the best part of ‘Frenchness’? Answer: GUMBO!

Chicken and sausage gumbo at J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute
Bar room inside J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute

Terre Haute is sometimes referred to as the “Crossroads of America” since the intersection of 7th Street and Wabash Avenue was also the intersection of U.S. Routes 40 and 41 — both are cross-country routes. The roadsign will explain the details:

Crossroads of America sign in Terre Haute, Indiana
Crossroads of America in Terre Haute — also the birthplace of the Coke bottle design.
Indiana Theatre and Event Center, 7th & Ohio in Terre Haute, Indiana

After toying with the idea of staying the afternoon at J. Gumbo’s, I decided instead to drive the old National Road east one county to the town of Brazil. Nice place. They have a Vietnam-era Air Force fighter jet parked on their courthouse lawn.

Clay County Courthouse. Brazil, Indiana
Bustling National Avenue (U.S. Route 40) in Brazil, Indiana

Now back to Terre Haute for some dinner and a night’s rest.

BBQ at Rick’s Smokehouse & Grill on Wabash Ave. Terre Haute, Indiana

It turns out that Rick’s Smokehouse is a favorite stopping place for country music bands touring through Terre Haute. Poster’s tacked on the wall are signed by the artists (some now famous):

Florida-George Line at Rick’s Smokehouse in Terre Haute, Indiana
Jana Kramer at Rick’s Smokehouse in Terre Haute, Indiana

That evening I checked my Facebook traffic. Jim Street asked me, “what’s the occasion for your road trip Tim?” I answered:
—free time
—a few bucks in the bank
—summer warmth won’t last forever
—life is short
—my old car is still reliable enough for long trips. That won’t last forever
—weather forecast said this whole week would be sunny and pleasant in the Midwest
AND FINALLY:—a big election is coming up. I feel confident but if it goes sideways THIS COUNTRY WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. I wanna see it now, at its best. Thanks for the question Jim. It gives me a chance to put all things in perspective.

As if those reasons weren’t enough, I learned just 25 minutes later that my high school friend Mark O’Donnell had just passed away. He was 59. He had liked my Ohio River photos just two days before. Another old school friend, Drew Podnar, posted the news. Mark will be missed.

Life is short indeed.

Links:
The Big Peach in Bruceville, Indiana
J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute
Indiana Theatre and Event Center in Terre Haute
Rick’s Smokehouse BBQ & Grill in Terre Haute
La Quinta Inn & Suites in Terre Haute

Friday September 25, 2020. Day 8: Terre Haute to Seneca, Kansas

Time to go home. All good things must come to an end. I have two days driving to do from western Indiana through the farmlands of central Illinois, across the Mississippi River, through the farmlands of central Missouri, across the Missouri River, then on to Seneca, Kansas to spend the night.

First, breakfast at Denny’s in Terre Haute:

All-American Slam breakfast at Denny’s. Terre Haute, Indiana

But that only fills the stomach for now — what about food for the road? That’s why God invented donuts. And in Terre Haute, that means a place called Square Donuts.

Square Donuts. Terre Haute, Indiana
Plenty to choose from at Square Donuts, but Cash Only please!
The cream-filled donut is the King of the Donuts.

After a few hours driving I crossed the Mississippi River into Hannibal, Missouri. That means lunch, and it also means one of my favorite duos of literature — Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Statue of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn above Main Street in Hannibal, Missouri

I posted this at the time: “Meet two of my heroes: Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Huck is a Rousseauian type, a noble savage who disdains civilization, while Tom is more of an Enlightenment boy genius. I try to take after one or the other of these two, depending upon the situation.”

Phil Costopoulos responded: “Tom was a management genius. I talk about him all the time in staff meetings.”

Tom Sawyer’s fence in Hannibal, Missouri
Mississippi riverboats moored at Hannibal, Missouri

Lunch from Java Jive on Main Street in Hannibal. Now time to hit the road again.

Lunch from Java Jive in Hannibal, Missouri

After a few hours of driving I crossed the Missouri River into Kansas. The town of Wathena, Kansas is a few miles beyond the river and a great place to stop for ice cream. Try the Dairy Barn for ice cream — or buy the place — the owner has put it up for sale.

The Dairy Barn. Wathena, Kansas
Ice cream fudge sundae at the Dairy Barn. Wathena, Kansas

I got into Seneca an hour or so later. Dinner tonight is at the Willows Restaurant and Bar. I have their fettuccine alfredo — with andouille sausage instead of chicken — and a side of sweet potato fries and tea.

Willows Restaurant and Bar. Seneca, Kansas
Home away from home. Starlite Inn. Seneca, Kansas

Links:
Square Donuts in Terre Haute
Java Jive in Hannibal, Missouri
Dairy Barn in Wathena, Kansas
Willows Restaurant and Bar in Seneca, Kansas
Starlite Motel in Seneca, Kansas

Saturday September 26, 2020. Day 9: Seneca to Colorado Springs

I have an 8-hour drive home ahead of me, mostly along U.S. Route 36 in Kansas. By now I’m glassy-eyed determined and I only make stops for gas, and for lunch.

Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

One more lunch behind the wheel on my way home. Peach pie for dessert. Phillipsburg, Kansas.

Lunch from Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

Links:
Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

I’m home now. Thanks for following along and I hope you enjoyed my trip even half as much as I did.

All photos taken by the author in September, 2021

A list of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog can be found here.

Small town Prosperity in Warren, Pennsylvania

October 31, 2020

Nestled in a shallow mountain valley along the upper Allegheny River, Warren looks like many other central Pennsylvania small towns. Its population stands at 10,000 or so, and the streets here are lined with tall deciduous trees. Often shaded behind those trees are old Victorian homes dating back to Warren’s oil and timber boomtime in the late 1800s. But prosperity has come back to town, as you’ll see below.

In the fall it’s absolutely beautiful here. A stroll down 5th Avenue in Warren isn’t at all like a stroll down 5th Avenue in Manhattan or even in Pittsburgh, but it’s striking in its own way. I used this photo as my PC desktop background for a while.

5th Avenue in Warren, Pennsylvania

Imagine sitting on the front porch of this fine home, enjoying a coffee or a whiskey depending on the time of year.

Classic brick home with American flag in Warren, Pennyslvania

Just one more home please. 5th Avenue in Warren runs along the base of a mountain, as seen off to the right in this photo.

Victorian home with classic front porch and American flag. Warren, Pennsylvania

The Warren County Courthouse is just down the street.

Warren County Courthouse. Warren, Pennsyvlania

Built in 1876, the cornerstone says July 4, 1876, or the day of America’s first Centennial celebration.

Cornerstone of Warren County Courthouse

Renovated in 1999, the courthouse was originally topped by a steel statue of Lady Justice, which has since been replaced with a fiberglass version. The original statue currently sits in a first-floor display case. According to the historical notes, the replacement to a fiberglass version was undertaken since fiberglass is better able to withstand lightning strikes, other weather, and gunshots. Gunshots? Yes, the notes mentioned that when taken down in 1999 the old Lady was found bearing bullet marks. What happened? Were bored residents using her as target practice from their front porches on quiet evenings? It doesn’t say.

Warren County Courthouse
Warren County Courthouse front lawn and Civil War cannon

The history of this part of north-central Pennsylvania includes conflicts with Seneca and other Iroquois tribes. One war chief named Cornplanter, son of a Dutch trader and a Seneca woman, led negotiations with the new United States after the end of the Revolutionary War. Wikipedia has an entry on Cornplanter here. On his painting, found displayed prominently inside the courthouse, Cornplanter is shown with an American flag draped over his left arm with the shadow of George Washington over his right shoulder,

Dutch-Seneca Chief Cornplanter

Warren was named for Revolutionary War hero General Joseph Warren, who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The town honors him with a statue in the park, below the tree-lined ridge at the north end of town.

Statue of Joseph Warren in Warren, PA

Warren has always been an oil town, and its proximity to the Marcellus Shale and its fracking activity helps with its prosperity today. Storefronts downtown along Pennsylvania Avenue (main street) are mostly occupied. I hope the prosperity lasts — beautiful, stately small towns like this deserve a break.

Downtown Warren, Pennsylvania
Downtown Warren, Pennsylvania
Elk fountain in downtown Warren, looking west

Every old Pennsylvania town has a statue honoring its Union veterans from the Civil War. Warren’s statue is at the base of the Hickory Bridge over the Allegheny River, at one corner of the main intersection in town.

Civil War memorial in Warren, PA. Hickory Bridge over the Allegheny is at the right.

Downtown Warren lies along the banks of the upper Allegheny River — far, far upstream from the river’s confluence with the Monongahela at Pittsburgh. Here, the Allegheny is just a big mountain stream.

Hickory Bridge over the Allegheny at Warren, PA
Allegheny River near Warren
Canoeists and a kayaker on the Allegheny, waving at me

Although Warren has only 10,000 residents, it does have some culture. The Struthers Library Theatre uses the old town library building for events. List of events can be found on their website here. It’s impressive. A photo of the classic venue is below.

Struthers Library Theatre. Warren, Pennsylvania

Of course the new library building is pretty nice too. I like the classical references along the exterior walls.

Warren Public Library

Finally, and not at all least importantly, every cool town needs a cool cigar lounge. Allow me to present Nice Ash Cigars and Lounge (link here), a classy part of the Warren nightlife. Nice Ash has two additional locations in Depew and Fairport, New York — but why cross the border into New York (no-fracking country) when you can enjoy a cigar in Pennsylvania?

Nice Ash Cigars and Lounge. Warren, PA

As the sign on the window says, Nothing Beats a Nice Ash!

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on either October 4th or October 8th, 2019.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Paducah, Kentucky’s Murals and Townscapes

September 30, 2020

Paducah, Kentucky is a small city situated on the south bank of the Ohio River at its junction with the Tennessee River, which comes up from the south.

The Paducah waterfront looking northeastward up the Ohio River with the Tennessee

Paducah is an old city in terms of the American west, founded in 1827 by William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame with a purchase of 37,000 acres of land for the sum of $5. An historical sign downtown explains the circumstances.

Colonel George Rogers Clark had claimed the land as a warrant for his army service during the Revolutionary War, in which he effectively gained the entire Northwest Territory for the new United States of America.

Much of Paducah’s history is recounted by murals painted on the town’s Ohio River floodwall. A walk along the wall is a walk through history.

Kincaid Mounds near Paducah, around 1300 A.D.
Chickasaw tribesmen along the Ohio in the early 19th Century. The Lewis & Clark flotilla is shown passing by on their way downstream to the Mississippi.

The name “Paducah” was given by William Clark. Some say Clark named the town for the “Padoucas”, a Great Plains tribe he encountered in his travels to the Pacific with the Corps of Discovery. Others say Clark named the town for Chief Paducah, leader of a nearby Chickasaw band.

Scenes of early white settlement in Paducah
Steamboats docked at Paducah

The town was a major prize in the early days of the Civil War. In 1861 while Kentucky was trying to remain neutral in the impending conflict, General Ulysses Grant took Paducah on September 6 before his Confederate counterpart could do so. Later in the war Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest conducted a successful raid on the city.

The Battle of Paducah, 1864
Paducah, Kentucky in 1873
Paducah in the early 1900s
Paducah Townscape, 1930s
Paducah as the “Atomic City”. Home to the nation’s only uranium enrichment facility.

The Ohio landing areas near the riverfront provide an insight into late 19th Century Paducah. The area abounds in old brick merchant buildings now used as restaurants, bars, and antique shops.

Downtown Paducah
19th Century brick buildings in Paducah, Kentucky
Tree-lined merchant shops converted to restaurants
Paducah, Kentucky. Red brick streets downtown

The McCracken County Courthouse occupies an entire city block seven blocks away from the river. This two-story red brick structure was built between 1940 and 1943 under the auspices of the WPA.

McCracken County Courthouse
McCracken County Courthouse

Here’s a final floodwall mural of some of the most prominent old buildings in Paducah. Most of them are churches.

The churches of Paducah, Kentucky

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on September 3, 2019.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Doc Holliday and the Spa of the Rockies in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

August 31, 2020

An August day is a good day to come to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. This is a tourist town and a Rocky Mountain mecca. Downtown has antiques shops, outdoor gear merchants, old bars and new coffee places. Glenwood Springs straddles the Colorado River at the bottom end of Glenwood Canyon.

Doc Holliday Tavern, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

I remember the very first time I came through Glenwood Springs in September, 1991. I was driving an old Mazda GLC on my first cross-country trip.

Downtown Glenwood Springs with the red cliffs of the Rockies as a backdrop

I was charmed by the old buildings and wild west flavor. Main Street includes the Doc Holliday Tavern & Saloon — a little box of a building with a neon sign fashioned as a revolver above the front door.

The entrance to Doc Holliday’s Saloon, Glenwood Springs

Doc Holliday’s life story can be found here. He was a dentist-turned-gunslinger driven west as a remedy for tuberculosis. Ultimately the disease took his life (not a gunshot wound), and he died and was buried in Glenwood Springs.

Other buildings downtown are old stone and brick structures and provide a solid western feel, like this one:

Downtown Glenwood Springs

Because Glenwood Springs is situated deep in a canyon, nearly every view provides a mountain vista behind it:

Glenwood Springs is not without its brewpubs.

Glenwood Canyon Brewpub

Amtrak runs through Glenwood Springs and then up into Glenwood Canyon. Here’s the old train station.

Amtrak train station, Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs is the largest town in this area and the county seat of Garfield County, Colorado.

Garfield County Courthouse, Glenwood Springs

The downtown area is along the south side of the Colorado River. If you go across a metal bridge spanning the river (and Interstate 70) you’ll find the Spa of the Rockies.

Spa of the Rockies, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Nice place to enjoy some hot springs — or just take a dip in their pool on a hot day. Or just a place to lie around the pool thinking about it.

Here’s another view of the Spa of the Rockies, their old hotel towers, and their waterslide.

Spa of the Rockies

There’s nothing like rafting down the Colorado River on a hot August day. These rafters have just exited the rapids of Glenwood Canyon, which is just upstream of Glenwood Springs.

Rafting on the Colorado River

I’ll finish with some photos looking eastward, upstream along the river into Glenwood Canyon. Both Amtrak and Interstate 70 snake their way through the canyon along the banks of the Colorado River, providing breathtaking views unmatched anywhere outside of the Grand Canyon of Arizona. I drove through this canyon for the first time back in that first cross-country trip in 1991 — I’ve come back many times since. Of course!

Looking eastward from Glenwood Springs
Colorado River at Glenwood Springs

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken either on August 2, 2006 or August 21, 2009.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Calm and Community

July 31, 2020

Radio personality Todd Herman described the upcoming 2020 elections as a choice: “Chaos and Communism or Calm and Community.”

With a hat tip to Mr. Herman, I’ll borrow his phrase to describe what I saw on a little vacation road trip through Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Nothing but Calm and Community up there. Here’s my road trip chronicle — including breakfast photos! To drum up business for the deserving, I’ll throw in some links to some local businesses I patronized.

Nine Days Total. Enjoy!

Friday July 10, 2020, Day 1
6-hour drive from Colorado up to Lander in central Wyoming, just northwest of historic South Pass. Lander is smallish town (population 7,487) oriented towards tourists seeking outdoor recreation. Main street boasts a brewery with live music on summer weekends and two ice cream stands.

Veterans Memorial outside Fremont County Courthouse. Lander, Wyoming
Elk statue in front of the Pronghorn Lodge in Lander, Wyoming

A few links:
Pronghorn Lodge
Holiday Lodge Lander
To quench your thirst try the Lander Bar. Outdoor live music on Friday night.

Saturday July 11, 2020, Day 2
Up with the dawn (5 am) and out the door by 5:30 in time to catch McDonald’s opening hours for an Egg McMuffin breakfast to go.

Just outside Lander along US 287 I caught some mid-summer hay fields in the early morning light. Those are the Wind River Mountains in the background.

Like something out of Van Gogh, hay fields in Wyoming’s Wind River Valley

As the combined routes US 287 and US 26 head northwest towards the continental divide at Togwatee Pass, the human stories of this land become as dramatic and colorful as the scenery surrounding it. I pass Crowheart Butte — named for the grisly outcome of a long-ago battle over hunting grounds between the Shoshone and Crow tribes.

Historical sign explaining Crowheart Butte
Crowheart Butte

At a turnout a few miles up the road the scenery gets even more colorful where Wind River breaks through a red rock canyon.

Highways 26/287 continue past the mountain town of Dubois, Wyoming, and on toward the Continental Divide. The road reaches the divide at Togwatee Pass.

On the western side of the pass, the peaks of the Grand Tetons come into view, getting larger in the windshield as the miles went by.

For the next 4 hours I drive west through Idaho farming country, stopping only for a Jack-in-the-Box burger in the industrious town of Rexburg, Idaho and at a gas station in Dell, Montana along Interstate 15.

Lemhi Pass, where Lewis & Clark crossed the Continental Divide on their way across the continent to the Pacific.

Lemhi Pass, looking westward into Idaho
Lemhi Pass looking eastward back into Montana
Historical sign explaining the crossing of the Continental Divide by Lewis & Clark at Lemhi Pass
Continental Divide
Lemhi Pass looking west. I posted this on Facebook along with caption below:

Looking west from the summit of Lemhi Pass. On August 12, 1805, Captain Meriwether Lewis finally  reached the Continental Divide at this place. Lewis viewed the same aspect as in the attached photo — mountain ranges as far as the eye can see — and realized that there was no Northwest water passage along this route. Today, July 11, 2020, from the very spot where Meriwether Lewis stood in 1805, I am able to dictate my words into an i-phone, take a photo with that same phone, and post both the words and the picture for the entire world to see instantly.

The ‘High point’ of the journey
The steep road down the western side of Lemhi Pass

Sunday July 12, 2020, Day 3
Sunday was a day of rest, mostly, except for a drive along the rapids of the Salmon River.

Salmon River, downstream of North Fork, Idaho

After crossing the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass, Lewis and Clark figured they would make dugout canoes from the local timber and just float their way downstream until they reached the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Captain William Clark, a master boatsman, reconnoitered the Salmon River on horseback for some 20 miles below current day North Fork, Idaho. Seeing the river’s extreme rapids and rocky banks, it was near this exact point that Lewis and Clark gave up on the water route down the Salmon.

Salmon River near where Captain Clark turned back.

The Salmon River rollicks through these mountains for hundreds of miles and is, in fact, far too dangerous for travel by dugout canoes. These days, however, scientifically designed inflatable rafts take whitewater rafters downriver all the time — young and old, human and sometimes canine, with oars and usually beers in hand.

The dirt road along the banks of the Salmon ends just below the point where the Middle Fork of the Salmon joins the main branch. Beyond this lies the River of No Return Wilderness, perhaps the most remote area in the continental United States.

The carving on the log reads: Middle Fork of the Salmon — Yonder lies the Idaho Wilderness

Monday July 13, 2020, Day 4
Salmon, Idaho has beautiful mornings:

From the hotel room balcony. Salmon River foreground, Beaverhead Mountains background.

Breakfast at the Red Dog Diner on Main Street, which is actually part of a gas station. Aren’t all the best bbq places located in gas stations, like Joe’s in Kansas City? In this gas station you get breakfast and can listen to the local old men talk politics.

Red Dog Diner. Salmon, Idaho

Here’s a look around the calm community of Salmon, Idaho, population 3,112 and county seat of Lemhi County:

Main Street. Salmon Idaho
Lemhi County Courthouse
Salmon River

Links:
Bear Country Inn
Stagecoach Inn Salmon
Red Dog Diner
Junk Yard Bistro
St. Charles Catholic Church, Salmon

Back in the car by mid-morning. I’m heading north to Missoula, Montana the east to Helena.

Stickering the Montana sign has become a popular pastime for bicyclists and hikers.

Following Lewis & Clark’s route (for a while) north into Montana’s secret Bitterroot Valley. Huckleberries grow here and I had to include them in my lunch in Hamilton, Montana (population 4,348 and growing fast).

Lunch at the Coffee Cup Cafe in Hamilton, Montana. Huckleberry pie included.
Pie and Pastry display
Calm and Community at the Coffee shop

Link:
Coffee Cup Cafe, Hamilton, Montana

On a whim I decided to get off US 93 and take a backroad up to Missoula. I stopped for this:

Ranchland in the Bitterroot Valley. Near Stevenson, Montana
An old Montana homestead. Available.

Link: Holiday Inn Express, Helena, Montana (population 28,190)

Tuesday July 14, 2020, Day 5
Breakfast at Steve’s Cafe in Helena!

Chicken Fried Steak with hashbrowns. Eggs over easy.

Link: Steve’s Cafe, Breakfast and lunch among friends. Click the link — just looking at the photo will make you hungry.

Today I’m off across the Montana plains to see some small towns and courthouses. First stop, Townsend (population 1,878).

Broadway Street Townsend, Montana
Photos of seniors from the Class of 2020 have been placed up and down Main Street.

The practice of putting photos of graduating seniors on town light poles will become a theme among Montana towns I visit today.

Missouri River Trading Post, Antique store.
A bungalow on Broadway, Townsend, converted to professional offices.

On down the road, through some hills and ranches to White Sulphur Springs, Montana (population 939).

2 Basset Brewery White Sulphur Springs
Main Street White Sulphur Springs
Inside the Meagher County Courthouse

Next stop: Harlowton, Montana (population 997)

Statue at the Wheatland County Courthouse, Harlowton, Montana
Old bank building, Harlowton
St. Joseph Church, Harlowton
The old Graves Hotel, Harlowton, Montana

Late in the afternoon I arrived in Billings, Montana (population 109,577). I took some photos from the ridge above the city.

Billings, Montana from the airport area

I’ve enjoyed each of my many visits to Billings. Billings has a surprisingly vibrant downtown with a good choice of hotels, restaurants, steakhouses, brewpubs, and Montana casinos. A few short blocks away, old-town Billings has its own group of bars and restaurants clustered around the old train station.

Links: most convenient yet affordable lodging in downtown Billings: The Clocktower
Fanciest restaurant in Billings ($30-50 per person): Walkers Grill. See and be seen at the bar, if you’re into that.

Wednesday July 16, 2020, Day 5
Breakfast!

Breakfast at Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

Link: Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

Breakfast is free with a night’s stay at the Clocktower. Opens early at 5:30. Dare yourself to walk out of this place without one of their giant cinnamon rolls.

Pompey’s Pillar:

Pompey’s Pillar

Pompey’s Pillar National Historic site lies about an hour east of Billings along I-94. The rock formation along the Yellowstone River has been used as a landmark and register for travelers for centuries. Its most famous signatory carved his name into the rock in 1806:

W. Clark. July 25, 1806

William Clark and half of the Lewis and Clark expedition came this way on their return trip from the Pacific in the summer of 1806. Clark inscribed his name and named the edifice “Pompey’s Pillar” after Sacajawea’s infant son, who was nicknamed “Pomp” by the crew. (Captain Lewis and the other half of the company as exploring the Marias River in northern Montana at the time. The two sections would rendezvous at the junction of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers a shortly thereafter.

Visitors can climb up to see the preserved markings:

Pompey’s Pillar

The area has a calm, park-like setting.

Yellowstone River at Pompey’s Pillar
Yellowstone River
A beaver or groundhog, or some other critter or varmint-like mammal enjoys an early feed before more people arrive.

I stopped in Baker, Montana (population 1,741), near the North Dakota line, to find another town honoring its graduating seniors with lamppost fame. Perhaps the town does this every year, but it’s a very nice gesture for the class of 2020 who didn’t have a formal graduation ceremony. I’ll do my part to make them famous.

Link: Corner Bar Saloon, Baker. Sandwiches for lunch for me. Sat at the bar without drinking. Stuck a $20 in one of the Montana video poker games and quit with $22.50. Pool tables not being used during the lunch hour.

Into North Dakota. Wide fields of canola near the town of Bowman (population 1,650) in the extreme southwestern part of the state.

Farmers at work (aren’t they always?)

Amidon (population 20), Slope County, North Dakota once billed itself as America’s smallest county seat, but no longer. Wikipedia has the skinny (link):

Amidon was the smallest incorporated county seat in the 2000 census. When the 2010 census reported its population as 20, it became the second-smallest incorporated county seat after Brewster, Nebraska, with a population of 17. In 2000, Amidon had 26 people to Brewster’s 29.

There are two other unincorporated county seats that are smaller: Mentone, Texas (population 19), the county seat of Loving County, and Gann Valley, South Dakota (population 14), the county seat of Buffalo County, South Dakota.

Slope County Courthouse. Amidon, North Dakota
Gone but not forgotten
1919: American Legion First Annual Encampment after the end of the Great War. Amidon, North Dakota

I end the day with a long drive to Minot (population 40,888), North Dakota, past oil wells, fracking towers, and wide bright canola fields sprinkled with glacial ponds called ‘sloughs’ (more on those later).

Link: Staybridge Suites Minot

Thursday July 16, 2020, Day 7
Hotel breakfast. Mistake. Should have eaten at Denny’s down the road.

I was rewarded with an early morning view of the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, northeast of Minot.

A black bird photobombing my landscape
Souris River
Canola Fields

The town of Mohall (population 783), Renville County North Dakota. This is one of my favorite photos of the whole trip — a city worker using a heavy forklift to carry a crate of water and a sprinkler attachment to water all the town’s flower pots.

Using heavy machinery to water the town’s flower pots on Main Street
Memorial Courthouse, Renville County, Mohall, North Dakota
St. Jerome’s Church, Mohall, North Dakota
Main Street, Mohall North Dakota

Finally, this. Found in a basement meeting room of the county courthouse.

Read this. It was probably written during one of the World Wars

The town of Bottineau, North Dakota, population 2,211.

The town’s namesake, Pierre Bottineau. Trapper and guide.
Grain elevators. A common sight on the Plains

In the background of the next photo, Main Street can be seen ascending the heights north of town called Turtle Mountain. More on Turtle Mountain later.

Main Street, Bottineau, North Dakota
A bank becomes a bar

Somehow I missed the highlight of Bottineau, the Pride Dairy. They are the last small town creamery in North Dakota, yet they supply their ice cream, cheeses, and syrups to locations as far away as Mount Rushmore. Hint: try their ice cream bars, called ‘Cow Pies.’ Larger and more delicious than the average ice cream bar.

Link: The Pride Dairy

The International Peace Garden:

Entrance to the International Peace Garden, on the boundary line between the United States and Canada

Link: The International Peace Garden. Situated literally on the boundary line between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba, this park was dedicated on July 14, 1932 to peace between the two large North American neighboring countries. This site in particular was chosen with a nod to its location near the geographical center of North America.

It was here in the Peace Garden gift shop that I first tried ice cream from the Pride Dairy in Bottineau — and was so sorry I hadn’t stopped at their ice cream parlor when I was in town. Their ice cream is fantastic!

One last photo of the Peace Garden shows an international boundary marker and the clearing marking the boundary extending in the far distance.

International boundary between the United States (left) and Canada (right)

I took some back roads I had found on the map on my way back to Minot for the night. These little roads led along the crest of Turtle Mountain within five miles of the Canadian border. At one point I saw a highway road sign that simply said “Point of Interest” with an arrow pointing to a driveway off to right. No other explanation. Ok, I like mysteries, so I pulled up the driveway, around a bend and found this:

Mystical Horizons

It’s a small park called Mystical Horizons (link) and it’s not shown or advertised on any map — I don’t know why.

This one or two acre park, unmanned, has a replica of Stonehenge-like astronomical clocks, a sundial, and a Polaris sighting tube (to be used in finding the North Star). The park sits atop Turtle Mountain with spectacular views of the North Dakota countryside below.

Sun dial at Mystical Horizons showing 3:00 pm (4:00 pm Daylight Time)
Astronomical observatory. Sunlight shines between the slots on the equinoxes and the solstices.
Looking west from Mystical Horizons
Yellow canola fields and blue ponds can be made out in the distance

Back to Minot for dinner.

Fish and Chips at Ebeneezer’s Eatery & Irish Pub, with a well-earned Guinness

Links: Ebeneezer’s Eatery & Irish Pub
Staybridge Suites Minot
and once again,
Mystical Horizons

Friday July 17, 2020, Day 8
Time to return to Colorado. It will be a 2-day drive. I left very early, before breakfast, heading south on US highway 83.

Canola fields and sloughs south of Minot, North Dakota

For miles and miles the landscape was simply covered with canola fields interspersed with bright blue glacial ponds. I stopped on the side of the highway to take photos. After a bit state highway patrol car pulled up behind me to see if I was taking pictures or “just having a bad day.” This was near 7:00 in the morning. The trooper and I talked a bit, saw a deer running through one of the canola fields. I asked her if people around here referred to the water as ‘lakes’ or ‘ponds’ and she said they called them “sloughs” instead.

After another hour of driving, breakfast!

Hashbrowns are under the toast, and the patties are sausage patties not corned beef

Link: Rolling Hills Restaurant at the Flying J Travel Center in Mandan, North Dakota. Mandan (population 22,752) is across the Missouri River from Bismarck. There’s nothing like a cooked breakfast at an Interstate truck stop!

It was a long, 100-degree hot drive down to Hot Springs (population 3,711), South Dakota. I was detoured around the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation due to Covid-19 concerns. They’re having a hard time of it there and are restricting travel to locals and those with special permits.

Link: The Hills Inn, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Saturday July 19, 2020, Day 9
Breakfast!

Breakfast burrito with green chili

That was a bit of a curveball after all the eggs and hashbrowns I’d been having this trip. Thank you to the Mornin’ Sunshine Coffee House (linked) for the excellent breakfast.

Hot Springs, South Dakota was once a very popular resort town back in the days when doctors prescribed ‘taking the waters’ as a cure. Because it was built up at that early time the town’s buildings are mostly constructed of limestone blocks, giving the town an air of antiquity. It’s a great place and lies in hilly country about 50 miles south of the Black Hills. I even saw a pair of newlyweds on their honeymoon her.

The town’s claim to fame, of course, is its hot springs, shown here cascading down into the Fall River below.

One last photo on the way home. I passed by Pine Ridge near Crawford, Nebraska (population 997). I’ve stopped in this town before, usually for gas, and always for some Dairy Sweet as well.

The Pine Ridge of Nebraska

Home to Colorado Springs by late afternoon.

A most epic trip! Hope you enjoyed it with me.

All photos taken by the author in July, 2021

A list of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog can be found here.

Action this Day!

After the alarm went off this morning I spent a little time not wanting to get out of bed. That’s not unusual for anybody. Then from out of who knows where a thought hit me — Get up. Treat today as another pitch coming at you in the batting cage. Attack it, don’t swing and miss. Don’t let it pass by.

Now I realize where the analogy came from. I was listening to Rush Limbaugh yesterday discussing his cancer treatments. He says he swung and missed on the first two pitches but with the third pitch he has a chance to “get things into extra innings.“ If that’s not a sobering thought that gets you up in the morning, nothing will.

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