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Archive for the tag “Roadtrips”

List of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog

Freedom Voyages — Life in the United States

Here is a list and links to all my Freedom Voyage posts (Last updated November 14, 2021):

Calm and Community
A trip taken through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska in July 2020.

For Thanksgiving, 2020
A trip taken through Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana in September 2020.

Go West! Along the Loneliest Road to the Gold Rush Country
A trip taken through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California (and a little bit of Oregon) in May 2021.

Go West Again! The Sacramento Valley and California’s North Coast
A trip taken from Sacramento, California through the Sacramento Valley, to the Mendocino and Sonoma County coasts, and then to the Sonoma and Napa Valleys in June 2021.

North-central North Dakota: The People and the Places
A trip taken throughout north-central North Dakota including the towns Jamestown, Devils Lake, Bottineau, Rugby, and Minot in June and July 2021.

I do this as a hobby and not for a living (yet) — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
The TimMan

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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 drove 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. It 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. Its 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

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

I had a lazy Saturday in store for me today as I planned 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, a 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 several 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’s 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

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 omelet 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, 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 a 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, the 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 River. Holiday Inn Riverfront, Owensboro, Kentucky

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 River. 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 was available with their signature ham slice. Drats!

Owensboro is a sizeable river town with a population of 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, coleslaw, and sliced apples

Further on down the road:

Tobacco leaves dry 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 floodwall. Tell City, Indiana
Murals on the Ohio River floodwall. 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

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

That’s a 3-egg omelet with bacon, sausage, ham, onion, peppers, tomatoes, and swiss cheese with a plate of cheesy hash browns on the side. No one needs to consult a Michelin guidebook 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 in 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 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 River 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.

A washed-out bridge over Camp Fork Creek in English, Indiana

On to the town of Paoli, the 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 part of Indiana is 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

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
Barroom 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.

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 created 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 of 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

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

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 were taken by the author in September 2021

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

I travel as a hobby and not for a living (yet) — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
The TimMan


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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 a 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, hayfields 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 the 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 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

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

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, open for 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 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 were exploring the Marias River in northern Montana at the time. The two groups would rendezvous at the junction of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers 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 were 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.

In the whole of the U.S., only two other unincorporated county seats are smaller than Amidon: 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 lone black bird photobombs 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, with a population of 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 into the heights north of town. These heights are a plateau known as 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.

The 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.

Sundial 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

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 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 a hilly country about 50 miles south of the Black Hills. I even saw a pair of newlyweds on their honeymoon.

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 were taken by the author in July 2020

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

I travel as a hobby and not for a living (yet) — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
The TimMan


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