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Circus Trip 2018: Ellsworth Air Force Base

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

Box Elder, South Dakota is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base.  Ellsworth Air Force Base is home to an aviation museum called the South Dakota Air and Space Museum that is well worth a visit.  It is small, but they have exhibits about the base, the history of barnstorming in the area, satellite photography and other aviation related information.  They also discussed some of the local men and women who served in the Air Force here.  It was all really interesting.

When I got there, they were signing people up for the 3 pm bus tour of the base, which lasted 90 minutes.  Unfortunately, it was only 2:10 pm and I hadn’t planned to stay there until 4:30 pm.  I was tempted though!

Most of the display planes at the base were outside; I wandered among them at my leisure and took a lot of photos.  It was such a great museum, and free!  The base tour is $10, which is still very reasonable.  One day I’ll get back there and check it out.

As I was finishing up my wanders around the airplanes outdoors, it started to rain.  Big, fat raindrops of a type we rarely get in Washington.  I even needed my umbrella and made sure to get back the car in a hurry before I got soaked!

 

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Circus Trip 2018: The Rockpile Museum

Day 11, Thursday, July 26, 2018

After I hiked at the Fetterman Fight site, it was time to get back on the road.  Rain had been threatening and as soon as I got back to the car, it started raining just a little.  I headed east on I-90 and drove for a bit before arriving in Gillette, Wyoming.

The Rockpile Museum, Gillette, Wyoming

Gillette has a small museum called the Rockpile Museum – it is free!  I stopped there and ate lunch at the picnic table that they had out front.  After lunch, I went inside and checked it out.  The Rockpile has exhibits on Wyoming’s history, from the fossil record up through present day.  Wyoming has some pretty incredible fossils; even some fish fossils with some really impressive teeth!

Other exhibits included a display of quilts, and other artifacts associated with pioneer life in Wyoming.  There were artifacts on the mining industry, as well as farming and ranching.  Outside museum there were two historic one-room schoolhouses that have been moved to the site.  It was such a fun little museum!  I didn’t check out more of Gillette, as my mom and I had spent a little bit of time there a few summers ago, but one day I would like to see more.

Back on the road, I crossed into South Dakota!  My 5th state! Soon, I arrived at my destination for the evening – Spearfish, SD.   Spearfish was such a cool town; I would love to spend more time there.

I arrived in South Dakota!

It was about 5 pm when I got into town, and I went downtown and found the Spearfish Brewing Company.  It had a modern, eclectic vibe; I had The Schwa beer – it was a blonde ale with pink guava added in.  It was so delicious, with a light citrusy flavor – perfect!  I sat at the bar and talked to my neighbors and journaled a bit – it was a nice chance to just relax.

My view at Spearfish Brewing Company

Afterwards, I went back to camp at the Spearfish KOA and made dinner; taco rice and sausage with a Huckleberry Lager that was brewed in Whitefish, Montana.  It was a nice evening!

Circus Trip 2018: Sheridan

Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sheridan, Wyoming is a cute little town…  It is a place where the Old West meets cute, kitschy shops and apparel boutiques.  King’s Saddlery Shop is one example; Don King began making saddles in 1946, and opened the shop in Sheridan shortly after.  It is a traditional saddle shop, the kind that you just rarely see anymore.  They sell everything tack related, from all types of saddles to ropes, saddle pads, bits and bridles and every other tack imaginable.  Their saddles are beautiful!

King’s Saddlery also has a museum.  The collection of saddles and other tack is huge, ranging from side saddles, cutting saddles, roping saddles, parade saddles and even some English saddles.  And yes, in case you don’t know, there is a different saddle for every type of riding.  The museum also has all sorts of bridles, spurs, a wagon or two and other riding accessories.  Some of the tack was owned by famous people, and many of the saddles were designed and made by the Don King and his sons.  There were many ornate and unique artifacts here; the shop and the museum are truly labors of love!

After visiting King’s I spent a bit of time wandering the downtown streets of Sheridan, poking around in a few of the shops.  I also checked out some of Sheridan’s cool sculptures – I like when towns have artwork for people to enjoy outside.  However, I was feeling lonely.  I had been on the road for ten days at that point, so it was bound to happen; the majority of my time was spent alone.  It happened from time to time on my trip, and I always tried to have a balance of being gentle with myself, but also still pushing myself to not just give up and quit.

It was lunchtime, so I went and found the Black Tooth Brewing Company and ordered a beer, and got some Pad Thai from the food truck parked outside.  I sat outside in a shady spot and enjoyed a bit of time relaxing.  I would love to visit this brewery again with someone!

 

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Museum of the Rockies

Day 8, Monday, July 23, 2018

After I left Bannack, I meandered through the back roads to make my way to Bozeman.  There are so many beautiful pretty back roads in Montana!

In Bozeman, I had just enough time to visit the Museum of the Rockies before they closed for the day.  Admission was $13 with my AAA discount. I started out with a movie in their planetarium – Faster than Light, which explored the technology required to get to the next closest planet of the next closest sun that could potentially have the right criteria to be able to support human life.  It boggles the mind to think about it!  The journey now is so far outside of a human lifetime, but scientists are still working on the technology to make it possible.

The museum has an incredible exhibits on dinosaurs!  The area that is now Montana had conditions that were near perfect for fossilization, so there are a lot of dinosaur fossils found there.  It was so neat to see the variety of dinosaurs that walked the earth.  I loved the fossil Triceratops skulls that they had there – seeing them up close really shows how big these animals were.  I had no idea that there were two different species of Triceratops!  They lived about a million years apart, and one was a descendant of the other.  I learn so much in my travels!

 

The Museum of the Rockies also had exhibits on the history of Montana and the Bozeman area.  They even had an exhibit on different types of guitars from around the world, including an “air guitar”!  It is nice to see museum curators who have a sense of humor.

 

Outside they had a historic pioneer home on the property that you can visit, but it was closed when I was there.  The Tinsley home was the second home of the Tinsley family, who homesteaded in Montana and raised eight children in a one room cabin.  The house was built in 1890 and was moved to the museum in 1986.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to go in the house, but I did see a cute Magpie hopping around though!

The Tinsley House; built 1890 on a Homestead Act claim

I went to Ted’s Montana Grill in Bozeman for dinner.  I was really hungry at that point, and it seemed easy and familiar since I have been to a Ted’s Montana Grill before.  I had the steak salad and it was ok, but I regretted not getting the bison burger!  I paired my salad with a Red Lodge Bent Nail IPA.  After dinner I had to drive to the next town over – Livingston, Montana, because I wasn’t able to find a campground in Bozeman.  That was one of the only times I wasn’t able to find a tent site in the town I wanted to be in.  The place in Livingston was decent, it was right on the river, but the tent sites were pretty small and close to the neighbors.

At the campground, I did laundry for the first time and talked with a kind, elderly man who was on a solo trip with his RV.  He was 79 and still traveling with his motorhome; he was trying to get back into it after his wife passed away the year before.  He was friendly, and we talked for a while about solo travel – he said his kids worried about him, and I could relate!  It was nice to just spend some time talking and watching a movie on TV with some company.

What a fantastic (and busy!) day!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Old Montana Prison

Day 7, Sunday, July 22, 2018

After I visited the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, I still had plenty of time in my day.  I headed over to the Old Montana Prison.  For some reason, I have a morbid fascination with old prisons, and this one didn’t disappoint!

The Old Montana Prison was in use from its construction in 1871, all the way to 1979.  Much of the present facility was built using convict labor, and the sandstone walls are 24 feet tall and extend 4 feet down into the ground to prevent prisoners from digging their way out.  Construction of the exterior walls began in 1893.  The oldest buildings currently standing at the prison are the original women’s building from 1907, and a 1912 prison building.

 

The prison is huge, and you can wander on a self-guided tour to see the cell blocks, cafeteria, women’s block, exercise yard, warden’s office, workshops and more.  I don’t think I would want to visit at night though; I’m sure the place is haunted!  The exhibits in the prison included information on the 1959 riot there, which resulted in the death of Deputy Warden Rothe and the murder-suicide of the two inmates who initiated the plot.  Several guards and other staff were held hostage for about 36 hours, before the Montana National Guard stormed the prison and ended the riot.  The inmates were rioting over the poor conditions at the prison, which got worse after the riot ended.

 

Another notable story is that of “Turkey Pete” Eitner, who was convicted and sentenced to life for murder in 1918. He became a model prisoner and was eventually put in charge of the turkey flock, which he proudly cared for.  His mental illness led to him believing that he owned the flock, which he then “sold” for a profit.  More entrepreneurial ventures followed, and he soon “owned” the prison.  Prisoners were permitted to humor him, and they printed checks on the prison printing press to pay for various things, and Turkey Pete “paid” for all the expenses at the prison.  When he died in 1967 after being incarcerated for 49 years, he received the only funeral ever held within the prison, and his cell was retired.

Turkey Pete’s Cell

The Old Montana Prison site also has four other museums on the site, and your admission fee of $15 (you get a discount with AAA) gets you into all of them.  The Montana Auto Museum has over 160 cars ranging from the invention of the first cars to muscle cars and sports cars.  Many of them are very unusual, including historic campers, and a replica of an 1886 Benz, which had one of the very first internal combustion engines.  I am not that into cars, but it was fascinating!  I was also impressed that they could get them all crammed into the building.  That would take a lot of planning to determine in which order they needed to be moved in, as well as some very good three-point turn skills.

 

The Frontier Museum has artifacts of items that were used by ranchers, farmers and frontiersmen during the Old West period.  There are firearms, saddles, spurs, a wagon, and Native American artifacts.  The Powell County Museum has artifacts that include mining industry items, and a local wood-carver’s collection.  Lastly, Yesterday’s Playthings has exhibits on model railroads, and dolls and toys.  Outside, you can explore an Old West Town, with homes and businesses that have been moved to the site.  None of these other museums take too much time, but are worth peeking into!

 

The museum complex also has a very unique museum shop.  The current prisoners in the Montana State prison system have the ability to make an assortment of arts and crafts, which are sold to the public through the museum store.  There are some very beautiful and intricate items, including paintings and tooled leather bridles.  I was in awe of their talent!

 

 

Soon though, I had to be on my way.  I drove to Dillon, Montana and found a KOA campground for the night.  I wanted to be close to my destination for the next morning!  I got there in enough time to enjoy the swimming pool and sit listening to the creek that ran alongside my campsite.  It was a nice place to park for the night.

Me at the Pool!

 

The creek at my campground, Dillon, Montana

 

Circus Trip 2018: Philipsburg, MT

Day 6, Saturday, July 21, 2018

I slept in a little that morning – maybe because it was Saturday, maybe because the early morning sunshine finally warmed me up enough to sleep well.  I had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast.  Camping tip – I brought an electric kettle on this trip and it was one of the best items to have!  Even if I didn’t have electric at my campsite (which I usually didn’t), I could still tote that little kettle into the bathroom, plug it in and have hot water in 90 seconds!  No need to heat up water on the camp stove – it was a great morning time saver!

I read a bit during breakfast and enjoyed the morning sun.

My destination for the day was Philipsburg, Montana.  Philipsburg was a mining town founded in the late 1890s; after the mines and the lumber mills went dead in the 1980s, the town rebranded itself as a tourist destination.  It capitalizes on its historic downtown main street, as well as the sapphire mines nearby.  There are a couple of shops where you can “mine” for sapphires, sorting through bags of gravel and finding the valuable stones.

First I checked out the Montana Law Enforcement Museum.  It was a small museum; just one small room in a storefront.  They had artifacts and exhibits on the various Montana police, including information on officers killed in the line of duty, old uniforms and equipment used by departments, and even an old jail cell.  The museum is free to visit, although they do request donations.

A Police Call Box and Uniform

 

Police Patches, including Tacoma, Washington

I was getting hungry for lunch at that point, so I found the Philipsburg Brewing Company.  They are located in downtown Philipsburg, in an old bank building that was built in 1888.  They have maintained the historic flavor of the building too!  They don’t serve food, so I got takeout from the UpNSmoking BBQ House down the street and brought it back to the brewery to enjoy.  I ordered a Gonk Ale – it was delicious!

After lunch, I went to Gem Mountain.  I bought a $30 bucket of gravel to sort through.  They set you up at a table and show you how to go through your gravel to find the sapphires hidden inside.  It was fun digging through the dirty gravel!  It was certainly a good way to spend a couple of hours, even if I didn’t find “the big one”.

Sapphire Mining!

 

My Sapphire Haul

On the way back to camp, I drove the Pintler Veteran’s Memorial Highway; it passes through the town of Anaconda at the base of the Anaconda mountain range.  Anaconda was once the home of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, and this mine produced from the 1880s all the way until 1980.

Anaconda is an interesting story in itself, also holding mines in Chile which were seized by the Chilean government after socialist President Salvador was elected in 1970.  I was interested in that connection since I lived in Chile for a time during college.  It’s a small world, and things have a tendency to all be tied together.  But back to the Montana story – after the Atlantic Richfield Company purchased the mine in 1977, it turned out that ARCO just didn’t have the experience in hard rock mining, and the price of copper had dropped enough to make the mine unprofitable.  ARCO closed down the mine in 1980.  The site is currently listed as a Superfund site, due to the incredible amount of toxic waste that resulted from the years of mining.  ARCO and British Petroleum (BP), which later bought out ARCO, have spent millions decontaminating the site, but the work is far from done.

You can still see the 585 foot tall Anaconda smokestack, which was once the tallest masonry structure in the world.  When I was there, there was a herd of deer grazing; I saw 10 or 12 in the few minutes of my visit.

I headed back to the campground to have some leftovers for dinner.  Then I blogged and chatted with a few people at camp before bed.  A relaxing day on the road…

Me in Deer Lodge, Montana

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Series Begins

I’m always a bit behind on this blog.  I love writing about my travels and goings-on, and I like to be informative, so my posts always take a while to create.  2018 was a big year for travel for me, since almost half the year was spent away from home.

Since I have wrapped up London, my big road trip last year, the one I named the Circus Road Trip, is the next series on the agenda.  I had been staring at a blank page for a while, pondering how to start.  A writer’s block so to speak.  I mean, how do I start to tackle such a huge, momentous and long event in my life?  I didn’t even really know why, until a conversation last night made me realize.  It’s my Dad.

My Dad loved seeing places and loved road trips too.  He built out my car with my bed for the trip; I mean let’s be real, I was the assistant on that project.  He always read my blog posts and looked at my Facebook pictures.  My mom always made sure to tell him when there was a new post, because he didn’t have a Facebook account of his own.  He always wanted to know where I had been and what I thought of it, and mentioned places I had gone to that he wanted to visit too.

For those of you who are newer to this blog, I wrote last summer about the Circus Road Trip’s origins.  I departed in mid-July and spent several months on the road, traveling through much of the United States, and seeing so much along the way.

Today it has been one month (and also four weeks) since Dad died.  It has kind of flown by, with all the tasks to be done, trying to maintain some semblance of my own life, and let’s be honest, some days where I didn’t feel up to doing much at all.  He would have loved to read about this trip, and I know he was (sometimes impatiently) waiting for these posts to appear.  I know some of the rest of you have been waiting as well.

This is the last posed photograph of my Dad and me, taken in Michigan before my cousin’s wedding in September, while I was on the trip.

So this series is for you Dad.  I know you are up there somewhere reading.  I love you and I hope you enjoy.

 

Note: For those of you who want to read or refresh yourself on the posts I posted while I was on the trip, here they are in order:

1. The Reveal
2. The Build
3. The Hat
4. 11 Days In
5. August Already?
6. Land of Lincoln
7. Heartbreaking Bridge
8. 1 Month In
9. Respite
10. Comparisons
11. Early September
12. New Beginnings
13. A Break
14. Westward
15. Reset
16. Rain
17. The Mighty 5
18. Historic Toilets
19. Kindness
20. Down time
21. Blowout
22. Still Sick
23. No Regrets
24. The Home Stretch
25. Withdrawals