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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

 

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Circus Trip 2018: Last Day in Glacier

Day 5, Friday, July 20, 2018

On my last day in Glacier I got up early and left the campground about 7:30 am.  I was going to be driving up the Going to the Sun Road one more time and exiting out the east entrance of the park.

Since I had already seen some of the sights along the west side of the park, I just drove until I got over to the east side.  I stopped at some of the viewpoints and did a short hike from there.  On that hike, the trail ended up narrowing sharply and going through quite a bit of tall shrubbery and I was completely alone; I got a bit nervous that this might be prime bear habitat so I ended up turning around.  I did find a beautiful creek coming through a gorge near there though and took some photos.

 

 

 

I passed by St. Mary Lake and stopped to take in the view and take some photos.  St. Mary Lake is the second largest lake in the park, at 9.9 miles long and 300 feet deep.  It has a small island, Wild Goose Island in the lake.  There are boat tours of this lake too, and it would be fun to go on one someday!  Interesting, the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was shot at St. Mary Lake.  In case you want to refresh your memory, here it is.  The views are stunning.

 

On the east side of the park I stopped at the Visitor’s Center for my stamp and to check out the exhibits on the Blackfeet tribe’s use of the park’s land as part of their traditional homeland; they call the area the Backbone of the World.  The park and the Blackfeet have a partnership now that allows the tribe to continue to use the land.

Also on the east side of the park is a 1913 Ranger Station; it was used as a ranger station until the 1930s, when it became ranger housing.  They restored it in 1976.  The site also contains a barn that was originally built in 1926, and was later moved to this location.  There are a few hikes that depart from the Ranger Station through the grasslands on the east side of the park.

The Ranger Station – 1913

The 1926 Barn

 

Upon leaving the park, I stopped to visit the Blackfeet Memorial, a memorial consisting of metal tipis constructed by the tribe.  There are signs at the viewpoint explaining where the Blackfeet traditional lands once extended to, as well as information about their culture, way of life, origin stories, and Blackfeet names of the mountains visible from the viewpoint.  This area was burned by fire in 2006; the Red Eagle fire consumed over 34,000 acres within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park.  It was an interesting stop!

 

The rest of the day was spent on a long, meandering drive through rural Montana towards Philipsburg.  I had about a half a tank of gas, and told myself that I would get gas when I next saw a gas station.  I had enough for about 30 more miles by the time I finally saw a gas station!  This is big country, my friends, and a lot of it is very sparsely populated.  Get gas when you have a chance!

An abandoned home

 

A very strange rest area sign – do they really want trucks to the right, where there is no road?

I rolled into Deer Lodge, Montana that evening for two nights at the Indian Creek RV Park.  They welcomed tents, but they weren’t really well set up for them – $45 for 2 nights.  They parked me in the middle of a grassy lawn, and I felt a little bit like I was living in a fishbowl, surrounded by all the RVs! I was the only tent camper there.  They didn’t have any picnic tables set out, just a small gazebo on the lawn, which I ended up setting up my cook stove in – you do what you have to do.  For dinner, I had rice, polenta and turkey sausage – yummy!  That night was the first night I set up my tent; it would have been awkward to sleep in my car because it was just parked on the road alongside the grassy area.  I learned that even though it was hot during the day, it got really cold at night!

A bunny at my campsite

 

Sunset at my campsite

 

 

March Sunrise

The weather has been a bit erratic this week.  We had snow that melted in a few hours, then snow again a few days later.  The days have been mostly sunny and cold overnight, but warming up nicely during the day.

I was greeted with this stunning sunrise a few days ago; it is too pretty not to share.

 

March 2019 Sunrise

London 2018: Stonehenge

Day 10, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

After we left Bath, we went to an early dinner at the Stonehenge Inn.  It was an all-you-can-eat carvery dinner (all-you-can-eat is generally wasted on me since I can’t eat that much but I tried!) with four kinds of meat; ham, pork, beef and turkey, along with veggies and Yorkshire pudding, and ice cream for dessert.  I love the big Thanksgiving style meals in England, but I was also craving a salad!

 

 

After dinner, it was finally time to see Stonehenge!

 

Stonehenge was built beginning in 3,100 BC; it was initially a raised circular embankment.  It is theorized that the earthen embankment was originally a burial ground, as bones have been found during the excavation.  About 300 years later the blue stones were added.  Blue stones is a generic term; some of them are igneous dolerite stones.  They are believed by most to have been transported by the builders from Preseli Hills, about 150 miles away in Wales.  Approximately 600 years after that the sarsen stones were placed.  These are the 30 large standing stones, with another 30 stones capping the ring.

More blue stones were added later on, and stones were moved around over the years, although it is unknown why.  They stopped using Stonehenge during the Iron Age.  I guess it depends on where in the world it is, but the Iron Age in Britain seems to be approximately 550 BC to 800 AD.  That’s quite a bit of squish in the knowledge about Stonehenge.  Researchers can only speculate on Stonehenge’s purpose; they do believe that it was a place of spiritual significance because the monument lines up with the sun at the winter and summer solstice.  Excavations have revealed animal bones that lead researchers to believe that people gathered there in winter.

When we got there, we walked up to the site as a group before getting our pre-viewing briefing, which basically consisted of “Don’t be the jerk who touches the stones.”  “If you touch the stones, you will get kicked out and have to go wait on the bus.”  “If you touch the stones, everybody else will jeer at you and mock you and throw tomatoes.”  “Got it?”  It wasn’t quite like that, but that was basically the gist.  We were split into two groups and let loose among the stones for 30 minutes for each group.  The only drawback of the sunset tour is that when you arrive, the Visitor’s Center is already closed for the day.  I would have liked to see that.

 

 

While the other group was in the inner circle, we got to wander around the outside.

 

 

Standing inside Stonehenge and seeing it up close was incredible.  It was a very spiritual experience to see this monument built thousands of years ago, and to wonder what the makers intended it for.  The lowering light of the sun was amazing to see on the stones and between them.  While it would be cool to see Stonehenge on the solstice, it was nice to be here with so few people (there were about 40 of us on the tour).  It was really a bucket list experience, and I’m afraid words can’t really do it justice.  The photos will have to do.

 

Tube Stations:  None.  We disembarked from the bus on Gloucester Road, which was less than a mile from our hotel, so we walked home from there (you also have the choice to disembark back at the bus station where we left from in the morning).
Costs: Golden Tours day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, with an inner circle sunset viewing – $175 (note: this price is in U.S. dollars), carvery dinner – $15 pounds
Fitbit Steps: 14,022

 

Circus Trip 2018: Down Time

I’m in California; almost at the end of my long road trip.  I have driven over 13,000 miles, and have traveled within 32 states (and Washington, D.C).  10 have been states that are new to me in my adult life, although I didn’t explore a few of them at all; rather just driving through.

Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hamphire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and finally California.  It has been a long, enjoyable drive, and I have seen and done so much along the way.  I still have one more state to pass through before reaching Washington once more.

I’ve been having  some down time, in California, and as often happens with me, once I stop to rest, that is when I get sick.  I have been pretty lucky to have not been sick while on this road trip, but now I’ve gotten a cold, complete with sniffles, sneezes, coughing, and exhaustion.  I’m taking some time to recover, resting and sleeping a lot, with lots and lots of cold medicine.  The cold medicine is accompanied by strange, crazy dreams, but I guess that’s a small price to pay for being able to breathe.

Relaxing with a book on the patio

Fortunately I can take some time to get better.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what my future holds; new opportunities that weren’t clear at the beginning of this trip.  Onward…

Circus Roadtrip 2018: New Beginnings

I am sitting at Beal’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, Maine, looking out over the water and the lowering sun over the pier. I just devoured a 1.69 pound whole Maine lobster. It is the first whole lobster I have ever eaten and it was SOOO delicious. Market price is $13.99 a pound, less than half the price of market price for Maine lobster on the west coast. It pays to go to the source.

My dinner at Beal’s Lobster Pier

The restaurant is playing all the music I grew up to. Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Alan Jackson, Harry Chapin, The Beatles, John Lennon…

I spent the day at Acadia National Park, wandering and hiking, sitting watching the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Relaxing with a Vinho Verde

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will spend another day at Acadia and who knows, maybe I will eat another lobster!!

My last two birthdays went unmentioned on this blog. I spent both by myself (by choice) because I really just wanted to forget them. Two years ago I sobbed into the carpeting of my stairs, mourning the loss of my marriage and my soon to be ex’s cruelty.  Last year I just wanted to forget.

It seems fitting that I will be on the Atlantic Ocean on my birthday. The eastern-most point of my trip. I can’t explain it but it feels like a milestone.

This morning I felt joyful. Giddy to be seeing a new national park in a new state and the ocean. I have been wanting to see Acadia for years and it did not disappoint.

The lowering sun

I feel hope about my future. I feel like I get the chance at a new life. Not that the old one didn’t have its good parts, and I have been truly blessed, but I have been needing something new. And I think I have found it.  I can feel it.

My last day of 42

Tomorrow is a brand new beginning.

 

4 Chicks and a Little Bitch: Oregon Coast

Day 1: Monday, March 26, 2018

The first day of our trip had arrived – pickup time was at 7:00.  I was ready to go with my bag packed, and camping gear in a pile.  Tent – check, sleeping bag – check, sleeping pad – check, flashlight – check, hot hands hand warmers – check!!!  So many warm clothes are necessary for a trip camping on the coast and San Francisco in March – or so we thought!!!

I got picked up shortly after 7, and a valiant effort was made to Tetris all of our stuff in the car and the rooftop box.  Believe you me, EVERY nook and cranny was filled, from the cracks alongside the puppy crate to the footwells of our seats.  We were smooshed in… 

Laura took the first driving shift and off we went, stopping for coffee to give us a boost, and then gas in Lakewood with a puppy stretch break, and then driving until we finally hit Vancouver.  We stopped at the park right near the bridge that takes I-5 into Oregon, and went for a short walk with Shaka to give her a break from the crate. 

We settled on the Feral Public House for lunch – because well, seriously, why wouldn’t you!!!?  They had a special with a personal pizza and a beer for cheap!  So that’s what we all ended up having.  We all selected our beers, and they were all different – this was pretty much a theme for the trip – which was cool because then we could all sample what the others got.  The beer was so good, and so was the pizza. 

After we left as Feral women, we went over to Loowit to sample some more beer.  I ended up getting one of their ciders – which was amazing.  I really liked that cider!  The atmosphere was cool too, and it was pretty quiet for midday on a Monday. 

Loowit Brewery

Even though we all could have been happy just drinking beer all afternoon, we did have places to be, and couldn’t spend too many hours hanging out without even getting to Oregon, so we got back on the road and headed out for the next stretch of driving. 

It was at this point that the first murder podcast started…  My Favorite Murder – two women who research and present fascinating murders from throughout history and around the globe.  They even have a feature where listeners can write in with their own murder stories.  By “their own,” I mean murders they have heard about – not murders they have committed – I just want to make that crystal clear.  I’m not really sure what these ladies would do if someone actually wrote in confessing to a murder!

My Favorite Murder did put everybody except Brenna (who was driving) off into snooze-land – what can I say, those ladies have very melodic voices, but eventually we woke up and all enjoyed the road over to the coast, with its giant, moss-covered conifers.  It is so pretty!

We camped that first night at Beachside State Recreation area, about midway down the Oregon Coast.  The campground was awesome – flush toilets and showers (even though we didn’t use the showers), and it was only steps away from the beach.  We got our tents set up, dug out a bottle of wine and made our way to the beach to roam and watch a gorgeous sunset.  We also had to try to keep Shaka from eating some pungent seafood (we kind of failed at that…). 

Mellow Yellow all set up.

 

After the sun went down, we had hot dogs roasted over the fire on sticks, and potato chips and chocolate for dinner.  Plus more wine and the girls had vodka cocktails.  It was a fantastic evening!  Once we went to bed, I was cold, but tucking one hand warmer into my glove and the other into my fleece pants heated me right up!  I was warm all night!  I hope whoever invented those never worked another day in his/her life – those things are genius!

It was a fabulous first day, and I drifted off to the sound of the waves on the beach.