Tag Archive | tourist

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: Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS

Day 7, Sunday, July 22, 2018

Near Deer Lodge, Montana, there are a lot of working cattle ranches.  There is also the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, a working cattle ranch that dates back to 1857, and is now a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service.

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

Johnny Grant came out west and began grazing cattle here in 1857, decided to stay permanently in 1859, and built a home in 1862.  Despite that “permanent” intention, Grant found that once gold miners arrived in the area, life became a lot more difficult for him because he spoke French and the miners spoke English.  He decided to sell the ranch in 1866 to Conrad Kohrs and head back to Canada.

Kohrs was born in Germany, moved to the United States at the age of 22 and earned his wealth following the gold rush to different areas and selling beef to the miners.  Back then, cattle were grazed on the open range, but the winter of 1886-1887 was devastating to cattle ranches across the west, as the brutal cold and storms killed off more than 50% of all of the free range cattle.  Many ranchers went bankrupt, but Kohrs was able to secure a bank loan to keep him afloat.  He modernized his ranch, building fencing to contain the cattle and growing hay and other fodder to feed the cattle during the cold winters.  These changes meant success for the ranch and he was able to pay off the $100,000 loan in less than four years.

Kohrs also modernized and added onto the house that Grant originally built.  Kohrs added a large wing in 1890 and built many outbuildings, including a bunk house, blacksmith shop, horse barns, etc.  In 1970, descendents of Conrad Kohrs were still running the ranch, and struck an agreement with the Park Service to sell the ranch, provided that it remained a working cattle ranch.  The site was opened to visitors in 1977, and 17,095 people visited in 2012.

The ranch is free to visit and you can sign up for a ranger-led tour of the ranch house – there are no self-guided tours.  From the outside, the home looks simple and unadorned, but I would certainly recommend the tour, as the home is lavish inside!  Conrad Kohrs had the finest of furniture and housewares shipped to Montana for his wife, and no expense was spared.  When the home was no longer being lived in as the children and grandchildren wanted something more modern, all the furniture was left inside and sold to the Park Service with the ranch.  You can see exactly how the Kohrs lived!  The home had all the modern amenities of the time, including electric lighting and indoor plumbing, and beautiful Victorian furniture.  I really enjoyed the tour, but sadly, no photographs are permitted in the house.

 

You can also wander the grounds at your leisure, and taste cowboy coffee at the chuck wagon.  I enjoyed talking to the woman at the chuck wagon, and she was very interested in hearing about the details of my trip.  The coffee was actually pretty decent too, but leave the last swig in the bottom of the cup, because it can have coffee grounds in it!  The method of making cowboy coffee is interesting.  You boil the water, and add the ground coffee directly to the kettle, then use cold water and/or eggshells to get the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom after it steeps.  You don’t strain the grounds out, so you have to be careful about pouring the coffee to make sure you don’t end up with grounds in the cup.  It was interesting to see and taste!

Chuck wagon and cowboy coffee

I saw the blacksmith shop, and the horse barn where they have a collection of historic carriages and wagons.  Mrs. Kohrs also kept a beautiful garden, which has been restored and maintained.  I saw Texas Longhorn cattle, horses and chickens; the ranch has many more cattle out on the 1200 acres of the ranch.  When you visit, you may see the ranch hands hard at work, doing things the way they did in the late 1800s; harvesting hay, feeding cattle, rounding up cattle, branding them, or taking care of the other animals.  I didn’t see much activity when I was there, but I’m sure spring and fall are busier times.

 

 

 

 

 

At first I didn’t know what I was looking at, but after talking to someone, I learned that the ranch used (and still uses) a beaverslide to stack hay.  The beaverslide was invented in Montana, and allowed ranchers to stack hay up to 30 feet tall.  In this arid climate, hay could be stored outside in the weather, without having to worry about it getting too wet and rotting.  I had never seen a beaverslide before; what an interesting invention!

Beaverslide

It was a great visit, but I still had more sightseeing to do that day!

 

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

London 2018: Wrap-Up

Day 14, Saturday, July 7, 2018

The day had finally arrived for us to fly home from London.  Our flight from Heathrow departed at 10:05 am, so we got up about 6 am (London time) to make sure that we arrived in plenty of time to get checked in… And it was a good thing we did…  It was a mess.  Our first flight was a British Airways flight, but operated by American Airlines, so we tried first to check in with the wrong airline (I can’t remember which one we started at).  The automated kiosks weren’t recognizing us.  We got sorted out and realized we needed to go to the other airline, but those kiosks didn’t recognize us either so we ended up in a GIANT line with all the other travelers who were having problems…  We were there a while.  The counter agent was really helpful and friendly (even pulling Taryn’s suitcase back off the conveyor when she realized she had forgotten to grab a sweater out of it), but it took a loooonnnng time to get there.  Stressful!

Once we got checked in things were smooth, our flight was lovely and we landed in Philadelphia to get through customs and then wait through a 4 hour layover…  Taryn and I did some airport walking to stretch our legs.  We found a Liberty Bell made of Legos and a vending machine in the shape of a delivery truck that sold makeup.  Airports have some cool stuff!  We also had a Philly Cheesesteak dinner and watched some ball game (you can see how much I care about sports).  Probably baseball?  Who knows…

Our flight into Seattle landed at about 9 pm, which means taking an 11:30 pm shuttle home…  My final arrival time at home, after shuttle and taxi was about 2:30 am (Pacific Standard Time)…  I was very, very worn out, all things considered…  The jet lag is real, my friends, and it takes about a week to get over.  It was well worth it for a fabulous trip!

Cost Analysis:

London Pass:
Our 10 Day London Pass was a hit – we really got our money’s worth out of it…  It cost 179 pounds, which came out to $238.37 American dollars.  Here’s what we did with it…

Big Bus Hop On/Off Tour – 35 pounds
Westminster Abbey – 22 pounds
Churchill War Rooms – 21 pounds
City Cruises Boat Tour – 18.75 pounds
Tower of London – 26.80 pounds
Tower Bridge – 9.80 pounds
The Shard – 29.95 pounds
Cutty Sark – 13.50 pounds
Maritime Museum (free but the pass got me their exhibit book free – 5 pounds value)
Royal Observatory – 10 pounds
Royal Mews – 12 pounds
Royal Guards Museum – 8 pounds
Ben Franklin House – 8 pounds
Cartoon Museum – 7 pounds
Southwark Cathedral (free but the pass got me a free guidebook – 4.50 pounds value)
Golden Hinde – 5 pounds
Globe Theatre – 17 pounds
St. Paul’s Cathedral – 18 pounds
Kensington Palace – 19.5 pounds
Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett – 6.5 pounds

Grand Total if purchased separately: 287.80 pounds! (297.30 pounds if you include the value of the free guidebooks)

I say we did pretty well for ourselves!  The London Pass had a ton of other attractions you could visit, including other museums, a giant slide, sports stadiums, distillery tours, etc., so I think it would be a good value even for people who aren’t quite as interested in museums.  It was certainly a worthwhile purchase.

Our Oyster Cards (the payment card for the London Tube) were also heavily used; I put 75 pounds (99.67 in American dollars) on the Oyster Card in two different transactions, and ended up with less than 3 pounds remaining on the card when we flew home.  We took the Tube or walked everyplace we went (except for the bus and boat tours), including to and from the airport, so we didn’t have any other transportation fees.

We did two day tours, Stonehenge and Bath for $175 per person (this is American dollars, since we purchased it before we flew over), and The Cotswolds for 59 pounds per person ($77.98 in American dollars).

Our hotel and airfare were booked as a package with Expedia for $2098.08 per person (American dollars).  We stayed in a simple, no frills hotel in the Kensington neighborhood called the Kensington Court Hotel.  It was clean and quiet, and had two double beds and a pull out couch.  We saved money by sharing the hotel room (there were 4 of us).  That worked, because we didn’t spend much time in the hotel room at all, but it certainly isn’t for everyone!  The hotel did include a full English breakfast every morning, with eggs, cheese, mini sausages, pastries, fruit, toast and coffee and tea.  That was nice, because I’m not a person who can skip breakfast, and having some protein really helps!

That leaves the cost of lunches and dinners, souvenirs/gifts, and booze (I enjoyed the ciders there).  I spent $596.84 (American dollars) on these miscellaneous things.  It isn’t exact since sometimes my friends paid for something for me, and sometimes I paid for something for them, but it probably pretty much evens out.

All in All, Itemized (in American dollars):

Airfare/Hotel: $2098.08
Oyster Card/Tube Fares: $99.67
10 Day London Pass: $238.37
Day Trips/Tours: $252.98
Meals/Snacks/Souvenirs/Misc.: $596.84
ATM Withdrawal for Misc.: $133.17 (I withdrew $100 pounds on our first day, and that lasted me the whole two weeks, without feeling like I had too much to try to spend at the end).

Grand Total for Two Weeks in London: $3419.11

Of course, nobody will have the exact same trip as we did, but that gives some idea.  The reality is that London is a big city, with big city prices, not to mention airfare from the West Coast of the U.S. is a lot!  I don’t feel like I skimped, and don’t feel like I splurged, and in the end came home with a lot of amazing memories of the places we visited and the friends I spent time with.

Until next time, I’ll keep saving!

London 2018: Afternoon Tea

Day 13, Friday, July 6, 2018

After our visit to the museums, Taryn and I went back to the hotel and got freshened up for our afternoon tea.  We had been on the hunt for an afternoon tea to try while we were in London, and had asked around.  A few places that had been advertised were considered by the people we asked to be quite touristy, and some of the others were quite expensive.  We decided to go have a simple afternoon tea at the K&K Hotel George, which was reasonably priced and only a few minutes walk from our hotel.

We got a little dressed up and walked over for our tea.  We sat out on the back patio, and enjoyed our tea.  Finger sandwiches, scones, cookies and sweets, and tea.  For a small additional cost, you could add sparkling wine, so of course I did!

Our afternoon tea!

The day was a little hot for sitting outside, but we had fun chatting and catching up, and enjoying sampling the goodies that came with our tea.  It was good to have some girl time!

Pinkies Out!

After our tea we took a walk and enjoyed seeing a bit more of the neighborhood.  We went to a few of the neighborhood shops to use the last of our British pounds before we had to depart for the airport in the morning.  I got some postcards and Taryn got some chocolates and candies for her kids.  It was a nice ending for our London vacation.

Tube Stations:  None.  We walked to the tea and back, as it was only a few blocks from the hotel.
Costs: 15.50 pounds (I don’t think they charged me for my sparkling wine…)
FitBit Steps: I forgot to write it down!

London 2018: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

After Bibury and Bourton on the Water, we were nowhere near finished with our tour of the Cotswolds.  Shottery was our next destination – the village where Anne Hathaway grew up.  In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about the contemporary actress Anne Hathaway, but rather William Shakespeare’s wife.  The cottage where she grew up was a cute little Tudor style cottage, built beginning in 1463 by Anne’s grandfather, John Hathaway.  Anne was born in the house in 1556.

The Hathaway Cottage

The home was occupied by the Hathaway family for thirteen generations; the home was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892, and the trust arranged for the family members to continue to take care of the cottage and tell family stories.  The last member of the family, William Baker, was there until 1911.  One admission fee included all the the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties, including the Hathaway Cottage, the Shakespeare Birthplace Home, the New Place (where Shakespeare lived after he married), and a couple other places we didn’t have time to see.  Taryn and I opted in for the tours; the guys decided they would rather just wander the towns and hit the pubs.

It was fun to see the home, including some of the original Hathaway belongings.  The garden was amazing!  The Hathaways were tenant sheep farmers who eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase their property, before later experiencing a decline in fortune and having to sell the property and become tenant farmers once again.  What goes around comes around.  Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess – it is all fleeting.

We went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the Shakespeare sights next.  Shakespeare was born there in 1564, and also returned there in approximately 1613, after making a name for himself in London.  Shakespeare died in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1616, and is buried there.  The bus dropped us off and set us loose upon the town.

Taryn and I stopped first at the school Shakespeare attended, The King’s New School, which was available for free for all boys in the district.  Shakespeare would have attended there from the age of seven, after grammar school ended, until the age of 14, when he likely would have entered an apprenticeship program for another seven years.  There is no record that Shakespeare ever attended university.

Shakespeare’s School

The school tour was interesting because they had an interpretative talk where the guide explained what the boys would have learned, the expected behavior and how long they would be in school each day.  As it turns out they went to school from 6 am to 5 pm, 6 days a week!  That’s a lot of learning!  The school has the original historic headmaster’s table and several original desks, where they carved their names in to memorialize their time in school.  After the interpretive talk, in the next room they had a place where you could try to write your name with a feather quill pen.  It is tougher than it looks!

The Headmaster at Shakespeare’s school

 

Original desks at Shakespeare’s school

We had a bit of extra time so we went over to the Shakespeare New Place.  It is an exhibit on the site where Shakespeare lived with Anne Hathaway after they married and came into some money.  The house is gone, but the home next door was built around the same time period – 1530, and the exhibit went through there so we could see the style of home where he lived.  They had manuscripts of Shakespeare’s work and other interesting artifacts.

We had to meet back up with the bus tour guide so he didn’t think we had gone AWOL, but he was ok with us not staying with the group (the pace of the group was annoyingly slow).  We told him that we were off to find the next museum; Shakespeare’s birthplace home.  The original home is still standing; it was built in the 1500s.  William Shakespeare’s father Jon was a glove maker and wool dealer; the home was built with his business occupying part of it.  In 1568 John became the Mayor of Stratford.  He originally rented the home, but records show he purchased it in the 1550s.  It looks modest now, but it would have been a fine home for the time!

Me at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

William Shakespeare was the third of eight children to be born here, on April 23, 1564.  When his father John died in 1601, William inherited the house (he was the oldest son), and lived there for the first five years of his marriage.  Later he leased the house, and it became an inn, and it was an inn until 1847!  According to the Trust, when Shakespeare died he left this house to his eldest daughter, who left it to her daughter, and then it was inherited by the descendants of one of Shakespeare’s sisters.  It remained in the family until it was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847.  Other sources dispute that and say the home passed out of the hands of Shakespeare’s family in the early 1800s.  It is so incredible to know that England was thinking about historic preservation over 170 years ago!

We toured the home and saw where there were historic names etched in the glass from people who visited the home over 100 years ago – it has been a tourist attraction for a long time!  We also got to stand in the room where the bard was likely born!

After our tour, we had a little bit of time to wander around Stratford Upon Avon, so Taryn and I got some ice cream to cool down on another hot day.  We also poked around in a few of the shops in town.  It was such a fun visit, but soon it was time for pile back on the bus.

Stratford Upon Avon

 

Me and Taryn in Stratford Upon Avon

The bus dropped us off about 7:30 and we went to the Admiralty Pub near Trafalgar Square once more.  I had a mini-pie – the sweet potato and Stilton one (so good!) and some peel and eat Atlantic Prawns.  We got back to the hotel about 9 pm for some cider and British game shows.  They are fascinating, and so very different from American game shows.  It was another great day!

Mini Pie!

Tube Stations:  The bus dropped us off on Gloucester Road.  Gloucester Raod to Charing Cross (The Admiralty), to Earl’s Court (hotel).
Costs: Bus tour to the Cotwolds and Stratford Upon Avon – 59 pounds, Shakespeare admissions – 22.50 pounds, snacks for lunch, dinner at the Admiralty Pub
Fitbit Steps: 9,700 steps

London 2018: The Cotswolds

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

During our trip, we also booked a tour to visit the Cotswolds and Stratford-Upon-Avon.  It was a bit of a last minute decision; after we so briefly visited the Cotswolds on our Stonehenge tour, Taryn and I decided we wanted to see more, so we booked online that night with the same tour company, Golden Tours.

The Cotswolds is a country area outside of London, known for its rolling hills and natural scenic beauty.  It is a general term for a collection of small villages in the scenic valley; the common interpretation of the word Cotwolds is “sheep enclosures in rolling hills.”  If you have seen the historic stone villages and cottages in movies or photo spreads, you have likely seen the Cotswolds.  Stratford-Upon-Avon a small town located on one end of the Cotswolds area – it is famous for its famous historical resident, William Shakespeare.

On our tour, we stopped first in Bibury, a historic village in the Cotswolds.  Many of the cottages there were built during the 1400s; they were so cute!  We only had about 25 minutes to wander around there though; it felt a bit rushed.

There were cute swans on a quiet stream running through the town, and a fantastic looking inn with beautiful gardens.  What a relaxing place to spend an afternoon!

Next up was Bourton on the Water, another adorable town nicknamed “The Venice of England” for its low stone bridges over the river.  We had about 45 minutes there; it was certainly someplace I would like to spend a couple of days.  There is a museum there that we didn’t have time to check out.  We wandered around, took some photos and poked around in a couple of shops. I bought a polished serpentine stone at a rock shop there too.  What a great place!

Note: When the tour guide says to be back at the bus at a certain time, be sure to be there.  One lady arrived back late – the rest of us were stuck waiting for about 15 minutes.  She got dressed down by the tour guide!  It was nice that he said something, but I do think he went overboard with the public chastising.  I’m glad it wasn’t me!

After your time in Bourton on the Water we piled back on the bus – we still had much more to see.  Next we were on our way to see the Shakespeare sites!

Tube Stations:  None – We walked to where the bus picked us up.