THE ULTIMATE DINOSAUR MUSEUM

With our destination of Calgary programmed into our route, we were heading due north on May 31st, until we received an email from a friend telling us where to go. (Not an uncommon occurrence.) The highlight of her trip to Alberta was a visit to Drumheller, so a quick right turn onto a small road and away we went to take her advice. The map promised us a scenic route, and while any route passes many scenes, we had higher hopes for this route. At least it was a flat, straight, untraveled road, easy to drive, but with not a single place to stop for lunch, or a scene worth photographing…until we got to Drumheller, an old mining town surrounded by hoodoos. DSCN3422 Finally, scenery worth seeing. It was now 3:30pm and we were starving, so we stopped at the first place that seemed to serve food although everyone else was just drinking. Perhaps that was because it was a tavern that incidentally served food. The menu was surprisingly large, which would have been more impressive if they weren’t out of our first and second choices. Our third choice was not as bad as we expected but it left us feeling like we deserved a really good dessert. Luckily, next door was a shop selling great fudge, which filled the bill.

At last we were ready for Drumheller’s attractions, but first we checked into an RV Park and then finally set out for the Royal Tyrrell Museum.DSCN3414  Having visited so many dinosaur museums on this trip, we wondered if this detour was really worthwhile even though we were told it definitely would be. Well, not only was it worthwhile, it was a high point in our journey as much as it was in our friend’s. The enormity of the collection of fossils DSCN3405 and the skill with which they are displayed DSCN3386 was, and probably still is, stunning.DSCN3408 The Royal Tyrrell by far surpassed anything we saw on the dinosaur trail. DSCN3398 Even though the museum was open late, we didn’t have time to see everything, so we returned the next day.

Trying to figure out where we had left off the night before, we came across this helpful sign. DSCN3407 Never would have known! And then we continued to find more DSCN3400 and more DSCN3403 amazing specimens of local dinosaurs.

Had we been younger and more agile, and had the weather been cooler, we would have signed up for a field trip and gone into the field to dig for fossils. Given the actual circumstances, we enrolled in a class on making plaster molds of bones and small fossils. Beginning with basics, we mixed the plaster with water until it achieved the correct consistency, DSCN3418 poured it into molds  and ended up with casts DSCN3420 that we will take home and paint to add to our collection of Southern California fossils. Thank you, Debbie, for suggesting this detour and now we are back on track heading to Calgary again.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, PARTIALLY

May 30th was only slightly windy, so we were optimistic about getting to Glacier National Park and this was our first view of the park. DSCN3347 Feeling even more optimistic we drove to our second view. DSCN3349

Bravo, we were ready for our third view – the Road to the Sun…or not! DSCN3348

Well, it sure looked beautiful DSCN3353 as we made our u-turn in the Visitor Center parking lot. We asked what we would not see on the Road to the Sun and were invited into an auditorium for a film, which proved that we would not have been comfortable on the curvy road hanging off the side of the mountain. So the bad news was good news after all. And the better news was that the park was open to the north at the Babb Many Glacier entrance with a much easier road to drive. So north we went and into the park

for majestic peaks, DSCN3354 glaciers, DSCN3356 rivers, DSCN3360 lakes, and DSCN3364 an Alpine Lodge with a restaurant, which was…closed…as was the road ahead.

No problem, the road was beautiful enough to see twice, once arriving and once departing. DSCN3368

Although we were busy admiring the landscape, DSCN3371 our stomachs had other thoughts. And while our minds were satisfied, we could not find a restaurant that was open until we reached Cardston, Alberta, Canada.

Unfortunately, it was a Dairy Queen which wasn’t quite what we had in mind. Remembering a sign for an Inn a few blocks back, we followed the arrows down a side street and, at 3pm, we found the Cobblestone Manor, DSCN3377 a most appealing looking B&B with a charming restaurant DSCN3378 and boasting an inviting fireplace,  DSCN3380 BUT CLOSED.

The owner, Ivan Negrych, was fixing his car and saw us looking around. When he asked how we were, we replied, “Fine, but hungry.” After a friendly conversation about where we were from and about our travels, he informed us that the restaurant would open at 5pm for a buffet, but he would be happy to serve us now since he had some items already prepared.

Not only did he bring us a delicious dinner, he gave us the grand tour of his Inn which was originally a small log cabin built in 1889. In 1913, Henry Hoet, a Belgian finishing carpenter, bought the structure and began adding rooms, one at a time, using local river rocks, rare hardwoods and colorful stained glass imported from Italy. The last room added was the Golden Oak Room completed in 1928 with a ceiling made from scraps of wood from the Alberta Temple. DSCN3381 Ivan and his family now own this Alberta Historic Resource and if you are ever in Cardston, be sure to stay here, or eat here, or at least stop by and admire the building and its gracious, charming and most helpful host. Just two warnings, don’t try to take Ivan’s picture, and don’t order an alcoholic beverage in this dry town.

It’s been a while since we found a sign worthy of being posted here, so we were happy when we passed this winner. DSCN3385 It was tempting to drive the 18 kilometers, but the internet claimed that there was no there, there. Instead we went to Granum and stayed at the Granview Park Campgrounds.

 

 

 

 

 

PHRED’S BETTER, WINDS ARE WORSE

Phred amused us for hours on May 27th by playing podcasts all the way to Great Falls for her EPC warning light appointment at Taylor’s Auto Max VW dealership for the next afternoon. Or maybe she was more nervous about her problem than we were, and played the podcasts to distract herself. The wind didn’t help keep anyone calm and Gina had trouble peeling her hands off the steering wheels when we got to Great Falls. The closest campground to the VW dealer was a KOA at the edge of town which was huge, expensive and not well maintained. We decided to stay there anyway for the convenience of the location and the cuteness DSCN3331 of our neighbor. Took Phred for dinner at Jakers and enjoyed our meal.

Phred’s appointment was not until 1 pm, so on Wednesday morning we visited the DSCN3335Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. One thing we dislike about some museums is the lack of a clear path through the exhibits causing us to miss some of the displays. This Center wins a prize for their floor plan which leads people from the start of the Lewis and Clark partnership and follows them step by step through their expedition.

This replica of portaging a canoe reminded us of our effort to do this chore some 34 years ago. DSCN3332 Our canoe was smaller, but we didn’t have an easier time. We can laugh about it now, although we almost came to blows when Charlie slid down the embankment and Gina lowered the canoe on top of her. Looks like Lewis and Clark had some helpers and even some wheels to assist them.

They also had better luck with the wind on their journey. DSCN3333 We will have to figure out how to attach a sail to Phred to speed us on our way instead of almost being blown off the road.

DSCN3336 Driving back to the VW dealer, we passed these great falls only to discover that they are not the Great Falls ,which are reached by an unmarked road outside of town. Guess they want to keep their falls to themselves.

Got back to Taylor’s Auto Max where they ran a diagnostic on Phred and then went over her electronics with a fine tooth comb and still found nothing wrong. They reset the computer program, cleaned and re-tightened the battery cables and turned her loose. So for $100 we were assured that we probably had nothing to worry about. For $100 we would have have preferred that we Definitely had Nothing to worry about. But at least they didn’t find anything major and they were very thorough and accommodating.

Then we were gone over with a fine tooth comb and a pair a scissors when we finally got our haircuts at a Great Clips (good haircuts.) While we were being clipped, the area was hit by the weirdest storm we’ve ever seen. First light, soft hail started to fall, then the wind came up with fierce intensity, and the small, soft hail changed to hard, driving marble size balls. Next it turned into a heavy rain that flooded the parking lot until suddenly it all vanished and the sun came out. Someone in the salon said, “Well, that’s Montana!”

We left Great Falls and headed north to Bynum, where a DSCN3339 small museum DSCN3340 has some outstanding fossils DSCN3344including this enormous specimen which wouldn’t fit in one photo so please use your imagination and fill in the rest.  DSCN3341

A local artist decorated the walls DSCN3342 and this painting shows the the relative size of the babies DSCN3345 as well as a bit of the artist’s sense of whimsy. Each of his renditions has something that was not part of the original scene, such as a windsock hidden among some dinosaurs or a tiny submarine with marine fossils. Double click on this last picture and see if you can find what is out of place. Hint – check out her toes. Did you find her wedding band?

DSCN3343 This case displays an amazing find by a local woman who found her first dinosaur bone at the age of 5 and eventually found the bones of baby dinosaurs and clutches of eggs. These findings changed the scientists opinion about the maternal instincts of these dinosaurs. As we talked to the staff, we told them about the fossil we dug out of Topanga Canyon many years ago, which we couldn’t identify. They suggested that we measure and take pictures of the specimen and email the pics and info to them to see if they could recognize our fossil. We’re looking forward to getting that information.

As we were leaving Bynum, we tried to stop for groceries DSCN3346 but the market was closed so we drove to Browning, south of Glacier National Park. Driving was a constant series of slams by 50 mile per hour wind gusts that caused Phred to wobble and veer sideways. We would have welcomed a tailwind to save gas, but this wind storm always hit us broadside. How bad was it?  It was so bad we decided to take a room in the lovely, new Holiday Inn Express at the Browning casino rather than continuing on until we found a campground. We almost didn’t get inside the hotel because the wind kept slamming Phred’s door shut before we could get out. Maybe Phred was just feeling deserted. Anyway, we had a good night’s sleep and a full hot breakfast the next morning before our drive to St. Mary.

NOT IN, BUT UNDER HAVRE

Havre was born over 100 years ago and was a typical wild west town until 1904 when a devastating fire destroyed most of the businesses. By use of underground passageways, spanning 10 city blocks, many of the establishments continued to flourish in the basement of their original locations. Glass bricks inserted in the sidewalks allowed sunlight to filter through ceilings DSCN3298 and illuminate the below-ground shops and offices.

In 1990 two residents and a group of volunteers decided to clean out the long neglected underground and turn it into a tourist attraction. DSCN3328 The end result is a walk back in time to an honest portrayal of the rough and tumble way of life at the turn-of-the-century. Here was a melting pot of races, and racism was ubiquitous. The ethnic mixtures of black, red, yellow and white triggered an explosive atmosphere that may have even led to the fire, which was definitely a result of arson.

A one and a half hour walk was led by an informative guide who gave the history of each establishment and even the children on the tour were fascinated by the sights. Signs of the fire are still visible DSCN3311 as pointed out by the guide.

Much as we may hate going to the dentist, DSCN3299 it was a lot worse going to see Dr. Wright in the 1920s. And much as ladies may enjoy going to a beauty parlor today, it looked a little more ominous in those days. DSCN3303 Anyone besides Charlie remember the smell of singed hair while attached to this machine?

Gina looked around  for a poker or drinking partner in the Sporting Eagle Saloon DSCN3300 where cowboys gambled, cussed, puffed cigars, kicked up their spurs and swigged good old-fashioned frontier hooch.

The opium den still had two patrons sleeping off the effects of their partaking, DSCN3321 and the madame of the bordello proudly displays her living quarters. DSCN3304

The pharmacy not only filled your prescriptions, DSCN3316 it let you have a fountain drink while you waited. DSCN3317 Medicine labels were pre-printed (ah, pre-computer days) DSCN3318 for such cure-alls as opium and various poisons, all available over the counter. Perhaps that is why the mortician kept these wicker coffins DSCN3325 handy to bring the victims from the place of their demise to his mortuary.

Chinese “safe houses” — places of sanctuary and security for Asian railroad workers and their families — were common, indeed necessary, creations. Many of the Chinese people opened not just restaurants (which we lovers of Chinese food truly appreciate) but laundries, DSCN3320 not just in Havre but all over the country. Our question is, why laundries? 

Returning to street level, we took our leave of the Havre Underground DSCN3327 and ended up at Murphy’s Pub before returning to our campground.

BACK TO THE DINOSAUR TRAIL

As soon as we got into North Dakota, we contacted AT&T and remembered what we dislike about AT&T. We explained that we contacted them before going to Canada and after telling our first techie what we needed (setting up the hotspot), we were sold a $60 package that would definitely, absolutely, positively allow us to set up the hotspot in Canada. Then in Canada, our second AT&T techie told us we had to have set it up in the US. Since North Dakota was and still is in the United States, we didn’t understand why we still couldn’t do it. Oh, said our third techie, that’s because you only have a 3G data plan and you need 5G. And why didn’t the first or second techie tell us that? Duh? By now, we had a few words for AT&T and they were replaced by the words, “Cancel the damn $60 plan.” Sure, said #3 and we will just charge you $4 for the days you had the plan. OK, we replied, and can we charge AT&T for the gas to return to the US to set up the hotspot? Realizing that AT&T needed our $4 more than we did, we agreed to their terms but suggested that the 3 techies go to work at our Roadside Assistance company.

Having been warned about the North Dakota oil workers, we kept driving past the oil rigs until we reached Montana and collapsed in the first campground we found in Culbertson, the Diamond Coulee RV & Trailer Park. There is an expression about people who live in trailer parks and it sure rang true here. Sure enjoyed watching our neighbor making a leather belt and inserting the knife and all the bullets in their newly formed spaces. Call us snobs, we probably deserve it.

It’s May 25th and we arrived in Malta at lunchtime. After touring Malta, we determined that all three restaurants were closed and then remembered it was Memorial Day. Finally found a place outside the town that reminded us of Cheers. You remember…a place where everybody knows your name. The waitress knew everyone except us and the patrons all knew each other. If the people there were Maltese, we were Martians.

After a decent lunch, we returned to Malta and the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station. DSCN3291 While we were admiring the displays, DSCN3293  DSCN3292 we noticed a woman working in the field station at the rear of the museum. On a lark, Charlie mentioned to her that we hope to be paleontologists in our next lives and rather than wait until then, we would love the opportunity to work on the fossils with her. To our surprise, she agreed to sign us up as volunteers and give us some quick lessons. Charlie spent her time trying to free this dinosaur bone DSCN3286 from the surrounding rock that had been encased in plaster while still in the field to protect it. Meanwhile, Gina sifted through DSCN3289 soil taken from a known fossil bed looking for teeth and small bones. She learned how to differentiate between a rock and a fossil

DSCN3290 by licking the object, and if it stuck to her tongue, it was a fossil. Another useful skill she has acquired.

Before leaving, our gracious “teacher” walked us through the rest of the museum  and gave us lots of interesting information about the large dinosaur found with some of its skin still attached, DSCN3294 and the smallest bone which someone was actually able to identify. DSCN3295

With many thanks for making another wonderful experience to add to our memories, we took leave of this museum with smiles on our faces…until riding out of town, the damn EPC warning light returned on Phred’s dashboard. Deciding to play it safe before driving through Havre to Glacier National Park, we decided to stop in Havre and then detour to the Volkswagon dealer in Great Falls.

After a night at Evergreen Campground, we looked for the H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum in Havre. The listing in the Dinosaur Trail brochure led us to an address with no there there. A phone call directed us to a shopping mall, the new home of the Museum which we finally found, but need not have bothered since it was closed. Next stop in Havre was the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump Site which was used from 600 to 2000 years ago by three different Native American tribes. The buffalo were driven to the edge of the cliff where the ones who fell became food, shelter and clothing for the tribes. That seemed like an exciting excursion, but once again we need not have bothered as they were closed until next month. What to do, what to do?

We looked at each other and decided what we needed to do, get haircuts. We found two open salons, one with no haircutter working today and the other that was booked until July 12th! The lady at the second salon told us about the underground tour of Havre and, given our luck so far today, she even called ahead and saved us two spots on the next tour.

And the next tour will be on the next post.

SUE FALLS AND BEYOND

We guess Roadside Assistance had more of an impact than we realized. We couldn’t find Sue Falls either, but were able to get back to Sioux Falls before heading north. We figured that if they named the city after the falls, it might be worthwhile to actually see the falls instead of the Ford dealer, we mean the Volkswagon dealer.

After climbing the observation tower, DSCN3266 with the assistance of the elevator, this was the view. DSCN3267 Back on the ground,  these were the views. DSCN3273   DSCN3270  Don’t know about you, but we prefer these. Sure glad the observation tower had that elevator. Also glad that the old hydro-electric plant that was used to generate electricity had been converted into a restaurant as we needed to fortify ourselves for the trek to Canada.

A delightful couple we met at the falls recommended that we stop at the Terry Redlin Art Center in Watertown. Neither of us ever heard of Redlin, but his story intrigued us. As a young man. Redlin lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. The city of Watertown and state of South Dakota gave him a scholarship to study art and he ended up being voted America’s Most Popular Artist 9 years in a row. As a thank you, Redlin’s son built this enormous art center DSCN3274 and the artist donated it for people to visit free of charge. After seeing Redlin’s art, we had to admire his skill, especially in creating a source of light shining in all his paintings. However, after viewing many of the 150 original paintings, we realized that unless we opened a hunting lodge or bought a mountain cabin, we never would own a Redlin piece of art.

Onward to the County Line Campground in Summit still en route to Canada. Leaving Summit on May 22nd, we were driving through North Dakota on the only road going in our direction when we decided that we were bored with North Dakota. After a quick turn to the right, we arrived in Minnesota and off the highway for a different state of boredom. Until we arrived in the small town of DSCN3275 complete with a gas station (where the young lady working there had no idea how the town got its name) and a bar (where the barmaid had no idea how the town got its name) and obviously a group of people with no sense of curiosity. Turning a corner, we found the library DSCN3277 complete with a librarian who knew exactly how the town was named.

As a side-line, but not a non sequitur, around thirty-four years ago, we bought an antique tin sign in Erwinna, Pennsylvania advertising Climax – the Ultimate Chew, a brand of chewing tobacco. That sign still hangs in our home.

Back to Climax, Minnesota. According to the librarian, before the town was named, local residents buying farming equipment were given a plug of tobacco as an incentive. Each plug had a metal tab in it imprinted with the name Climax. The farmers collected these and stuck them into anything wood. Eventually, visitors seeing the tabs everywhere, dubbed the town Climax and the name stuck.

One more thing we learned here, was that there is a time for everything. DSCN3276 Who knew?

We figured nothing else in Minnesota could top this, so we returned to North Dakota and spent the night at the Grand Fork Campground in -where else – Grand Fork. May 23rd had three milestones. It was Charlie’s son Matthew’s birthday, our entrance to Canada, and Charlie’s entrance to the O in Manitoba. DSCN3280

 

Our first stop in Canada was going to be Morden where we ran into several problems. The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre was a room in the basement of the sports arena, the fossil digs involved too much walking and too much money, and the campgrounds were abominable. Then we discovered that the $60 package we added to our cell phone so we could get data in Canada and set up a hot-spot for the iPad and computer was useless because we had to initiate the hot spot in the U.S.

Undaunted, we drove on and on and on until we decided that this part of Canada was as boring as North Dakota. This time we took a left turn and drove to the Peace Garden DSCN3283 on the border which also had a campground. When we telephoned to make sure they had a space for us, the person on the phone assured us they did, but neglected to tell us that we would be the only people camping there. It was just too isolated so we left to return to the campground a few miles north. Not so fast!! The Peace Garden is not in Canada or the US so no matter which way we turned, we had to go through customs. The poor border guard was a little confused when he found out we got to Canada this morning, left to get to the Peace Garden this afternoon, and returned tonight with plans to leave for the US in the morning. We didn’t tell him we just wanted to set up a hot spot for our iPad because that probably would have really gotten to him. So we spent the night at the Adam Lake State Park and returned to the US of A the next day.

 

 

BADLANDS AND A VERY BAD TOWN

DSCN3149 The weather was still holding, except for the wind which was still blowing, as we entered the Badlands on May 14th. We passed through numerous prairie dog villages and were greeted by their representatives DSCN3183 who seemed happier to see us leave. DSCN3186 We had no intention of stopping to visit them after learning how dangerous they actually are, since they are carriers of the plague. Besides we had other species waiting to greet us DSCN3157 and too much else to see.

The Badlands of South Dakota are ideal places to see the effects of erosion after 30 million years worth of layers of mud, sand and gravel were laid down. Then one to four million years ago erosion outpaced the deposits, leaving the colorful spires. DSCN3155 The entire area was originally a giant salt water sea until volcanic activity pushed the sea floor upwards. Evidence of this was found when among the many fossils buried in the strata, this DSCN3192 prehistoric alligator fossil was discovered. When water and wind battered away the landscape, only the hardest sandstone survived. DSCN3174 The surfaces varied as we continued driving, ranging from DSCN3182 to DSCN3156 to DSCN3196 and DSCN3194 and on and on as the scenery changed with each curve in the road.

The name Badlands comes from the early 1800’s when French trappers called it “bad land to cross” and the Dakota Indians referred to the area as “land bad,” and since there were no paved roads, and originally no roads at all, the names make perfect sense. DSCN3190 Hours of driving, from scenic viewpoint to scenic viewpoint, left us ready to visit Kadoka, the birthplace of Barry Goldwater’s press secretary, Look magazine reporter and published author, Edward K. Nellor. Oh, yes, his other claim to fame is that he was Gina ‘s father, which is why she insisted we make Kadoka DSCN3197 a stop on our grand tour.

It was not his fault that he was born here, and luckily his family moved to Mitchell when he was quite young. The town does have its pride as shown by their centennial display. DSCN3207 We checked out the hotel DSCN3205 (nope), and the available real estate DSCN3212 (definitely not), and the amenities of the town,DSCN3210 including a trip (down the block-long downtown) to city hall. The building was no big deal but we loved the signage. DSCN3214 There was no rug in sight, so we debated going in barefoot until we realized our shoes were pretty clean. The bulletin board offered these posters which we normally do not see in Santa Rosa, California. DSCN3218    DSCN3219 And finally, this is in front of city hall. DSCN3220 Don’t you wonder what they had important enough to include in the time capsule that will be of interest in 2031? Charlie will be almost 100 years old by then, so she probably will never know.

All the restaurants in Kadoka were closed, so we grabbed a bite in a dive along the highway and sped to the East Belvedere KOA RV Park. Eastward Ho!