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Tour of Central and Western Montana

May 23, 2021


This post might be BORING.  Stop reading.  I mean it.  Stop now.  Okay, don’t stop.  Read on. You have yourself to blame.

I mean to tell about Penny and my recent trip around Montana to decorate graves a week before memorial day.  Well, we did see a few amusing things, some amazing things, too.

Background:  we make a trip like this most years, decorating graves in Billings, Lewistown, Kalispell, New Chicago, then home again. 

Now we have a Hymer, a sort of ultra-small RV consisting of a Dodge Ram Promaster that has been converted to a motor home, complete with kitchen, bath, and  bedroom.  Also dining area.  Obviously, certain areas serve more than one purpose.  We bought the Hymer in Anchorage, sight unseen.  Penny, Gunther, and I flew to Anchorage, bought the van, drove it south through Canada to our son Todd and his family’s home in Duluth, Minnesota.

This works good with the COVID epidemic.  We eat and sleep in our vehicle.

This is what we call a Hymer.

We drove to Lewistown, Fort Belknap, Shelby.  Spent the night.  Then on to Kalispell, spent the night camping at Bad Medicine campground.  Then Missoula to the KOA.  Weather was bad, so we returned to Billings.  There.  Said it in a few short words.

Monday:  Billings to Roundup, a town of about 1,800, including Wilbur Wood, former editor of the Montana Kaimin newspaper.  Town looked sad and dejected to me.  We saw no Trump signs, but we did see a sign urging us to help “Save the Cowboy” from the prairie reserve.  I’m not clear what kind of threat that is to the cowboys.  I think they don’t want to see Eastern Montana turned into a bison range.

Saw an occasional eagle, an occasional pronghorn.  

Drove from Grass Range to Lewistown to decorate graves of Lillian Meakins, Warren and Marion Rowton, Clara and Emory McMain, and Aunt Mina Orr.  We bought flowers at Albertson’s: bunches of mums, various colors.  Lewistown did sport a Trump flag or two.  (Near New Chicago we saw a “Truth Matters” flag.  I felt better.)

From Lewistown we drove through to Hilger, then Bohemian Corner, then took off of Highway 87 onto Highway 66 through Ft. Belknap straight north where the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes live.  A long, straight highway that was in better condition than Highway 2.  A sign on US 2 suggested we write to our congressperson to fund repairs.

After joining with US 2 at Harlem, we went west to Chester and Cut Bank.  Drove about 20 miles south of Chinook to the Chief Joseph Battleground, where we walked a trail about 1 mile.  We noticed lots of gifts of Indian goods and sunglasses at the various gravesites along the trail.  The US 7th Cavalry dead were in a mass grave, marked with a sign and a depression in the earth.

One of numerous gravesites at Chief Joseph Battleground festooned with offerings.

Drove on west to Shelby, where we stayed the night at a Comfort Inn that had RV sites with hookups.  The bathrooms were well-maintained and we showered there in the morning.  I recommend the Comfort Inn campground.

Tuesday: drove to Browning where we fueled at a Town Pump.  Indian folk were friendly and funny.  Guy asked a woman coming out of the bathroom what took so long.  “Took a bath,” she chirped.  Best Town Pump ever.

Drove through to Kalispell, bought flowers at Rosaurs: Bunches of lilies.  Decorated the graves of three aunts, one uncle, and grandparents.  From there we drove west on US 2 to Libby, then a few miles later went south on highway 65 to the Ross Cedar Grove.  Encountered a guy with a Trump hat who was with some heavily made up old women.  One large cedar had freshly fallen, judging from the condition of the branches and the raw look of the splintered trunk.

Splintered giant cedar. Windblown?

Near there we stayed the night in a forest service campground, “Bad Medicine Campground.”  I put the $16 fee into the available envelope, filled out the form front and back, but the pay station box was duct taped shut.  I tore the tape where the slot was, then, murmuring “take my money, goddamn it!” I forced the envelope with payment inside. 

We boondocked that night, as we had no hookups.  I did dump our toilet cassette into the outhouse pit.  No internet, no cell service, either.  We did just fine.

Wednesday we drove south on Hwy 56 to Thompson Falls, Plains, Noxon, Ravalli, then Missoula.  Ate lunch at Greenough Park, bought flowers at Albertson’s ($5 for potted chrysanthemums) and decorated CC and Joss Orr’s graves, Hannah Banana Wild’s niche, Steven Struckman, Robert, Helen and Tom Struckman.  Only Steven and Robert’s graves have actual remains within.

We then checked in to the KOA out on Reserve, a favorite place for us.  After hooking everything up, Penny and I are busily typing and reading, having gone a couple days without good internet access.

Thursday we got freaked out by the wintry weather, so we bought a couple of potted chrysanthemums for the New Chicago cemetery, and boogied south and east.  Cemetery in great shape with freshly mowed grass.  Gunther pooped near the electrified fence and I picked up same with a bag.  We decorated the graves of George C. Meakins and Hans Kofoed.

A freak who lives near the cemetery had a whole bunch of Trump flags.  Apparently he is Mormon.  Hmmm.

Homestake pass had snow.

Because of the weather we didn’t go through Anaconda, but returned to Drummond to proceed east to Billings.  Made the whole trip from Missoula to Billings in the Hymer on one tank of gas.

Montana seems to be in pretty good shape, despite the divisions caused by politics.

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