Saturday, August 13, 2016

Havre, Montana and the High Line

August 8-9, 2016:

We had a violent thunderstorm with heavy rain, lightning and thunder overnight, was a little worried about hail, but it didn’t happen.  In the morning it was cloudy and dark when we left the campsite at 9 AM, but no rain.  It was an easy drive on route 1 east to route 41 south for about 100 miles to the Wild Horse border crossing.  I made it through the border without incident although the border guy was most unfriendly and cold.  The scenery was beautiful, not as spectacular as in the mountains, but the prairie has a unique beauty of its own.  After the first 50 miles or so, I had the road to myself, almost no traffic.  It was then another 30 miles to Havre, Montana with very similar scenery, huge wheat fields.  At Havre, I took my phone off airplane mode, first time since June 30th and had an immediate signal.

A special beauty

The Wheat harvest

We decided to do the easy thing, stay at the Walmart parking lot for the night.  We then checked out the nearby Great Northern Fairgrounds and decided to move there tomorrow.  

We then did a quick tour of Havre, another railroad town, formerly Great Northern, now BNSF.  This rail line is called the High Line as it runs from east to west across northern Montana.  The  train station, still served by Amtrak’s Empire builder line, has a nice statue and water fountain of Great Northern Railway founder James Hill.  It seems to be a major BSNF yard and Locomotive shop with trains running frequently.  Downtown has many Casinos, but they are mostly electronic Kino and Poker machines, small time gambling.  There are several old buildings and bars that appeal to me.  The main attractions here are the Buffalo Jump and the underground tour, neither of which we did.  The Indians long ago utilized a very effective hunting method which involved stampeding Buffalo over a cliff edge to their death.  There is an area overlooking Havre that had several jump sites, one of which has been developed into a archeological site open to tours.  A part of the hillside is exposed to show layer upon layer of Buffalo bones from centuries of use.

View of Havre from a hilltop

Massive grain elevators and Republican headquarters, but no Trump signs

Massive Steam Engine that was used to pull the Empire Builder
Train up to the 1950's

The man they called the Empire Builder, James Hill
president of the Great Western Railway

They welcome Canadians here

Railroad Ave view

Impressive Court House

This is a beauty too !

 The Underground Tour takes you into an underground section of Havre that was an actual business area in the early 1900’s, then closed, neglected for many years and recently reopened as a tourist attraction.  Many of the original businesses exist almost frozen in time.  The underground tour building also houses a railroad museum that we visited.

An amazing number of these Elmira NY built American-LaFrance
Fire Trucks survive in museums all across the country

Great Northern calendars were great 

Especially the Empire Builder

Instead, I went to the Bear Paw Battlefield where the Nez Perce tribe surrendered in 1877.  There was a retired school teacher at the battlefield working for the park service who gave an excellent talk on the battle, he was great.  Approximately 800 Nez Perce warriors, women, elderly and children attempted to flee the US forces and escape to safety in Canada.  Although practically starving and freezing in the cold they managed to stay ahead of the US forces for 1,500 miles.  They had only about 40 miles to go when they were surprised by another US force converging from another direction and came under siege in a poorly defensible position.  There were many killed on both sides, but in the end Chief Joseph surrendered after most all the war chiefs were killed, in order to save as many of his people as possible.  A few hundred warriors and others managed to escape before the surrender and make it to Canada.  I wonder why the US force didn’t just let them slip away, (out of kindness I suppose), like in the lyrics to Pancho and Lefty).  It would have then ended without needless casualties, but I understand that isn’t the military way.

Approximately 800 Indians were here in the freezing cold

Chief George's campsite

The Battlefield is serene these days

On the way to the Battlefield, I passed through the town of Chinook which to my surprise was pretty cool.  I stopped at the museum there, the Blaine County Museum, just for information on the battlefield and was amazed by the exhibits, totally fantastic.  Also, a couple of great old neon signs on classic old downtown buildings.

Shell casings and bullets from the Battlefield

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

Chief Joseph became an advertising icon

Great local cowboy, he went on to acting with the Cisco Kid

Another local Cowboy whose son became an
NFL football player

No longer a Bar, but the great sign remains

The Mint remains open

The Aero Lounge where real people meet

On August 9th, we move about a 1/2 mile to the Great Northern Fairgrounds, complete with a Great Northern Caboose.  It has water and electric hookups, a shower room and dump station for $20, not bad. 

I checked out the Palace Bar in the evening as it has the best neon sign in town and was pleasantly surprised, it’s beautiful inside with a original ornate bar back, tin ceilings and tastefully decorated with large railroad and wheat harvesting murals.  It was mostly a young crowd so I had to put up a combination of bad rap and bad country music, but that’s normal in these times.  We had another bad heavy rain storm with thunder and lightning as I was inside the bar, glad to be there and not inside the RV.

The Palace Bar

Beautiful inside

Next stop is Glasgow, Montana,

Twinkles and Slick 

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