Thursday, 5 August 2010
Gillette, Wyoming to Red Lodge, Montana ~ 325 miles
Kim was rarin’ to go this morning, as she hopped aboard Old Paint here at the Rockpile Museum in Gillette. We grabbed a little bite to eat as we left the Hampton, then stopped for some tea at the Subway across the street, and soon we found ourselves at the Rockpile Museum, which we thought was going to be a rock museum…but not! It was a really well-done exhibit of lots of old West and old Wyoming relics and history. The entire wall that you can see in the photo behind Kim was full of rifles, and the entire room was full of guns of some sort. They had license plates from every year for this county in Wyoming, and one room was full of vehicles and cowboy equipment. As you might expect in Wyoming, rodeo is a big deal – one whole room was dedicated to local high school rodeo teams and stars. Several local families have been rodeo winners for generations, both girls and boys. We spent over an hour here – it was worth the stop to take in the local flavor, and it was free. You may have noticed that $5 is about our limit for attractions unless they are really, really good, so free is gravy for us!
Our destination today was originally Big Sky, Montana, but we’re thinking we might not get quite that far. We left Gillette with a bead on Billings, but we had stops planned in Story, WY (for lunch) and at Little Bighorn (for history), and then we were taking a side trip to Red Lodge so that Kim could skip down Memory Lane a little bit. As we got off the interstate to make our way to Story, we thought to call the place we were planning to eat lunch. Rats – the phone had been disconnected! We decided to check out the town anyway, just to get off the interstate for a while. Sure enough, we found the place we had read about in Road Food and it was indeed “Shut”.We liked the look of it and wondered how badly the economy was affecting things out this way. Still hungry, we wound through town and found the Wagon Box Inn and Cafe, even seeing a cool statue in a creek and a fawn crossing the road on our way. As we pulled into the parking lot, the car behind us unloaded with a couple from Memphis. Small world, huh? We sat outside and enjoyed sandwiches and the 75 degree sunny day. Aaaahh! On the way out of town, we stopped at the Post Office to mail some cards to Mom. It had a little garden planted in front of it and there was the sweetest black lab out front who really wanted to come with us. Too bad the car was full!
We got back on the interstate long enough to get to Montana, then we hopped off again to visit this museum, which shared land and signage with a Conoco gas station in Garryowen, Montana (gotta love that name!). You never know where your next history lesson will find you! We were not allowed to take photos inside the museum, but it was worth the stop. Lots of original photographs of native Americans and Army personnel were housed here, and there was an interesting movie full of even more conflicting information about the Battle of Little Bighorn. As we drove through the hills and valleys of the high plains, we could just imagine the prairie being full of grazing bison, teepees dotting the landscape, and we wondered how things got so out of hand as Americans moved west.
At the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, there were memorials to the US Army personnel who lost their lives in June, 1876, and there were also memorials to the horses who perished and to the Indians whose lives were lost. Although the Indians won this battle, the public outcry over the loss led to the ultimate demise of the native Americans of the west. Being in the area makes me realize that in many ways, the battle continues. Kim and I have talked a lot on this trip, as we always do, especially when we are out west, about early settlers and the obstacles they faced. Geography, up close and personal, really helps history come alive.
From the Little Bighorn, we sped up to Billings and managed to find the Rex Hotel. How could we resist? We weren’t ready for a meal, so we just enjoyed a bit of liquid refreshment on the patio. It was fun people-watching – the Rex is downtown, just across the street from the Depot. As we left Billings, we passed a Muffler Man – this one was holding a rifle! We just had to stop for this photo op! By now, we were fairly certain we would not be making it all the way to Big Sky, so we decided to find a place to stay in Red Lodge. Not only that, we had a dinner recommendation!
The neon at the Red Lodge Cafe was great, but the food was lacking. And if you can tell us exactly WHAT a halibut loin is, you’re smarter than we are. We ate it anyway! We had noticed that the Rotarians were in town (“Welcome, Rotarians!”) and motorcycles were in abundance, so we thought we should find a place to stay. That proved to be not so easy, but we finally found a room at the Pollard. Nice place! Once we’d secured our room, we hit the streets (well, the street), hitting the Montana Candy Emporium and then stopping for dessert at a local restaurant, Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen and Wine Bar. Too bad we hadn’t eaten dinner here, too.
Totally worth it! Not only was this peach blueberry cobbler delicious, we met some very friendly people who gave us a ton of restaurant suggestions for us to try out in Seattle. Names, addresses, and phone numbers – we may have to stay there for a week to eat our way through the town! It’s been a wonderful day!
Visions of good meals dancing in my head!