Sunday, May 8, 2011

They let us in!

It didn’t dawn much brighter in Waterton Lakes on Friday, unfortunately.  That place must look stunning in the summer. 
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Heading out looking for a small hike, we met Dan driving the other way on the Red Rock Parkway.  Valerie was not amused by his warnings to watch for bears – “we’ve got a grizzly in a trap up in the campground, but the campground is closed; watch for others – they’re waking up & they’re hungry”.
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In the end, we didn’t get much of a hike in as everything was still covered in snow, & quite deeply too.

Consequently, we started our run to the border.  In the town of Carsford we got distracted by a large carriage museum.  We were told that it’s the second largest collection of carriages in the world – the biggest is in Lisbon.  It sure seemed big – I’ve never seen so many bleeding aerials, I mean carriages; there were all sorts: working wagons, cabooses, sleighs, society, fire engines, dump wagons, chuck wagons, stage coaches, sulkies & more I can’t remember the name of. 
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The history was fascinating – especially as a lot of it related to the settlement & pioneering of the West.  I resisted the chance for a photo in the carriage Jackie Chan used in Shanghai Noon (it was comparatively boring).  There was a restoration workshop attached & one of the old guys who worked there (reminds me of the Kauri Museum north of Auckland) delighted in showing me how they make those big wagon wheels.
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A contrast showing restoration work improvement (of the carriage, I haven't had any restoration work done).
Lunch done with, it was a short hop to the 49th Parallel & the border crossing.  We did rather a lot better than the couple before who were turned around & with no hassles we filled our forms out & paid our six dollars & we were in Montana.  I had hoped to have a look around Glacier National Park, but it was just more frozen lakes & I’ve been seeing them all winter so we continued south.  The Road to the Sun, when it opens for summer, sounds amazing.  Highway 89 continued south through stunted & sparse forest climbing & winding up & through some of the largest snow banks I’ve seen all winter.  There was a noticeable change in prosperity from Alberta – it seemed that to live in NW Montana you had to have a hodgepodge of trailers littered with at least half a dozen old cars & pickups in various states of disrepair.

Gassed up (somehow managed to have someone else pay for a few gallons) we decided to push on to Helena for the night.  As we left it, we realized we’d been in a reservation & once out of it, the farmland started to look more intensive.  I was surprised to see a lot of irrigators, particularly large centre pivots.  We definitely were in the Big Sky State as we chewed up the miles (yes, I’ve had to start reading the inside dial on the speedometer). 
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Just before the Interstate (I-15) we went through a neat canyon, with the sun shining on the foreground & an ominous black clouding the horizon it was spectacular.

I think I’m on to my tenth state now & I’m pretty sure Helena is the first state capital I’ve been to.  We haven’t seen much so far except the inside of a motel room & a diner.  Hopefully we can have a little look around this morning before pushing on towards Yellowstone.  The diner last night was very much a Ma & Pa operation – it was packed & the food was simple with large portions.  To borrow a unit from Megan, flaginess was at a very high level – you couldn’t find a square metre of wall without some representation of red, white & blue (& those colours weren’t arranged in the way of the rather boring New Zealand flag).

On a side note, Montana has some great county names:  Fergus, Petroleum, Musselshell, Carbon, Treasure, Lewis & Clark, Rosebud (my ol’ son), Sweet Grass, & Beaverhead are noteworthy.

Distance Traveled: 492 km
Gas Price: 377.9
Best Meal: Finger Steaks (turned out to be wiener schnitzel)

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