Tuesday, August 28, 2007

#7 - Great Falls

Our next destination was Great Falls to visit several of Ron's relatives, some of which he hadn't seen for 31 years. We decided to stop along the way to see Fort Benton, about 40 mi. northeast. This little town of 1500 people has a very important and colorful place in Montana history. It was a primary terminus for river trade on the Missouri where inland connections were made. It still has a lot of old buildings as well as a nice riverfront park, an impressive Missouri Breaks Interpretative Center and other things. To get there, we took lonely highway 223 from Chester to Fort Benton. This highway was off the beaten path but very well maintained and straight as an arrow for the most part. We had it all to ourselves and saw another car about every 10 minutes or so. No towns, no trees, no Wal-Marts or fast food outlets, just rolling fields and a few scattered farm houses. Beautiful.

Missouri Riverfront Park - Fort Benton --- Statue of faithful dog Shep

When we got to Fort Benton, we checked into our little campground, unrolled the awning, laid out our outdoor carpet and set up the lawn chairs. Then Ron noticed that the western sky had turned an ominous shade of black and it was moving in our direction. So, we folded up the lawn chairs, rolled up the carpet and pulled in the awning just as the wind started blowing. For the next several hours we were pummeled by strong wind, thunder, lightning and fairly heavy rain. (Didn't get any pictures.)

The portable braking system in our “toad” (towed Honda) wasn’t working properly, so we contacted the manufacturer in Portland. They were very helpful and immediately shipped a replacement to Great Falls. So, on Friday, Aug. 24, we drove into Great Falls and picked it up. Giant Springs was in the area so we stopped at the cool shady county park where spring water surfaces and spills into the Missouri River. Very pretty place.

Bonnie at Giant Springs County Park

We also took the opportunity to do the laundry, wash the car, and pick up some provisions at the local Wal-Mart before joining Ron's relatives for a big spaghetti dinner and some good conversation. We got caught up on family news and stories about grizzlies, storms and other Montana stuff. We were advised to drive carefully back to Fort Benton because deer like to graze along the highway. It was nearly dark as we drove back and, sure enough, we passed six or seven deer along the side of the highway. Fortunately, we didn’t run into any.

The next day (Sat.), we moved our camp to an RV park in Great Falls for a couple days. Western artist Charles M. Russell lived and did most of his work in Great Falls. Since the Russell Museum is the pride of the community, we made sure we didn't miss it. The museum is excellent. It includes Charlie’s log studio, his house and lots of his paintings, sketches and sculptures, as well as works of other western artists.
Charlie Russell and a view of Great Falls

On Sunday (Aug. 26), Bonnie did a load of laundry while Ron scrubbed the bugs off the front of the RV. He figured out that it's much easier to get the bugs off before they dry and glue themselves to the front of the RV. So, whenever we stop for the day, he tried to do the bug removal thing first. They come right off. We had lunch and dinner with relatives at local restaurants. After dinner, we all paid a visit to the city’s impressive veterans memorial, then went over to the home of Ron’s Aunt Dolores for a little more conversation. It was a very good day.
Around the dinner table in Great Falls:
Zoie, Molly, Dolores, Chris, Janet, Bob, Ron and Tracy