Sunday, September 2, 2007
We targeted the small town of Hardin (pop. 3,000) for a little “down time” to relax and digest the many tours, museums, points of interest and Lewis & Clark history that we had been exposed to during the past three weeks in Montana. We also wanted to stay in one place through the Labor Day weekend before continuing into South Dakota, just in case there was a lot of holiday traffic. There was none.
Hardin is about 50 miles east of Billings, Montana’s largest city and 15 miles from the Little Big Horn battlefield. We arrived around noon on August 30 and settled into the Grandview Campground. It was formerly a mobile home park so the spaces were generous and uncrowded. It was on the edge of town but within convenient walking distance of a couple truck stops and several mini-casinos. It was already hot when we arrived and the temperature would continue to rise to 103, which is not very comfortable for doing things. The humidity was only 8%, not that it mattered a whole lot.
We started early the next day to avoid the heat. Our first stop was the Big Horn County Historical Museum and visitors center. It had a very nice collection of old restored buildings, farm equipment and other artifacts from around the county. The buildings were well preserved and maintained in a grassy historical village setting with boardwalk connections.
Later we went downtown and stopped at the old railroad depot which had been restored and converted to offices for the Chamber of Commerce and a variety of other organizations. A nice lady at the Chamber office told us much more than we needed to know about the area, but it was all interesting. Train loads of coal rumble through town all day and night and the city is proud of its new coal-fired power plant, although it's taking some heat from the local air quality folks about high emission levels. Hardin is a nice friendly town that time passed by and it remains a couple decades behind the rest of the world. It’s motto is “The City with a Purpose” although we’re not sure what the purpose was. In any case, it’s celebrating its centennial this year and is alive and well.
We walked around the downtown area, admired the old brick buildings and tried to figure out what warranted the solitary traffic signal in the center of town, since there’s no traffic at all. The Fort Custer General Store was packed full of everything imaginable. We had to walk sideways to get down some of the aisles. Great store! We found a nice little restored theater that was showing the Simpson’s movie. We passed on the movie but got a personal tour of the theater. Next door was the Three Brothers’ Pizza and Pub. We were hot and hungry and welcomed their air conditioning as we dined on pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw,chips and a couple bottles of cold Moose Drool.