Starting the morning with rain and more predicted off and on throughout the day we needed indoor activities. Fortunately Edmonton has plenty to choose from; do you suppose it is because winter comes early and often? The Royal Alberta Museum was on my radar and Bob was interested in their current feature exhibit on the Vikings.
A recreated steel frame holds some of the original 1,000-year-old wooden planks of the Roskilde 6, the longest Viking warship ever found at over 121 feet.
Exhibits include multimedia spots, interactive stations, augmented reality and 650 artifacts from warships to small silver coins.
I enjoyed the Human History Gallery detailing Alberta history from Indigenous people to Wayne Gretzky, European settlers to the Calgary Stampede.
We followed the Royal Alberta Museum with a stop at the Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre viewing Our People Our Provence, a theatre-in-the-round presentation with 4-D special effects. There is also an interpretive gallery featuring changing quarterly exhibits and Alberta Branded showcasing Alberta-made art and products – a perfect place to shop for quality gifts or vacation treasures. Yes, I found a nice piece of jewelry.
When You Go: Royal Alberta Museum, 9810 103Avenue NW, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, royalalbertamuseum.ca. The Vikings exhibit is at the museum until October 20, 2019.
Legislative Assembly of Alberta Visitor Centre, 9820 107 Street, Edmonton Alberta, Canada, assembly.ab.ca.
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Rain, Rain, Laundry and a Dutch Treat – other than the unusual dinner a not so exciting day. The plan for our first full day in Calgary was Heritage Park Historical Village, Canada’s largest living history musuem. Rain, wind, and chill put a damper on that plan. In addition Bob wasn’t feeling up to par so already on Day 5 it was time for a break and regrouping.
One of the positives of selecting lodging at Staybridge Suites is the access to free laundry facilities. The Staybridge Suites Calagary Airport is undergoing refurnishing. Unfortunately they haven’t gotten to the laundry room, more machines are out of order than are usable. With plenty of time I’m able to get two loads done and make the aquaintence of numerous workman and staff members as I go up and down from our suite to laundry room.
Mid-afternoon we decide to work our way across town to Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus. During trip research I found mention of this restaurant featuring Dutch pancakes. Pannenkoek is a large thin crepe with savory ingredients cooked right in the batter. Dessert pannenkoek have the sweet ingredients served on top of the crepe. Soups, salads, omelettes and open-faced sandwishes are also available. I heard ladies at a nearby table raving about the Dutch pea soup.
The menu has dozens of pannenkoeken choices including vegetarian fare or diners can build their own from a list of ingredients. We select the potato, onion, bacon and cheese with a side of sour cream, popular for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Because I want to also try a sweet pannenkoeken the helpful waitress suggest we share one savory and one sweet. We appreciate her suggestion which totally satisfied our hunger.
Our custom pannenkoek dessert featuring apples, maple pecans and caramel. Yum!
The day wasn’t a total rain out.
When You Go: Pfannastic Pannenkoek Haus, 2439 54 Avenue SW, Calgary, 1-403-243-7757, pfanntasticpannenkoek.com.
I love the story of how this antique carousel ended up in a northern Montana community of 3,000. Thanks goes to a 87-year-old retired farmer who is obviously a man of vision and talent, Harry Benjamin.
The carousel was a traveling ride for fairs and carnivals when it broke down in 2016. Benjamin was recruited to make repairs. An idea germinated in his head, why not install a permanent carousel for the children (of all ages) of Shelby and travelers. After checking out carousels around the country he learned that the one he had repaired was for sale in Reno, Nevada.
Benjamin purchased the 1936 Allen Herschell creation with his own money and brought it to Shelby. The community, including inmates at a nearby private prison, joined the renovation effort, repainting the carousel animals, constructing a building and raising funds for maintenance. A rest area was established in front of the carousel facility.
One horse stands out in red, white and blue with a bald eagle in flight decorating the saddle. It is dedicated to the Wounded Warrior Project. “No Riders” is requested out of respect.
For travelers headed to or from Glacier National Park on US2 and those traveling to or from Canada on I-15 this makes a perfect stop to get out of the car, stretch the legs, have a snack or picnic lunch at the rest area, ride the carousel and enjoy an ice cream cone.
The ice cream is Wilcoxson’s, a Montana treasure for over a century. It is made in Livingston, MT using fresh local ingredients. We savored scoops of huckleberry and Caramel Sea Salt Truffle during our visit – very, very yummy.
When You Go: Carousel Rest Area of Shelby is located at 441 11th Avenue N, behind the Pizza Hut on US2. From I-15 use exit 363 and head east a few blocks. Check http://www.shelbycarousel.com for hours or call 406-424-8444.
On Day 4 we head beyond the US into Alberta, Canada.
Before leaving the Great Falls area we make a visit to First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, the site of a mile long sandstone cliff – perhaps the largest bison cliff jump in North America.
The final stop before crossing the border into Alberta was at the Shelby Rest Stop Carousel. We took a ride on the restored 1936 carousel and indulged in two dips of Wilcoxson’s ice cream – huckleberry and Caramel Sea Salt Truffle.
The Canadian Border Agent wanted to know how long we would be in the country. I told him we had reservations for 10 nights but it could be longer. He then asked if there was a date that we needed to be home. I answered no. He was not taking an indefinite date and wanted to know just how long we were going to stay. I finally said four weeks. That seemed to satisfy, he returned our passports and wished us a good day.
As we approach the entrance to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana a massive black Newfoundland dog stands and lumbers in our direction, drooling and tail wagging. A volunteer introduces Buddy, the 200-pound official greeter for the center.
We’re reminded that Seaman, a black Newfoundland belonging to Merriwether Lewis accompanied the Corps of Discovery expedition. Seaman was the only animal to complete the entire trip. Along a trail behind the Interpretive Center a bronze sculpture commemorates the dog’s feat.
Eight-year-old Buddy docilely stands in place allowing adoring children and adults to bury their hands deep in his silky coat to pet or scratch. As the visitors move on Buddy flops down to await the next arriving guests.
The bronze sculpture along Ft. Benton’s Missouri River shoreline salutes a sheep herding dog that has become Montana legend. In 1936 a sheepherder arrived at the Ft. Benton hospital accompanied by his faithful companion. The man died a few days later. His family living in the east requested that his body be shipped to them for burial. A dog followed the casket to the train station and watched as the body was placed on a train.
For five-and-a-half years the same dog met incoming trains watching for his master to arrive. No one knew the dog’s name so he soon became known as Shep to the Great Northern Railway employees who fed him and allowed him to make the station his home.
When Shep died he was buried on a hillside above the town. The local Boy Scout Troop served as honor guard and pallbearers with hundreds of Ft. Benton citizens attending the funeral. The railway erected a stone obelisk. A book, Shep Forever Faithful by Stewart H. Beveridge and Lee Nelson relates the story.
We start the day with a complimentary buffet breakfast in the hotel’s Union Grille. Under blue skies with scattered clouds we explore historic Ft. Benton, known as the birthplace of Montana. Visitors really should plan a couple of days to absorb all the town has to offer.
This was Blackfoot territory when Lewis and Clark worked their way up the Missouri River in 1804. A memorial stands in the riverside parkway as well as a replica of the exposition’s keelboat, Mandan. We don’t have time to visit Old Fort Benton and the museums chronicaling the area’s history and development.
On my to do list is the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument Interpertive Center. Is that a mouthful or not? The quiet riverside setting, architecture, displays, information and friendly staff makes this a hidden gem.
Leaving Ft. Benton the road leads to the top of the bluff. Pullouts give us the opportunity for photos of the winding river as it works its way towards Great Falls. Our 42-mile drive to Great Falls takes us through fertile agricultural country.
Additional goals for the day are visits to the Lewis and Clark National Interpretive Center and the C.M. Russell Museum, Home and Studio before dinner at The Celtic Cowboy – Great Falls version of an Irish pub and live music. Lodging for the night at the local Holiday Inn Express.
An hour after leaving Buffalo we cross the border into Montana – Big Montana, Broad Valleys, Wide Open Spaces, Quintessential American West, Big Montana Sky. That is how we see and describe the next two and a half days.
With many miles to drive before we sleep we plan a brief stop at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Caught up in a compeling presentation by a ranger/historian our visit turns into an hour plus but we leave with a better understanding of this landmark site.
We leave Interstate travel at Billings heading northwest on state and county roads. This is Montana so the speed limit only drops by a few mph. We note that the valleys here are ringed by mountains and always from horizon to horizon Big Montana Sky. Our destination, Ft. Benton, served as a major supply center for the Northwest and Alaska during the gold rush era. Situated on the banks of the Missouri River this was as far as the steamships could navigate so goods, settlers and fortune seekers passed through the region.
This evening the town has a sleepy quality. After-dinner strollers enjoy the paved riverside walkway while the broad main streets carry little traffic. We’ve made reservations at the Grand Union Hotel, Montana’s oldest operating hotel. An award-winning restoration means we sacrifice no 21st-century creature comfort in the 1882 edifice. Sad to say the hotel’s notable dining room is closed on Tuesday evening; The Banque Club across the street provides a dining option.
A park bench offers a ideal after-dinner spot to contemplate historic events and watch the wide Missouri roll eastward.
“To revitalize the American wool industry, preserve the West, and create American made high-quality products through eco-friendly operations and fair prices for Ranchers.” I love the mission of this family owned business in Buffalo, Wyoming.
My knitting friends and family members would love the multitude of yarns created on site. Fleece from quality Western growers is processed at the on-site mill producing 100% traceable natural wool products. Visitors can witness the many steps from sorting and cleaning through carding, dying and spinning on 45-minute mill tours offered daily during the summer.
We arrived late in the day after tours were completed but a helpful staff member offered to play a 5-minute video. The next time I’m passing through Buffalo I will definitely plan time for the tour, it all looks fascinating.
When You Go: Mountain Meadow Wool Mill is located at 22 Plains Drive, Buffalo, WY. For mill tours information and gift shop hours check mountainmeadowwool.com or call 307-684-5775.
From Centennial, Colorado to Buffalo, Wyoming – 445 miles from morning limited visibility to sun still high in the western sky at 8p.m.
Stops along the way:
Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center, I-25 exit 4
The Wyoming Rib & Chop House in Gillette, Wyoming
Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, Buffalo, Wyoming
Sightings of antelope with plenty of room to roam, brown cows, black cows and some really ugly spotted cows, horses, hawks, coal mines, long trains of empty coal cars headed north, trains of filled coal cars headed south, working oil fields, Crazy Woman Creek and miles of green, green grasses.