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 shops, 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 treasure. Yes, I found a nice piece of jewelry.
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 traveled to 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 effort of renovation, repainting the carousel animals, constructing a buildings 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 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 to or from Canada on I-15 this can be a perfect stop to get out of the car, stretch the legs, a snack or picnic lunch, 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 to check 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.
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 sacrificeThis 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 an ideal spot to relax and comtemplate historic events while watching the Missouri roll eastward.
I love the mission of this family owned business in Buffalo, Wyoming. “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.”
My knitting friends and family members would love the multitude of yarns created on site. Fleece from quality Western growers is processed in 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.