Montana Road Trip Journal-Day 2

June 16, 2005: Today would be another long day as we needed to get all the way to Great Falls.  We left our St. Cloud Hotel very early (abt. 7:30 AM), gassed up, refilled the ice chest with ice and drinks and headed further west.  Our first stop for the day was the last town in Minnesota we would stop at.  We stopped in Rothsay on our quest to see the "giants" throughout the day.  Rothsay is known as Minnesota's Prairie Chicken Capital.  The first "giant" we saw was the Giant Prairie Chicken.  It is a 14 foot, 9200 pound cement replica of a displaying male prairie chicken.  It was designed and constructed by a Rothsay resident and was established in 1976.  Here it is in all its glory:

  

The Prairie Chicken is a native animal in this area and served as food to Norwegian settlers in the 1860s.

This "day of giants" continued for us as we headed into North Dakota.  Our first stop was in Fargo, where we needed a rest area, some gas and some tourist information.  We stopped at the Fargo Visitors Center and were treated royally by the Peg and Brian in the photo below.  They provided us with the information on the North Dakota giants that are seen further below.  Practically next door to the Visitors Center is another of the three Space Aliens Grills.  This one was much more colorful (at least during the day it is...).

  

Peg and Brian of the Fargo Visitors Center personnel are great!!            Space Aliens Grill and Bar, Fargo edition

  

More of the Fargo Space Aliens Grill and Bar...too bad they didn't have breakfast!!

After all of the errands were out of the way in Fargo, we were back on the road.  It was already 11:40 and we needed to keep pressing onward to see more giants.

Our next stop was in Casselton, ND, at Exit 331 on I-94.  Cassleton is just a small town off of the freeway with nothing of note but a pile of cans.  As found at the website which is here, the can pile was built in 1933 by a man named Max G. Taubert, the owner/operator of a Sinclair gas station and small lunch counter located at the intersection of Highway 10 and Highway 18.  It is here where Max began stacking empty oil cans into a cone shape - probably for lack of a better place to discard them and, after a while, probably because of the notoriety the "Can Pile" started to attract.  So much notoriety, in fact, that the gas station itself came to be known as the "Can Pile", although its original name was the "Brick House".

Sources provide conflicting information concerning the actual height and width of the famed "Casselton Can Pile", ranging between 50 feet to 25 feet in height and between 18 feet to 15 feet in width.  Still, it is rumored to be the "World's Largest Tower of Oil Cans", although it may be the only tower of oil cans in existence.  It is anybody's guess as to the number of cans that make up this colossal tower, but it must be in the thousands.  It is now owned by Loegering Manufacturing which displays it proudly in its parking lot in Casselton, North Dakota.

Here are a couple of photos of this "giant" pile of cans:

  

On the left, Marissa is trying to push the pile of cans.  View from the base looking up.

After the cans, we then departed again to find our next giant.  We would see this about 8o miles west in the town of Jamestown, ND.  Jamestown is home to the Frontier Town and Buffalo Museum and is home to the World's Largest Buffalo. To get there, we took exit 258 and followed the signs to Frontier Town.  Frontier Town is not much.  It is a reconstructed old pioneer town.  There are a couple of shops, an old post office and some other places.  Bit the real attraction is the Giant Buffalo.  Originally built in 1959, the buffalo stands 26 feet tall and is 46 feet long. It weighs 60 tons.  Be careful not to stand under the beard of the buffalo as I found that it drools.  Been standing there a long time I suppose.

  

This is the giant buffalo.  I am on the right getting drooled on by the buffalo.

  

        Seth and Solomon peruse the Frontier Town.       What would a trip be without the Sinclair Dinosaur??

After stopping for gas at Sinclair, we were on the way to the next giant, which could be found in Steele, ND at exit 200. This is home of the World's Largest Sandhill Crane.  From the freeway, turn south to the Lone Steer Motel.  You can see this bird behemoth from there quite easily.  This sheet metal crane stands 38.5 feet tall and weighs 4.5 tons.

  

The Sandhill Crane as seen from the roadway.  On the right I stand at the feet of this giant crane.

The tour of giants continued to perhaps the most monstrous of them all, the humongous Salem Sue, the World's Largest (by far) Holstein Cow.  To get here we continued west to New Salem, ND, at exit 127.    But, we could see the cow, initially as a dot on the hill, from nearly seven miles away.  I suppose that the hill in New Salem, being the only promontory of any significance for miles, was helpful in spotting the cow.  From five miles away we could actually see the shape of the cow.

The area takes great pride in this statue, which was erected in 1974 by the New Salem Lion's Club and built by the Sculpture Mfg. Company of LaCrosse, WI (which by the way is the home of the World's Largest Six Pack).  Salem Sue is 38 feet high and 50 feet long, which is 12 feet taller than the giant buffalo and 2 feet longer.  According to a brochure from New Salem, the primary purpose of Salem Sue is "to honor and advertise the dairymen of our area, their superior herds and the production of high quality milk."  They even have a ballad called "Ballad of the Holstein", their Mooo-d Music.  Personally, I think it is udderly cheesy.

Due to the grand nature of this giant, I have included a few photos rather than the token one or two of other giants.

  

On the left, Salem Sue from 3 miles away.  On the right, this is the sign to the road that leads to the top of the hill.

  

We will udderly milk this one for all its worth!!!

I had hoped to continue our tour of the giants with a drive through the Enchanted Highway, at Exit 72, but our schedule was getting really tight, so we had to go on.  But, here is a link to the site about it: Enchanted Highway.  There are "giants" every 3 miles on this drive and it really looks fun.  It is most certainly on my to do list for the next trip.    Another place I had hoped to get to was the Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson, ND.  Unfortunately, time would not permit it.

Before our journey in Montana, we did have one "authentic" site to visit and that was Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of those few National Parks that I had never heard of.  I did make it a goal to visit all of the National Parks and Monuments along the way as time would allow us.  This park was created in April 1947 under the Truman Administration.  The park is comprised of many badlands formations and was a very beautiful site to visit.  I am glad that we were able to see this park.  There are a couple of entrances to the park, but, due to our limited time, we took the Painted Canyon Visitors Center entrance at exit 32.  We arrived there at about 5:30 PM.  We took a short drive to view some of the scenery, which is pictured below:

  

  

Various shots of Theodore Roosevelt National Park's Painted Canyon

One of the other fun things that kind of slowed us down, but gave Solomon and Marissa a chance to stretch, was the Prairie Dog town in the park.  This would be one of many that we would see throughout the trip.  Here are a couple of photos of the dogs that Solomon took in his chase to get close to them:

  

Prairie Dogs Everywhere!!

Well, our day was quickly coming to a close.  We had to press on.  By the time we left the National Park it was already 4:00 PM.  Of course, we were now in Mountain Standard Time so we would gain an hour of travel time.  We headed to Glendive, Montana where we took exit 211 and then headed northwest on Highway 200 towards Circle, Montana.  From here the towns would be far and few between.  When we got to Circle we needed to stop for gas and a restroom.  We were also getting hungry, but there was only one place in town to eat and the kids were not too enthused.  So, we pressed on west, finally arriving in Jordan, yet another small "blink and you miss it" town.  Its estimated population in 2003 was 353 people.  We did find a small cafe there that looked appealing.  We were all ravenous.  It was already 7 PM by the time we got there.  We had not stopped for a meal all day!!  So, we all got something to eat, some good country cooking.  We even got some home made pie.  It was actually a good place to stop.  Of course, since it is the only place to eat there, I didn't spend much effort trying to remember its name.

After dinner we had to press on.  We headed towards Lewistown, MT which was in the foothills.  This was actually quite a fantastic drive as the expanse of the horizon was before us.  We could see a storm brewing and before long we could see lightning in the sky.  As we proceeded westward the storm got more intense.  We could see lightning bolts hitting all the way across the horizon.  It actually was scary to Marissa, but I thought it was an amazing sight.  The lightning got more and more frequent and we even saw bolts that seemed to curly-cue out of the sky.  It was as good a natural display of fireworks as I have ever seen.  Before long we were in the midst of it.  Lightning was hitting around us and the wind was blowing and the van was being pelted by rain.  It didn't help that I was absolutely zonked.  I had driven the entire trip from Kentucky thus far and it was all I could do to stay awake. 

We eventually got out of the storm and arrived in Lewistown.  I finally gave in and asked Seth to take over the driving.  By this time it was midnight Montana time.  We were all getting tired and really wanted to get to Great Falls which was still about an hour away.  Montana is a big state!!

We finally arrived in Great Falls around 11 PM and what a relief it was.  We were to stay at the Alfrey's home there.  They had been taking care of Amaree for quite a while and were truly gracious hosts.  It was nice to be there and know that we could sleep in and not have to drive for a day.  Tomorrow we would prepare for Amaree and Aaron's reception.

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