Montana musings 8/31/16

Did you ever hear of Wing Ding?  Or Honda Gold Wings?  Well, there are 10,000 people zooming into Billings this week who are members of the GWRRA (the Gold Wing Road Riding Association) who know the answers to my questions.  They are in the hotel…and their “Wind Ding 38” starts tomorrow (8/31) at the convention center. (they are featured on the road photo behind the title of today’s post).

The Honda Gold Wing is a motorcycle, produced since the 1980’s.  We have seen license plates from Alabama and California in our lot here at the Best Western.  They are quiet machines and usually carry two members….many have trailers or are 3-wheel versions of the Gold Wing.  It was not polite to take photos of the drivers and passengers, but many are all shaped like pears.  Some outfits are atrocious, too.  Sorry; just sayin’.

And, the Montana food’s another thing.  Here are two photogenic meals of a meat-eaters paradise.  Mr. Boyd had both.  Prime Rib on the left and Roast Beef sandwich…classics.

Back to the trip…today had not much planned – lunch in Bozeman and arrive in Helena for check-in (at another Best Western) and dinner.  We added two stops on the fly – the Headwaters of the Missouri Stare Park and the Grizzly Bear Encounter.

Patricia’s friends from FL (Rod and Sue) own a ranch out here near Billings and recommended that we stop at this park.  Here’s the group at the confluence of the Jefferson and Madison Rivers (the Gallatin River joins them less than a mile away)…together they form the Missouri River.  Lewis & Clark followed this path on their trek.  We pose at the joining of the rivers.

The view here is serene…the northern plains seem to be that way…especially along the rivers.

Here are some maps and some quotes from the explorers.


The Grizzly Bear Encounter was both sad and fascinating, since the bears – all Grizzlies – have been saved from horrible “homes” with humans.  They now play in a natural habitat and are domesticated to some degree.  We watched two bears play in separate ponds for a while (it was 92 degrees) and then cavort with each other.  Their playing has lots of biting about it.  A bit frightening as we are stopping in Great Falls to buy some Bear Spray in case we have an encounter in Glacier National Park or at Joe & Linda Franchini’s up near the Canadian Border over Labor Day.

Our car is a Kia Sedona….and it has been a fine conveyance for our group.  As in a classroom setting, we all have found our favorite spots and have not deviated since Day Two.  Craig is a fabulous driver, I have assumed the shotgun seat and have the GPS voice set on a male Australian (which I will change today…maybe to a girl).  Butch, Louise and Nancy have the bench seat and Patricia has set up a “nest” where she draws and paints and kibitzes, while surrounded by someone’s luggage, too.

It’s like having a covered wagon for our little band of pioneers.  Just fine…and Craig scoured the internet to find a special deal; $1,200 for the week and drop off in Kalispell.  Remember, we picked it up in Rapid City, South Dakota…not necessarily the home of rental cars.

Lunch in Bozeman (would you believe it) is at Ted’s Montana Grill.  It was not the first one (that was in Columbus, Ohio…real cattle country, eh?)  But, it’s in the old, historic Baxter Hotel in a very well-preserved downtown. (I just figured out I could do a slideshow).

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My great-grandfather was a saddle-maker for the John Wanamaker department store in Philadelphia, early in the 1900’s.  So, when we walked by a saddle and harness shop in downtown Bozeman, I had to have Nancy take my photo for the family archives.  (Now, if we could only get the story right about why he left PA to go to Iowa to be apprenticed to a German harness-maker…was it really the Orphan Train?).

We did another bite of the trip and hopped off the interstate (US 90) to take the scenic road (MT 287) north to Helena, the state capital.  Quite a display of grandeur and beauty of the Northern Plains again…this place is “vast”.  Interesting that the hay has not been taken off the fields here as in all of our other stops (CO, SD, WY and the eastern part of MT).  I love the sights of the hayfield and especially the huge irrigation systems they use here.

First the sights of the irrigation.

Then the hay fields and bales as Plains art.

Then the final product, on its way to be used by the wintering livestock.

We are in Helena now and had a phenomenal dinner last night in the eerily un-busy downtown.  The place is Lucca’s on N. Last Chance Gulch.  Great Italian food, half-priced 1st bottle of fine wine and Nicki, the server, was terrific.  Quiet place, too, which is a to-be-desired attribute for us oldies.

Heading to Great Falls, MT today (Thursday, as I’m filing this report in the AM).  We will spend two days in the same hotel – The Arvon – which will seem like a vacation from our travels.  Maybe they will do some of our laundry.  This is the place with the heralded Lewis & Clark Museum and  a place full of Charley Russell sculpture and painting…he’s the most famous artist in these parts.  We go to Fort Benton – a famous fort from the olden days – for dinner the 2nd night…it’s close by to Great Falls.










Lifelong Philadelphia area Realtor. Now a 13-year citizen of Sanibel, Florida. Married to Nancy for 54 years. Three children (2 in Devon; 1 in Steamboat Springs, CO) and 5 grandkids (1 in college/1 working). We are helping with charities involving poverty, kids and education. Helping to lead Captiva's Chapel by the Sea.


  • More beautiful photos. I think I like the hay fields the best. Remember if you pass a hay wagon do not look back. BAd luck


    • We’re hoping that we don’t get any closer to those bears this trip, but you never know what hikes we will experience when we get into the Rockies at Glacier National Park. Still pretty civilized here in Great Falls although the weather is about to get into that “high of 55” area tomorrow. We are watching Hermine and keeping our fingers crossed about your marina and our beach on the bay.


  • Ah Bozeman!

    Fresh out of the Navy, I spent the summer of 1972 working construction at Big Sky, about an hour south along the Gallatin River. Bozeman was our go-to weekend destination for a truck stop shower and a restaurant steak. It was mostly a cow town then.

    Blair and I tried to get back there in May 2014 when visiting Yellowstone. Unfortunately a late season snowstorm forced us back south. But it’s still on our list.

    Thanks for the update…


    • Thanks, Dennis. Glad you have fond memories. It’s a great little town with a nicely restored downtown. Couldn’t believe the gang selected Ted’s Montana Grill, since the lunch was our only reason for stopping…we were on our way to Helena for the next hotel. Still lots of cowboy-type shops and people walking the streets.



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