Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Montana! Pompey's Pillar, the Big Sky Country, and Livingston

I am in love with Montana.  It's like being set free, somehow.  There just are no boundaries to where the eye can see...........it goes on and on and on.  When people refer to Montana as "Big Sky Country," they are so right!

We left Miles City after I lost one dollar in a really cheesy casino.  I didn't have a clue about what I was doing, and it was evident.  Why I could only bet 9 cents at a time totally puzzled me. I sneaked out of the dark and ugly place when no one was looking.  It was 9 AM.  Who goes to a casino at 9 AM, anyway?

We stopped at a grocery store that sells Chester's Chicken, which you know is a traveling addiction of ours, and I was tickled to see some odd items in the store. There are many hunters in Montana, and I don't see this stuff at my stores back home.

We also found out that the state of Montana has no sales tax.  When you buy something, the price is the price! Amazing.

This was a driving day.  We went from Miles City to Livingston, which is roughly mid-state.  We were told that to drive across the state of Montana is the same distance as from New York City to Chicago............and we believe it.  The scenery has changed several times today. The colors have been gold, then green, and the mountains appeared as light blue shadows on the horizon, which then became dark blue. Then we could see the trees on the mountains.......and when it became so beautiful that all I could do was emote, we decided to stop in Livingston so we could enjoy spending the evening and night in this gorgeous place.

There was one sightseeing stop along the way. 28 miles east of Billings is a large sandstone formation the juts out of the ground.  It was named Pompey's Pillar by William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  "Pomp" was the nickname that he gave to the little son of Sacajawea, the young Indian woman who guided them on their trip.  I am going to repost the photo of the statue of Sacajawea and her baby that is on the grounds of the North Dakota capital, so you can see him.  Pomp was also the son of Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader to whom Sacajawea was sold at the age of 14. The baby accompanied the Expedition.

What is so special about Pompey's Pillar is, in my opinion, that it is a celebrated early form of graffiti. That's not what they call it, but technically, that's what it is. My sister used to say, "Peoples' names, like monkeys' faces, always shine in public places," when she would see that people couldn't resist writing their names or initials on trees, benches or bathroom walls.
Apparently this is an old 'art form', as William Clark, famous expedition leader, wrote his name on this enormous sandstone rock formation.  We climbed a wooden staircase to see the name etched in the stone. It is protected by a framed covering, so it will not erode. 

We also climbed another 200-some steps up to the top of the "pillar,"another name for this formation, to see the view of the Yellowstone River below.  The wind was blowing very strongly up there, and the tree leaves by the river were rustling.  It was an amazing place to be on a sunny, windy afternoon.

A small museum is at Pompey's Pillar, and I tried on a deerskin dress just to see how it would feel to carry that around.  It was heavy and hot, but quite soft.

 In the gift shop I was delighted to see a book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition by James Ronda, a former neighbor of mine.  He and his wife and daughter lived across the street from me when I lived in Boardman, Ohio. James was a professor at Youngstown State University back then.  During the time we were neighbors, he took off, one summer, to follow the trail of Lewis and Clark, and was gone doing his research for many weeks.  He came home and wrote this book, for which he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  I last saw him at the book signing in 1984 when it was published.

We continued driving the rest of the afternoon, listening to our audio book. (It has 16 discs.........and we're still liking it.) We drove by exit ramps leading to the site of The Battle of the Little Bighorn, reminding each other of how much fun we had there several years ago.

We are in a Comfort Inn in Livingston, which is a medium-sized town nestled in the mountains over which lies Yellowstone National Park. We are two miles from the park entrance, but that's not our "plan" this time, as we were there in 2007. Instead, tomorrow we will head north.

Livingston is a lovely town with a western flair to it.  There is an old theatre, some vintage saloons, many eating places, a steakhouse that people come great distances for dinner, and a Native American store that I need to visit in the morning. The people we've met have been friendly and welcoming.

Dinner tonight was at 2nd Street Bistro, which attracted us because of shiny lights on the al fresco dining area.  We were given the "chef's table," a coveted place to sit, as we could watch the chef and the cooks preparing food in the kitchen. There is only this one table where like this, and it was really fun to see them working systematically and in an organized way. We were impressed.  Randy had a huge bowl of mussels in garlic and butter, served with a heaping portion of French fries. I thoroughly enjoyed a beet and goat cheese salad with champagne vinaigrette and fresh salad greens.  First we watched the chef prepare all of this, and then they watched us as we ate it! 

The 2nd Street Bistro says it serves "S.O.L.E. Food," which means Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical.  We'd go back in a heartbeat.  www.secondstreetbistro.com

My dad used to sing "When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day," as he drove.  This was nearly a perfect day.  We're certainly in a perfect location tonight.


Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013