Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More Montana! Bozeman and Helena, St. Helena's Cathedral and Montana's Capitol Building

Now THIS is what a state Capitol Building is supposed to look like!  It belongs to Montana, and it is wonderful!  (North Dakota could take a lesson or two from Montana......) Check out that dome!  It is made of Montana copper.

 The capital of Montana is Helena (pronounced HEL' a na) where we will sleep at a Comfort Inn right downtown, tonight.

 P.S.  You may notice that I am having difficulty with capitAl vs. capitOl.  I even looked it up, and am sure that someone will inform me via email when they read this.  Capital is the city, capitol is the building.  Unfortunately, I keep forgetting until a day late.  If you are not a spelling champ, I know it doesn't bother you, but it bothers me, and I will try to be better at this.

We got off the interstate at Bozeman, just so we could drive through the city.  It really is a Western-looking place. Boots stores, hat stores, steak houses, and lots of trucks downtown. There is also a university, so there is lots of foot traffic in the city.

We got off the beaten track not too far out of Bozeman and got onto Rt. 287.  A man at the Montana Welcome Center gave us this advice. (If you never hear from us again, blame him.) Rt. 287 is a two and then three-lane highway that doesn't have much traffic. This made it easy to pull over and take picture of wheat fields and clouds.  It was a nice ride into the small town of Townsend, where we had a picnic lunch at their town park and then moved on.  I sometimes wonder if small towns and big cities know how much travelers like us appreciate their picnic tables and parks.  This was a nice one.

I was at the Capitol Building of Montana in Helena in 1959 with my family when I was twelve years old.  We were on an 8-week camping trip.  Today, the first thing that came to my mind was being here with my parents and my sister.  I know that my dad said, "Well, Kimmy, that's another state capitol that you have seen."  I had that memory standing out front, today. Randy took a picture of me  while I was thinking of my dad being there with me.   Nice memory. Great picture. (Thanks, Pop!)

We admired the garden in the front that says, in flowers no less, "Montana, 2013."  How do you plant flowers into words, I wondered.

Inside this capitol building is an amazing treasure: Driving The Golden Spike, a painting by Amedee Joullin, which is at the top of the grand staircase on the second floor, overlooking the rotunda.  I have seen pictures of this painting in every American History book I've ever used, so I was more than a little excited to see it. Rumor has it that the artist was not paid for his work, so he left some of the arms and hands off of the people in the painting. I said it is a rumor. I didn't count the body parts.

We walked all over the rotunda. I did not lie down in the center of the rotunda to shoot my photo of the dome today.  I managed to stand right on the marked spot and just shoot upwards.  Paintings of people representative of Montana's population are on the walls.

We saw the Senate Chamber and the Supreme Court of Montana courtroom. We were able to walk all over the main hallways and look into these rooms.  It is one beautiful building! The people in the photo below are actually statues of a former governor and his wife.

We are not Catholic, by the way, but we do enjoy a good Catholic Cathedral or Basilica, as you know.  We followed the steeples across the city to St. Helena's Cathedral.  The building is Victorian Gothic style. The spires are 230 feet tall, and the sanctuary is amazingly beautiful. Pictures will say more than I ever could.

An area of downtown Helena is called The Last Chance Gulch. It is where miners searched for gold during the gold rush era Now it is a lovely area with shops, restaurants and art galleries.  We parked in a lot so we could explore the fun area of the city.
A great statue in the Last Chance Gulch area is called "The Bullwhacker." It shows a cowboy with a whip that he cracks in the air. In the gold rush days, wagons took supplies to the traders. The noise of the cracking whip made the oxen pulling a freight wagon go faster, as the oxen would respond to the noise.
We also drove by the former mansion of the governor. We actually liked a house across the street from the mansion more than the mansion, and we ended up having a lively conversation with the owner, who told us that it has been passed down for seven generations of the same family.  We think it looks like a happy house. I'm sharing it with you!

We cooked our own dinner tonight in the microwave in our motel room.  An Albertson's grocery store is across the street, so we walked there to see what we could possibly prepare by ourselves. It wasn't the best meal we've had, but it wasn't the worst one, either.

I've been reading a series of novels by Ivan Doig,  Montana's State Author. (Did you even know there was such a title?) My favorite, so far, is The Whistling Season. This writer's sense of humor and his ability to bring his characters to life is as big as the state of Montana, in my opinion.

We took our time today.  It's a good thing we don't have any reservations, because we'd never get to wherever they were on the day folks expected us.

  We're stopping to smell the flowers.

Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013