First, things fall apart

We had a great plan to camp in Glacier National Park. So what happened? We looked at the weather report a week or so before our arrival date, and it didn’t look good: lots of rain and cold weather.   Don’t panic yet, we told ourselves. It’s just a prediction. But every day we rechecked and the forecast continued to worsen. Not only would there be rain and cold but, now, add on very strong winds and possibly hail. What terrible weather to be outdoors in a little tent! We panicked. What should we do now?

Where could we drive to escape the severe weather? We plotted out weather patterns. Staying where we were wouldn’t do it. We eliminated driving north as we’d have to drive too far to escape the rain. We finally discovered a good forecast, if we drove east to the prairies: Great Falls, Montana.

We found a motel online and reserved a room for three nights. Oh, we would miss camping in scenic Glacier, but a hotel room in Great Falls sounded far better than high winds, cold, and hail.

We had dinner with Montana friends, and, when they discovered that we planned to go to Great Falls for three days, they shook their heads. “Great Falls? What will you do?” they asked. That worried us….

The next day we arrived in sunny Great Falls and drove to the hotel. Construction equipment surrounded the hotel and filled the parking lot. We had not escaped bad weather to now pay to stay at a construction site. We quickly found another hotel and cancelled the hotel under construction.

OK, Great Falls, let’s see if you can keep us happily occupied for three days.

On an after dinner stroll through downtown, we saw the statue of “Kid Russell with Monte” by Buckeye Blake. Charles Marion Russell was a cowboy artist who lived in Great Falls and painted wonderful scenes of the Old West.

Further down the street the pharmacy was wrapped with colored lights.

We continued walking and ended up passing the O’Haire Motor Inn, home of the famous Sip ‘n Dip Lounge. It was 8pm, the perfect time and perfect night to see why it was so highly recommended.

The Sip ‘n Dip is a tiki bar featuring “Piano Pat” Sponheim, an 80+ year old lounge singer. She’s been singing at the Sip ‘n Dip for the last 54 years. “Piano Pat” was very good, but we found our attention split between Pat and…

…the two mermaids swimming behind the bar.

In Montana, what are the odds of visiting a tiki bar with an 80+ year old singer and mermaids?

Since the weather in Great Falls was fine, we spent most of our time outdoors.

Our encounter with this park grizzly was perfectly tame.

On a walk near some of the waterfalls in the Missouri River, we came across a bird that looked familiar. We had to look it up to discover that it’s a juvenile American Robin. We’d never seen a juvenile before.

At that same park we met three birdwatchers from Bozeman, Montana. They were in town for the annual Audubon bird gathering and encouraged us to join in. We did. At 5am the next morning, we joined our group for breakfast and carpooled out to state parks where we happily watched birds with the group. That morning we saw three birds new to us!

Meanwhile, the weather report for an area not far from where we would have camped reported hail and winds strong enough to blow a few semi-trailer trucks off the road. Things fell apart for our camping trip, but we have to admit that our three day visit to Great Falls made up for it!


June 2017

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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7 Responses to First, things fall apart

  1. What a fun post. Leave it to you guys to make a success of any stop along the way. I’m sure Great Falls simply returned the good vibes you sent out!

  2. Our friend Ken sent us this priceless comment via email: I had to smile when I read your Blog about going to Great Falls. When I was sales manager for the Northwest U.S. I passed through Great Falls about once every 60-90 days. This was about 40 years ago. I always stayed at the O’Hare Manor and frequented the Sip’n Dip. It was always fun to watch some of the visitors staying at the hotel who did not know the pool had a glass side exposing everything that happened in the pool to the view of the bar-goers. I saw everything from a kid pee-ing in the pool to a couple “making whoopee” under water, and not knowing all the bar patrons were cheering them on!! Then there was the night when a cowboy came in and saw his wife flirting with the guy on the next bar stool from me. The cowboy immediately came over and jerked the guy off his stool, and they proceeded to beat the crap out of each other right there in the bar. That’s the Montana way!! Always something exciting happened at the O’Hare Manor. That’s why I always stayed there when in Great Falls. But I did refrain from sitting next to any woman in that bar!!

  3. leggypeggy says:

    Very nice Plan B.

  4. sallywalters says:

    What a wonderful story and great photos! And with a literary nod to William Butler Yeats and Chinua Achebe…marvelous🤗

  5. Linda Busby says:

    Another in your continuous quest for finding the best in your travels! With love and admiration,
    Cousins Linda and Mark, newly returned from the Italian Riviera and Chianti.

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