Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Montana - Capitol and Museum

We have decided that our travels as we head east will be about touring capitols. With Utah and Idaho done we next headed to Helena. That was over 550 miles so it took a couple of days. We spent the first night at the Elks in Idaho Falls, a great deal at $10.00 for a water and electric site.
From Idaho Falls we stayed off the interstate and took the two lane roads into Montana. That route took us on the back side of the Tetons. Beautiful mountains and lots of farm land.
This is the back side of Earthquake Lake that was formed in 1959 when an earthquake caused 80 million tons of rock to block the Madison River. The slide killed 28 campers and dammed the river creating the lake. The brown is the rock slide with the snow capped mountains of Yellowstone in the background.  
Look! A herd of Montana wild horses. Well, not really, it is a herd of artwork.:-)
The center part of the Montana capitol was built between 1899 and 1902 in the American Renaissance neoclassic style. Two new wings were added between 1909 and 1912. The original part was built with sandstone and the additions with granite so they are different colors. 
The capitol has the dome that is typical of this style. 
The skylight and the window in the main staircase are beautiful stained glass. As was done in other capitols, at one point the skylight was painted over. The painting above is Driving of the Golden Spike. It shows the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad, the second transcontinental railroad, in Gold Creek, Montana.
The statue on the left is Wilbur Fisk Sanders, a lawyer and Montana's first U.S. Senator in 1889. Center is Mike Mansfield who was the longest serving U.S. Senate Majority Leader, 1961 to 1977 and the the longest serving U.S. Ambassador to Japan, 1977 to 1988. He is with his wife Maureen because he would not agree to the statue unless she was included. Right is Jeannette Rankin who represented Montana in the House of Representatives for two terms, one from 1917 to 1919 and the other from 1941 to 1943. She was a pacifist and joined fifty other members in voting against the U.S. entering WWI and was the only member of Congress to vote against our entry into WWII.  
One unique feature of the building, unlike other capitols built with two symmetric wings, one for each house of the legislature, Montana's has both houses in one wing and the executive branch in the other. The fifty members of the House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms. Something else unique about Montana is the legislature only meets for ninety days every other year so the members are up for reelection after each session. This chamber is undergoing renovation so it was not open. 
The painting in the house chamber is Charles M. Russell's Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross Hole. It shows an event that happened on September 4, 1805. Interestingly the Indians, whose land it was, are given center stage in the painting while Lewis and Clark are small figures on the far right. The mural is so large that Russell had to raise the roof of his studio to paint it and it is the largest mural he ever painted.
This room was the original Senate chamber until the new wings were added in 1912. It then served as the Supreme Court until 1983. It is now a committee room. The columns here are hollow so they could run wiring through them. They are painted in the scagliola style used in many buildings to look like marble.
There is a lot of interesting art in the building about Montana history. When the capitol was built they hired interior decorators rather than an artist so some of the works are less then historically accurate. Top are Custer's Last Battle and The Louisiana Purchase which shows Jefferson and Napoleon together signing the agreement. That did not happen. Center is Lewis and Clark at Three Forks. Bottom left are The Chase of the Buffalo and Farewell to the Buffalo. Notice the train in the background in Farewell. Bottom right are Gates of the Mountains and Emigrant Train Being Attacked by the Indians.
This room that was originally the House chamber has been the Senate chamber since 1912. Montana has 50 senators that are elected to four-year terms. The chandelier is original. Behind the rostrum is a bronze relief We Proceed On which commemorates the bicentennial of  Lewis and Clark's passing through Montana.   
On the grounds of the capitol is a statue of Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish Revolutionary and Union Army Officer who twice served as acting territorial governor of Montana.
View of Helena and the capitol.
Across from the capitol the Montana Historical Society has a museum that traces the history of the state from the time of the Native Americans through the early European settlers. The importance of the buffalo is pointed out as you come to the building with this large buffalo skull.
Many of the exhibits show the way the Native Americans killed and used the buffalo. In the early times they did not have horses, making the hunt very dangerous.
The safest way to kill the buffalo was to run them over a cliff to injure them and then kill them. 
Big Medicine was born on the National Buffalo Range in 1933. Many of the natives considered a white buffalo to have supernatural powers that would pass to the family of the man who killed it. Big Medicine was not a true albino because he had blue eyes and tan hoofs. He was given special care and lived until 1959, much longer than normal.
The bands that obtained horses from early Europeans became more powerful as it was easier for them to hunt, move their camps and the horses also gave them a real advantage in battles. The Blackfoot were one of the first to acquire horses. 
Native headdress and beaded clothing.
Another section has an extensive display about Lewis and Clark and there Corps of Discovery. They passed through Montana in 1805 heading west and on their return in 1806. Some of the corps used different routes on the return so they explored a great deal of the state.
A typical settler's home in the early 1900's. There are also displays on farming, mining and the railroads and the roles they played in the economy of the state.
The parlor of an upper class city family. 
The museum has an great collection of the works of Charles M. Russell. We have always liked his work and toured his home and studio in Great Falls in 2012. Here is a link to our post about that visit.
Here are some of our favorite Russell works. You sure realize the big role the buffalo played in the history of the state when you visit here.
I loved this diorama. The stage and horse are a sculpture with the mountains painted in the background.
The detail of his work is fantastic.
Much of his work shows his sense of humor. He would often draw pictures when he wrote letters to his friends.
Another day we drove to the Gates of the Mountains that is in one of the pictures above. Unfortunately, you can't see them unless you go in a boat and it was not yet open for the season.

We had a great stay in Helena and, as usual, we learned a lot of Montana history. We also checked out a couple local breweries and were not disappointed. If you are passing nearby, Helena is worth a few days of your time. 

As usual, we are a little behind with the blog and are now in Bismarck, North Dakota over Memorial Day weekend. Our travel plan is still not settled other than we will been in North Carolina in the middle of July. We hope to add a couple more capitols along the way and meet up with some friends. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Visit to the Idaho Capitol

We left Joe and Kathy's and headed to Boise to tour the capitol. We opted for the more direct, but two lane route that saved 60 miles. It took longer but there was almost no traffic. We stayed at the Garrity RV Park in Nampa, a park that we stayed at before. The park has had some bad reviews lately because there are so many permanent workers. We found the place to be fine, but they only have a few sites available for short term visitors. 
Several miles of the trip was through a narrow canyon beyond the Wild Horse Recreation Area along the Owyhee River. It was beautiful and I was real glad there were very few oncoming vehicles.
At the end of the canyon we entered Duck Valley. This is open range and there were many signs warning that cattle may be on the road. These cows had just crossed the road. As you can see we also encountered a massive number of bugs.
Idaho is the 25th state capitol building we have visited. This one is built in the same neoclassic style of so many capitols. Construction started in 1905 when the dome and middle section were built. In 1919 the second phase added the east and west legislative wings. Most recently, in 2007, underground atrium wings added hearing rooms.
Like all domed capitols we have visited there is really two domes, one outside constructed of steel and concrete and roofed with terracotta tiles and another inside. The interior dome is built with wood and plastered. The painting in the center has thirteen large stars for the original states and 43 small stars celebrating Idaho as the 43rd state. 
The Governor's ceremonial office. The desk has been used by every governor since 1919. There are two pictures of conservative icon Ronald Reagan.
I liked this. The current governor is Butch Otter.
Portraits of all Idaho governors. This is much simpler than many other states that have huge painted portraits of each governor.
This little public lounge had a video of state landmarks and framed maps of each county.
This room was the Supreme Court chamber until 1970. It is now the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Room. Here both houses of the legislature work together to study and recommend how budget money will be allocated.
The House of Representatives chamber where the blue scheme is similar to the U.S. capitol. Idaho is divided into 35 legislative districts with two House members from each elected to two-year terms. 
The Senate chamber where the red scheme is also similar to the U.S. capitol. There is one senator elected from each of the 35 districts who also serve two-year terms. Both House and Senate members are elected at the same time. The legislature meets once a year from January to March.  At present, both houses have large Republican majorities.
When the recent atrium expansion of the capitol was done some historically significant trees that had been planted by Presidents Harrison, T. Roosevelt and Taft had to be removed. These are items that were made from the wood of those trees, thus preserving the history.
This statue is a replica of Winged Victory of Samothrace. The original was done around 400-300 BC. It was given to Idaho by the French as part of the Merci Train, sent to each state in 1949 by the people of France as a thank you for all the help we gave them after WWII. We have seen the original Winged Victory in the Louvre.
The statue of George Washington was carved from a single piece of pine by Austrian immigrant Charles Ostner in 1869. It was originally covered in bronze and displayed on the capitol grounds until 1934. It has been restored and covered with gold leaf and on display inside the capitol.

The floors throughout the capitol are made of four different marbles. The gray is from Alaska, the red from Georgia, the green from Vermont and the black from Italy. On the floor under the dome they use all four together. 
While the columns look like solid marble they are really made of a mixture of gypsum, glue, marble dust and granite dyed to look like marble. The process of making columns like this is called scagliola and was developed in Italy in the sixteenth century. They are much cheaper and lighter than real marble.
The Great Seal of Idaho which was adopted in 1891 was designed by Emma Edwards Green. It has a miner to represent the state's chief industry and a woman holding scales to represent justice, freedom and equality.
On the grounds is a statue of Governor Frank Steunenberg who served from 1897 to 1900. He was assassinated in 1905.
The statue of Lincoln has been at a couple different locations in Boise over the years. It was moved to this spot in front of the capitol on February 12, 2009. Lincoln signed the law making Idaho a territory in 1863.
The Idaho capitol offers an interesting look at the history of the state. Like many others we have toured they have restored it to its original appearance. The tour is self guided when the legislature is not in session.

We are moving quickly (for us) and have been to Helena and White Sulphur Springs in Montana. We are now in North Dakota and will be heading to Bismarck to tour the capitol over the holiday weekend.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Elko, NV With Friends

When we were in SLC we knew that Joe and Kathy lived only a couple hundred miles away near Elko, Nevada. When we called them we were happy to learn that they were home from Florida so we headed west to Elko for a visit. That drive took us across the Great Salt Desert, a place we have never been.
No, that is not snow, it is a mountain of salt. There are several of these along the route where they collect water from the the Great Salt Lake in large drying ponds, then harvest the salt that is left when the water evaporates.
Metaphor: The Tree of Utah.  Built on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the 1980's by Swedish artist Karl Momen. The sculpture is in sharp contrast to the harsh landscape of the area. 
The famous Bonneville Salt Flats still has water on it from the winter snow melt. The flats are famous for the measured mile where the world land speed records were set. The current record of 763 mph is the first to break the sound barrier and was set here in 1997. 
We knew Joe and Kathy lived "outside" of Elko, so they met us in town and we followed them. They live near the town of Lamoille at the end of the paved road in the foothill of the Ruby Mountains. Only the last two miles were dirt roads. :-)   
They have a beautiful log home that they built themselves. Most of it is done, but it is still a work in progress. They lived here in their RV while building so we had a full hook up site.  Very nice!
We got to spend a lot of time with Joe and Kathy getting caught up with what has been happening since we cruised together to Central America last year. Here is the link to the blog post about that trip.
Joe and Kathy were tour guides, showing us around the area. Their home is near Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway. The byway through the glacier canyon travels 12 miles into the canyon, but we only made it half way before we found the road blocked by snow. 
We came around a turn and were surprised by a few big horn sheep in the middle of the road. They were still very shaggy in their winter coats.
There were several great waterfalls from the snow melt. If you are in the area the drive through Lamoille Canyon is well worth it.
While riding around we came across something we have never seen were we come from. The ranchers were working with the new calves. There were over 100 that had been separated from their moms and were all mooing mournfully. They worked with about 25 at a time in the corral roping the back legs and then the front legs to hold them in place. 
I talked to the woman in the middle holding the big syringe she used to inoculate each calf. There were people from several ranches who took turns helping one another.
I did not know they still used a branding iron, I thought they all used ear tags. Since these cattle will be grazing on open range, ear tags are not good enough insurance against rustlers. The calves did not make a sound when they were being branded and hopped right up and ran toward their moms when they were released.  
A beautiful double rainbow with snow capped mountains. Their house is at over 6,000 feet and has a great view of the mountains behind it and the valley in front. Joe called after we left to tell us they had a couple inches of new snow.
The California Trail, used by pioneers traveling west, passed through the area. We visited the California Trail Interpretative Center that is just off I-80 west of Elko. The center has great exhibits about the perils these early travelers faced as they crossed this vast Northern Nevada desert. The trail was littered with personal items they abandoned to lighten their load.    
The type of wagons they used were rather small compared to the larger Conestoga wagons used to haul freight in the east. They only traveled a few miles each day determined in part by whether they used oxen, mules or horses. There is also a very good display about the Donner Party who passed through this area and were stranded in the Sierra Mountains in California. 
The reality that the wagons were used only to carry supplies and not people is shown with this display showing what each family needed to carry just to survive the long trek across the country. The pioneers would have walked most of the way.
The center also had a display of the different types of shelters the natives in the area lived in. Kathy and Nanc both said they prefer their homes on wheels over this crude home. The California Trail Interpretative Center is well worth a look if you are traveling I-80 in Nevada.
Hey, it's Nevada where brothels are legal. Elko has a small red light district to serve the local or traveling population. There are also a few casinos for those who want to leave some money behind.
Kathy, Joe, Nanc and Jim in their beautiful home. We took turns having each other to our places for dinner and enjoyed a couple great local restaurants. The Pine Lodge in Lamoille was a real surprise with great food in a neat log building.
The visitors center in Elko has several old pioneer buildings that have been moved to town. There is a school, blacksmith's shop and an old ranch house.
This statue of a Basque sheepherder is in the Elko town park. There is a large population of Basque who came here in the middle 1800's. A first for us was the The Star, a Basque restaurant in Elko. Every meal included a salad, cabbage soup and fries served family style. I had a lamb burger and it was wonderful.  
This is the typical Basque sheepherder's home when they take the sheep out for the summer. Very different from our house on wheels. After we left Elko we saw one of these along the highway with the sheep they were tending.
There is a lot of wide open land around Elko. On another day they took us to Jiggs, an old town that seemed to be about three people leaving from becoming a ghost town. It was a beautiful drive with the clouds, snow capped peaks and the green landscape.
Our destination, Jiggs Bar, the only business in town. There were a couple locals and miners in this little out of the way watering hole.
A perfect ending to our stay in Lamoille, the sun setting far across the valley. Joe and Kathy were wonderful hosts.  We had a great visit and we thank them for their hospitality.  Once again making and meeting friends is really the best part of our RV lifestyle. We are already looking forward to seeing Joe and Kathy at the Elks in the Keys next year. 

We are still behind with our posts. We are now in White Sulphur Springs, MT.  We will be slowly heading east to North Carolina where in late July we will be getting together with Keith, Michelle, Rick and Denise. We are happy to report that Michelle had her first follow up on her treatment and the results were very good.  Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts and words of encouragement.  We hope the trend continues. :-)