Look who greeted us at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center!
Alas, the Center–overlooking the Missouri River– was basically closed. The lobby was open and decorated with several exhibits. There was no charge to enter.
Covid strikes again.
The gift shop opened and I bought a greeting card.
And then it was back in the car, back to the city and to the Charles Russell Museum and Art Gallery. Will said he was afraid the museum would be partially closed. Because this was to be the highlight of the trip for him, this would not be good.
But to his relief it was open. A few galleries were closed due to preparations for a fundraising auction, but the Russell gallery was available.
We paid the reduced fees, donned our masks before entering the building, used the hand sanitizer in the lobby, signed our names and where we were from in the log book. Montana’s health department was requiring contact information, which varied from zip codes to phone numbers to town of origin to no-one-cares.
I hadn’t been there since 1982 and I barely remembered it, having had three kids ages 2, 4 and 7 with me at the time.
Wearing a mask is miserable. And hot. I kept going outside to breathe fresh air. The Russell home was open for touring and I almost fainted at the top of the stairs (there were others touring the second floor so I had to keep my mask on). The two-room studio next door to the house was empty except for Will and me, so we lowered our masks and enjoyed prowling around.
That was my favorite part of the museum. No masks, no people, and plenty of time to look at everything.
The enormous gift shop had many lovely things, but I couldn’t breathe so I bought a greeting card and fled outside once again.
Eventually it was time to find lunch. As you know, finding a place to eat is no longer easy. Our first stop, recommended by a member of the museum staff, was crowded and had no outside tables. So we left there and got lost driving around Great Falls and eventually found Cafe Rio, a Mexican chain with plenty of seating and fresh tortillas.
The Buffalo Jump.
We drove out of town to Ulm and the State Park protecting the cliff where the Indians tricked the buffalo into leaping off a cliff to their deaths. This of course resulted in food for the winter and, because this was before the arrival of the horse, was pretty efficient.
We chose not to hike the mile and a half up to the cliffs. One reason?
So we drove to the top. There were rattlesnake signs up there, too.
Let’s zoom closer.
Then it was back to Great Falls and our hotel. And guess what! There was a quilt store one block away. Banjo Man and I walked over to check it out. I planned to support a local fabric store (they struggle, with or without Covid), but the staff was rude and the fabric less than interesting. Before we went in, Banjo Man realized he’d forgotten his mask and returned to the hotel. He returned to walk me home (!!!) and was surprised I hadn’t bought anything.
I’ve never experienced a rude quilt store salesperson before. It was very strange. But Great Falls had a very stressed vibe. Everywhere we went people looked unhappy and scared.
Will and I returned to a patio table at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner (Banjo Man was still full from lunch so he went to bed early). The rain started to come down as our meals were served so the waitress offered to move us inside, but we said we were fine where we were. Mask-free and in the fresh air, we enjoyed our meal under a large umbrella despite the rain and thunder.
The plan the next day? Load the car by 9:30 and head north to Fort Benton.
To be continued…again…