Small Town, Big 4th of July

Boulder City, NV

As with most towns (large and small) in the U.S., the 4th of July is a big deal in Boulder City, with family friendly activities all day.  The main event, again as with most towns, is a parade through the main section of town.  Since afternoon temperatures have been over a hundred degrees, the parade began at 9:00 AM, before the high heat arrived.  We walked up to a spot along 5th Street and got there just as the first group arrived.

Waiting for the parade to begin

Once the first group passed us it was non-stop activity for almost two hours.

The Grand Marshall (we didn’t know who he/she was)

The Boulder City Democratic Club had a very large turnout.

They even had a top presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker, marching with them!

Sen. Booker turned and returned a wave at John.  When John gave him the “thumbs up” the senator responded right back at him.  Times sure have changed.  Who would have every believed a life-long Republican would be excited to get a response from a Democrat candidate!  Let’s hope many Republicans feel the same way next November!

Thumbs up from Sen. Booker

The crowd marching with Sen. Booker was large, happy, and loud.  Right after him came another pretty large group, backers of Sen. Kamala Harris.

Harris supporters

They were followed by a much smaller (and older) group supporting former VP Joe Biden.  Later in the parade a small group of Bernie Sanders supporters marched by.  We waited for a Republican group but didn’t see one.

Biden supporters

Little Miss Boulder and Little Mr. Boulder enjoyed a train ride

The town maintains a bicycle motocross track for this group

U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps

The Biker Babes (Pam didn’t participate)

Miss Nevada

We had read something about “water areas” and “no water areas” along the parade route but really didn’t think much about it.  But about half way through the parade the crowd around us began to get excited, coolers full of water appeared, and large water guns were brought out.  It turns out that the highlight of the parade each year is a huge water fight between people in the parade and spectators, and we were standing right in the area designated as a battle zone!

Fire when ready!

We didn’t mind getting a little wet, but these people meant business.  If you remained near the street you had to be ready to get drenched, so we moved back a bit down a side street and just watched the fun.

A city owned water truck had a large tank of water . . .

. . . and drenched anyone in their way!

Pick-up trucks with plastic bed liners filled with water passed by.  A tank truck had large hoses extending from its rear that were used on the crowd.  But the spectators valiantly fought back with a variety of water weapons.  Everyone had a blast (literally) and within minutes they were all soaked and exhausted, but they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

As we walked home we observed a river of rushing water going down the street.  It seems a bit strange to see this in a desert town, but we know it will all make its way back to the Colorado River.

That night there was an impressive fireworks display at one of the nearby parks.  We enjoyed it from our back yard.

In July of 1776, founding father John Adams wrote about the Declaration of Independence to his wife, Abigail.

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

We’re certain he would have loved the celebration in Boulder City!

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Hitting the Jackpot (Nevada) With Friends

Boulder City, NV

We left Ketchum and headed south through Twin Falls, ID to Jackpot, NV.  There is nothing in Jackpot but Cactus Jack’s Casino, so we probably would not normally stay here.  But we found that good friends Steve and Mona Liza (Lowes Travels) would be here for a couple nights on their way north.  We haven’t seen them in a long time so we altered our route to fix that.

The state line just north of the casino

As we pulled into the RV park located behind the casino we saw Steve waving from behind their motorhome.  Seems they had just arrived and had just finished setting up.  Steve had checked in the office and found we were assigned to the site next to them, so we were able to quickly get settled.

After a couple of hours catching up during a happy hour at their site, we headed over to the casino hotel to find a good restaurant.  We quickly settled on 36 Steak and Seafood, a small, upscale eatery.

A great meal with great friends

To top off a delicious meal Mona Liza twisted arms to get us to agree to share a Creme Brulee.   A surprise addition to that was when our server showed up with a complimentary serving of four huge strawberries dipped in chocolate!  Two of the strawberries disappeared so quickly they didn’t make the photo below.

The next morning we were up and about early, as we had a long drive ahead of us.  Steve and Mona Liza were staying one more night so we said our good-byes to them and headed out.  By the way, if you ever stay in this park be careful as it is only 30 amps (which is not a problem).   In the morning both motorhomes experienced dangerously low voltage (which is a problem).  Steve later informed us that the power was so bad the day we left that they unplugged and ran their generator.  He couldn’t even report that to the office as it was closed that day and the next!

See you in the Fall!

We had over 500 miles to drive to get home to Boulder City from Jackpot, so we decided to divide it into two days.  We made the first day a long drive (330 miles) to a park in the little town of Caliente, NV, which made the second day a drive of  only 170 miles.  The highway (U.S. 93) is a smooth, two lane road without much traffic and the snow covered mountain ranges along the way made for some great vistas.  Please pardon the bugs on the windshield in the photos below.  It seems that when you clean the bugs off, more magically appear!

Wildlife crossing

At Ely, NV our route (US 93) joins with US 50 heading east for a few miles.  As we crossed a high pass Wheeler Peak (13,065) came into view in front of us.

Wheeler Peak, the second highest peak in Nevada, is part of Great Basin National Park.  During a visit to the park a few years ago we hiked almost to the summit before being stopped by ice on the trail (and exhaustion).

The arrow points to where we think we were when we hiked Wheeler Peak

Wheeler Peak in the background

After a good night’s sleep in Caliente we continued our journey, passing through some scenic cliffs just south of the town.

Once through the cliffs and over a high pass we descended into a wide plain where the highway stretched straight in front of us for miles and miles.

After zipping around Las Vegas on the interstate we arrived back home safe and sound.  After some time unpacking we settled in to enjoy the backyard before heading down to nearby Hemenway Park to check out the Big Horn Sheep, who enjoy feasting on the grass there.

Big Horn buffet with Lake Meade in the background

We plan to stay put in Boulder City for most of the summer so blogs will be few and far between for a while.  But as the weather changes and the kids head back to school we plan to head into central Colorado in September.

More on that later . . .

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Hiking in Sun Valley, ID

Ketchum, ID

Our second day in the Sun Valley area had a pretty high probability of rain in the forecast so we didn’t want to get far from shelter.  With that in mind we walked a couple of miles on the Wood River Trail  to the Hemingway Memorial.

Earnest Hemingway visited the Ketchum area many times beginning in the late 1930s.  He purchased a home here in 1959 and lived in it until he committed suicide in 1961.  Five years after his death a memorial was built next to a stream in Sun Valley.

Hemingway Memorial entrance

The inscription at the base of the monument was written by Hemingway as a eulogy for a friend, Gene Van Guilder, who died in 1939 in a hunting accident.  Hemingway had only know the 35 year-old for a few weeks before his death, but agreed to write and read the eulogy at his funeral.  Both Van Guilder and Hemingway are buried near each other in Ketchum Cemetery.

The final day of our short stay here had decent temperatures (in the mid-60s) and mostly clear skies.  We took advantage of the good weather and took a hike combining a couple of trails on a hill between Ketchum and Sun Valley called the White Cloud area.  The four mile loop begins by going steeply uphill.

Waiting for someone to finish taking photos of flowers

Mountain biker on top of the hill (our target)

Once up the steep hill the trail levels out as it goes around a group of holes that are part of the Sun Valley Golf Course, with great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Sun Valley Ski Area on Bald Mountain

Part of Sun Valley Golf Course

Snow on the Sawtooth Mountains to the north

Wildflowers were in bloom all along the trail, adding their colors to the beautiful vistas.

John is surrounded by lupines

Lunch with a view

Can you spot the nimble hiker?

Well, that winds up our brief stay in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area.  It is a beautiful area filled with summer and winter outdoor activities.  There are so many hiking and biking trails that, who knows, we just may return for another visit some day.

Next up for us is a reunion with friends.  More on that later . . .

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A Taste of Winter – Ketchum, ID

Ketchum, ID

After our visit to Idaho Falls we headed west on US 20 for a 150 mile journey to Ketchum.  For long stretches the highway is straight and flat.    A strong cross wind made for a “hold on tight” drive.

US 20 west from Idaho Falls

After passing through the little town of Arco the road skirts the northern edge of Craters of the Moon National Monument.   The monument encompass three major lava fields and covers 53,571 acres.  We didn’t stop, as we have visited this monument in the past.

Lava fields

Hills west of Craters of the Moon

Once in Ketchum we set up the motorhome in The Meadows RV Park.  It’s not the nicest park we’ve been in but it will have to do, as it is the only full hook-up park in the area.  There are numerous forest service campgrounds around and we saw some nice boondocking spots outside of town if you don’t need hook-ups.

Once settled, we drove four miles north into Ketchum to look around.  Ketchum (pop. 2,680) is the main town in the area, but on Google maps the adjacent community of Sun Valley gets the designation.  Sun Valley (pop. 1,400) is a residential resort area built in the late 1930s as the first ski destination location in the U.S.  We arrived in Ketchum and set out to check out the visitor center and the local chain coffee shop headquartered in Seattle.  What do you know?  They both share the same facility.  And they are located on Ketchum Town Square, with outdoor seating with views of the ski area on nearby Bald Mountain.

Ketchum Town Square

Once we finished reading brochures of the area, we drove northeast a short distance (maybe a mile) to check out what we thought was the town of Sun Valley.  Turns out there is no “town,”  just a large lodge surrounded by expensive houses and condos.  We continued up the road as it entered a narrow valley and became a dirt forest service road.  Although a sign warned the road was not maintained, somebody is maintaining it as it is in great shape as it climbs steeply up out of the valley.

After a few miles of “up” the road flattened out as it entered an alpine forest.  We turned around at that point and enjoyed the views as we descended.

The weather the next day was sunny but chilly, with temperatures in the mid 50s.  We headed north on ID 75 out of Ketchum into the Sawtooth Mountains.  The road goes over the Galena Pass (8,700′) as it heads for the little town of Stanley.  We stopped in the Galena Lodge intending on taking a short hike.  But the temperature had dropped down to 44 degrees, the wind was blowing, and a light snow was in the air, so we decided to just stay in the warm Jeep and take the scenic ride all the way to Stanley.

Rte. 75 north into the Sawtooth Mountains

As we crossed the Galena Pass we had great views of the valley below, as well as a number of snow squalls in the distance.

Heading down out of Galena Pass

Sawtooth Mountains

After stopping in the tiny community of Stanley (pop. 600) for fuel, we began the return trip south.  Just south of Stanley we took a side road to check out Redfish Lake.  The road into the lake area had great views of the Sawtooth Mountains.

Sawtooth Mountains

Redfish Lake

While driving back out of the lake area to the highway we ran into a significant snow squall.  OK, it is the day before the first day of summer so you should expect a little snow, right?

On the trip north we passed through an area called Smiley Creek.  It has a grass airstrip and there was a line of small planes parked along side the strip.  So on the return trip we pulled in to take a look.

The group of planes turned out to be part of the Smiley Creek 12th Annual Fly-in.  It must have been pretty cold for those sleeping in the tents set up next to the planes!

We continued the return trip and began to go up and over the Galena Pass.  We stopped at an observation area where we had taken some nice photos on the trip north, but the views were not so good on the trip south.

Snow north of Galena Pass

The snow continued (although not sticking on the road) and the temperature dropped.

Snow south of Galena Pass

The forecast for tomorrow looks like a bit of rain, so we may not be going very far from town.  But who knows what lies ahead.

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Idaho Falls and Grand Tetons NP

Idaho Falls, ID

We continued our journey south from Butte, MT for 200 miles into Idaho.  We had reservations for a three day visit to Idaho Falls, Idaho’s second largest city (after Boise) located along the Snake River.

The “falls” in Idaho Falls is a series of small falls and a spillway where the river “falls”over a concrete barrier and a wall of rocks.

The city maintains an extensive river walk featuring running and biking trails along several miles of the Snake River as it flows through the center of town.

Japanese garden along the river walk

One day during our stay in Idaho Falls we took a day trip to the east to visit Grand Teton National Park.  The drive from Idaho Falls is very scenic, with the highlight the crossing of Teton Pass between Victor, ID and Jackson, WY at 8,431 feet.

View east from Teton Pass

At the bottom of the pass we turned north on WY 390 (Moose Wilson Rd) toward the entrance to Grand Teton National Park, driving along the beautiful Teton Range.

Once in the park, we drove up a rough, dirt road to the trailhead for the Death Canyon Trail.  We intended to hike a mile up the trail to an overlook for Phelps Lake.

Phelps Lake from the overlook

We didn’t intend to go any further, but another hiker said there were some nice views if you continued down to the lake from the overlook.  So we added another mile and went down the steep trail to a spot near the lake.

Heading down toward the lake

One of many waterfalls along the lake

What goes down must come up!

Once we returned to the Jeep we continued north through the park.  As we passed a swampy area we spotted this girl enjoying lunch.

A second moose sighting was a young buck

Once we exited the park we returned back down US 26 toward Jackson.  That route has a great view of the Tetons.

We had to drive through Jackson, a crowded tourist town, to get to the route back to Idaho Falls.  While going through town we passed a park with the famous arch
of shed elk antlers,

Many people brighten up the back of their RV with some sort of beautiful artwork.  We’ve not done that for many reasons, but while driving through the RV park in Idaho Falls, we spotted a picture that we are thinking of putting on the back of our motorhome.



Next up is a visit to the ski resort area of Sun Valley, ID.  More on that later . . .

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The Richest Hill on Earth – Butte, MT

Butte, MT

We left Helena and headed south on I-15 for a short drive of about 70 miles to the city of Butte.  There was nothing in particular that we wanted to see there, but since it was on our route, we thought it might merit a visit.  So we made a three night reservation at the Butte KOA and, once set up there, headed over to the visitor center next to the park to see what we might want to visit in the area.  It turns out Butte is a pretty interesting town, with plenty of history.

Downtown Butte, MT

Established in 1864 as a mining camp , Butte experienced rapid development in the late 1900’s, and was Montana’s first major industrial city.  In its heyday it was one of the largest copper boomtowns in the west.

Butte’s slogan is the “richest hill on earth.”  Over the course of its history, Butte’s mining operations generated an excess of $48 billion worth of gold, silver, and copper.  But the mining has also resulted in numerous environmental implications for the city and it is the site of the largest superfund effort in the U.S which include removing and cleaning the soil, as well as, adding many walking/biking trails throughout the town and hillsides.  Today the hill overlooking the city contains the remains (huge headframes or main above-ground structures) of numerous shafts mines with a three mile walking/biking loop that highlights each mine.

The Con – Mountain Con Mine

Butte’s elevation is over a mile high, the Con is a mile deep

As we drove around the mining hillside on the north side of the city we came upon a memorial to the 1917 Speculator Mine Disaster, the most deadly event in underground hard rock mining in U.S. history.  As part of a fire safety system, the mining company was installing an electric cable down into the Granite Mountain mine.  During installation the cable fell into an area approximately 2,500 feet below the surface and was damaged. When a foreman with a carbide lamp tried to inspect the damage, he accidentally ignited the oil-soaked cloth insulation on the cable. The fire quickly climbed the cable, and turned the shaft into a chimney, igniting the timbers in the shaft and consuming oxygen in the mines.

A total of 168 miners died in the ensuing blaze, most from asphyxia. Some of the miners did not die immediately, they survived for a day or two in the tunnels underground.  Some left notes written while they waited in hopes of rescue.  A few managed to barricade themselves behind bulkheads in the mine and were rescued after as long as 55 hours.

The Butte Chamber of Commerce offers a trolley car tour of the city leaving periodically each day from the visitor center next door to the RV park.  We purchased tickets in the morning and boarded the trolley for the noon tour.

The tour meandered through the city while the driver, a life long resident of Butte, gave an interesting running narration of the sights.  The trolley only makes one stop, a visit to the Berkeley Pit, a former open pit copper mine opened in 1955 and closed in 1982.

A young, energetic couple block the mine entrance

A tunnel leads through the surrounding wall of the pit to an observation deck.

Once everyone on the tour was on the observation deck our guide, Mark, gave a short talk explaining some interesting information about the mine and efforts to clean contaminated water seeping into it.

Our tour guide, Mark

When the pit was closed, the water pumps in an old nearby shaft mine, 3,800 feet below the surface, were turned off and groundwater from the surrounding aquifers began to slowly fill the pit, rising at about the rate of one foot a month.  Since its closure in 1982 the water level in the pit has risen to within 150 feet of the natural water table.

To prevent the mine water from entering the water table a new filter system pumps water out of the pit, removes impurities, and sends the water into a nearby creek.  The amount pumped out each day equals the amount seeping into the pit.  Since there is no way to prevent the water from entering the pit, this process will proceed far into the future.

After viewing the Berkeley Pit the group re-boarded the trolley and we headed into the city.  As with most mining towns, Butte had a very diverse population, and an equal number of vices.

Mai Wah Museum highlights Asian culture in Butte

The Dumas Brothel – in operation until 1982

As the trolley made its way through town our guide, Mark, pointed out an auto repair shop that he said at one time was owned by the father of a high school classmate of his named Bobby Knievel.  While Mark called him Bobby, the world knew him as Evel Knievel, the famous motorcycle daredevil.  We wrote of Evel Knievel in a 2017 post about a visit to Twin Falls, ID where he attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon on a rocket propelled vehicle.  We didn’t realize that Knievel was born, raised, and is buried in Butte.

Mark said he didn’t hang around with Knievel in high school as he was just too wild.  As an example, he said Knievel tried to ride a motorcycle up the stairs inside the county courthouse.  Later he worked for one of the mines where he drove a large earth mover. Knievel was fired when he made the earth mover do a motorcycle-type wheelie and drove it into Butte’s main power line, leaving the city without electricity for several hours.

About nine miles south of Butte is Thompson Park, a municipal recreation area with 25 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking.  A rail trail on the old path of the historic Milwaukee Railroad (Milwaukee Road) provides a gently sloped (trains don’t like steep grades and neither do we) path that goes through two tunnels and over a 600 foot trestle.  After a couple of days exploring Butte we needed to stretch our legs, so we drove down to hike that trail.

Sagebrush Flats – our access to the rail trail

The Milwaukee Road began operations in Montana by running the steam engines common at the time.  However, they soon began to believe that electric powered trains would be a better option.  With the low cost electricity from the Columbia River hydro power plants, company owners believed that electricity would be much cheaper than steam.   In 1915 the first section of the line switched to electricity and soon the entire line was electrified. The electric trains proved to be efficient and effective. They were dependable and operated well in the cold harsh conditions.

Reading the display panel in the photo above, John became more interested when he noticed the banner on the engine pictured in the insert.  It clearly noted that the electric engine had been constructed in his home town of Erie, PA, where they are still producing electrical railroad engines today.

As advertised, the trail is a well-maintained, level track through a pine forest with occasional views of the surrounding hills and mountains.

The trail goes through two tunnels.  The first is 550 feet long, an easy one to go through without a flashlight.

The other one, at 1,110 feet, is a bit more of a challenge, especially with the obstacle we encountered at its entrance.  As we approached the tunnel it appeared to have a layer of concrete at the entrance, standing about a foot above the trail surface.

As we approached the tunnel we discovered it was a thick layer of ice!

Unsure of how far into the tunnel the ice extended we took headlamps out of our pack and got out a set of hiking poles before heading in.  The ice was very smooth and firm but wet so we proceeded very slowly.

As we carefully proceeded into the dark tunnel we found the ice flow ended about a quarter of the way through and the surface turned to dry, firm dirt.

About a half mile from the second tunnel we approached a curve in the tracks.  In the distance we could see the long trestle, our turn around point.

The trestle is impressive at 600 feet in length, rising 130 feet above the valley floor. The trail ends just 100 yards from the 2,300 foot long Pipestone Pass tunnel, which is closed to the public.

Historic photo of construction of the bridge

Looking down at the road below the trestle

Can you spot Pam at the other end of the trestle?

After returning to the Jeep we drove the road that goes under the trestle to get a view of it from below.

Butte is home to Montana Tech, a small college formally known as the Montana School of Mines that is now part of the University of Montana system.  Years ago students at the school constructed a large “M” on the small butte above the campus.

A dirt road leads up to a spot just below the “M” where there is a great view of the city below.

View of the city from just below the “M”

Many towns and cities in the west (including our adopted home town of Boulder City) have a similar letter (or letters) above town.  But one of the things that make the “M” above Butte unique is that it is lit up a night.  Even more unique is that they can light up just the center portion of the “M” when the college has a significant athletic win, creating a “V” for victory.

We arrived in Butte with no expectation as to what we would find, but were pleasantly surprised at the interesting things we found.  The town has an unique story to tell, making a stop here worth the time.

We’ll now continue south for a three day visit to Idaho Falls, ID.  Again, we have no expectations for our visit, but it is a city of significant size and is on our route, so we’re curious as to what’s there.  We’ll let you know what we find . . .

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A Visit to Helena, MT

Helena, MT

When we began planning this trip, we determined that we would travel as far north as Helena before turning the motorhome to the south.  Why Helena?  Well, why not?  We wanted to explore southern Montana and, since Helena is the state capitol, we thought we needed to check it out.  So we left the little town of Big Timber and headed west on I-90 then north on US 287.  The weather forecast had spotty rain showers predicted, but we decided to see if we could dodge the rain as we headed down the highway.  It has always been our practice to avoid traveling on rainy days, but we decided to take a chance.  Oops, that didn’t work out so well.  While we managed to avoid a number of downpours along the interstate, our luck ran out as we headed north on US 287 where we ran into a short, but heavy shower.  Upon arrival at our site at Lincoln Road RV Park, just north of the city, we found the motorhome covered with dirt, and the Jeep so filthy we had to find a spray car wash as we had difficulty seeing out the windshield.  The dirty vehicles is a good reminder why we don’t travel in the rain!

One of the most popular things to do while visiting Helena is a boat tour on the nearby Missouri River into what is known as the Gates to the Mountains.  In July of 1805 the Lewis and Clark Expedition struggled to move upstream in this section of the Missouri.  Steep rock embankments made towing their boats from shore impossible, and the deep channel forced the men to row rather than pole their boats forward.  At each bend in the waterway, great stone walls seemed to block passage ahead of them, only to open like gentle giant gates as the expedition drew near.  In his journal, Meriwether Lewis wrote: “I shall call this place: “Gates of the Rocky Mountains.”

In 1918, when Holter Dam was built forming Holter Lake, the water level of the Missouri River in the Gates was raised about 14 feet, taming the current and allowing small tour boats to explore the canyon.

Holter Lake – entrance to the canyon is on the left side of the lake

Gates of the Mountains Tour Boats located north of Helena about three miles from I-15, offers tours through the Gates of the Mountains.  They have two tour boats and run on a varied schedule from May to September.

Our tour boat

Our very capable and knowledgeable tour guide/pilot, Brian

Entrance to the canyon



Heading north into the canyon

The boat tour is a nice, relaxing ride down the river a few miles while the guide describes various points of interest.

Bald Eagle Nest

Cap Mountain in the distance

At one point we passed Mann Gulch, the site of the raging forest fire that killed 13 smokejumpers in August of 1949.  This tragedy was the main subject matter of Norman Maclean’s book “Young Men and Fire.”

Mann Gulch

At the point where the boat turns around, we had the same view as Lewis and Clark.  Without the dam the river was lower and narrower and they were more to the left side of the photo below.

As they proceeded up the river it appeared that the water ended at a solid wall of rock.  But as the approached, it looked to them as if the wall opened up like a gate.  That’s why Meriwether Lewis called the area the “Gates of the Rocky Mountains.”  The photo sequence below shows the illusion he observed of the opening of the gates.

The next day we drove into Helena for a visit to the state capitol.  Helena was founded as a gold camp during the Montana gold rush, and was established in 1864. Over $3.6 billion of gold was extracted in the city limits over a duration of two decades, making it one of the wealthiest cities in the country by the late nineteenth century.  At the 2010 census Helena’s population was 28,190, making it the fifth least populous state capital in the U.S. and the sixth most populous city in Montana.

North (front) view of the capitol building

South view

As with most capitol buildings, there is a large rotunda area in the center surrounded by art work representative of main activities and people of the state.  In the photo below you see a statue of two people.  They are Mike and Maureen Mansfield.  Mansfield represented Montana in the U.S. House and Senate from 1943 to 1977 and Ambassador to Japan from 1977 to 1988.  In 1999, Missoula’s daily newspaper chose Mansfield as The Most Influential Montanan of the 20th Century (bet you didn’t know that).

At the top of the stairs pictured above is a statue of one of the least known but most influential women of the twentieth century, Jeannette Rankin.   When he taught American History, John always highlighted her as an example of a person with the courage of their convictions.  In 1914 Rankin was a leader in the movement to give women the right to vote in Montana.  She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (the first woman) in 1916 and was there when Congress voted to declare war on Germany in 1917.  Rankin cast one of fifty votes in opposition. “I wish to stand for my country,” she said, “but I cannot vote for war.”

Rankin left the House in 1918 but returned in 1940, and was a member in December of 1941 during a vote to declare war on Japan soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  She was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration.  Hisses could be heard in the gallery as she cast her vote; several colleagues asked her to change it to make the resolution unanimous—or at very least, to abstain—but she refused.  “As a woman I can’t go to war,” she said, “and I refuse to send anyone else.”  The vote ended Rankin’s political career.  One wonders if anyone in Congress today would be willing to take such a courageous stand!

The Montana Legislature is bicameral, and consists of the 50 member Senate and the 100 member House of Representatives.  The legislature meets in odd-numbered years for 90 days, beginning the first weekday of the year. Senators serve four year terms, while Representatives serve two year terms.  All members are limited to serving no more than eight years in a single 16 year period.

House Chambers

Senate Chambers

We stayed in Helena for three days before turning the front of the motorhome to the south.  Next up on our journey is a visit to the city of Butte.

More on that later . . .

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