Our Missoula MT and Coeur de Alene, Idaho stops

Missoula was a place we visited last year and we wanted to use it as a refreshing stop as well as a place to stock up on supplies before our tour begins.

Missoula is actually where the Taj is registered and we have a small company there so iI guess you could say it’s one of our home bases. It’s an engaging city and its filled with interesting restaurants, shops and historical features. A great place to visit in the spring and summer but by late September you better have your Wookiee’s cause it’s starting to get cold there. Bozeman and Missoula both seem to be the most vital cities in Montana – from what we could see they were filled with young people and growing families. We could almost imagine buying a small log cabin on the outskirts of either city at the base of the mountains that surround them.

While in Missoula, we stocked up at the Costco and rested in anticipation of our upcoming busy two months. We had a great drive into Idaho – here are two photos from that drive to amuse you .

Below is a Columbia Ground Squirrel – one of a big colony at a rest-stop along I-90 who really wanted a treat. Isn’t he the cutest!

We drive over hundreds of rivers in our travels – some are like this one above are just stunning. Got a lucky shot as we drove along another bridge on I -90.

Coeurp de Alene is not far from Missoula just over the border into Idaho – it was our first visit and we were not disappointed. A city with a big beautiful lake right smack dab in the middle of it – spectacular views, great recreation and super foodies places to enjoy. Our RV Park was on the lake with a beach, marina and terrific restaurant in walking distance.

The elegant side of the city attracts sports figures, movie stars and the wealthy who need another lakeside property. Boats are everywhere – large and small – speed boats, pontoons and rafts – the lake laps at the shore of a downtown public park so bathing suit clothed people are everywhere weather permitting. There are also great winter sports opportunities for those of you who ski or snowboard or hang out in mountain lounges waiting fir friends. Too cold for our tastes but it must be lovely to see.

Lenny loved having a chance to go swimming and even Lola got into the act.

Granted it’s only warm about three months of the year but no one misses a chance to soak up the sunshine. It’s the like Miami of the Northwest without cruise ships and tall condo buildings. Friends told us we would love it here and they were right – we would return to spend more time on a later trip.

We took a boat cruise on Lake Coeur de Alene – a name originating from a Native American name meaning “heart of the awl” but mispronounced by the early French fur traders. The lake is twenty five miles long and up to three miles wide with all sorts of little coves and plenty of wildlife – bald eagles were seen that day.

The Spokane River flows into it and refreshes it with its annual mountain snow runoff. The lake does freeze in winter so all boats, moorings and docks must be pulled before the final cold snap.

Our boat captain recommended a restaurant – Cedars- near our park that was actually owned by the same company. We liked it so much and were happy to eat there twice – once just us and the second time with our fellow Fantasy Tour folks – delicious meals with awesome views to enjoy.

There is a beautiful golf course here with a unique hole on a floating barge that moves often – a real challenge for those golfers.

The city has created parks all around the city and people are encouraged to be outdoors often. It gives the city a joyful spirit that is quite contagious. A little cabin on the lake would be sweet but pricey now because of the home purchases by millionaire stars and hockey players. Some homes along the waters edge were amazing.


Art work decorated many of the parks and adds a bit of whimsy to the green velvet of the trees and plants.

See what we mean…..

Sunsets on the lake were wonderful – this lovely spot is a destination with a gold star from us!

Our tour begins now and we will do our best to keep up but we expect internet and cell service challenges as we travel through the British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska wilderness. We are very excited about this two month trip and hope you will hitch a ride along the way.


The Road to Coeur De Alene

Our Fantasy RV Tour starts in Coeur. De Alene on July 7th so we made our way there via Billings, Butte and Missoula Montana. We are returning to a state we have grown very fond of and seeing the southern half of the state.

Billings is an oil terminal town and at least three large refineries are located there – oil is brought in crude and refined for shipments throughout the USA and abroad. It’s not a particularly attractive city so we hardly took any photographs. It appears very distressed and could use a revitalization. The smell of oil is intense and widespread. We stayed just two nights at the Billings KOA where I beat Rick three times at miniature golf.

Butte – “the richest hill on earth” as the sign says – caught our eye for many reasons – mining history, Union strife, populist politics and a hotbed of social activity for many years – it’s appears to be in the midst of a serious comeback attempt with downtown revival, a great tourist atmosphere and good restaurants to enjoy. It’s a small town type city but the friendly warm people make you feel welcome.

Mining for minerals like copper, silver etc. is more prevalent here – the land and its shapes have changed dramatically – we did miss the abundant fields of corn, grain and herds of cattle. This southern Montana landscape is very rugged in places but still intriguing. We had lunch at a cafe called Sparkey’s Garage and saw this cool sign on the wall. The cafe was filled with automotive memorabilia and also had a great burger and fresh fries.

Below is a shot of one of the many abandoned mine elevators marking where the workers were sent below to the mines. Hard to believe they held on to ropes, stood on an open platform for two people and were lowered fifty plus feet down in to shafts where copper, silver and other minerals were discovered and collected.

Hennessy was an Irish immigrant who came to Butte in the late 1800s – set up a grocery business and successfully sold dry goods and produce as well as cloths and other sundries to miners and their families. There was no Amazon in those days.

Many Irish and Scottish immigrants came out here to find their pot of gold or coal, oil etc. They adopted the cowboy customs and often built small empires by skirting the law when necessary. We wondered if I had relatives here – today the store is a “Whole Foods” type supermarket and the former larger site us being restored fir condos. The area and its trendy market is now attracting the younger professionals and artist types.

This is a beautiful and moving memorial high above the city to the men who lost their lives in hard rock mining’s greatest disaster at Granite Mountain – the Speculator Fire. We were moved by it’s style, composition and engravings. The fire illustrated some of the terrible hazards of mining hard rock and forced the government to strengthen miner protections.

Workers from twenty-five different countries were represented in the group of 168 men who died in the Granite Mountain Fire disaster. Butte was a melting pot of immigrants seeking to find a better life for themselves and their families.

Butte was once America’s most unionized town west of Mississippi – even the housewives and single women had a support organization. Only the bawdy houses or brothels remained outside the unions – run by madames and men they were essential for so many reasons – work for the younger women and solace for the men who struggled up to 18 hours a day below ground.

Butte had interesting architecture in its buildings and homes. Many wealthy merchants and mine owners, like The Copper King, built grand homes on the boulevards of this city dependent on its wealth underground. You can tour the inside of several but we liked photographing all types of homes including the tiny four room company homes provided to miners by their mine owner employers. Many of these large and small homes are being renovated and preserved by a new generation of Butte citizens. Here are a few examples.

Butte is a worthwhile stop if only to get a good perspective on the value of natural resources and how reaping them has both negative and positive aspects. In the Big Sky State it’s important to appreciate the role it’s vast resources underground played in its history.

Next stop Missoula and Coeur de Alene, Idaho

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