Sunday Drive in Montana

Friday, 29 September 2006, Cody WY
We arrived in Billings, Montana on Thursday evening last week and checked into the KOA. We haven't stayed in many KOAs because they always seem to be wide open spaces with little visual appeal, and they are often on major highways. The one in Billings (the first ever KOA Kampground) is on the banks of the Yellowstone River and as far away from the highway as it is possible to be without being over the river. We had a site right at the back of the campground and it was possible to sleep without too much disturbance from traffic noise.
Billings is actually a nice city, for the largest city in the state. With just over 100,000 citizens it is small enough to find your way around easily. We stayed over Friday and Saturday nights as well, mostly because it was raining and not inviting to drive anywhere. We had more things to do in Billings that had to wait until Tuesday, so on Sunday morning we left Billings for what we like to call our "Sunday Drive". Our goal was to drive a loop north to Lewistown and be back in Billings on Monday evening. We followed Highway 3 out of Billings toward Lavina. The scenery along the way was once again a confirmation that Montana is fittingly known as Big Sky Country! It is principally farming land and must grow considerable quantities of grain as evidenced by the incredible variety of silos we spotted along the way. I particularly like the appearance of the older style silos, like those we photographed in Broadview.
The other sight that is fairly frequent in Montana, and we find a lot of pleasure in, is old farm buildings constructed of timber which have just been left to decompose at their leisure! Sometimes it is possible to see a whole history in the degree of decay of particular buildings on one site. Accompanying the buildings is very often a whole history of vehicles and machinery, also in various degrees of disintegration. Such a farm was right on the edge of Lavina.
We turned west at Lavina and continued to follow Highway 3 to Harlowton. On this stretch of road we saw our first Pronghorns. At first we thought we had seen a deer, but somehow it wasn't quite the right colour - it seemed to have too much white on it. After spotting several herds in the distance, we stopped and got out the binoculars. We had seen a picture of the Pronghorn on the information sheet handed out at the entrance to Yellowstone, and what we were looking at through the binoculars definitely matched that picture. This was quite exciting because not only had we never seen a Pronghorn before, we had actually never heard of them. The next chance we got, we googled them and picked up lots of interesting information, including the fact that they are the fastest animal on earth. Even though this honour is given to the Cheetah, the Pronghorn can run at around 60 mph for an hour or more whereas the Cheetah can only keep up that speed for short bursts. This is the Pronghorn's main defence against predators - that and their very keen eyesight. Somewhere we read that if you see a Pronghorn, it will have already seen you! This was born out by the fact that it proved very difficult to get a close-up of them, and if we did it was almost always a back view as they were running away!
Harlowton is a quaint town with some interesting historic buildings. On Sunday afternoon it was also very sleepy. We wandered up and down the main street, seeing very few people and the only businesses which seemed to be open were the bars. At the end of the main street is the beautiful, old sandstone Graves Hotel. It appeared as though someone was doing some renovating, but we weren't really sure. Looking through the windows we noticed that it still had furnishings from the 40's and 50's and we really hoped that if someone is renovating it they will keep it true to its historical routes.

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