Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pride of the Hi-Line


...more than you ever wanted to know about Havre, Montana...

While derived from the French, the easy way to remember the prononciation, from the Great Falls rent a car dude, is the story of the pioneers looking down into the Milk River valley and commenting, "you can have her...".

And what was I doing 50 miles from the Canadian border in the March winter weather?  Well, a secret mission for the government...

Anyway, Havre is an interesting little town defined by two major attributes...  farming and the railroad.


James J. Hill built the Burlington Northern railroad at the top of the United States, known as the Hi-Line.  We won't get into the labor exploitation of this task, but he was quite proud of his accomplishment.


(And, since the Burlington Northern merged with the Sante Fe, theoretically the railroad is now both the Hi-Line and the Lo-Line, as the Sante Fe winds through the Southwest...  but that's another story).

I'm not sure why the railroad has such a big presence in Havre...  there once was a spur south to Great Falls, but that seems just flat car storage at this point.  Havre does have a big switching yard, and a diesel repair shop, and lots of all night action.  I'm sure they load up lots of grain at harvest time, but mostly the railroad pulls zillions of containers (full of flat screens from China!) probably from the ports of Seattle to points in the midwest.  So a bunch of railroad and grain photos:








And lots of damn great big farm implements...


Havre lies in the West-East Milk River valley (the Milk River will eventually feed into the Missouri as it winds into North Dakota).  The whole area is mostly high plateau flat lands, filled with wheat fields.  One feature that lies just south of Havre is the Bear Paw Mountains (home of the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation).  


And North of Havre, stretching into Canada and beyond, is the rolling hills wheat fields...  into oblivion, it seems.  This is not the Montana of National Parks and big peaks and thick forests...


And from days past...


And if you think there's not much happening in Havre (and, I guess there really isn't, other than a casino of sorts in every bar), you can get a great steak dinner, with a couple glasses of excellent Bogle Phantom Red, for $40! 


Very nice little restaurant, and great, friendly service.  A reason to return to Havre.  Maybe sometime I'll drive another Hi-Line, US 2, across Montana and North Dakota and stop for another steak.

Havre is a 120 mile drive north of Great Falls.  The drive back on US 87 passed Fort Benton, and just beyond, a great view of the mighty Missouri River, which extends north from Yellowstone until it bends east to North Dakota.  How would you like that little farm and wheat field at the bend of the river?





In Great Falls, waiting for a plane, I found more railroad past, the Milwaukee Station from GF historical past.


And we will end as all great trips end, at a bar...  found in downtown Great Falls.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Another Big Hole

Ah, the joys of home ownership...   Now comes the Water Dept. and something about a new flush-out valve for the water main.  Over a period of months, workers show up to "blue stakes" the area...  multiple times for multiple cables with multiple colors.  One more color and the driveway would have been a rainbow.

Finally, the big day arrives...  and after all the markings, they still couldn't find the water main...



So we are left with 1/2 a driveway for days...  actually weeks...  a treat for backing out of the garage and avoiding baricades, the mailbox, the big bush, etc...


Finally they finished the valve work and filled in the hole.  Then the cement crew arrived to redo the curbing and our driveway.  Looks good!


But that left a big hunk out of the asphalt street...  It took another week and a half to get that done.  Something about hiring a private contractor to do the work...  even though the Streets Dept. has its own asphalt plant, it's cheaper for the Water Dept. to hire it out to private companies.   There's local govt. efficiency for you!

Anyway, the company finally arrived and we were impressed with the shiny dump truck and clean gear.  Even had matching sport shirts.  Nice guys and they did a good job.




So now we wait for the city landscaper to fill in the front strip and we are ready to go.  I hope...  Interesting adventure with city utilities...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rent Party Rag

Ah, the joys of being a landlord...  truly, because I'm lucky to have great renters.  They pay on time and mix great drinks to celebrate the occasion!  For March 1st, we had an experienced bartender hired for the evening, and a super chocolate cake for a simultaneous birthday party.  Here's the prep and our mixologist:



Our host toasts his guests and the evening to come (danger, danger, will robinson...)



And my first drink of the evening, a beautifully concocted Catalina Margarita...


Then the women showed up, and things really got rolling...


The birthday boy hides his age behind the booze...


If you are going to get drunk and rowdy, best to invite the neighbors, even if they are teetotalling... or is that teatotalling?


A couple of us took a more modest approach to the evening...  rather wise as it turned out...


Because the party cat looks worried...


Our bartender demonstrates how to create a perfect twist...


Creating the perfect drink...  a St. Germaine...  the liquore, a bunch of stuff, topped with champaign...


Then things started getting out of hand...  or mouth...  or just messes...



Thankfully reinforcements arrived to help with bartending chores...


And yet another great drink...  a dirty girl scout...  tastes just like a thin mint...


Apologies for the fuzzy picture, and the next ones to follow, hard to focus about this time at night.  And our host also lost focus...  man down!

 
Leading to the close of the evening...  (our host did survive...)


At least we have whole month to recover...