The disdain for long highways with little topography, no major cities or curves have made Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska not top choices for American travelers. Its always a place one rushes through to get where they are going. US Highway 2 in Montana (known as the Hi-Line) is out of the way for everyone and not considered worth going out of their way for.
Why travel the Hi-Line? Small towns that the world forgot and an open road where you can see for miles. In a fast paced world, you don’t get the time to calm down and think. Process your thoughts on the open road. Before I left North Dakota, I HAD to drive the Hi-Line one last time. I wasn’t the same person that arrived in Williston in 2012. I was not sure it was a good or bad thing. Was spending almost four years of my 20’s in a boomtown worth the sacrifice. A nine-hour drive on the Hi-Line could put those last few years into perspective.
Nine-hours later (add in extra time for small town museums and coffee) it was evident that I needed to go to North Dakota to confirm that I could anything that I wanted and succeed. The only question left was, what? After nine hours, the answer could only be answered once I traveled the world.
Personal highlights of the Hi-Line.
SMALL TOWN DINERS – Cheap coffee and pie. Need I say more? I have always loved saddling up along the counter and talking with the locals. They are wonderful and excited to find out why someone is actually visiting. If I wasn’t in a slight time crunch (aka 15 hours max) These stops would turn my trip into three days!
FORT PECK DAM – The massive dam was not made by concrete but rather by dirt. It is a massive and it took me about five minutes that I was not going to see a structure similar to the Hoover dam. The dam was built under the Public Works Administration during the Great Depression. (Aka PWA, you know one of those acronyms you had to learn in US History) There is a little wildlife museum near the dam showcasing some of the fish found in Fort Peck dam along with details about the construction. In the summer, there is a theater group that performs plays at the Fort Peck theater. Below is a panorama from the top of Fort Peck Dam along with the memorials of the men who died while making the dam.
BEAR PAW MOUNTAINS (Chinook) – This area was the location of the last battle of the Nez Perce War. This was the location where Chief Joseph surrendered. Take time to visit the battlefields or visit the Blaine County Museum for some great information. And yes the high school mascot is the Beeters. The image is a half sugar beet- half egg beater.
HAVRE, MONTANA – This is the largest city along the Hi-Line until you get to the Flathead Valley. This town was originally started as a railroad hub along the Great Northern RR. This town was also a hub for some classic vices that we still see today. After a fire in 1904, the entire downtown was completely ran underground. Today, you can take the Underground Tour of Havre. It is a great showcase old machinery and artifacts used during the turn of the 20th Century. Havre, had its vices and you get to see the opium dens and prostitution house. I have suggested this a place to visit for anyone traveling the Hi-Line. Being a good midway point, it has plenty of places for lunch.
(Left: This is the Madam’s room)
SHELBY – As you head towards town, look north to see the Sweet Grass Hills. There some good places for coffee and its your last chance to see a Interstate until Spokane or Grand Forks. I got pulled over here once so I usually don’t stop.
CUT BANK – It is home to a massive penguin to remind us that it was the coldest place in the continental US. Just outside the city, is the river that gives its name. I visited Montana mostly in the winter and spring so its a reminder to always pack a hat.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – This will start off your trip or end it. The place speaks for itself. It is amazing that the majority of your trip is so flat and then all of a sudden you are in the mountains. I have
been through Glacier by train and by car. Both ways are phenomenal. When you drive outside the summer, the road is mainly all yours.