I have discovered without a doubt one of the most amazing towns in the United States--Fort Benton, Montana.
Although I previously commented on the vastness of Montana, my amazement by it increased dramatically on the drive from Billings to Fort Benton. The eastern part of the state certainly consists of wide open spaces, but it is mostly barren plains so there are few objects with which one can gain a comparison. As I moved into the central part of the state, mountains and buttes began to appear which offer a perspective of the scope of the landscape. Take a look at how small the grain silos appear in my view from the highway.
It's hard to describe, but as one hurtles down a back road highway (the speed limit is 70, but is hardly enforced) you are absolutely overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. It's almost as if you're in some gigantic Imax theater.
Anyways, after driving through these brown, dusty plains for hours I arrived in Fort Benton which can only be described as an oasis. The plain suddenly stops and drops sharply to the green river valley below. The town is like something out of fairy tale. Main Street is right out of Mayberry RFD and everything is lush and green. Once you're there it's like you dropped into a completely different world than the one you had just spent a good part of the day in.
There is a beautiful river walk, a court house with a manicured lawn and a small town vibe that for the most part exists only in the movies. I had planned to camp in the area but as soon as I saw the Pioneer Lodge Motel across from the river I knew I was going to stay there.
I hand signed a register in the motel and received an actual metal key. Later I went shopping for Coleman lantern fuel at the hardware store which also sold sporting goods, refrigerators and televisions. I might as well have been eight years old again. The only thing missing was I didn't have a brush cut and a grape soda mustache.
It was perfect.