Saturday, August 1, 2009

Silver and Swans

July 29

On the Road from Wallace, ID to Kalispell, MT

It's been a long time since we have been lured into a "World Famous" roadside attraction on this trip, so when we see the billboards for "Lincoln's World Famous 50,000 Silver $," we can't resist the urge to pull off I-90 in Haugan, Montana to check it out.

The Lincolns mounted the first silver dollar in their family-owned bar in 1952. They have been adding silver dollars to the bar, and the walls, ever since, and have frequently changed the name of their establishment as their collection has increased. They now have over 53,000 silver dollars, just about all of them donated by customers. The name of each donor is etched in the wood beneath his or her dollar. If you want to know where to find your personal silver dollar, you can just ask, and one of the Lincolns will look it up on the computer for you, and take you to see it. Anyone who wants to be immortalized in Lincoln's World Famous 50,000 Silver $ can give the bar tender a dollar bill, fill out a form, and "the Lincolns will put up an Eisenhower for you."

We talked to one of the Lincoln daughters, who told us that their dad has a new system planned, now that they are running out of wall space. He is going to mount the silver dollars on big boards and hang them from the eaves. She is a little bit worried about how they will get up there to dust them, but has faith her father will figure it all out, because, "He is a very smart man. I mean, he's not an engineer or anything, but he is really good at figuring out this kind of stuff."

And, he's a pretty shrewd businessman, too, we think. The building which houses his world famous bar also has a large family style restaurant and a huge gift shop selling everything you can imagine that is made of silver or has silver dollars embedded in it, plus lots of western wear, an intimidating selection of knives and swords, and the usual roadside attraction tacky souvenirs. Right next door is the Silver Dollar Casino. We figure the Lincolns are raking in plenty of regular dollars here, in addition to the silver dollars they have on display.

The real highlight of our day was a stop at the Ninepipe Wildlife Refuge on the Flathead Indian Reservation north of Missoula. The Refuge includes a few large ponds and many water-filled "potholes" left behind after glaciers scoured the valley. There were thousands of shore birds, ducks and marsh birds resting in the refuge. We left our spotting scope at home, so were a bit frustrated by not being able to get close enough to identify them all with only our binoculars. But, we had a wonderful time watching the white pelicans fly in and gather for their communal fish round-up. We watched tundra swans and lots of ducks and grebes. We saw a ring-necked pheasant at the side of the road, and when we drove closer, a half dozen pheasant chicks followed her as she ran under a pine tree for cover.

They call it a Wildlife Refuge, but it was a refuge for us as well--a little escape from civilization, before we hit the road again.

We had our picnic on the shore of Flathead Lake, then continued to Kalispell, the last town of any significant size before we get to the western gateway to Glacier National Park, our destination tomorrow.

Based on what we have seen so far, casinos are to Montana as espresso bars are to Washington. It is quite astounding how many casinos there are and how many places they manage to tuck them into. We wonder who are the customers, and what does Montana do with all the gambling money? We are pretty sure there won't be casinos in Glacier, and we won't miss them. We are also pretty sure there won't be internet access or a dependable cell phone signal, and those we will miss.

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