Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Helena, Montana

Finally, a day without rain.  We were all very excited to see the sun peeking through a couple holes in the clouds this morning.  Peanut may have been the most excited and he’s found the sun’s rays at every window as that great ball of fire has made it’s trek across the sky.

Gene and I left Peanut to his sunbathing and we went downtown.  We had two stops in mind--the Cathedral and the capitol building.  The route we chose took us to the Cathedral of St. Helena first.

The cathedral is named in honor of Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor.  This Gothic building constructed in the early 1900s was magnificent as many cathedrals are.  The high vaulted ceiling allowed for two levels of large stained glass windows.  There are thirty-seven windows in the sanctuary which tell the Biblical story from Adam to the early Church of the New Testament.  They are extraordinary.

We were even lucky enough to accidentally stumble into the sanctuary while the organist was practicing.  It made for a remarkable visit.

Our second stop was the capitol building.  Helena got started in the 1860s as a mining camp.  Even when the gold ran out the community continued to prosper and became the territorial capital in 1875.  Montana became a state in 1889.  Helena was selected capital, an architect hired, plans drawn and approved, and construction started and completed by 1902.

We picked up the self-guided tour guide and proceeded to visit the capitol.  Although it’s in the neoclassical design of so many state houses, this one is much smaller and more intimate than the huge sprawling structures we’ve visited lately.

The legislature was not in session (I think I read somewhere that they only meet every other year).  That’s usually a good thing when visiting a capitol because there’s not so many people around and the House and Senate chambers are empty for viewing.  However, as luck would have it, a very large group of high school students are playing government this week.  They get to elect their officers, so there were campaign signs in every window and propped up on all the statues.  They were voting on and passing bills in the Senate chamber and talking on cell phones in the corridors.  We didn’t stay long.

I think I like this small town.  With a population of about 65,000, it’s large enough to have the things you need--hospital, large supermarkets, a variety of restaurants, some entertainment venues, but small enough not to have the huge traffic problems of larger cities.  The surrounding mountains offer a nice view from almost anywhere in town and, I’m sure, are just covered up in hiking trails.  Of course, in winter you wouldn’t be able to get out your door.

I got the laundry done this afternoon.  The refrigerator is nearly clean out to comply with the no meat, dairy, or plant items to enter Canada.  I think we’re ready to go.  Tomorrow we plan to drive to a rest area somewhere between Great Falls and the border for the night.  That will put us at the border crossing Thursday morning.  Gene has read on the forums that they are searching everyone, but we have also read that others have only had to answer a few questions and were then sent on their way.  We’ll see when the time comes.  Hope it doesn’t take too long.

That’ll do it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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