Sunday, October 2, 2011

Making travel more fun

Required ingredients for a fun vacation may vary drastically from person to person, but one ingredient that adds heaps of joy to any vacation day for Nancy and me is meeting a guide, a server, a park ranger, or any person who really enjoys doing his or her job and strives to have some fun doing it.
Last January, the park ranger at the Arizona Memorial in Honolulu was particularly professional and Faced with group after group of eager tourist, he handled things smoothly and managed to be a joy to talk to. 

In that same great city, a bartender at the Hard Rock Cafe tossed some bottles for us and made everyone feel welcome.
In September, Nancy and I traveled to the Pacific Northwest with our friends Dick and Ev, and encountered many fun, dedicated professionals.
A manager at the Phillips County County Museum, Malta, Montana, eagerly explained how her grandfather convinced her grandmother to move from Minnesota to rough it in Montana many years ago. Her detailed personal story made the museum's artifacts and photos more relevant to us, which makes her the kind of person who helps make our trip more fun and interesting.

But the museum has more than just outstanding western and farm artifacts. Located on Highway #2, which runs east and west along the northern part of Montana, it is one of several museums that contain dinosaur remains. In the picture above I stand next to a femur bone of  an apatosaurus. The display is unique to area discoveries and is one of the many treasures along highway #2.
The H. Earl Clack Museum at Havre, Montana, is located in a mall on the edge of town. Behind the mall parking lot is the attraction we want to visit, Wahkpa Chugn Buffalo Jump, a centuries-old site where Native Americans herded buffalo over the edge of a steep embankment to accomplish large kills to feed families.
It is here that we meet dedicated workers, and a remarkable couple of people. We arrive at the museum about 2:30 and are told that the tours to the Buffalo Jump ended at 2:00, but the manager immediately phones to see if someone can come in to give us a tour.

Anna Brumley, pictured below, comes in especially to takes us down a nearly vertical embankment before she gives us a tour of the digs below.
 Above and below are photos of our destination, the bottom of the buffalo jump.

We have our seat belts fastened in the back seat as Anna explains the digs while descending the hill and riding the brakes all the way down. The camera's eye doesn't do this steep road justice.
We use the opportunity to thank her for coming in especially to give us this tour, and she explains the reason for her unbridled enthusiasm for her work. Her husband John discovered the digs when he was 14 years old in about 1961! He went on to become an archaeologist and now he and his wife manage the digs, give tours and dedicate their lives to the discovery. For them, this is living the dream.
At the bottom of the cliff, Anna gives us a tour of several small buildings that cover the digs, and we get some lessons from experts on how to throw the atlatl to kill a bison. Nancy doesn't do too bad in her first try below:
After Nancy's throw, the plywood bison remains standing, just like he did after I hurled my atlatl.

Nancy snapped a photo of Dick and me talking with Anna in one of the covered dig sites.

My focus is not to give readers an accounting of our trip, but, instead to point out the many, many individuals who made it special. Anna is a jewel, and I can only encourage you to take the drive to Havre and see the digs, which reveal layers of use during over a thousand years.

As we drive toward Glacier National Park, we notice a dark cloud and smell fire. 
This fire is one of many burning in the northwest, and the haze will limit our views of Glacier National Park this day and the next.

That evening, we arrive at the East Lodge in Glacier National Park, and when we eat supper, we are served by the Jing, a fascinating student from China, who entertains us with stories and treats everyone she meets with enthusiasm and warmth. 

Nancy snapped a photo of Jing, above, and she took one of us, below:

Thus is only the end of our second day of travel on a fifteen-day trip, and already we have met several workers who make that extra effort to have fun and spread it to others. I'll return with a few more examples soon.

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