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4 Lane Bliss to 2 Lane Torture

• CATEGORIES: Features
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Me standing on the walkway at Giant Springs State Park. Note the trees in the background bending to the wind. The wind plagued us all day.

On Thursday, we drove from Minot, North Dakota, to Great Falls, Montana.

The drive started off nicely, with a flat, smooth, four-land highway. North Dakota really knows how to build a highway, or at least they know how to build Highway 2. The road was great all the way to Willston, North Dakota, which also is the border between North Dakota and Montana. Along the way, we enjoyed wind blown grass against countless deep blue ponds and lakes. So Idyllic.

Naively, I thought all of Highway 2 would like that. As usual, just when you are cruising down the highway of life, life throws you a curve … or in this case takes away two of your lanes and turns the remaining two lanes into whoop-d-doos. Adding to that, Mother Nature cranked up the wind until our average MPG dropped from 24mpg to 18mpg.

This made for a long drive between Williston and Great Falls. Still, we made it safely to Great Falls.

Our reason for spending the night in Great Falls was to see if Giant Springs Heritage State Park had made any updates to its smelter exhibit. The exhibit is a walking tour through the remains of the Montana Smelter, the first industry that came to Great Falls. It was a state-of-the-art silver-lead smelter designed, built, and controlled by Anton Eilers; which is the reason he is considered the city’s father of industry.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Montana State Archives. The smelter, built in 1887, fills most of this photo. To the right is the manager’s residence and in the foreground you can see the spring for which Giant Spring is named.

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Yes, the tour is still there, along with the remains of one of the blast furnaces.

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After our quick tour, we walked down to see the park’s core attraction: the Roe River, the shortest river in the world. The water bubbles out of a spring, then flows 200 feet, before tumbling into the Missouri River.

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Hungry, we left for the hotel, then pondered what to have for dinner. Using Yelp, I found a Jamaican restaurant, Jah-T’aime. The food was highly rated, so we decided to give it a go.

Our first concern arose when we reached the parking lot. We arrived not to find a restaurant, but an huge, older brick building in the middle of a neighborhood with no signage at all. The place was right out of Ghost Adventurers episode. We quadrupled checked the address, looked at the building, and checked again. Yep, we seemed to be in the right place ….

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We pulled into a parking lot on the side of this building, so didn’t see just how huge it was!

Eventually, we spotted a temporary looking sign that read “Jenny Craig”. Well, the whole thing seem dicey.  I reread the Yelp reviews, hoping to learn more. I noticed one reviewer mention that the restaurant was in an “old hospital turned retail space building”. That seemed to fit with what we saw. Armed with that highly dubious intel, we parked and ventured inside. Spoiler alert, we did make it out, because I am writing this…

As we began walking the hall, we saw some shops, though they all seemed closed (it was 5:30pm). Which made it all the stranger. Finally, we reached the lobby of the place. There we spotted a long thing poster board for the restaurant that said it was on the second floor.

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We didn’t notice the side to the left of the elevator right away. The sign explained we had to go to the second floor and follow our nose.

We found the elevator and up we went. As we rode up the elevator Ann had an epiphany. We’d learned just minutes before from her mother Rosemary that Ann’s grandfather had lived for quite a while in Great Falls and worked as a doctor there. Putting two-and-two together, she realized that he likely worked at the hospital we were now exploring. What a crazy coincidence!

Stepping out of the elevator, it wasn’t hard to follow the good smells and the sounds of Reggae music. Through a glass door and windows we could see an array of tables covered in plastic table clothes. Opening the door, the music got a little louder. Off to the left was a row of chaffing dishes and a woman looking at us. We finally walked over to her and said that this was our first time there and we weren’t sure what to do.

The woman helping us was in her mid-thirties. She seemed sweet, but was a bit on the odd side. She’d lived in Great Falls all her life and her mother had worked in the Psych ward in the floor above the restaurant. She also mentioned that the morgue had been in the basement and that no one liked to go into the basement as it was pretty haunted. She said they even had the occasional ghost in the restaurant, but nothing like the basement.

Well, okay, good to know!

Anyway, a much longer story made short, we got our food. Ann had the ribs and I had the oxtail. WOW, the food was fantastic. The oxtail was rich, super tender, fatty, and just overall slurping good. The coleslaw was crisp, with a vinegary bite that was outstanding (just the way I like it), and the rice and beans was as good as any I’ve ever had.

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The friend breaded balls at the top of my plate were wonderful, like a fried, dense, dough with a hint of sweetness and a semi-crisp exterior.

The food made the entire experience worth it. I later told the chef that our only regret was that we couldn’t stay an extra day to try everything else.

 

 

4 Comments on “4 Lane Bliss to 2 Lane Torture

  1. Bill Garland

    Dave, I truly enjoy your posts and updates during your trips. You have a way of finding the great places to eat too. Enjoy. Bill Garland. Carlisle, Pa.

  2. David Eilers Post author

    Bill,

    Glad you enjoy the posts.

    We really lucked into the Jamaican place. We only found it because of YELP and Ann’s gluten issues.

    On our trip East I neglected to recount our delicious dinner at Tavern on Clark in Rockford, IL. A reader donated some money for dinner. Since Tavern on Clark was close to our motel and was so highly rated, we splurged. From the bread, to the salad, to the meal was excellent; it deserves the high rating it has on YELP: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g36619-d7050426-Reviews-Tavern_on_Clark-Rockford_Illinois.html

  3. gmwillys

    Kind of puts me in mind if the coffee shop in Huntsville AL, within the combat boot factory that we visited. Yelp is a great source for finding places that are hiding in plain sight.

  4. David Eilers Post author

    The Huntsville adventure was one reason we didn’t give up on this restaurant. 🙂

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