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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Attraction Review: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort near Anaconda, Montana

While on vacation with my bestie in Montana, we tried out the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.  Some sources list it as being in Fairmont, Montana, and others list it as being in Anaconda, Montana.

We had looked at the website and thought it was worth a look.  There are public access hours and rates for the pools (and dressing rooms), and it is open 24/7 to those staying in the resort as guests.

When we arrived we asked to see the pools (there are two indoors and two outdoors).  They had a room available and we decided to stay.  I think it was about $155 per night for a basic, two-queen room, plus tax (which split two ways isn't terrible).

The rooms are average.  They are clean and perfectly adequate, but a bit overpriced.  Oddly, given that it is located at a hot springs, my water in the shower wasn't quite hot enough for my taste and the faucet had to be manhandled to get it to shut off all the way. Otherwise, no complaints about noise late at night.  It was spring break week and there were some families with young children but overall, we were not disturbed.

We checked menus and decided that they were overpriced for meals, drinks, gift shop...pretty much everything.  We drove back into Anaconda and got some groceries for our evening meal.

We soaked/swam in the outdoor pool in the afternoon, and then went back at night.  It is amazing at night, especially in the winter when it's cold.  Steam rose everywhere and the stars were beautiful.  That right there was worth it all.

It is perfectly affordable for a day use situation (around $8 per person).  I think for the general public, the pool is off limits after 10 p.m.

We didn't take advantage of the bar, restaurants, "petting zoo", golf, trails or anything else.  We just soaked in the outdoor pools and stayed in a room.  The indoor pool area was stifling hot...even in winter and the outdoors just seemed so much better.  We forgot flip-flops...you'll want flip flops.  They have these soaking wet area rugs around the indoor pool...totally gross.  And we wondered if we might not stick to the outside when we discovered that our damp towels were frozen stiff and the metal railings looked a bit frosty.  We got out of the pool via a stairway and avoided touching the metal with our hot, wet hands.  Somehow, I don't think I would like it nearly so well in summer when it's already warm.  The contrast of the cool/cold air and the hot water was heaven.  Maybe not so heavenly running back to our room and across a breezeway, but we managed.

If I had any concern at all, really, it would be that there are no lifeguards on duty after closing to the public...and the night is when the people are out there drinking like fish and behaving like Neandrathals.  There were three policemen out there busting up a teen party the night we stayed.  It just doesn't seem super safe and seems like a huge liability not to have the pools staffed 24/7 if they are open 24/7.  What about excessive alcohol use and a hot tub could be a problem, right?  We joked that we wondered if someone came out early to "skim off the floaters" before anyone got up.

In the room they have some literature about the history of the hot springs resort.  Go figure...it was once sacred Native American space and then we "acquired it" from them.  I the Native Americans have a different word for it.  During the evening hours I felt nearly transcended through time, while floating on my back looking up through the steam to the stars above.  I felt a oneness with those who came before using these waters for sacred healing.  I can't explain it any better than that.  When we got our photos back there were orbs in the photos everywhere (you can see one at the foot of the bed, and there are several in the nighttime photo above.  It's a peaceful land...sometimes the visitors don't act so peaceful, but if you listen...it's there.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Business Review: The Sweet Palace in Philipsburg, Montana

On one of our road trip days during my recent visit to my bestie, "Thelma's" in Missoula, we heard from a friend about a candy store in Philipsburg, MT and since it was on our way, we went.

Philipsburg, MT is a small used-to-be-mining town with a population of around 820 residents.  It is the county seat of Granite County and is now trying to rebuild itself with tourism.

From the main street there are breathtaking mountain views, and the buildings look much as they must have in the late 1800's.  It's truly and "old West" town.  There are quite a few shops and some are very unique and tourism oriented.  We were there early in the morning, and some shops weren't open, and others didn't open this early in the season.  It had snowed a few inches overnight, and was crisp, cold, sunny and peaceful.

I can imagine if you lived here, you might not love that there might not be much to do.

We looked in several shops before stumbling onto the candy store we had heard about.  The Sweet Palace is not to be missed.  It's simply amazing.  It is a BEAUTIFUL store with hardwood floors and glass cases and antique shelving/cabinetry.  Everything is arranged with great attention to detail.

It was an 1890's Victorian confectionery and when purchased in 1998 it had been a hardware store.  They claim to have over 750 types of candy, including 50 varieties of fudge and 72 flavors of saltwater taffy.  They also say they have 20 varieties of caramels and 70 options for sugarless confections.  I'm telling you...go!

I'm not much of a "hard candy" person or a "taffy" person, so that narrowed the field considerably.  I put together a box of fudge for my Sweet Baboo, and a box for me.  They had a lot of truffles too.  Oh heavens there was a lot of candy.

They are not hard to find as the main street of Broadway is small, but their address is 109 E. Broadway in Philipsburg.  Phone numer 1-888-SWEET-XO (793-3896), or 406-859-3353, Fax 406-859-3631.  Visit their website via the provided links.  You can email them at candy@sweetpalace.com  They are probably willing to ship too!  Their brochure says they are open Sun-Fri 10-6 in summer and 10-5 in winter (year round), closed Saturdays.

Enjoy the photos.  Better yet, go visit.  The fudge was fantastic by the way.  I think it ran about $11 a pound, and the candy along the side walls was a flat rate of around $8 a pound, mix and match.  Watch your budget, you can go broke in a heartbeat at these prices.  It's an experience for all your senses.  After the photos is a short video about the store or watch it via this link.

















Sunday, April 20, 2014

Business Review: Peace of Mind Head Shop in Missoula Montana

Peace of Mind head shop, located at 123 West Main Street in Missoula, Montana, is a small store chock full of artistic locked glass cases loaded with both beautiful and functional glass pipes and other smoke/pipe related items.

I was in a head shop in the late 70's in South Lake Tahoe, California...ONCE...before they passed laws against them, (and then probably reopened them recently).  My ex husband was a pot smoker.  It was an amazing shop with all kinds of other gifts and cool do-dads.  Quite and education for a naive young adult.

Peace of Mind is a much smaller store and they were very professional, open, and the store is laid out in very good taste.


Weird that I would go there, huh?  I don't smoke pot, and don't smoke in general at all.  But, here was my reason for going.  As I've stated in some earlier posts, I will at times conduct saging rituals to clear the energy in my living space, much like the Native Americans have done for cleansing ritual.  Here's the odd thing that you will either understand or not, if you know anything about saging or smoke ritual (like incense used in churches):  Sometimes, whatever psychic yuck I've gotten exposed to, sometimes makes it's way INTO my body and at those times, I want to sage myself inside.  I know that may sound bizarre to many.

Stuffing a lit bundle of sage up my hoo-ha at a time like this just didn't seem a viable option.

For this reason, and since sage can be notoriously difficult to keep lit, I decided to try to find myself a small pipe to, on those rare occasions, smoke some sage.  Then at my favorite herb supplier, Mountain Rose Herbs, I found a new product offering;  an herbal smoke blend.  So I bought some.  I had an old Meerschaum pipe that had belonged to my father, but the bowl was huge, and I only want just a teensy, tiny...like one inhale of smoke for cleansing purposes.

So I went to this local head shop, where nobody would know me (because even though I am not against pot smoking, I just felt weird going in there), and looked for a very small, natural, earthy-looking (non-drug-funk-looking) pipe for this rare purpose.  For about $10 I bought a small marble pipe that is only a couple of inches long and has a tiny bowl.   They also told me I should get some screens to fit it so I did.  I'm totally out of my league.  They didn't ask any questions of course, but I somehow was fighting the urge to tell them this whole story so they wouldn't think I was a drug user.  It's my generation and my nativity, what can I say?  I feel weird going into a liquor store too...and on this trip, add the liquor store AND Adam and Eve to my list.  Hey...girls gotta play.

I even bought one of their t-shirts because I like them.  I wonder who will know what the store is from the t-shirt.  Just "like-minded" folks I suppose.  Ahh, let 'em wonder!

So I'm set...and educated. I didn't want to spend a fortune for something I might only use once a year, if that.  This fit the bill perfectly.  Watch the video below (or via this link) that gives a quick tour of the Portland, Oregon Peace of Mind shop.  If you've never been in one of these stores...it's an experience.  I felt overwhelmed.  It's probably way above and beyond the call of friendship that I asked Thelma to go with me.  She's a trooper that woman!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula Montana

Not much of a line on March 30th 2014, since there were snow flurries and gusty winds.  I was surprised anybody was here at Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula, Montana, given the chilly weather.

Thelma tells me it is a popular stop and there are often very long lines awaiting the specialty, home-made ice creams.

I'm from Oregon where Tillamook ice cream is our claim to fame.  Previously, I would have told you that ice cream from the Bandon Cheese Factory in Bandon, Oregon was the best...but then Tillamook took them over.

But in Missoula, this is the happening ice cream stop.  If you watch the video below, you'll see they've even attracted national attention.

Located at 631 S. Higgins in Missoula, this little stand has been making and serving up ice cream since 1995 in the Missoula and Helena areas of Montana.

I can't remember what Thelma ordered.  I ordered a scoop of the El Salvador Coffee and a scoop of Green Tea ice creams.  I had mine in a bowl...I'm not much of a cone person.  They do make their own waffle cones if you like those.  Two scoops costs you $3.75 and I would guess that the portion size is around a half cup per scoop, but that's just a guess.  Honestly, for the money, it seemed really small.

I've been portion spoiled by the aforementioned Bandon Cheese Factory, and a little known stop in Ukiah, Oregon called Rhodes Supply that has to serve the largest and least expensive ice cream on the planet.  Maybe the galaxy.

The ice cream at The Big Dipper is good, yet I could not, in all honestly tell you it is better than what I could buy at the grocery store for the same price for a quart.  So, honestly?  I don't get it.  But to each their own.

Thelma had yet to come here so it was a shared experience, spent huddled next to the car heater watching the snow whiz by.

Here's that national attention I was telling you about.  Watch below or via this link.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Business Review: Caras Nursery and Landscape in Missoula, Montana

Caras Nursery and Landscape in Missoula, Montana, is, as the name implies, a place for plants, and growing supplies.

Located at 2727 S. Third Street in Missoula, it is a large nursery and landscape business with a lot of cool stuff to see.

I visited in late March so it really wasn't even remotely in full bloom or fully stocked.  That's not their fault, that's mine.  I visited when I could.  I didn't find what prices I looked at to be outlandish, but neither were they competitive.  I might get ideas there, and make purchases elsewhere.  That's just how I roll.

I love going to nurseries; especially when I'm yearning for spring planting.  Just to walk around in a greenhouse and hope is like therapy.  Go look around...you won't be sorry.  They also have a healthy supply of miniature fairy scene items.


Here's a short television commercial for the nursery.  Watch below or via this link.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spencer's Gifts, Southgate Mall, Missoula Montana

While in Missoula visiting my bestie, Thelma, we went shopping at the Southgate Mall.  While there, we ventured into Spencer's Gifts.

Let me say, that I'm of an era where I remember back when Spencer's gifts was a mail order catalog only.  I can remember these catalogs having tons of humorous items, gag gifts and just very slightly, marginally risque' humor items.

Later, I perused some of the mall stores when they came out and they pretty much had everything the old catalogs had in them.  It has been years since I've been in one, since I don't live near a mall that has a Spencer's Gifts...or a mall at all for that matter.

I gotta tell you, I was shocked.  And I didn't think I was that much of a prude...except when it comes to children having access to adult material.

Sure, the store has some of the original gag gifts and specialty items it has always had.  But this store was far more adult than general public in content.  There was perhaps as much as half of the rear section of the store filled with sex toys and such.  Both Thelma and I were shocked.  I'll include here a quote from Wikipedia that I found while researching this post, but suffice to say, in this store, access was in no way limited.  Supposedly, no one under the age of 18 can shop in or make purchases from this section of the store.  Nothing separates it, and there were LITTLE kids back there asking questions...like 5 year olds, and young teens that knew they were viewing stuff not meant for them.  To access sex toys and marginally pornographic stuff (yeah, I know that's hard to define), one must be 18.  Not so at Spencer's Gifts.  I don't have any idea how this portion of the store is legal for those under 18 to have even viewing access too.

Spencer's is off my list.  Not gonna give them any of my money and support this nonsense.

Here's the quote from Wikipedia about the controversy.  Seems Thelma and I aren't the only ones that think this is not good business practice.  You can also use that link to read about the history of and the many times the store has changed corporate ownership over the years.  If you've got a petition...I'll sign it.  Yup...this from the woman who will be writing about her trip in to Adam and Eve...but it is only accessible to adults as far as I know.

"Criticism

Following an undercover investigation by television station WEWS in Cleveland, Spencer's was criticized for allowing children access to adult toys and explicit items such as a lollipop in the shape of a penis. This store is for ages 11 and up, but the adult toys, sex toys are for ages 18 and up. Parma, Ohio, Mayor Dean DePiero has vowed to force changes at the store located in the Parmatown Mall after viewing the story. On March 22, 2000, WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida also did a story on it. Items that draw attention to the store are semi-nude posters of women hanging up in the window, Playboy items such as tote bags and delicates, and seasonal items such as Halloween costumes. Due to these complaints erotic material has been moved to the back of the store where it can be viewed and/or bought by those who are over 18 years of age and have proper identification. Sales may be refused to minors or persons without the proper ID at the discretion of the employees on duty at that particular location. In February 2014 a boycott was started to protest items sold by the store which promote and glamorize irresponsible drinking in addition to stereotyping and denigrating the Irish. The Ancient Order of Hibernians’ National Anti-Defamation Chairman Neil Cosgrove protested, “We note that Spencer’s Gifts is a recidivist when it comes to denigrating the heritage and culture of Irish Americans. Spencer’s St. Pat’s merchandise seems to plumb new lows with each year." The AOH, which was founded in 1836, drew particular attention to a Tshirt on the company’s site with the slogan “F*** me I’m Irish”.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lolo Pass Deserves Honorable Mention

As I start to break down some of my visits during the Thelma and Louise Most Excellent Montana Adventure (see post), I think that Lolo Pass deserves at least honorable mention.  It figured prominently in my travel plan TO Missoula.

Here's a link to information on Wikipedia about this famed mountain pass.  I chose to take the long way on an already long trip because I wanted to avoid as much city-style traffic and decision making and lane changing as possible.  I'm far from a seasoned or confident or even competent driver.

Photo courtesy of recumbantblog.com
First we were watching up to the minute road cam views of the summit because at 5,233 feet in elevation, in late March I was most assuredly liable to encounter winter driving conditions.  Even the day before it looked bad up there.  But when I went through the snow was piled high along the road and the roads were mostly dry...wet here and there.  Overall good.

But...I also have to add that to put this windy-ass road toward the end of my long journey nearly did me in.  It follows the river through the Bitterroot mountain range and it winds and winds and winds.  No cruise control on this road.  Even in winter it is still beautiful.  Lots of fresh snow roadside and icy rivers and snow-dusted trees.  I would have enjoyed that more had I been the passenger.

Not a lot in the way of "facilities" either.  OK, read that "none".  And I swear, just knowing that makes me have to pee.  It was memorable enough that I opted to take the freeway home and take my chances on sudden death just to cut and hour or so off my trip and avoid this pass.  The scenery is hard to beat though...if you and your bladder live through the trip.

I just thought Lolo Pass deserved some mention.   Given that I nearly pulled over and cried and gave up.