Coloring the Void

living nomadically

Bars and Cars in Deer Lodge, MT

We broke camp at Salmon Lake State Park and headed to Deer Lodge, MT. We needed water and a laundry so decided to park at Indian Creek Campground a private park at the edge of town.  The sites were well spaced, the electric and water good, the laundry room priced reasonably and clean.


A farm outside Deer Lodge, MT

Our reasons for heading here, other than clean clothes, were the museums. Considering the size of the town, there are a lot of museums here! There is also a National Historic Site, Grant-Kohrs Ranch, but we ran out of time. It was unfortunate, as I really want to know what those giant catapult looking things are out in the fields…

After parking and eating lunch, we head to the old Montana State Prison. I don’t know why, but I love visiting old abandoned prisons and have found them all over the country. This particular prison was built in the 1870s, so I thought it might hold some really interesting sites. To be perfectly honest, Eastern State Penitentiary blows this place away. It doesn’t hurt that Al Capone was kept there. None-the less, the Montana State Prison is pretty interesting and worth a stop if in the area.


the main and administrative building

exercise yard

exercise yard


a cell – turned into a double cell when prison crowding became an issue. These are really tiny boxes…


a sink in the women’s prison area that was turned into a max security area.

cell block

cell row. These were stacked four high. Artwork on left is part of a current installation of local artists – the works related to prison life


Mike on the wrong side of the law…


A theatre built much later – used as a reward for excellent behavior. Currently in really bad shape and closed.

Attached to the Prison is a car museum. We really had no expectations but wandered into the room anyway. Turns out, this is one of the most extensive car collections we have ever seen!  There are at least 100 cars, starting with the first car ever built. We saw cars we didn’t know existed, cars where there may be one still in existence, cars that were so pristine they looked as if they never set wheel on a US road, especially one in Montana.

dl9dl10dl11I loved the amazing details on the older cars. The amount of detail work required to build them must have been phenomenal. It is surprising, considering the technological advances, that today’s cars are not nearly as detailed as past cars. In fact, our cars today are much more utilitarian and much more lacking in personality. But, I guess our cookie cutter cars look good next to our cookie cutter houses.


Check out how shiny the chrome is on this baby. Even the paint is polished.


The first pop up camper!

The first pop up camper!

fins! This is a station wagon. Note the curved glass details...

fins! This is a station wagon. Note the curved glass details…

and eyebrows! Cars need eyebrows. Then you know what they are thinking.

and eyebrows! Cars need eyebrows. Then you know what they are thinking.


yes, a pristine VW bus.

yes, a pristine VW bus.


the first (and only?) amphibicar! a 1967 Amphicar made in Germany. It went 70 MPH on land and 7 MPH on water. The previous owner, the Butte City Sheriff, used to drive it in Echo Lake on weekends.  Next to it was the very first mas produced electric car – around 1971.

A custom VW dune buggy. It was a 1973 beetle, modified in Australia for the movie, "The Road Warrior." Pretty cool looking car!

A custom VW dune buggy. It was a 1973 beetle, modified in Australia for the movie, “The Road Warrior.” Pretty cool looking car!

While I only have a few posted here, there were dozens and dozens more. Photographing here was difficult, as the cars are squished together and lighting is horrible. But there is a huge assortment of trucks, muscle cars, model ts, you name it, they probably have it. Even the last model Studebaker (it was a beautiful car) and my personal favorite, the 1955 Thunderbird convertible. If you love cars and are in Montana, this is a must stop. The only problem is it could take hours to tour. Every time you think you are done, there is another building and showroom around the corner.


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