Day Five ~ 448 Miles

Spearfish Travel Blog

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Devils Tower in the distance

There was much to see today and we couldn't wait to get started.  Our room at the Spearfish Holiday Inn was comfortable and warm, but we rolled out of the bed at 6 a.m. because daylight was burning.   It was a perfect day for riding, cool temperatures and clear blue skies.  From Spearfish we took U.S. Highway 24 West towards Devils Tower.  This unusual monument was made famous in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Highway 24 is a top-notch motorcycle road; two lanes with practically no traffic.  Of course, no traffic also means no people, so we were riding all alone most of the morning.    The local cowboys must have gotten up early, too.  We could see them on the backs of their well-trained quarter horses as we rode along the highway.

Jerry at Devils Tower
  These animals are a sight to behold; every muscle in their body flexed as they work the cattle just right, putting them into the holding pens for branding.   The smell of burning cowhide was in the air.

We found ourselves riding along a high ridge with excellent visibility.  This allowed us to see the Devils Tower in the distance.  At first we didn't realize what we were seeing.  It was just unusual to be able to see so far; much like the song, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.  This odd rock formation rises 867 feet from its base and the closer we got to it, the more we understand its enormous size.   We noticed tiny dots moving on the side of the mountain.  What in the world .

Can you see the prairie dog?
. . . .   then someone told us it was rock climbers.   They looked more like ants than people.

We especially enjoyed the prairie dog village.  Although these little critters are considered a nuisance by the local ranch owners and have been under strict control during recent years, they are certainly in no danger of extinction here at Devils Tower.  Their buff-colored hair blends with the dirt of their burrows and sometimes you have to look twice to catch a glimpse.  Small, weighing only 2 to 3 pounds, they are a member of the squirrel family and are well adapted to tunnel life. 

After spending several hours exploring Devils Tour and the prarie dog town, it was time to move on down  the road.

Little Bighorn Battlefield
  We followed the two-lane highway until it ran into Interstate 90 at Moorcroft.  This looked like a good place to stop and eat lunch.  There was also a post office for mailing our postcards.  We found a clean cafeteria that was serving a hot lunch from a steamtable; good food and good company. 

Our next stop would be Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument or better known as "Custer's Last Stand."  We rode I-90 north into Montana and followed the signs.  We were smack dab in the middle of Crow Indian Reservation and wide open spaces.   Rolling hills covered with pronghorn; an animal that is somewhere inbetween a deer and a goat.   The hillsides were spotted with white and tan where they were peacefully grazing.

Last Stand Hill

I had heard about Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer in school but had never given him or the Battle of Little Bighorn much thought.  After watching the informative movie at the Visitor Center that told Colonel Custer's story, I came to realize that he was a cruel, power-hungry man that doesn't deserve to be remembered at all.  This National Monument memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life which was quickly being taken from them by the white man.

On two hot days in June, 1876, more than 260 soldiers and attached personnel of the U.S. Army met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.  Although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the white man's efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.

National Cemetery at Little Bighorn
  So sad.  What did the Indians do to deserve such treatment?  This was their land.  It didn't belong to the white man but the white man took it by force.   The Indians were lied to again and again.  Promises of protection were just words.   The settlers moving West after the Civil War showed no regard or respect for the sanctity of the Indians hunting grounds.   The Indians only wanted to protect what was rightfully theirs in the first place.  Is this what is known as "progress?"  To completely destroy a culture and a way of life?  You be the judge.

By mid-afternoon, the sun had warmed things up nicely and we were shedding our jackets.  Our plans were to spend the night in Red Lodge, at the base of Beartooth Pass.

Big Sky Country
   After leaving the Battlefield, we rode Northwest on I-90, through Billings and Laurel, where we hooked up with Highway 212 to Red Lodge.  The mountains loomed in the distance.  We were filled with anticipation.  This trip had been talked about, planned, mapped, and looked forward to for many, many months.  Now we were almost there ~ Beartooth Pass and Yellowstone National Park.

The sun had settled behind the mountain and soon we were riding in dusky dark.  Jerry and Randy had their eyes wide open, watching for any little movement that might indicate a deer or even a moose was crossing the road.   This was prime deer and moose country and we certainly didn't want to come this far, only to wreck our bikes and hurt ourselves.  Soon we were settled into a room at the Comfort Inn, taking off our boots and stretching our legs.  We found a small Italian cafe within walking distance of our room where we ate dinner before settling in for the night.

 

X_Drive says:
I am so glad I wasn't driving a motorcycle when we visited Devil's Tower. A deer jumped out and I nearly hit her before she turned and jumped away. If I'd been on a bike I think I would have layed it down.
Posted on: Jan 18, 2008
strutter says:
What a nice blog. The details really make every aspect quite tangible. Do you ever come for Sturgis Bike Week?

-shawn

www.blackhillstravelblog.com
Posted on: Dec 04, 2007
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Devils Tower in the distance
Devils Tower in the distance
Jerry at Devils Tower
Jerry at Devils Tower
Can you see the prairie dog?
Can you see the prairie dog?
Little Bighorn Battlefield
Little Bighorn Battlefield
Last Stand Hill
Last Stand Hill
National Cemetery at Little Bighorn
National Cemetery at Little Bighorn
Big Sky Country
Big Sky Country
Spearfish
photo by: kingelvis14