Day Five ~ 448 Miles
Spearfish Travel Blog› entry 5 of 14 › view all entries
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.