August 16th...Little Bighorn, Montana
Aug 16, 2008
|August 16th…Saturday. It’s been exactly one year, today since we purchased the Alfa. Bob & I have now added almost 20,000 miles on our motor home since then. This is our 5th trip with our “home-away-from home” vehicle, and we absolutely love it. Of course, this Alaskan trip has been the longest driven, the longest away from home in Grayling, and with company aboard. We’ll probably put our Alfa back in covered storage when we return, after a major cleaning; only to take it back out for our next our next trip….to the Florida Keys in February.
Little Bighorn was never a real destination point in my mind for this trip. Bob’s desire was to see the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore along our return trip from Alaska. I agreed, and then somehow Custer got involved! I enjoyed American History, way back when, but certainly I have not participated in a refresher course in the last 35 years.
Still in the large state of Montana, and 405 miles behind us, we arrived for the night in a town named Hardin, 20 miles from where General Custers’ last battle was fought, Little Bighorn, situated at the edge of the large Crow Indian Reservation. In all of our travels combined, Bob nor I had never set foot in Montana; the fourth largest state in the nation; the sixth least populated. On two lane roadways, we criss-crossed the state from the far northwest corner; driving past towns with names like “Two Medicine, Moccasin, Buffalo, and Judith Gap”. Another night at a small, but nice KOA park, we nestled in against the hay fields, in the plains of our nation! Morning would arrive soon and but our American History memories to the test!
August 17th…Sunday. Another hot and beautiful day in the west! Temps were already in the low 80’s when we arrived at the gate of Little Bighorn National Park and Monument.
We sat and tried to absorb the history lesson from the American Indian Park Ranger as he passionately described the area we were about to see. In much detail, he talked about the intense scenes, advances, and retreats that took place on these hills, near the edge of the Little Bighorn River, on June 25th & 26th, 1876. The bloody details of the brave young soldiers of the 7th Cavalry that were crushed by the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors, to include Lt. Col. George A. Custer. Names that I remembered…like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. A total of 263 of our soldiers fought these radical Indians during this period of history, died, and were buried in a mass grave on the hillside of Cavalry Monument. The dark skinned Ranger explained Reno/Benteen Battlefield, Medicine Tail Coulee and Weir Point, names that my memory would not allow a slight recollection of. The Indian Ranger told the story well and admitted that this story has become of the most controversial stories of American History. The detailed differences were between the white man and the natives of this great Nation.
As we drove the Alfa, with the Jeep in tow, through these hills of dried tall grass, one could only visualize the faces of the men that fought on the land we were standing upon. The grave markers of the Soldiers and Indians near by, and the grave markers set off in the untouchable distance, gave proof of the individuals that died for a cause that some will still dispute!
In 1886 a National Cemetery was established...an appropriate location with the hills already dotted with graves and grave markers. The cemetery also includes valiant men and women that fought and died in additional wars to follow of the famous battle of Little Bighorn.
We left here with an additional understanding of this incredible battle. Still without the detailed knowledge of the exact advances, retreats and actions of these brave soldiers…but more that what we came with.
As we continued our drive on Interstate 90, we crossed over into Wyoming, the northeast corner. The hills were continual until we neared the town of Buffalo. Our short drive in Wyoming brought us to the border of South Dakota. Along US 16 we trekked, entering into the Black Hills National Forest. Switchback curves while in the motor home with the Jeep in tow, is not always fun! My husband does a great job of maneuvering this rig around tight corners, onto ferries, and across the country. I’ve asked Bob many times for lessons behind the wheel; he always response the same…”one day soon, honey”. I thought maybe I could spice up our journal by sharing the storey of my first lesson behind the wheel…he didn’t think the journal needing spicing!
I had made advance reservations for a very nice KOA park located minutes from Mt. Rushmore, in the Black Hills. Upon arriving, we were very pleased. Noted in Wooddalls (the bible of N. America campgrounds) this KOA was exceptional…indeed it was! A full service restaurant with pub, two heated pools, two hot tubs, a lodge, cabins, horse stables, and the list of amenities goes on and on. Bob parked the Alfa into site #125, complete with a cement patio and patio furniture, for the next four nights. A far cry from our site in Beaver Creek, Yukon.