So, now we are in Billings...covered 150 miles from Buffalo, WY today. We have been awed by the scenery from the highway…mostly US 90. The Northern Plains appear to be endless…with always a mountain range on the horizon. Some smoke on the southwest coming from the Yellowstone Fire.
Here are some shots of the traveling team….we have been great companions so far, ebbing & flowing through the major questions of “who’s going to drive, navigate, make reservations, stop for the potty when, where are we going to eat, which place to go first”….all done with but a few snide comments from some of the less sensitive husbands…no names shall be mentioned.
Here’s a more serious shot of yours truly with my new, best friend, Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of the Presidents.
But, let me cover the rest of Monday’s trip…2) Deadwood, 3)Spearfish Canyon and 4) Buffalo Jump.
Deadwood has major western characters….many in the famous Mount Moriah Cemetery on “boot hill”. Wild Bill Hickok is there along with his “maybe” girlfriend, Calamity Jane. She was a hoot (cowgirl, hooker and madam) and he was a gambler and gunslinger.
So much for our Deadwood stop. We had lunch at an old brothel (the Social Club)….great old architecture; not great food.
Motoring back to the Spearfish Canyon scenic byway, we all throw bouquets at our driver, Mr. Craig Boyd. His love of cars includes a careful concentration on highway safety and personal comfort for his passengers. It’s delightful that he doesn’t consume alcohol and has a capacity for staying alert through a long day of twisting byways.
Photos of this limestone canyon are on the way from the cloud; but not here yet….sorry.
A funny stop we added because Louise was intrigued by it and unable to stop on the way during their last visit to the region…the Vore Buffalo Jump. Interesting tour with a guy who appeared to have spent many years in the excavation on the site and the history of the Native American tribes in this region. You won’t be captivated by the site, but listening to this guy’s knowledge of this one activity was intriguing and provided an insight into the times in the 1600’s to 1800’s, when horses became much more widely used in pursuit of the buffalo…such an important ingredient in their entire existence.
It’s a quick hop off of Route 90 near Beulah, WY. Worth the jog off and on the highway.
We motored on to our last stop of the day before our hotel in Buffalo, WY. The Devil’s Tower is another one of those “you have to see it to believe it” kind of place. We could see this “igneous upthrust” from miles away…and it was easier to photograph from the car than when we got to the parking lot.
It’s as tall as a 9-story building and 1,000 feet around at its base. There are 2 other “Little Missouri Buttes” down the river from this monster…formed 50 million years ago. The ranchers in this area (there is not much else within many miles) use this as a celebration place; especially for 4th of July. Teddy Roosevelt named it as the first “National Monument” in 1906 in order to protect it. Breath-taking for sure.
On Tuesday, we start the day with the Little Big Horn Battlefield…about an hour’s drive from Buffalo. When you stop here and think that the American Indians never won another battle after this massacre of Custer’s troops, it is truly a turning point of history.
There is a hilltop monument which covers a mass grave of the over 230 US. 7th Cavalry troops who were killed here. And a traditional cemetery has over 3,000 service men and women from wars from 1876 to the mid-60’s (Vietnam vets).
The campaign to move the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians to the reservation in western South Dakota was fought over 2 years, but this one battle was a total disaster for Custer and the American army. He had been a brilliant leader in the Civil War (the youngest general in the history of the army…he was actually at Appomattox when Lee surrendered). His tactics this day were flawed and his hundreds of men fought thousands of infuriated Native Americans who knew that their way of life was being extinguished by the white man’s western expansion. The defeat prompted Congress and President Grant to order many more troops and supplies to the west to end this conflict…and they ended it FOREVER. Our park ranger was eloquent and spoke like an actor for 30 minutes describing that day and the many, historic ramifications of the battle.
Rightfully, in 1998, the US government started to allow the graves of the 60 to 100 Native Americans’ graves to be marked with granite monuments. The “hostiles”, as they were characterized in that day, were finally relegated to the reservation system within a year of this battle. The Indians who fought in 1876 included Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull – two legendary leaders. Their history is preserved in stories and those versioms of these tales are being more widely disseminated and understood today.
The American continent was now “owned” from sea to shining sea by the white man. The news of the battle took weeks to reach the east coast…and, in Philadelphia, where the Centennial Exposition was being held to commemorate the U.S.’s first 100 years, it was a shock to the nation that the cavalry had been so soundly defeated.
Oddly, this one square mile of National Park is totally surrounded by a huge Crow Indian reservation.
We will spend the night in Billings (about 60 miles west of the battlefield) and head west again on Wednesday….ending the day in Helena, the capital of Montana.
Some of our meals have been pedestrian, but we had a home run tonight at at place called Lilac at 2515 Montana Ave Billings. Our waiter, PJ Smith, was outstanding the food was exquisitely prepared and served. In a renewing section of Billings, it has outstanding decor, is quiet and delicious.