September 22, 2002
Hardin to Little Big Horn
15 Miles Google Map
A pleasant hour and twenty minute ride on a November-like morning brought me to a modest motel, which is part of the so-called “Little Bighorn Camp”. The accommodations are simpler and more rustic than where I’ve been staying, but in their own way just as comfortable. For example, the room is not particularly well-heated, but there are plenty of colorful blankets to snuggle under. And I’m using the lone coat hanger in the closet for my Big Bird rain jacket. I require little more.
The entertainment this evening is a PBS rerun of The Civil War by Ken Burns. For munchies, I scooted down to the front desk (which doubles as a kind of snack bar) for a bag of freshly-popped popcorn and a large root beer float. (I tipped the lady extra.) As I then returned to the room and settled in to watch the program, a train rumbled by close enough to make the walls shake. It turns out the tracks are only a few yards away. Guess there’s no need for any vibrating beds in this place! Accompanying the surprise visitor was a brisk north wind. Any warmth this time of the year here seems ready to flee at a moment’s notice. But I am quite content within my cosy little confines. More so in fact than I’ve been in a long while.
This was the day for the big battlefield tour: Custer verses the Native Americans. The Super Bowl of the Indian Wars. To mosey over there, I lightened my bike by removing the four panniers & camping equipment, then cycled across the Interstate and up the hill to the Little Bighorn. Along the way I passed a KFC. The general may have fallen, but The Colonel continues to rein triumphant. (Maybe if Sitting Bull and his warriors had sampled one of those extra-crispy meals, they wouldn’t have been so intransigent.)
I packed a lunch and spent most of the afternoon exploring, making sure I covered all the points of interest: ambling about the Custer National Cemetery; touring the museum, where I heard an entertaining lecture by one of the park employees; viewing the mass grave of the troops at the top of the hill; and walking through the famous ravine Crazy Horse reportedly rode through on his way up to fight the soldiers. There were neat little paths leading out every which way, making the battlefield stroll an enjoyable hike. Provided, of course, that one heeds the “Warning! This is rattlesnake country!” sign.
The U.S. Department of the Interior is now adding a memorial for the Indians, which will be near the troops’ grave. One of the purposes (aside from assuaging the feelings of Native Americans) will be to emphasize the inevitable conflict between two completely different cultures — an interesting approach that can add important perspectives to what is already a very thought-provoking National Park.
Another aspect of the project will be the portrayal of the plains tribe’s diversities along with the message of “Peace Thru Unity”. Sounds like something the Seattle Touchy-Feelies would get into. Despite this, I’d recommend anyone driving through the area to make a visit to this place. One can still feel the history.
Today: 15 Miles
To Date: 987 Miles / 1,588 Kilometers