Day 4                                                                             
June 9th, 2006                                                                     
Motel 6
Rapid City, South Dakota

I barely heard Andy leaving at 4am, well I noticed his 1300 fire up, but nothing else.  I slept right through his packing.  As for me, I stayed in bed till 6:30am then hit the floor.

The best thing about staying in a motel is instant access to the Weather Channel on the room TV.  I clicked it on, and saw there was scattered rain all in the area, but I should be ok going west.  There was some wet stuff in Southern Montana but it didn't look to be organized.

I had several things in mind for today.  I wanted to visit one of my "secret spots", and and the Little Big Horn.  I'd been to the battlefield before, but I wanted to return.  I grew up everything western and the Little Big Horn was a lexicon in frontier movies.

A quick check of tire PSI told me all was good.

At a Chevron station down the street, I ran into Luverne, a GL rider from Alabama.  He came in right behind me.  I met him yesterday afternoon in the motel parking lot.  He was heading back east.  I wished him a good ride.
​I met this GL rider from Alabama while gassing up
By 7am I was on I-90 riding north to Sturgis looking for my "secret spot."  I call it secret because not many people know of this place and its quiet beauty.

The morning was cool and I had on leather sport gloves for the first time this tour.  The Roadcrafter vents were still open, and it chilled me in the 55 degree temp. When I left I-90 for  SR 79 a light rain began to fall.  Thus started one of my longest battles with bad weather.  From now till I reached Northern California, 5 days later, I would be plagued by rainy weather.

SR 79 is a pleasant road, not much traffic and the scenery good.  Riding north the drizzle increased and a few clouds dropped low on the prairie but broke up.  I've been on SR 79 before, on that day I was running it north-south.

When Bear Butte came into view I stopped for a few pics.  The rain had all but stopped, but it was still cloudy and cool.
​Bear Butte,  South Dakota
In the small town of Newell a row of houses faces Main Street, their front windows open to the the goers on the highway.  I stopped under a small tree, shut the ST down, opened the left bag and took out the lined gloves.  I was chilled from the cool rain.  I also put a sweatshirt over the poly running shirt I use to train in.  I'm finding workout clothes make excellent riding gear.  Light, breathable, and easy to wash and dry.  I wear my bicycle shorts under my Roadcrafter pant, and I can't begin to describe how comfortable they are.

The gray skies looked like dirty concrete, but I continued north looking for my goal.  In 2000 I was on a Prelude trip and came across this quiet hillside on the prairie.  The butte stuck with me, and I stop for a visit whenever I find myself in the area.  I love the view and the solitude it affords, but it takes effort to find it. (click here for more)

I was in the mood to shoot some video so I pulled to the side to get out my camera and tripod.  I captured some riding footage and continued on my way.  The land was green and cows grazed lazily on both sides.

From 79 I took a left turn to SR 168 to cut over to U.S. 85.  The Castle Rock Buttes looked like they were painted on the cloudy sky backdrop.

A few miles later a pick up truck came at me flashing headlights.  I was running along at 70 mph.  I slowed, crested a hill, and found out why.  Several cowboys were moving 25-30 head across the roadway.  A few of the cows didn't want to, and tried to go their own way, but a young boy in jeans and Stetson hat quickly maneuvered around the beasts and forced them in the right direction.  I slowed to about 10 mph and proceeded on my way.  All of the cowboys gave a friendly wave.

The roadway T boned into U.S. 85 and I went south, I knew I wasn't far from the hill, so rode with one eye on the fence line, looking for the cattle grate and old fence that marks the spot.  

I found it with no trouble a few miles later.  Nothing has changed since my last visit here in 2003.

The roadway to the hill is fenced off, so if you want to go to the summit you have to do it the old fashioned way.  A long uphill walk.  I got my camera gear out and stashed the Arai behind a rock.  I didn't think about anything else.  This is South Dakota, I don't much worry about anyone stealing my bike while I'm gone.  Besides, for the most part I can see it all the way to the top.  But from the summit I'd be helpless to do anything if anyone decided to stop and load my bike up.
​"A long uphill walk"

The walk to the top is over a mile, and I recall thinking about how much easier it is this time then in 2003.  Of course I'm 50 lbs lighter, and can now run and cycle miles in huge quantities.  "Dang, being in shape feels good."  I made it to the top in about 15 minutes and took a seat among the boulders.

I reasoned this place use to be something official but the state abandoned it several years ago.  Back in the old days sheep grazed this land and their tenders built rock formations to help them navigate the featureless prairies.  Some of their handiwork is still standing, and preserved behind the fence.  I think they just stacked the rocks because they were bored.

It was cool, and the wind blew through my hair as I stood around amazed at the scene before me. 
​Quiet, scenic, and remote.  A great place to hideout
The true West differs from the East in one great, influential, and awesome way: Space.  The vast openness changes everything.  Roads, towns, farms, crops, machinery, politics and people.  How could it not?  From "my spot" so much space reduces a man's blindness to the immensity of the universe, and pushes him to a greater reliance on himself, and at the same time a greater understanding of others and what they do.  In the East the lack of space diminishes man and his constructions, but out here everything is noticeable.  Everything shows up out here, you can't escape them, not even the Long Rider by rolling on the throttle and speeding through, because the terrible distances eat up the speed.  Even dawn takes an hour to cross Texas.  Still riders race through trying to cross the Great Plains, but when you get down to it, they are people uneasy about space.

I love this hillside, and could stay for hours, alone in my own world.  I thought back to 2000 and my first visit here, and what a different man I am now.  I've seen all this country has to offer over the last 6 years, and some of what lies in other places.  But only in America do I feel this way.  No where else offers such a varied and warm land.  I don't think I'll ever tire riding it.  There is always some road to ride.

A pack of Reese pieces was in my pocket so I took them out and had a snack while lounging on the rocks.

I finished taking some pictures and video and started the long walk back down to the 1300.  My time here was almost 2 hours, but it didn't seem like it.  What a great time I had at "my spot" and it didn't cost me a quarter.  Being here had a purifying affect on my soul.  I was feeling more alive and ready for whatever lies ahead of me, not just on this tour, but life as a whole.

Back at the 1300 I geared up (switching back to the sport gloves) and headed south to Belle Fourche, stopping at a con store at the intersection of U.S. 212.  I topped off the gas tank, and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I called and checked in with my brother and wife.  I left Chris a text to call me back, and got back on the road 30 minutes later.  I've been on the road all morning with not many miles to show for it, but that's ok.  Why I prefer riding alone, I don't like being pushed by a partner that has to be somewhere, making me ride interstates tank to tank.  Nothing wrong with that, but not my idea of riding.

With the gas tank full and spirits high I set off west into Montana.  My next stop is the Little Big Horn.  
​"With the gas tank full and spirits high I set off west into Montana."
I encountered a lot of trucks, both east and west bound, but the road was arrow straight and passing them was easy.  I fell behind a 90 mph SUV from Pennsylvania and belted the miles down.  The wind was out, but it was mostly a tailwind, but on occasion it hit me from the side.

The SUV took me to Broadus, where I let him go.  I wanted to top off the tank, and find something to eat.  Gas was costing me anywhere from 2.90 to 3.10 so far.  I put 4 something in the ST at a Conoco on the edge of town, and then went to the Cashway diner for something to eat.

I found a booth near the window so I could see my bike and ordered a hamburger.  I don't eat much red meat anymore, but every now and then I give in.  I skipped the fries.  The booth had a outlet on the wall (why I picked it) and I charged up my videocam.

An older couple from Arizona came in when I was finishing up.  "We saw you're bike outside and thought this would be a good place."   "Yeah, its ok." 

"So where ya headin?" 

"Billings tonight, then on to Washington, then down the coast to San Francisco."

The lady said my bike was "pretty."

Back on the road, I began to run in and out of light rain as I rode on to the Little Big Horn.  Montana is one of my favorites states and along U.S. 212 I could see why.  The land was rolling grassland with mountains in the back drop.  

I crossed into Cheyenne territory and like all reservations the area looked gloomy.  Run down houses with even more run down cars in the driveways.  I was curious about reservation life so when I landed in Lame Deer I pulled into a white front store to see what I could find out.  I parked the 13 off to the side and went inside, but the clerk seemed less then friendly, so I went out to drink my Mountain Dew.

While standing outside an old man (Indian) in a 20 year old sedan came up and made his way inside.  On his way out I called out to him.

"hey how ya doin?"


"Crow or Cheyenne?"


"live here?"


At first he was cautious of me, as if I harbored some kind of plot to do him harm.

"look, I don't mean to bother ya, but where I come from Indians are kind of rare.  I was just curious about life out here, and what it must be like."

"Come over here" where he led me to a few old blocks, so we could sit down.  It was obvious others gathered here prior to us.

His salt and pepper hair was pulled back in traditional tribal accordance.  His wrinkled skin had more lines than a road map, but his voice was much younger than his years.  He told me his first name, and I was surprised when I heard it was "Priest."

"So is it common for a Cheyenne to have an Anglo first name?"

"yes, and it is good you are not afraid to ask something you don't know"

"How long have you lived here? And do you like it?"

"all my life, and it is what is.  I am with my people"

"So how are relations between the Cheyenne and the whites?"

"about 50-50, and it goes both ways.  Half of the Anglos are upset with the Cheyenne, and half of the people don't like the Anglos."

"well I don't judge a race as whole brother, but I'm subject to make a call on a individual"

He went on to tell me about the hardships of rez life and much of the current problem is caused by the Indians themselves.

"well look, I think y'all should work that out among yourselves"

"there is the problem, we don't trust the whites, and we argue too much among ourselves"

I asked- "while on the rez am I subject to tribal laws and customs?"

"yes, and say land, not rez"

Twenty minutes later I said good bye to my new friend.  I wanted a picture but somehow I thought it might reduce the dignity our conversation, I didn't want to come across as some Coney Island tourist, but instead I wanted to leave him the thought I was a well traveled Long Rider, that has seen all kinds of people and places.
The ride was quiet the rest of the distance to the Little Big Horn.  The rain went away and the sun broke out.  
Because I was on a motorcycle it was only 5 bucks to enter the the battlefield.  I parked the ST next to two GLs, they were from Nova Scotia.  A GL from Florida towing a trailer was parked farther up the incline.

The Little Big Horn is home to a National Cemetery, and white row crosses lined several acres at the front.
​The National Cemetery at the Little Big Horn
I went inside the visitor center/museum.  Inside I asked a young Indian girl if I could stow my gear behind the counter and she said, "no we're not allowed."  Nobody wants to be responsible for anything anymore.  Instead I had to lug my helmet and coat around.

The museum is home to Custer's white buckskins, battlefield artifacts, and a timeline of events.  Good stuff.  A ranger was about to start a lecture, but like I said earlier, I have cable and already knew what happened here.
Near the buckskin display a couple from Texas ran into their down the street neighbors.  Talk about your small world.  They were flabbergasted.

When I finished the visitor center I took a stroll up Last Stand Hill.  Here, you will find the mass grave of the 7th Calvary, and a black fence surrounds the markers noting where a trooper fell.

The Custer marker is marked in black.
​ "The Custer marker is marked in black."
I tried to imagine what happened here on that day, what it must have been like for the troopers that fought here, surrounded by thousands of Indians.  My guess is I could not come close to those feelings.
​The fallen soldiers of the 7th Calvary were buried in this
mass grave.  Their names inscribed on the marble.

In another case of small world, I was taking pictures when I heard a voice.  "Guy, Guy, hey is that you?"  I turned to a man I didn't know, but he knew me.  He was Jim Brown, we went to the same school back in Prattville, although he was several years behind me, he recognized me.  He explained how he knew me, and I thought it was neat.  He said he had car trouble in Yellowstone, but all was good now.

In the parking lot I called Debbie and said I was near the end of my ride.  I've already put down the 2 longest days mileage wise.  The remainder of the ride to California would be divided into 3-400 mile days, a couple even less.

When I finished the battlefield it was time to move on to Billings.  A nice KOA is there and looked like a good place to call it a day.

I jumped on I-90 and like the name suggests I put the 1300 on 90 mph knocking out the 40 miles or so quickly.  The 1300 is s great bike on the slab. Plenty of power and good aerodynamics.  The signs for the KOA were easy to follow, and I found the campground in a dead end near a residential section.
I rode 398 miles for the day.

After paying my fees I set up camp near the river.  It was a good spot.  I haven't been able to run since leaving home, because of some long days in the saddle, but not going to be the case today.  I changed into running clothes and went out and knocked out 4 miles.  It felt good to move some air.  The temp was 81 no humid degrees, and the skies were partly cloudy.  Nice.
​I had a nice view of the Yellowstone River from my tent
When I finished my run I took a shower in the nice facilities and went for supper.  I prefer not getting the bike back out at the end of the day, but didn't have a choice.    I found a Perkins in the downtown business district and ordered some pretty good grilled Salmon.  I called Debbie and Chris and put a few notes in the Axim.

Across the street an American Legion baseball game was about to get underway.

On the way back to the campground I topped off the tank.

Billings definitely has a Western atmosphere.

Back at the campground I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for in the morning and placed it in my box, then made notes for the ride to Glacier.  The weather was growing cloudy again, but I wasn't too concerned.
I was sleepy by the time it was dark, so zipped up and retired with the soft sound of bubbling water nearby.