My first stop, before heading north on I-25, was Fort Laramie. I had been here last year, when I was doing my first National Park Tour, but it was another of those parks that I really enjoyed and didn't mind returning to. This one, like Fort Davis TX, really fires my imagination! Out on the extreme edges of the frontier in those days, the lives of the soldiers who lived at these posts had to have been hard and desperately lonely.
The landscape really opened up as I headed north on I-25 toward Buffalo WY, another town name on the AMA tour list. My research of this town uncovered the fact that there is a really cool mural downtown, painted on the side of one of the oldest buildings. I simply had to get a photo of that mural! As I came into town from the south, there was one of those standard green signs marking the city line. Just in case, I stopped there first, and took the AMA tour photo with my little flag on the bike.
I proceeded on into the little downtown area to look for the mural. What a cool little downtown! It wasn't hard to imagine this town 100 years ago. The buildings were in fully restored condition, with businesses, shops, banks, cafes filling the storefronts.
I had no trouble finding the mural. The problem was where to park to set up the photo. All on-street parking spots were filled, so I went around the corner where I thought I might be able to get a shot across a little park, but part of the mural was obstructed by a tree. So I did a U-turn and got back onto the main street and headed south a bit in hopes of finding a spot across the street from the mural. Aha! Just as I passed by, a woman was getting into a car to leave. It would be the perfect spot, right in front of the mural. I did another U-turn and ... even better... another car pulled away, leaving two adjacent parking spots.
I was giggling and whooping with glee as I jockeyed the bike into position and got the little flag set up for the photo. I had been anticipating getting this photo for weeks! Mission accomplished, I headed north up the main street through Buffalo and exited out the north side of town onto the interstate, which was now I-90, to continue my trip north toward my next stop, Little Bighorn. I was thrilled by the fact that I had successfully snagged that photo, but even more so by the fact that I was headed into "virgin" territory for me. Until now the furthest northwest I'd been on the motorcycle was the national parks of western SD.
We traveled extensively when I was growing up. My dad was a career Navy officer and we crisscrossed the country many times. He always made sure that we made the most of those travels, seeing anything of the remotest interest along the route. Consequently, I had been to many of the national parks already. But there were a couple in the north-northwest I had not been to and that I'd always vowed I would get to in my lifetime. One of them - Mt Rushmore - got checked off of my to-do list last year when a friend and I took a trip up through CO, WY, and SD. The other one is Yellowstone. I had butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of my ride through the park tomorrow morning.
But for this afternoon, Little Bighorn - Custer's last stand - awaited me. Doing the National Park tour last year converted me into a huge US history fan. There's not an historical national park that I've visited that didn't make a contribution to my library at home. One story in particular has interested me for the last couple of years, the story of the battle between Custer's small army and the Lakota and Cheyenne indians. I can't help but see similarities between this battle and the one lost at the Alamo. The bravery of these men against such overwhelming odds squeezes my heart and tears at my emotions. But so does the story of a displaced people, pushed off the lands they'd hunted and lived on for centuries.
I spent quite a bit of time at this national park. A park ranger gave a talk in a little outdoor patio area about the history of the lands, the political events leading up to the climactic battle. I walked up the hill to the monument and the sloped field where headstones mark the locations of the fallen soldiers at the conclusion of the conflict. Across the hill, sloping down into a valley, lies the cemetery with its neat white crosses marching in even rows.
It was with some reluctance that I headed out of the park towards the interstate and Billings MT where I'd be stopping for the night.
Next entry: Ride of a lifetime