August 12, 2010 GMT
Montana, Wyoming And South Dakota

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Montana Ranch

It was nice to get back to the Montana ranch I stayed at over the winter and meet up with the friends I had made. I carried out a number of little jobs on the bike including making fork seal guards and extending the hand guards by cutting up a flexible chopping board. A set of tyres had been ordered but only one had arrived so I decided to do a side trip to South Dakota then return to the ranch to change tyres and carry out another service. I should have everything with me to carry out the work but it’s reassuring to have a workshop full of tools just in case.

I got my first opportunity to try canoeing when I was invited to ‘float’ down the Yellowstone River one hot afternoon. Always one for continuing round the next bend or over the next hill I wanted to keep going when we arrived at our destination although I gather it is quite a long way to the ocean.

I did a number of the walks I used to do on the ranch in the winter. It all looks so different now that everything is green rather than covered in snow. Also the distances seemed shorter now that I don’t have to wade through deep snow.

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Montana Ranch

I left the ranch later than intended as my laptop was still showing USA Pacific time and it was an hour later than I thought. The first destination was Pompey’s Pillar in Montana where the only physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition across the USA, the signature of William Clark carved onto a sandstone butte (isolated hill with steep or vertical sides and a small flat top) and dated July 25th 1806 when he was returning from the Pacific. It was a hot afternoon so I spent more time than I would normally have in the cool visitors centre. I hope I'm more acclimatised to the heat before I get to the really hot stuff as I travel south.

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Pompey's Pillar, Montana

From Pompey’s Pillar I rode to the site of the battle of the Little Big Horn where General Custer and the 7th Cavalry were defeated by the Northern Cheyenne, and Lakota Native Americans on the 25th and 26th June 1876. The first book I remember owning and reading as a child was about Custer and this battle which I read at the time as an exciting ‘Cowboy and Indian’ story. Thankfully, myself and the USA Government are more enlightened now. In recent years a memorial to the Native Americans who lost their lives in the battle has been erected and marker stones indicating the location where Native Americans died have started to be placed alongside the soldiers marker stones. Most of the Native American dead were removed by their families shortly after the battle so research is on-going to identify exactly where they died to add further marker stones.

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Cheyenne Marker Stone, Little Bighorn Battle Site, Montana

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Part Of The Native American Memorial, Little Bighorn Battle Site, Montana

It was 7:30pm when I left the battlefield in search of a campsite. I was heading east on Highway 212 and intended stopping at the first campsite I came to which wasn’t until 9pm in semi darkness when I pulled into a Custer National Forest campground. As far as I could tell in the increasing darkness I was the only one in the campground which was free and consequently classed as primitive. While unpacking the camping gear, all alone in the darkening woods I spotted something on a low fence marking the end of the campsite parking bay. Investigating with my head torch I saw an eerie image of Marilyn Manson staring back at me on a book cover. Very creepy. I recovered my composure sufficiently to start reading the book once I was tucked up in my sleeping bag inside the tent although it wasn‘t really my kind of reading material.

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Devil's Tower, Wyoming

The following morning I continued east to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, an enormous butte or rock outcrop that was used in the Steven Spielberg film ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’. I was told that sixteen minutes of the finished film was shot at Devil’s Tower and further scenes used a model of the tower in a Hollywood studio.

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Sturgis, South Dakota

I arrived at Sturgis, South Dakota, home of one of the largest motorcycle gatherings in the world four or five days before the rally officially started although there were a lot of bikes around and vendors marquees going up on every available bit of land. It looked like rain so I sought shelter just before the sky really darkened and very heavy rain started to fall. This kept up most of the day and when I checked the weather forecast on the internet there was a travel warning saying that ping pong ball sized hailstone could fall causing damage to property. By late afternoon the skies brightened and the rain stopped so I headed into the black hills towards Mount Rushmore where the roadside had an inch or two of what looked like snow but was obviously ice from the hailstones.

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Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore was impressive, I walked a short footpath which gave different viewing points of the carvings and passed a display area showing how the carving was carried out. Fortunately the sky clouded over as I was about to leave making the afternoon a bit cooler as I rode through Custer State Park and saw buffalo, deer, prong horn antelope and a herd of donkeys.

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Custer State Park, South Dakota

I left Custer State Park on Highway 87 which sweeps up through a range of needle point peaks, passing through a number of single lane tunnels through the mountains. A Sturgis Motorcycling Road Guide said that this road required the “Highest Skill Level” which I thought an odd way of rating the local roads however on turning a corner I saw a biker and his pillion picking up his Harley Davidson having dropped it at low speed approaching the following bend. Passenger and rider looked fine although I suspect the minor chrome and paint damage to the bike would cost a fair bit to put right.

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Needles Highway (Hwy 87) Is Well Worth Doing, South Dakota

The Crazy Horse Memorial, an ongoing mountain carving on similar lines to Mount Rushmore but on a much larger scale is an amazing project. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was invited to design and commence the carving by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear after winning an award for some previous work. After designing the carving of Chief Crazy Horse sitting astride a horse pointing to the Lakota land where his dead lie buried he spent the next fifty years and the rest of his life carving Crazy Horse‘s face. The face was completed in 1998. Seven of his children are continuing work on the carving and although they won’t speculate on how long it will take, based on what has been completed and what is left to do it must be well over a hundred years worth of work left to do. I think there is something highly commendable in working on a project like this knowing that you will only see a small portion completed in your own lifetime.

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Crazy Horse Memorial, The Finished Model With The Real Work In Progress Behind

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Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota

I Stopped for breakfast at Newcastle, Wyoming as I am from Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Seven miles from Newcastle there was a coal mining camp where alcohol was forbidden. The miners would travel into Newcastle to party which reminds me of my younger days working in a coal mine and going into Newcastle on a Friday night to celebrate the start of the weekend.

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Newcastle, Wyoming

I returned to the ranch via the Big Horn Mountains and stopped at the summit on Powder River Pass at 9666 feet. Climbing a nearby rocky hill must have taken me over the 10,000 feet level.

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Looking Down On Powder River Pass In The Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

I got back to the ranch in Montana by mid afternoon and set about changing the tyres. I wanted to do the job using only the tools I carry on the bike but couldn’t break the bead of the tyres with the tyre levers I was carrying and couldn’t use the bike side stand when I had a wheel off. I ended up using a leg of the heavy workbench in the ranch workshop which did the job straight away. I carried out the service the following day which went ok but there is a lot of stuff to remove to gain access to the rocker cover to check the valve clearance.

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Before The Haircut ...

I got a severe haircut before a second farewell party to say goodbye to the friends I made in Montana. After two farewell parties it would be embarrassing to turn up again on this trip but it would be nice to get back one day.

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... And After The Haircut. I'm Concerned About What The Man Through The Window Is Up To

Posted by at August 12, 2010 07:58 PM GMT

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