Some places have been on my list of must-experience long before there was any thought of traveling full-time.
Little Bighorn Battlefield is one of them. It's why we're in the area for a couple days.
Sadly, our first day we head to Pierce RV Supercenter in Billings, MT, for a 9 am appointment. This wasn't on the list :-(
This place is huge. The reason I'm able to get in so quickly is because they have a Same Day Service program. You pay extra for it, and most warranties don't cover it (just the additional cost, it doesn't change what the warranty covers), but I think it's brilliant to have this option. Otherwise we can get in two weeks from now.
While waiting to sign-in there is a 5er being moved up to the bays with the forklift. All slides are open and the stairs are down. I'm feeling pretty good about just having one slide issue!
After a good breakfast at a local coffee shop recommended by the service tech, we return to see if they've made any progress. They've diagnosed a bad wire and are working on it.
It's so hot that hanging out in the air conditioned waiting area sounds preferable to exploring.
|I really like the Minnie - it has no slides and no steps!|
|Tessa is one of five dogs enjoying the cool carpet - these two are such clowns|
Next we stop at the Jeep dealer and check out the Wrangler Unlimiteds on the lot. We've never sat in one, and we do that. Very sweet, we could be happy with one. Not today.
Another few hours and the rig is ready to go. Even with the additional hourly rate, and nearly nine hours of work, the cost is surprisingly reasonable. Best of all, we've only lost a day to get it fixed.
Having no desire to return to Hardin, MT, we continue to Garryowen and 7th Ranch RV Park. And find one of my favorite parks so far. After the worst park the night before, this is a beautiful place. Set in the rolling hills with terraced sites that all have lovely views to the south, it feels wonderful here. It's still light at 8:30, and is the latest we've ever arrived.
|Views from our front yard|
Monday we're out early to see the battlefield before the heat of midday makes it too uncomfortable. The "symptoms" of the Jeep's illness include not being able to run the air conditioner while traveling at slow speeds. Like when you're driving through a national monument.....sigh.
Everyone has the same plan, and the parking lot and visitor's center are packed. Standing room only for the small theater room. Outside there's seating available for the ranger talk so we join that.
|Exhibits include artifacts from the local tribes|
|and photos and documents of Custer and other army officers|
|Telling the very detailed story of the Battle of Little Bighorn|
The large cemetery includes veterans from multiple wars, reaching capacity in 1978.
With the details of what happened where, we drive the 4 mile loop. The interpretive signs highlight specific locations where different companies of the 7th Calvary engaged warriors led by Crazy Horse and other tribal leaders.
|At 45, Sitting Bull remains behind at the huge camp along the river, and he is here when the cavalry opens fire on women, children and elders|
|Soon the warriors arrive and drive Reno's company across the river|
|This river, at exactly this spot! Walking history is so much cooler than just reading it!!|
|Headstones of unknown soldiers spread out throughout the hills and gullys|
|make the loss of life very real|
|A combination of survivor accounts and identified bodies tell the story of what happened in each location|
|A small herd is walking along the road and this beauty stops and looks in my window, waiting while I get his photo before moving on|
|His buddy couldn't be bothered with a cameo.....|
|Memorial to 7th Cavalry soldiers who died in the final battle|
|Marking where they fell. Custer's stone is highlighted in black.|
Across the road is the Indian Memorial, dedicated in 2003 to the warriors who lost their lives in this famous battle. Long overdue.
While the original monument is interesting, this circular memorial is moving. I read every word, some through tears. It is not sad, it is inspiring. It is powerful.
|"If this memorial is to serve its total purpose, it must not only be a tribute to the dead; it must contain a message for the living...power through unity..."|
Enos Poor Bear, Sr., Oglala Lakota Elder
|All the tribes that fought and died here are represented|
|We still don't get it|
|Often vilified as traitors to their people, the Indian scouts who fought with the army are also honored here|
|You enter the circle through one portal, and depart from another|
|Those who died in their home land were identified by family and friends who lived there|
|Far from their homes, most of the soldiers were unidentified|
After lunch at the lone cafe (good food, good service, very nice store), we stop at the Custer Battlefield Museum.
From the website and brochure I'm not expecting a cheesy gift shop and Subway. Out front is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Dedicated in 1926 by General Edward Godfrey, who fought at the Battle of Little Bighorn, and White Bull, Sitting Bull's nephew. Along with the remains, they buried a hatchet and other artifacts. Thus the "bury the hatchet" reference for agreeing to move forward after a disagreement. It is a pretty significant memorial to be found in a gas station parking lot. I find the surroundings a bit insulting.
The museum is a private undertaking, receiving no government or foundation funding so I cut them some slack and pay the $7.50 each to enter past the red rope.
Where my opinion immediately changes. This is a small museum, but it holds an incredible collection. There is no photography allowed. I admit to sneaking a couple on my phone, but I won't share them here.
Many artifacts from the battle were uncovered when I-90 was built, and several of those are displayed here. Rifles and other weapons, tools and camp items, even belt buckles and buttons.
Perhaps the most impressive exhibit is the collection of photographs by David F. Barry. His individual photos of the warriors and officers line three of the walls. Most are taken before the fight and include many who did not return. Others are taken afterward, some the day before the warriors and their families were forced back to the reservations.
The journal of John Martin (Martini) who carried Custer's last orders to Reno, includes what Martin writes are pieces of Custer's hair. He doesn't explain their significance.
We watch a 40 minute documentary, narrated by author Jerry Orbach, which sounds very much like the ranger talk we heard earlier. In some cases word-for-word. Still, we learn more about Custer's 100 other battles, including Civil War victories that won him two Medal of Honor citations. His brother Tom was also awarded. While arrogant and driven are the words used to describe him, he is also recognized as a leader who lead from the front. Like Miracle Whip, he was either loved very much, or hated very much.
So if you stop here and are tempted to keep going when you pull up, don't. It is a worthwhile stop, and a great addition to what you'll see at the national monument. I can't say which "order" would be best to see them, they just work together.
Tuesday night we are entertained with a repeat performance of lightning in all directions. With the lights out and the blinds up, we watch the show. It's even more spectacular than the night before. Again we get the rain and wind, but soon it passes to the east and all is calm.
I am so very glad we stopped here, I already want to come back.