Week One

June 19
June 20
June 21
June 22
June 23
June 24
June 25

 

Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Left Edinboro about 8:00am. Temperature in the upper 50s. A beautiful day with blue skies and no clouds. Became quite warm later in the day. Made good time on interstate 80. My average speed was 75-80mph. Chicago area traffic was horrible and I was there during rush hour. High volume of semi-tractor trailers, all doing 70-75. My neck muscles began burning and I developed a pounding headache. Finally stopped at Peru/LaSalle, Illinois. Made 518 miles today, an all-time record for me.

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Leaving Edinboro

Buffalo Bill

Onawa, IA

 

Thursday, June 20, 2002
After doing a half day of "hard" riding arrived at Onawa, Iowa around 3:30pm. Have traveled about 900 miles. At the Lewis and Clark Park, I found the keelboat and the two pirogues tied up at the shore. I also found "Buffalo Bill" sitting on a barrel outside the small, hexagonal shaped, interpretive center. Announced that he was Onawa's resident Lewis and Clark buff and historian. While I checked out the boats, he slipped into his buckskins, which were authentic L&C clothing. The famous keelboat was, originally, constructed in 1802 in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and was sailed, or more like maneuvered, down the Ohio river by Lewis. There were none of the 50 plus dams on the Ohio at that time. So, Lewis and his crew had to portage the boat (55 feet by 8 feet) over areas of the river that were only inches deep. The replica that I was viewing, as well as the two pirogues, was built by "Butch" Bouvier's Boatworks. The Boatworks was located just outside the park in a ramshackle building with a lean-to attached. I met Butch and he introduced me to his dog, Sacajewea. She keeps having pups and he keeps selling them. Over iced tea, Butch, Bill and myself talked about boats, their construction, the Missouri River, and L&C. In the lean-to, Butch was building a Macinaw replica. These boats, he said, were very common on the Missouri before the steamboats.

Left Butch and Bill around 6:00pm and continued on toward Sioux City. Stopped at the Floyd Monument just south of the city. The monument was erected in memory of Charles Floyd, an engineer soldier who was the only member of the expedition to die. It's located on a 200 foot high bluff above the Missouri and the view from there is good. Dark clouds were gathering so I left and found a motel. I recommend the "Coyote Canyon" for great food s erved buffet style. But, I do not recommend getting caught in a monsoon downpour, without any raingear. The streets were flooded within five minutes. As suddenly as it started, it stopped and there was a beautiful sunset. Although soaked to the skin, it warmed my spirit. Did 482 miles today.

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Charles Floyd Monument

Friday, June 21, 2002
Left the motel around 8:00am. Already warm and muggy. Arrived at the Sergeant Floyd Museum around 8:30. The museum is housed in the permanently dry docked "Sergeant Floyd". This riverboat was launched at the Howard Shipyards of Jeffersonville, Indiana on May 31, 1932. She was purchased by the U.S. Government for the Army Corps of Engineers. Her mission was light towing, survey and inspection work on the inland waterways under the jurisdiction of the Missouri River Division of the Corps of Engineers. The Floyd worked for Missouri River improvement from 1933 until 1975, moving men, equipment and supplies, and setting navigation buoys along the river. Her length is 138 feet, beam 30feet, draft 3-4feet, with a depth of hull of 5 feet. She weighed 306 tons and could make 11 knots in calm water powered by two 600 hp Cooper-Bessemer diesels, each driving a separate screw propeller. The museum itself chronicled the development of steamship building and their use on the Missouri. Remarkably detailed models. Some surrounded by beautifully rendered dioramas. In addition, there were many prints of early photos that depicted various scenes of river life. I think that this museum offers unique educational information about the commercial development of the Missouri and its watershed areas.

My next stop was the Sioux City Art Center. It was a "sentimental" visit. When I was a Master of Fine Arts graduate student at the University of Nebraska, I had entered a painting in an art exhibition at the Art Center. It was accepted and they had purchased the painting for their permanent collection. Now, after 30, yes 30 years, I wondered if they still owned it and its condition. The people there were very accommodating and I was able to see it once more. It was a strange sensation to look at it. A flood of memories and feelings sprang to life. I guess that things we struggle with , things that we put "heart and soul" into never really leave us.

Left Sioux City and headed west on highway 12. A beautiful road which can only really be appreciated by the motorcycle rider. Road surface and direction are a crucial part of riding safe since there is only a few square inches of tire meeting that road. So, being appreciative of the road means being aware of potential dangers as well as its curves. A major part of riding a motorcycle is experiencing the fun of riding it through the curves. It's a bike thing.

Stopped at Niobrara State Park but felt like continuing, since it was only about 1:30pm. Did stop at a faucet to wet down my evap-o-rapa. It's like a bandana with a special cloth that holds water and slows down evaporation. It really helps in fighting the heat. But, in addition, I did something that I would do frequently and that was to saturate my textile riding jacket with water. I continued on route 12 and passed through some small towns. At the town of Jamison, I turned north on route 47. Then, I turned west on route 18 in the town of Burke.

South Dakota was brown. Left the green behind. Vistas started to open up. This was my first experience of immense prairies. Well, maybe not prairie in the L&C sense but vast range land. Although, if there were any cows out there, I didn't see any. Arrived at Winner around 4:30. Population was a little over 3000. A big town for this area. Got a room at the Buffalo Trail Motel and had a steak at the Out West Café. The café was across the street from the motel and was attached to the gas station. It was a great steak and I didn't get gas. Made 268 miles today.

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Sergeant Floyd Museum

 

My Painting

 

 

 

Lakota Indians,

Lawrence Shots & Boys

Saturday, June 22, 2002
Another very hot and windy day. It's tough going on me physically. It's becoming an endurance test of sorts. For example, how far can I go before I can't stand the pain in my hip joints and knees. This is a little bit of a surprise since I had anticipated that the most severe pain to be in my neck.

I was on route 18 heading toward the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. Stopped at Wounded Knee and talked with some Lakota Indian teenagers. They were selling craft objects that they had made. One of the boys had just returned from fighting forest fires in Colorado. They were quite talkative until they sensed that I might not buy anything. Then an older man appeared from out of the bushes. He did not introduce himself but we struck up a conversation. He talked about Pine Ridge and the pow-pow celebrating the graduation of a number of Indians from the local reservation college. He said they were just getting a G.E.D., a General Education Degree. Not a specialized degree. But, he continued, at least they were trying to better themselves. They needed lots of encouragement. One of the boys said that the unemployment rate on the reservation was 43 percent. The man said that school was very important and that "it's better than booze and drugs". Maybe what he was telling me was his little "spiel". But, if it was, he was darn good at it. I bought one of his "spirit Chasers". Figured I was subsidizing Native American economy. I asked if I could take a picture of him and the boys. He said sure but wasn't "connected to the web". I said I would mail him a copy. His name was Lawrence Shots. He didn't ask for my name.

At the town of Oelrichs, I turned north on route 385, heading for the Black Hills and Custer State Park. Most campsites were full so I stopped at a small grocery store to ask about others. I must have looked in need because the store's proprietor called around for me. I bought water and thanked him and headed for the camp. But, I decided to take the Custer State Park's wildlife loop on my way to camp. I was looking for buffalo but saw none. At one point, I was following a white compact car into a canyon like area. The burm on each side of the road was narrow with rock walls and some large trees. The car suddenly stopped in the middle of a curve. There, in the middle of the road, stood a large buffalo bull. It moved a couple of steps to the side and the car went around him very slowly. Now his gaze turned to me. We stared at each other for what seemed like a long time but, I'm sure, was only seconds. You know, that crisis thing, when everything goes in slow motion? I stared with awe, he with something like "Are you looking at me?" You must be looking at me because I'm the only buffalo around here". A DeNiro thing. Finally, he leisurely walked on by in the other lane. I got to see him very, very , very close up. Well, I told myself, you wanted so much to see wild buffalo. Around the curve was a whole herd of buffalo with quite a few calves. But, at a safe distance. Later, I saw a few antelope and prairie dogs.

I set up my tent in the Stockade Lake Campground. It was small, very quite and peaceful. The people, including the camp managers, were very friendly. The whole site is wooded with lodgepole pines which resemble Norway pine. This was my first time in the new tent on this trip and I had some doubts about how I would sleep. I must have slept soundly, because it rained during the night and I did not hear it. Made 273 miles today.

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Buffalo "Roadblock" Friend

Sunday, June 23,2002
Got an early start to go to Mount Rushmore. I rode the "Eye-of-Needle" north. This is a road bikers don't soon forget. It's paved beautifully - so consistently smooth with many curves that varied from sharp to sweeping. The scenery was fantastic and so fine that it almost felt "designed"- like for a movie set. Alpine lakes of cobalt blue surrounded by jagged rock formations and hills of pine. At a few points, the road narrows because it's been carved out of gargantuan sized rocks. At other points, the road is tunneled through giant rocks. This road ascends to the top of a mountain where the rock has been weathered over eons to appear as columns. One of these spires has an oblong hole near its top, hence the name, "Eye-of the Needle". But, I couldn't give the wonderful scenery my full attention because of all the great twisties, S curves and switch backs. And no guard rails. A road like this deserves to be ridden twice. Once for the road itself and again just for the scenery.

What can one say that hasn't already been said about Rushmore? It is truly a wondrous blend of artistic expression and the forms of nature. I also walked the Presidential Trail, watched the video, etc. and visited Borglum's studio which had a perfect working view of the mountain. I did not know that the work changed over the years due to both the artist's evolving ideas and the actual geological structure of the rock. The result is a masterful unity of the heads and the mountain itself. The heads seem to emerge out of the rock yet not so completely as to "break" from or stand apart from the mountain. I feel that they are emerging yet one with the mountain. This is a pretty good metaphor. These larger than life leaders will be forever synonymously linked to the land itself. Another way of putting it is that no leader will be more powerful or important than the land (country) itself. This, of course, is a reflection of our democratic form of government.

I next visited the Crazy Horse Memorial located along route 385/16, west of Custer State Park. The visitor center, gift shop, parking, etc. was a full mile from the monument. Actually, it was good since all sense of proportion would probably become distorted as one got closer to it. Their video was very informative. There were also scale models of the sculpture and what the whole mountainside will someday look like. Included with the immense sculpture would be a learning complex complete with a university. All this would benefit Native Americans. The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, died in 1982 His family has set up a non-profit foundation to provide funds to complete the project. They do not want to accept government money for fear of governmental "strings". Independence is something they do not want to give up. I helped them out by buying a buffalo burger for lunch.

I returned to my campsite hot and tired but quite satisfied with my day. Rode only 62 miles.

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"Eye-Of-The-Needle" Road

View From Directly Below Mt. Rushmore

 

 

 

"Eye-of-the-Needle"

Monday, June 24, 2002
Left Stockade Lake Campground about 7am by way of the "Eye-of- The-Needle". Great time to ride it again. Virtually no traffic at that hour. It stayed that way for most of 385 north toward Deadwood. Had a late breakfast in Deadwood but didn't linger at any of the numerous tourist "attractions". Something was pulling me towards Wyoming. I first sensed this while I was forming my scrambled eggs into some kind of cone shape. I guess it's a movie kind of thing. Took route 85 north to I-90 west. Exited 90 onto route 24, then onto 110 to the Devil's Tower. It is quite impressive. The top of the Tower is 867 feet above the ground and 5112 feet above sea level. The diameter of its base is 1000 feet. It's actually a column of magma and sedimentary rocks and is about 60 million years old.

Next, I headed north on route 24 then turned off onto route 112 heading north. Countryside becoming more rocky. Started to see more sagebrush. I stopped and picked a handful and rubbed it in my hands. It seemed to smell like a combination of pine and mint. However, this did not account for the almost perfume like scent that was strong in the heated air. In the town of Alzada, Montana, I turned northwest onto route 212. Vast expanses were opening up with truly far horizons. Saw some cattle far out on the range along with the occasional prong horned antelope. These high plains with their great distances are similar to what Lewis and Clark saw further north near the Missouri. I could almost envision a herd of tens of thousands of buffalo covering this plain. The thing that kept shattering that illusion, unfortunately, was the FENCES. They were on each side of the road and ran parallel to it. While I can look out on a landscape that Lewis and Clark saw, I am trapped on this ribbon of asphalt and cannot walk freely upon it as they did. All I can say, partner, is "don't fence me in". The endless road with heat wave mirages can do things to the mind. Had to be there. Cruised at a steady 85. No cars, no trees, no pets, I ain't got no cigarettes. A Roger Miller kind of thing. I continued along the endless fence in an almost flat sea of brown.

Finally reached the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument at 6:30pm. I asked a park ranger about camping nearby and he gave me directions. The battlefield is located almost at, what is now, the intersection of route 212 and I-90. The campsite was just west of I-90. Got my site and quickly returned to the battlefield. The sun was at a low angle that I thought would make for some good photos. I found out that the battlefield encompassed about five miles. There was a paved road that ran along the ridgeline for the entire five miles with strategically located interpretive signs. White headstones were placed where soldiers fell. The battle began five miles out and as I rode back, stopping to read the signs, I could sense the "flow" of the battle. The signs suggested that Custer did not die at the end of the battle (as in the movies)but sometime in the middle. A local newspaper had an article that was featuring the Indian's account of the battle. This, along with artifacts found throughout the battleground, suggest that Custer's command collapsed around him. Many of the soldiers cut and ran and became separate small groups. I had noticed that almost all of the headstones scattered through the battleground were in pairs or small groups. Present day Indians have been fighting for some sort of memorial at the site for many years. Their side of the battle is that the Indians were protecting their women and children from a massacre. Understandably, their view of Custer is that he was a stupid and bloodthirsty, megalomaniac. Well, he did graduate from West Point at the bottom of his class.

Today, it seems that Native Americans still are fighting for their economical independence. I wondered how far they would go when the only restaurant that I could find in that area of the Crow Indian Reservation was a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Returned to my campsite full of fried chicken. My tent was about 60 feet from a railroad track. Didn't think about it earlier. Mile long trains, I discovered, make the ground vibrate in a less than soothing way. But, best of all is the surprise of the hundred decibel horn blast. Did 380 miles today.

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Devil's Tower, WY

Sunset on Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument

Soldiers Headstones marking where they died

Looking down on the Little Bighorn (it's in the trees)

Tuesday, June 25, 2002
The only truly authentic artifact from the Lewis and Clark Expedition is located in a sandstone rock formation along the Yellowstone River in southeastern Montana near the city of Billings. It was here that Clark carved his name and the date, July 25, 1806. I got there by following I-90 north, then west. I exited onto a gravel road and proceeded north about 20 miles to I-94. I crossed 94 and the rock formation is only a quarter of a mile north, along the Yellowstone. The formation is called Pompey's Pillar after Sacagawea's son, Jean Baptiste. Clark's affectionate nickname for him was Pomp. There are steps leading up to a platform from where one can view it through bullet-proof glass. I made a drawing of it and the surrounding rocks. More steps go up to the top of the rock formation. It was easy, gazing out on the landscape, to envision large herds of buffalo, elk, and antelope as Clark describes in his journal. A kind of "Garden of Eden". Even though the herds are gone, the many farm fields, that were laid out in grid-like precision, convey a land of plenty.

An article in the Billings Gazette announced that the Bureau of Land Management was "moving forward with plans to build a $4.9-million 5500-square-foot interpretive center at Pompeys Pillar National Monument". This proposal is "roughly half the size of a 12,000-square-foot facility that was originally proposed in 1996". I find it hard to imagine because I thought that the existing building was just fine. But, on the other hand, the bicentennial is a year away and there's all that tax revenue to spend. I suspect that Lewis and Clark Expedition will become an important money-maker for Montana in the near future. After all, they did spend a lot of time exploring in the state.

I left Pompeys Pillar and took I-94/90 west toward the town of Big Timber. It was very hot and I had to water down my jacket, helmet, and evap-o-rapa. It helped a little but the heat seems to drain one's energy. This is one aspect of riding of which most riders agree. Found a site at Spring Creek Campground which was a couple of miles outside of Big Timber. Lots of snow capped mountains in the far distance. My campsite was alongside Boulder Creek. The "creek" was about 150 feet across and filled with roaring rapids and a lot of white water. The camp manager said that it was usually this way, at this time of year, on account of the snow melt from the mountains. Even with all the noise, it was restful. Made 148 miles today.

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Pompey's Pillar