May 15, 1999
|I stopped at a convenience store, same
as every morning :-) A young Indian lady riding her bike was there
with her small boy on the back in one of those seat thingy's that attaches
to the bicycle. She told me I had a lot of climbing to do going
towards Lame Deer. Another Indian family stopped to ask questions
too. Everyone was friendly and they all seemed a bit curious about
why I'm doing this.
By 8:30am I was heading west on 212 looking up at the cloud covered mountain tops. Then, after 13 miles, I finally reach the last of the climbing as I begin the downhill. As I was getting close to Lame Deer, I heard a car horn honk a couple of times from behind me. When the car drove by I saw Mimi waving at me. Riding into town, Mimi was waiting on the corner in her car. I stopped and asked about any cafe's. She was concerned about me leaving my bike unattended while I went inside somewhere.
Her reason for waiting for me was to invite me to the church with her for a little while. Mimi had told me yesterday how she was saved about a month ago. This meant that she quit drinking, smoking cigarettes, and smoking pot. With her new found religion, she is very excited about it and wants to share it with everyone. But doesn't seem to be overzealous about it. I thanked her for her offer but had to decline so I could beat the rain today to Hardin. It was warmer now with a temperature of 58 degrees.
After talking to Mimi, I rode over to the cafe' but it was closed so I headed for the convenient store. Inside, I ordered a turkey sub. While sitting outside by my bike eating my sub, the Indian girl that sold it to me walked outside. Her name was Desiree' and she asked the usual questions. I questioned her about the reservation and it's people. She seemed very shy and rarely looked me in the eye while talking to me. Desiree' told me that I wouldn't have a problem at all with camping. Most people are very friendly even though there does seem to be a lot of alcoholism and drugs. There wasn't much around this area. It was an small town with just a few businesses. Everything looked old and a bit rundown and dirty. Even so, everyone was really friendly. She stayed outside and talked for about 20 minutes, until she was called to get back in the store. As she was walking away, Desiree' stopped, turned, looked straight at me, and said, "I hope you find what you're looking for", then disappeared inside.
Continuing west, the landscape continued to have plush green hills and wooded areas. Then, as I approached Busby, I felt the first rain drops. The houses were all grouped together on the right in a small neighborhood. They looked like the government housing you see on military bases. I stopped to begin my water-proofing ritual; rain coat, glove liners, plastic gloves, outer gloves, plastic bags over my socks, and wallet inside a small plastic baggie. While I was doing this, a group of young boys stared at me from the playground about 150 yards away.
With that done, I continue riding and then see a small store to the left at the edge of town. I decided to stop for hot tea. The name of the store was Custer's Last Camp, because this was the area where he and his men camped last, before meeting their doom. There were 4 bar stools at a counter where I sat drinking my tea. The owner is a white lady, which I assumed was probably married to an Indian. I don't know what the politics are like on a reservation. Do they allow non-Indians to own property or businesses here? Hmmm, I would have felt awkward asking so we just talked about the people that come through the reservation. She said that everyone just drives right through, "Nobody stops to try to learn about the area, they just fly on by". She also said that the Indians would be more likely to welcome me in their homes if I needed a place to stay. As I sat there, I noticed some of the local Indian ladies paying with something like WIC or food stamps. This just added to my impression of how many are at the lower end of the socio-economic scale. There was a glass jar behind the counter with cigarettes, the hand written label read "singles 2/30 cents". What I have seen so far has been mostly older cars - mid 80's and earlier models, very modest clothing, and many buildings and homes in disrepair. All of this set in a beautiful Montana landscape. I couldn't help but wonder why everyone seemed to be at the same level, almost an equal distribution of money, without anyone being very wealthy. There were no big houses or expensive cars but everyone I talked to seemed happy and content.
Leaving Custer's Last Camp, I pedaled along imagining the army of soldiers riding through here. Did any of them take the time to be inspired by the scenic landscape? Or were they too focused on war and violence? The rain brought out the nice refreshing smells of the prairies. For a few miles, I really enjoyed riding in the rain. It wasn't very cold at all, just a little cool. But the cool soon turned to freezing cold. My fingers and toes became numb again as I worked hard to exercise them. It was difficult to keep my head up, so I looked straight down at the road trying to keep my face warm. Then, just as I was getting really miserable, a car drove up slowly beside me. "Do you need a ride?" came from an Indian lady in the passenger seat. I said, "No thank you, I'll be OK. Is the town close?" The lady said "8 miles", as she looked at me with a concerned look on her face. Then some jerk in a new Mitsubishi Montero starts blasting his horn from behind. I thanked the couple for wanting to help and they had to speed up because of the @#&hole behind them. Inside the Montero was a well dressed white couple with looks of anger and disgust on their faces. Some of those that just want to drive through and never stop, I imagine. The place was probably too dirty for them. I could only imagine what people like that talk about as they drive through..."oh honey look at them, they look so poor", "where are their teepees?", "Do you think it's safe driving through here?" Just stupid, ignorant, people that don't want to understand another culture or way of life. Too impatient to allow a kind person to try and offer help to a stranger in the bitterly cold rain. You would NEVER see someone like that even think about helping another person on the road. In general, the nicer the vehicle, the less likely they are to stop, or even come up and talk to you in a convenient store. They just stare and try not to let you know they're looking at you.
The temperature is 39 degrees and well below freezing with the wind chill when I stopped at the cafe' by the Interstate. First, I went to the bathroom to thaw out my fingers. Then, I sat at a table and sipped hot cocoa. I didn't even have to try to talk to anyone. Several people were already asking questions and taking a sincere interest in me. Zach is the grandson of the owners and washes dishes there. He sat at the table with me as we talked about the reservation. Zach liked the fact that you can begin driving at any age and that there are no licenses required for hunting and fishing. Due to the "low standard" of education on the reservation, he goes to school outside the reservation.
We were soon joined by his grandfather and he shared many stories with me. He spoke of his close encounters with wildlife; Buffalo, bears, and moose. His speech was low and deliberate, speaking in English which appeared to be his second language. I would guess that he was in his late eighties or early nineties. They all told me about tonight's Pow Wow and that I would have to join them. That sounded great so I left to check into the only motel ($30.00), and get a shower. After I took a shower and sat down for a few minutes, I began to get very tired. The Pow Wow was to start at 7pm and by 6:30pm I was sound asleep...
Wind - calm
Today - 64.92 miles