May 16, 1999
|I heard my watch alarm at 5:30am as
I came out of my long restorative sleep. What happened to the
night? I've been asleep for 11 hours! Wow! Still
too tired to get up, I laid in bed until the 6am train went by outside the window.
After I got ready, I went to the store to get my daily dose of PowerAde. While inside, I got into a long conversation with a Crow Indian lady. She has been moving away from many of the traditional beliefs and is now a Christian. This has caused many arguments among others in the tribe. She is told "That is white mans belief". But she quotes biblical passages to support her argument. There are still many rituals performed today that she doesn't believe in and will not participate in. Another lady came in wearing all black, "See, she is in mourning for a relative that died. She will continue to wear black until someone gives her a new outfit and feeds her to bring her out of mourning". This is an old custom that is not part of her Christian belief. However, there are parts of the culture she is afraid of losing, like the language. With many of the children learning English only, she fears the language may someday be lost. She went on to say that traditionally, Indians have always respected the land and animals. "Take only what you need" is their philosophy. Kill an animal only if you need to eat. But recently there were several Elk found dead with some of the teeth missing. Some of the Indians had taken up hunting for sport, which had outraged many, especially the older Indians. She also spoke of prejudices which were very prevalent when she spent time in Canada. Apparently, the natives there will hardly look into the eyes of a white man due to low self-esteem. I was told of stories about random beatings of the males by white Canadians. "I can't believe you and I can talk and keep in eye contact...and be comfortable", she said. We talked for a while and then I had to go so I could see where Custer made his last stand.
I never knew a thing about the battle at Little Big Horn and now I find myself walking on the very ground where so many were killed in such a short period of time. Custer and his men were on top of a hill when they were charged by the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians. I assumed he was in a valley with the Indians charging downhill, but that wasn't the case. He had 210 of his men with him the attack occurred. The Indians numbered approximately 7,000 with at least 1,500 of them being warriors. Custer didn't have a chance! Of course there is a ton of information here, with actual artifacts from the battlefield and many displays, as well as a movie in the visitor center. It was well worth my three bucks to learn a little history :-) Total losses - all 210 under Custers immediate command, 53 of the other companies that were forced to retreat, and an estimated 60-100 Indians.
Now I was off and riding but as I started to pass the cafe', I decided to stop in for a cup of coffee and see who I might meet. I sat at the same table I sat at yesterday. It was beside the booth that was next to the swinging doors to the kitchen. As soon as I sat down, two curious young Indian boys started talking to me. Then Larry started talking to me as well. I believe Larry is the father of one of the boys but I'm not sure. He is Zach's uncle and it doesn't take long to figure out that everyone is related somehow. As Larry and I talked I noticed an earnestness about him. He listened to me carefully and always paused before speaking. I ordered a pancake ($1.00) to go with my coffee. After I was finished eating Larry stood outside and talked to me for a few moments before I left. We discussed many things about the life of the modern day Crow tribe. Larry told me about many of the rituals they still practiced, such as sweat lodges. The thought of participating in such a ritual has always intrigued me and he was willing to share many of those rituals with me. I felt honored to have him speaking openly to me. I've heard that rituals, such as the sweat lodges, are sacred and that not just anyone can be invited to participate in such an experience. It was very tempting for me to stay and participate in such a personal experience of the soul. As we were discussing this, a man walked up, headed towards the door to the cafe'. Larry introduced him as the medicine man. Now that would be someone I would like to talk to as well. But there are still so many experiences left for me on this journey and not enough time for everything. It was another good-bye that I didn't feel ready to do yet, but it had to be done. I could easily spend 2 years on the road and still never experience everything I want to.
Heading out on I90, Several people honked and waved to me from the secondary road as I left the reservation. I didn't get too far before the coffee started taking effect. Stopping at the Crow Agency gas station, I had only gone about a mile between exits. I decided to buy some fig bars too and at the counter I noticed a young Indian man was sketching a female warrior. It was a good drawing, but definitely not Indian. It was like the fantasy art you see of scantily clad warrior females wielding swords. One thing I've noticed is that many of the native American Indians appear to be very artistic in some form. Whether it's painting, music, dancing, sculpting, or whatever form of art an individual cultivates. They also have a very profound history of tradition and culture that fascinates me. Someday, I will have to find the time to spend with them.
My chain had been skipping and making noise for the second day. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a pin out on one side. It was obviously the one I had put back in when I had to shorten my chain.
Using my chain tool, I lined it back up and pressed the pin into the side that was out. This lasted maybe 5 miles, I was just praying it would hold together until I got to Billings, another 50 miles. When I reached Hardin I stopped at Subway for a quick lunch and then was off to Billings. There were a lot of people honking and waving. Even a guy in a semi headed in the opposite direction blew his horn several times and waved frantically. Wow! This is pretty cool! It seemed to be tough, with a lot of climbing, but the friendly motorists made all the difference. By mid-afternoon I began being passed by many Harley riders. Not all at once, but in small groups, sometimes thirty minutes apart. This went on for hours and I found out later that it was something called a "Poker Run" they were doing for charity.
Wait! What is it? Could it be? Is it really? Yes! I saw my first touring cyclist on this trip. They were heading in the opposite direction and we all exchanged waves. There were two close together (male and female) and a third one lagging behind (female). All of them looked like the traditional touring cyclist: touring bikes, bike clothes, and panniers. I on the other hand, have a mountain bike, my clothes were not visible under my outer layer which consisted of my Eddie Bauer Jacket and "The North Face" long "convertible" pants, and I was pulling a trailer. If they were tourers, I must be the antithesis to the traditional tourer.
Arriving at Billings, I stopped at a convenience store and got info for cheap motels and bike shops. I then headed down 1st Ave. towards downtown and stopped at the Lazy KT Motel, $32.25 total, with tax. With my stomach protesting it's lack of food I decided to order a pizza. I ordered a small green pepper and mushroom pizza from Stage Line Pizza and 15 minutes later the knock comes. Cool! That was quick. The pizza guy, Dan, checks out my stump jumper and is really impressed with it since he owned a rock hopper. Dan hung out as long as he could but had to be on his way to service other hungry stomachs like mine. Before he left, he advised me to go to "The Bike Shop" on Grand Ave., not "Spokes". I had intended on going to Spokes since they advertised in the phone book as a "Specialized" dealer and the other one was not. But it really didn't matter.
Wind - Blowing to the southeast
Today - 65.72 miles