We drove through Calgary going south along Canadian Highway 2 towards the US border. Arriving at the border we had the same exhilarating feeling for being back in our great country. Must admit that we have both shared these feelings every time we have returned home to the USA! Being on Montana State Road 89 it was a short drive to Saint Mary and the entrance to Glacier National Park. We have seen some of the most magnificent mountains and glaciers between Alaska and Canada,
now we get to see the beauty of the lower 48 and what Montana has for our viewing pleasure. We entered the park, but because we were over 21 feet in length were restricted to the Rising Sun site, 18 miles into the park. We got a great view of some of the peaks and glaciers, stopped and made lunch by a lakeside and laughed watching the kids swim in the “rather cold” water, saying at 10 years old, we would have as well.
Next summer our plans are to do the National Parks in the west and a return to Glacier
National Park is part of the plan. It was now time to head east and we were amazed by the beauty of the foothills as we headed for Missoula. We had been in need of replacing the back tires and the plan was to do it in Billings at Costco. When we arrived in Missoula we called Freightliner to see if they had tires and they recommended a few tire shops. We pulled into one at 4:55, closing time being 5:00. The tires, installed were $10 a piece more than Costco and the installation was completed with us back on the road by 5:30, WOW, what great people. We had a problem with Janice’s phone and stopped by the local AT&T store for help. The salesperson took an hour with us, downloading new software and rebooting the phone to solve the problem, no charge! The reason for these two stories is that they are typical of the folks we met in Montana. Because the Missouri was flooding the parks along the river were closed so we spent the night in the Walmart Parking lot with other RV folks. They brought out chairs and made a circle for cocktail hour, sure felt at home. We left there in the morning and drove south and east through Billings to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument where Custer’s Last Stand took place.
A park ranger spoke at the visitors center that overlooked the battlefield which stretch out 6 miles across the valley. The explanation of President Grant’s reason for attacking the Indians was that they were off their reservations and it was questionable if they even knew they had been given notice. The Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes were nomadic buffalo hunters and this was their traditional way of life. The story of Custer’s final battle was different than any story we had heard growing up. By the time he had dropped off troops at various locations around the battle field
he only had 40 troops that were on a hill overlooking the valley. The Indians attacked from below by circling the hill and shooting arrows in the air where they came down on the troops, killing all 40 of them and putting “Custer’s Last Stand” in the history books.
The reward for visiting the Little Bighorn was to hear both sides of the history and prepare us for our visit to the Black Hills area of South Dakota and the Crazy Horse Monument. The Black Hills, if you get the chance to visit, is worth the trip. It is just beautiful. On to the Crazy Horse Monument. It is so large that looking at this picture, the Mount Rushmore monument would fit in the area behind Crazy Horses eyes.
The monument continues to be built. The primary construction is done with dynamite being carefully placed to have the explosions sculpt the monument. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear officially started Crazy Horse Memorial June 3, 1948. The Memorial’s mission is to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians. Ziolkowski worked on Mount Rushmore and was approached by Chief Standing Bear to create the Crazy Horse Monument. There were a few criteria for the monument, one being that no federal funds be used as the Indians did not trust the US Government. DUH!! Ziolkowski’s wife and family continue to run the project. It is the largest mountain carving in the world. The complex at the foot of the mountain has pictures of many of the chiefs that were part of starting the project and had been warriors at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. These chiefs fought in the battle when they were 13 to 16 years old and lived into the eighties and nineties.
On to Mount Rushmore. Why those four presidents were selected for the monument: Washington, the father of our country; Jefferson for the Declaration of Independence and his western view with the Louisiana Purchase; Teddy Roosevelt for his vision of the national parks and protecting land for generations to come; and Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.” As you walk up to the viewing area, the sense of patriotism and pride in what we stand for as a country just consumes you. It is beautiful and awesome at the same time.