Montana Road Trip Journal-Day 5
June 19, 2005: It has been a quick trip so far. We are still recovering from the trip out here and now we are already leaving to head back to Kentucky. We need to be back soon so Marissa can prepare for her wedding on June 25th.
Last night, after we got back, Solomon and I had to go get a few things for the return trip. We went to Smith's Food King and found it funny that all of the generic foods there were Kroger branded. It appears that Smith's must be owned by Kroger now. After that we tried to return to the Alfrey's, but got lost. I zigged when I should have zagged. In the process we found ourselves smack dab in my old neighborhood. I had wanted to see where I used to live and we never had the time. Now, by sheer accident, I was on Greenbrier Dr. in Great Falls. So, I showed Sol where I used to live and then we made it back to the shopping and center and found the correct way home.
Next morning, the 19th, we were up early for the long trip home. Everything was stashed into the van and Marissa got into Chelsea's Nissan with Seth and by 6:30 AM we were off and running. Yes, we had two cars to return with, since Amaree had Chelsea's car out there. Last August Amaree and Seth drove out to get Amaree ready for teaching at North Middle School in Great Falls. Chelsea now wanted her car back and so Marissa and Seth would be the drivers this time.
The two cars presented a bigger challenge for us as we would need more gas and more rest stops since there would be less drivers for the one vehicle. But, at least we had cell phones and we figured it would be fun. Solomon settled into the back of the van and had a cozy relationship with the DVD player and TV for quite a while.
After filling up with gas and a few snacks just around the corner from the Alfrey's we were on the freeway heading south to Helena and on to Bozeman. The drive to Bozeman took nearly three hours. We stopped there to fill up with gas and then drove by Bozeman Senior High School, where I attended school my junior year of high school. The town has changed much since the 1970s. However, I remembered vividly how nice the mountains were that surround the town. After filling up we were back on the freeway and took another little exit off the freeway at the Bear Canyon exit. I showed the kids the old KOA Campground where I first heard about the LDS Church from some girls from New Jersey. We then went further up the canyon to the place where we used to live. All of the homes had been redone so I had to kind of guess which one was my old house. I think I found it anyway. In any case, the kids got a chance to see at least the general area and get an idea of what it was like. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos.
After that, we were back on the road again, driving the beautiful mountains of southern Montana. There were numeous exits to Yellowstone National Park, but we had not time to divert our course to go there. That would have to wait for our next visit.
But, after a brief stop in Billings, we finally arrived at Little Big Horn National Monument around 2 PM. This would be an interesting stop for us...at least for me. This was one of the few places in the United States history where the government had a battle with the Native American Indians. The battle was engaged between a portion the Sioux and Cheyenne nations who refused to live within the boundaries of the Great Sioux Reservation. Sitting Bull was the leader of this large gathering of nearly 10,000 at the area where Little Big Horn now stands. The attack on the Indians was led by Lt. Colonel George Custer in June of 1876. It proved more than a match and Custer and many of his soldiers were killed in the attack. A very interesting eyewitness account can be found here-->The Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876. Here are some photos of our visit:
These are some paintings representing what the battle may have looked like on June 25, 1876
Views from Last Stand Hill: L - George Custer's Monument in black. R-Monuments of all soldiers exactly where they fell.
From Little Big Horn, we then ventured off of the freeway and headed southeast on US-212. This was a deviation from the planned route, but, in keeping with the theme of this trip, I wanted to hit at least one interesting restaurant along the way and the one we had in mind was in Alzada, MT. So, we took this road and it was basically a long, straight road through the middle of nowhere. There were plenty of weeds and lots of antelope to be seen. We eventually made our into Broadus, MT, at about 4:15. Fortunately, there was a rest area and even an information center. We went in and met this guy named Gordon. He was an older man, but quite vivacious and willing to provide maps and all sorts of information.
After the rest area, we were well on our way to Alzada, about 60 miles further south. Seth and Sol took off in the Nissan a few minutes before Marissa and I left and we were well on our way. It was a long flat stretch and before long we both realized that we were going 90 mph. At least we got to Alzada fast....though I did tell Seth that I hoped that he had enjoyed the speed because it was the last time he would drive that fast!!
Alzada is just a small town of a couple hundred people. You blink and you miss it. It is almost like a frontier town on the outskirts of the wilderness. Anyway, we found the Stoneville Saloon, which was our planned meal stop for the day. It is a famous Biker Bar/Saloon that is frequented heavily each August by bikers on their way to Sturgis, ND for the big biker rally held there. The sign out front says "Cheap Drinks, Lousy Food". As this link points out, this is truly one of Montana's "Hysterical Landmarks."
We met Diane, the proprietor, a thin blonde lady, with big glasses and a zillion tatoos. At first she was not very friendly with us. But, she was cordial and helpful with our orders. We got some chili burgers and fries and they weren't lousy at all (or was it that we were just really hungry??). Seth and Sol cued up a game of pool while waiting for the food. The atmosphere inside was something else. Here are some photos:
The place is just as wild and rustic inside. While we were there bikers visited. It could be a tough place....
Seth and Sol enjoy some pool. Sol stands next to a "rustic bike"
I can guarantee you that this ain't no bull!!
After a nice meal, we were back on our way east. US 212 took us into a small corner of Wyoming and then into Belle Fourche, SD. All along the way we saw hundreds of antelope. It was nice to see so much wildlife.
We continued south into South Dakota and on into Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. By this time we had realized that we had pretty much run out of money. In fact, our last "restaurant meal" was at Stoneville. We would have to survive the rest of the way on the fruit, nuts, chips and drinks in the car. Perhaps a Taco Bell stop along the way....
We got into Mt. Rushmore fairly late, but at least we got there in time to see it. It was pretty fascinating to see those large faces carved into stone. But, to me, the more interesting thing to see was all of the other tourist places around there. Everyone wanting to get a piece of that money... I have found that every national park area has all of those other fringe places around them. Here are a few photos:
Marissa introduces us to Mt. Rushmore. On the right is a view from the highway.
On the way to Custer from the park, there is a nice profile view of George Washington.
We were getting tired by this time and drove into Custer, SD in hopes of finding a place to lay our heads. We knew that this would be our last place to stay on the way home, so we wanted to at least get a good night's rest and hopefully a place with a Continental Breakfast. Our first stop was at the Bavarian Inn. I thought that since they were a private, non-chain place that they may give us a good deal. I sent Seth in for a rate in hopes of $50 or $60 per night. He came out and said it was $89 and that he talked them down from over $100 for a party of four. Well, that was still too much. The trip and wedding costs had drained us. So, I was ready to move on and this nice little German lady came out and I told her the story of the three weddings, the trip, the costs. She was so kind to us and offered to let us stay for $69, the single rate. I later found out that her name was Ursula and that she was the owner. My instincts proved correct. I am very grateful to her and will send her a thank you note for the kindness (along with some photos!!). But, in honor of her kindness, as well as the cordial nature of the rest of the staff, I will put a little advertisement for them here as well:
The Bavarian Inn
PO Box 152
Custer, South Dakota 57730
Toll free for Reservations: 1-800-657-4312
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Roadside guidance provided by......