Big Ride Update: Days 15-18
In the past four days, we cycled 55 easy miles from Billings to Hardin, Montana, situated 15 miles from the site of Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn, and stayed at a KOA campsite; we biked 82 tough miles in 101 degree heat and erratic headwinds from Hardin to Sheridan Wyoming–our fourth state–and notched the first 1000 miles in our 3300-mile Big Ride, while staying at another KOA; we rode 112 miles through long, rolling hills–our longest single ride on the whole trip–from Sheridan to Gillette Wyoming and celebrated July 4 by going to bed at 8 pm in the halls of Campbell County High School; and today we battled very strong, unrelenting headwinds of 25-30 mph all day as we inched our way 76 miles from Gillette to Newcastle, Wyoming, where we are being hosted by the Weston County Senior Center.
The last three days have been among our toughest and everyone is hurting at least a little. Tuesday, my worst day, I limped into camp and learned that Immortal Bird had been selected as number four on the must-read memoir list by Book Page, which lifted my spirit, even if it did nothing for my body.
Tomorrow we head into Rapid City, South Dakota, biking through Black Hills National Forest, and everyone is praying for some mercy from the wind.
Horses in a field and the shadow of an early morning rider en route from Billings to Hardin,
Standing before the reenactment site for Custer’s Last Stand, just south of the Crow Agency.
Entering Hardin, county seat of Big Horn County, Montana, population around 3500.
As we relax at the KOA campsite, Big Rider Ben Cocanougher (on left in green baseball cap), a second year medical student at University of Rochester Medical School, administers peak flow tests as part of a 7-week experiment on exercise-induced asthma
Sugar beet fields in the early morning.
Kneeling by the 1000-mile marker, just outside Hardin. Only 2300 more miles to go!
Big Riders at the entrance to the Little Bighorn battlefield (from left to right: Doron; Liz; Rob; Jeffrey; Yugi; Tod; Sarah). We arrived before they opened so half the riders peeled off to rejoin the Ride but a few diehards stayed behind.
The hill where General Custer retreated, after failing to cross the Little Bighorn River, to make his final stand.
Standing before the hilltop memorial where the remains of some 220 soldiers, scouts and civilians killed during the Battle of Little Bighorn are buried. The officers’ bodies were moved to national cemeteries. Custer is buried at West Point.
The check-out line at a gas station convenience mart on the Crow reservation, a stone’s throw from the Little Bighorn battlefield.
Crossing from Montana into Wyoming.
Hay, an important crop in Wyoming, with the Big Horn Mountains behind.
The High Plains of Wyoming.
Outside the Spotted Horse cafe, est. 1924, which offered a cool respite from a 112-mile day.
The bar at the Spotted Horse
Entering Gillette, self-described “Energy Capital of the Nation” with major coal, oil and coal bed methane gas industries. Wyoming is the nation’s largest producer of coal, second largest producer of natural gas and fifth largest producer of oil.
Leaving Gillette for Newcastle in the early morning.
In Ossage, two quintessential Wyoming industries are juxtaposed as a freight train carrying coal heads toward an oil refinery. Coal trains criss-cross the landscape non-stop.