Washington to Wyoming

Tuesday 4 to Thursday 6 August

We drove out of Crawston in British Columbia and back into Washington State. We were heading east – to New York.

We stopped by to see the impressive Grand Coulee Dam which harnessed the Columbia River to produce hydroelectric power and provide irrigation water. It was constructed between 1933 and 1942, following a bitter battle between irrigators for a gravity canal and a high dam for power. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt endorsed the “high dam” design which would provide enough electricity to pump water into the Columbia basin for irrigation.

The dam is claimed to be one of the largest structures ever built by mankind

Construction of the dam forced Native Americans to relocate. They lost fishing and hunting grounds and their burial grounds had to be moved.

From there we were passing through farm land, predominantly cereal crops irrigated by the dam.

Following an overnight stop in Missoula, MT we headed towards the Dakotas. There seemed to be more and more bikes on the road, as well as RVs towing small cars. This is August in the United States, holiday season.

In Wyoming we called in to see Little Bighorn, the place of Custer’s Last Stand. It was a popular holiday stop off.

This was the battlefield between the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army which was led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The Indian tribes defeated the army and Custer, two of his brothers and other family members were amongst the 268 who died.

We drove around the battleground in our car. There were multiple stops along the way, with instructions to listen to commentary over our phone.

Custer’s wife Libbie later worked to ‘burnish’ his memory and the fallen were later considered iconic, even heroic figures in American history.

The Great Sioux War ended with a defeat of the Sioux and they were required to cede the land to the United States if they wanted access to rations. The Sioux have never accepted the transaction and continue to insist on their right to occupy the land.

We continued on to Sheridan WY where there were more bikes parked at the motel than cars. It is here we learned that we were en route to the biggest bikers rally at Sturgis in South Dakota.

Sheridan, it seems, was a popular place for Buffalo Bill, who staged many concerts at the  Sheridan Inn.

Our next stop was Devil’s Tower, made famous in the 1977 movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. It stands high above the ground which is just as well. A long queue of bikers were waiting to visit it. We figured that photos from afar would be better than an up close view.

It is believed that the Devil’s Tower consists of molten rock from an ancient volcano more than fifty million years ago, although erosion that uncovered it probably occurred only one or two million years ago.

President Theodore Roosevelt designated the tower as the first national monument in 1906 and the National Park it sits in was created in 1916.

And now we really were in biker territory. What an experience!