After Gillette, Wyoming we had planned to go up to western North Dakota and take in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and then travel across the top of the state of Montana to Glacier National Park. But as it looked more than a bit out of the way, we asked the Coach whether he would go the way we were proposing or go up through central Montana and visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield. At the risk of offending the North Dakotans, he told us to take the shorter route and that the Battlefield would be worth the stop. So off we went west from Gillette and then north along the Bighorn Mountain Range and into Montana.
Not far into Montana we came up to the exit for the Little Bighorn Battlefield – the site of Custer’s last stand. We are always a little leery taking our motor home and tow car together sight seeing. But we saw the Battlefield was very close to the freeway and we figured there would be some kind of a parking lot we could stop in. When we got to the gate house, the attendant told us the RV parking area was all full so we should just take the tour road and by the time we got back a space would likely be available. So we asked, “We are a big long rig, can we get turned around ok on the tour route?” He confirms, “Yes, you can easily turn around at the end of the tour route.” So we pass through the full parking lot and we come to a T in the road. RVs parked to the left and no apparent spaces. A fairly narrow road to the right. So we call over a Park Ranger. “The gate attendant told us to take the tour route; is that it to the right?” “Yes”, he says, “take it and you can turn around at the end no problem.” OK, here we go. No more do we actually get on the tour route than we are thinking, “this is not a road we should be on.” It’s narrow, there is no center line, there are no shoulders, it is up and down, around blind curves, and it is 5 miles back to this famous turnaround they mentioned. We virtually stopped upon meeting each and every car that we met so we could get all the way over to the edge such that we could pass. At least it went right along the top of the ridge in the middle of the Battlefield. So we saw five miles of battlefield, snapped a few pictures out the window of the motor home, and drove the same five miles back. There still wasn’t an RV parking space for us so right back out the main gate we went.
While the sweeping roads through the grasslands of Montana were a bit more accommodating, we had our other issues on this leg of the trip. We heard the dreaded sound of a rock hitting the windshield. Sure enough, when we arrived for the night at the Walmart in Billings, we felt a chip in the windshield and we also noticed that one of the center hub caps on our front wheels had fallen off during the trip, and then our generator had to go and act up a bit.
But we did have a very nice surprise and delight. We went out for a bite to eat. When we returned to the rig, there was a note on our doorstep and a loaf of homemade banana nut bread by the front tire. The couple that left the bread mistook our rig for another one parked on the opposite side of the parking lot (both Texas plates). Since it was too late to call the baker to tell her she had the wrong rig, I texted her the next day to let her know how much we enjoyed her bread. She responded with a laugh and told us to enjoy the bread and Montana. We then found a glass shop we could get in and out of and they repaired the chip which should keep it from cracking. We figured out and solved the generator issue, and the hubcap is a pretty reasonably priced standard part that we just have to find – there is no issue running without it – it’s just an appearance item.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful until we arrived at the Walmart in Great Falls. After we parked, a huge wind blew up. We were right on the edge of a nasty storm, but fortunately we were just on the windy edge of it. We were glad we weren’t under the tree the wind brought down in the parking lot.
Our trip up to Glacier took three days. Fortunately, the third day was by far the least problematic of the bunch. The last hour or two heading into the very northwest of Montana was surprisingly agricultural. We saw the flattest and obviously most productive land of the trip. We saw these fields of plants with bright yellow blossoms and even Gary with his farm heritage didn’t know what they were. Later we discovered they were the blossoms of rape seed plants that either produce canola oil or oil processed into biodiesel. And finally, after three days of travel, the mountain range of Glacier National Park came into full view out our windshield.