Montana Mayhem II
-- by treasuredude

Montana Mayhem II is in the history books.  Here is a recap of the happenings and events.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent (not really).

Michael "Max" Reeve and Frank "Bubbabod" Bodden arrived on Wednesday, June 17, 2009.  This was incidentally the 133rd anniversary of the Battle of the Rosebud.  It wasn't planned that way.  I actually didn't realize it until now when I typed that line.  Michael "Fullsail" Olson shipped in great beer from Washington.  It arrived at the hotel and Frank and Max were left to care for it.  The rest of us were more than a little worried that the beer would not survive.

Fred Wagner, Gary "Iceman" Lemery, and Michael Olson flew in on Thursday, June 18th.  They had dinner at the Montana Brewing Company and sat around the hotel drinking beer and longing for the time when I was to join them in Bismarck the next day.

Friday, June 19, 2009 -- Max, Frank, Fred, Michael, and Gary drive from Billings to Bismarck, North Dakota.  I left Pierre as soon as I got off work and headed north to Bismarck as well.  The boys had dinner at Famous Dave's BBQ.  I arrived there at about 8:30 that evening at the Best Western Ramkota, our base camp in Bismarck.  We sat around and had a few beers and solved the Custer mystery.

Saturday, June 20, 2009 -- Breakfast at Perkins and then off to Fort Lincoln.  On the way we stopped in front of the former home of Dr. Porter at 824 4th Street for a quick photo.  Fest at the Fort was that weekend so there were quite a few things going on including artillery and Gatling gun demonstrations, free tours of the Custer house, along with cavalry and infantry maneuvers.  We met up with Steve Alexander and had a photo taken.  The Custer house tour was great.  There are many original items in the house including Custer's field desk, rocking chair, and curtains.  I wish the tour had been broken into smaller groups as it was rather crowded and hard to follow along with the guide.  After the fort we headed to The Walrus for food and beer.  I suggested this place and had never been there myself.  I thought it was ok but haven't heard any comments either way from any of the other guys.  Then it was back to the hotel for more discussions and beer.

Sunday, June 21, 2009 -- This was a big travel day.  We checked out of the hotel and went to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast, filled up with gas, and hit I-94 West for our trip to Billings.  Frank rode with me in my car and the rest of the guys were in their rented SUV.  We had walkie-talkies to communicate between the vehicles.  I would like to take this time to apologize to anyone who overheard our transmissions.  I hope the FCC wasn't listening.  We used L.J. Chorne's Following the Custer Trail of 1876 as a reference while we were driving.  The book contains photos and directions to many of the campsites and landmarks along the trail.  Frank would read any pertinent information into the walkie-talkie.  Fred has a wealth of data on his computer and he would also chime in with details.  We passed New Salem, Richardton, Young Man's Butte, Maiden's Breasts, Sentinel Butte, Painted Canyon, Medora, and other sites along the way.  We followed I-94 to Wibaux, Montana.  Here we turned south on Highway 7 to follow the trail somewhat to Baker, Montana.  At Baker, we got on Highway 12 and roughly followed the trail to Miles City.  In Miles City we had a quick lunch at Taco John's, filled the vehicles with gas, and hit the trail again.  Turning south on Rosebud Creek Road, we followed Custer's column as they moved along the Rosebud River.  We stopped at the marker for Nathan Short.  Also along this route are the campsites of June 22nd and 23rd.  We came out on Highway 212 at Lame Deer, Montana.  We followed Highway 212 through Busby and past the grave of Cheyenne chief Two Moons.  We joined up with Interstate 90 at the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  We didn't stop at the battlefield this day as we had dinner plans in Hardin that evening.  We checked into the Super 8 and got settled.  Richard and Dennis Fox stopped by the hotel and we all went to eat at the Far West Casino & Restaurant.  They have changed their menu to Mexican and the food was good.  After dinner, we all went over to Dennis Fox's house and sat around in the back yard, drinking beer and talking Custer.  Dennis pulled out some amazing pieces of his collection to share with us.  It was then time to go back to the hotel - exhausted.  We had "followed" the Custer trail from Bismarck to the Little Big Horn Battlefield in one day.  To really do it justice you need much more time to stop and check things out.  There was a point west of Bismarck where we passed through three days of Custer's camps in about 15 minutes.  It's hard to "see" history flying down the interstate.

Monday, June 22, 2009 -- We had the continental breakfast at the hotel (well, those of us who woke up early enough).  We then headed over to the battlefield.  We stopped at Putt Thompson's Custer Battlefield Trading Post to look around and let the late sleepers (Max and Michael) get some breakfast.  We then drove out on Reno Creek Road to get a glimpse of Ford A.  We also drove as far as the site of the morass.  As this is all private land, we stayed on the road and the area outside the fence.  This is where a bigger zoom digital camera comes in handy.  We then headed over to the battlefield.  We wandered around the Custer National Cemetery getting photos and hunting down different markers.  We walked down the Deep Ravine Trail to the end.  Even when there are lots of visitors at the battlefield, the end of Deep Ravine Trail has a lonely feeling.  Back at the visitor center, Ranger Michael Donahue gave a great presentation out on the patio.  Donahue gives a fantastic talk.  Don't pass it up if you're at the battlefield.  We checked out the bookstore and prepared to head out but not before Gary lost his cell phone and Frank lost all his cash.  Luckily, both found their lost valuables.  Next stop was Billings, Montana, where we checked into the Best Western Clock Tower Inn.  We all got settled in the hotel and walked over to Montana Brewing Company for food and beer.  This was my first time there and I must say I was impressed.  I had one of the best burgers of my life there.  Custer's Last Stout is also a great beer, if you like stronger beers.  Back at the hotel, a few more beers and off to bed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 -- This was our Little Big Horn Associates conference day.  The conference actually ran June 21 - 23, but this was the first day we were able to make it.  This was the final day and featured speakers presenting different Custer related topics.  First, we got up and walked over to Stella's Kitchen and Bakery for breakfast.  The food was excellent.  Then off to the Holiday Inn where the conference was held.  There was a great book room where I finally found a copy of a book which I had been unable to locate (many thanks to Michael Olson for finding it).  In the book room we met up with Steve Adelson of Backtrack West.  Steve was going to be our guide on a tour of the Valley/Timber fight area on Friday.  We had lunch with Steve and talked over the plans for Friday's tour.  In the conference room, we took in talks by Tom Heski, Michael Donahue, Sandy Barnard, and Jim Donovan.  We headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit and unwind.  Michael and Fred had tickets to attend the LBHA awards banquet.  Max drove them back and dropped them off at the Holiday Inn.  After his return, he, Frank, Gary, and I headed out to stir up some food of our own.  We stopped at Jake's Steakhouse and had a beer.  We then wandered over to Montana Brewing Company where we sat outside and enjoyed $1.00 tap beers.  We ordered food and more beer.  Then we ordered still more beer.  When that was gone, we ordered still more beer.  The LBHA banquet ended and Michael and Fred joined us.  They took a cab as none of us were in any shape to drive.  Dennis Fox showed up and had a few beers with us as did John Hart and Jim Donovan.  Jim Donovan had earlier that evening won the John M. Carroll award for his book, A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn, at the LBHA conference.  John Hart is the editor of the new Custer and His Times, Book Five.  We were the last to leave the MBC.  Needless to say, we headed (stumbled?) back to the hotel and bed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 -- This was another battlefield day.  We ate breakfast again at Stella's and hit the open road.  When we arrived at the battlefield, we drove down the road to the Reno-Benteen Defense site.  Here we met up with Britt Colle.  Britt was destined to play an important role (more about that later).  We left Reno-Benteen and went down the road to a site that Fred Wagner has dubbed '3411'.  Here we split up with Max and Frank driving out of the battlefield to old Fort Custer.  Britt and I stayed on the hill.  Fred, Michael, and Gary continued walking the road.  Frank and Max parked at the site of old Fort Custer and observed Britt and I on 3411 and Fred, Michael, and Gary on Weir Point.  We were trying to find out if someone in the valley could distinguish people on the bluffs.  The journey continued to Medicine Tail Coulee.  Here is where I decided to join the walking team.  I had thought to myself, "Hey, MTC is pretty flat.  This should be an easy walk."  I totally forgot about the rise to Calhoun Hill.  As everyone else walking was "trying to get a different perspective" of the battlefield, I was trying to keep from having a stroke.  I can honestly say that I never saw a thing on that walk except for the tops of my shoes.  I am glad that Gary stayed behind me in case I fell over in the sagebrush.  Michael passed me by while pointing and saying, "Look how far we have to go yet."  I remember making a quick glance up to the top of Greasy Grass ridge and seeing Britt's car.  At that point, I wasn't sure if it was Britt's car or simply a hallucination from the heat.  I didn't really care at that moment if it was Britt's car or not -- I was getting in it.  Luckily, it was Britt's car and I survived.  Thanks Britt.  I was able to regain my composure I walk from Calhoun to Last Stand Hill and I'm glad I did as Michael and I got some decent photos of Mark Kellogg's marker.  Again, it's very handy to have a long zoom camera.  My heart rate returned to normal on the drive back to Billings.  We ordered pizzas and sat around the pool eating and drinking beer.  Then it was off to bed as Thursday was another travel day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 -- On this day, the 133rd anniversary of the Little Big Horn battle, we checked out of the hotel, ate breakfast at Stella's, and took off for parts of Wyoming.  We detoured into Hardin and stopped at the CBHMA book room.  Then it was back on I-90 and off to Sheridan.  Here we checked into the Best Western Sheridan Center.  Frank and I made a run to Wal-mart where I picked up a cheap pair of tennis shoes and Frank bought some jeans and the most obnoxious lime-green shirt.  After cooling down a bit, we walked down to the Mint Bar.  This has become a tradition.  After a couple of beers we wandered up to Sanford's Grub and Pub.  This place has great food but the air conditioning was out on this particular night.  We ate there anyway but it was H-O-T.  We when made the quick drive down to Buffalo to take in the bluegrass music that they have at the Occidental every Thursday night.  A great time was had by all... especially Max and Fred.  Then it was back to Sheridan and the hotel.  Friday was going to start early and be a big day.

Friday, June 26, 2009 -- We were on the road at 6:30AM.  We met up with Steve Adelson of BackTrack West at the K-Mart on the north end of Sheridan.  Frank hopped in with him and the rest of us followed in the SUV.  We were going to tour the Little Big Horn Valley-Timber Fight area.  We parked at the site of old Fort Custer and began our walk.  The grass was knee to hip high and was full of water.  Tip - DO NOT MAKE THIS WALK IN CHEAP WAL-MART SHOES!!!  We saw the Charley Reynolds, Isaiah Dorman, and Lt. McIntosh markers, checked out the site of the skirmish line, valley fight, timber, retreat, and river crossing.  From a distance we were able to observe the Hodgson marker on the other side of the river.  We had a group photo (pictured above) taken at the site of the Reno Crossing.  Gary lost a shoe making a "crossing" of his own.  It was retrieved and he washed it off and was good to go again.  We were able to see Fred's 3411 from the valley area.  This was one of the highlights of the trip.  A tour with Steve Adelson is highly recommended.  We then had Indian tacos at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post for lunch and were back on the road again.  Our next stop was Buffalo, Wyoming and the Big Horn Motel.  We walked down to the Occidental for another tradition -- buffalo steaks.  There was a large group there so the service was slower than usual but the buffalo steaks were great as usual.  We walked back up the street to the motel, stopping for ice cream along the way.  Back at the motel we sat around and watched a movie and sipped beer.  Off to bed as it had been a long day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009 -- We got up and Frank, Fred, Gary, and I took a walk down the trail behind the hotel.  Margaret Carrington mentioned having a picnic along this creek (Clear Creek) in her book.  When we got back to the motel, Michael and Max were awake and ready to eat breakfast.  We walked to the Occidental to have a creek side breakfast and were disappointed to learn that they discontinued that service.  Hopefully it will be back when we are out there again.  So we went to Pistol Pete's Cafe instead.  Then we were back on the road headed north.  We stopped at Fort Phil Kearny where we bought yet more books and several of us renewed our memberships in the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association.  More photos - group at the fort's stockade, the Big Horn Mountains, the Sullivant Hills, and Pilot Knob.  We then loaded back into the vehicles to make the drive to Hardin.  We stopped at the CBHMA book room again and bumped into the Fox brothers.  After an hour or so of conversation and buying more books, we drove over to Dennis Fox's house and he showed us some more maps from his impressive collection.  It was out in front of Fox's house that I said good-bye to my Custer buddies.  I left Hardin and pointed the car home (Pierre, SD).  The guys went back to Billings and the Montana Brewing Company, Carters, Angry Hanks, and their hotel, the Crowne Plaza.  I had intended to stay in either Sturgis or Rapid City.  I couldn't find a room at either place so I just grabbed a burger at Wendy's and drove the rest of the way to Pierre, arriving around midnight.

Sunday, June 28, 2009 -- As I was already home I followed the progress of my fellow Custer buffs as they tried to make their way home.  Fred had an early flight and his trip went smoothly.  He even sent a message from his Blackberry that he was enjoying a blueberry muffin at the Minneapolis airport waiting for his connection flight.  Frank was able to leave earlier than expected.  He got home with no problems.  Michael and Gary were at the airport together and ended up running into another Little Big Horn fan, Hank Pangione.  They sent a photo from the snack bar at the airport.  Gary and Hank were on the same flight out of Billings.  Michael headed west to Seattle.  Both Gary and Michael arrived home with no real issues.  This brings us to Max.  In 2007, Max suffered the trip from Hell going through the Salt Lake City airport.  Now, two years later, Hell had moved north to Denver.  On his trip out to Montana Max was delayed in Denver.  On his way home, he was bumped from the flight and was forced to catch a later one.  His luggage was also lost.  But he got home safely.  Next time I think he'll drive all the way from Sacramento.


The Montana Mayhem Parking Pass -- courtesy of Michael "Max" Reeve

The Montana Mayhem Badges --
-- courtesy of Michael "Max" Reeve