“It was an Elan. A delightful little thing famously made of Kleenex and unicorn farts.” ~ Sam Smith
DAY THIRTEEN – Today was a light Delight! It was light because it not only was shorter than most days, but because the speed limit on US highway 212, and that there was little traffic I was able to do the 215 miles to Belle Fourche in jig time, a little over three hours! But first I stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument which is adjacent to the Crow Agency on the map below.
It is largely a cemetery memorial for the Seventh Cavalry commanded by LTC George A. Custer, and generally called Custer’s Last Stand. It is a quiet place which commands long vistas and evokes a sadness that always comes from a clash of cultures carried out to the last survivor. It was nominally a win for the tribes but the reaction from the US authorities was so severe it marked the end of their freedom to roam and the beginning of being stuck to the reservations. I chose to move on soon after I arrived and brighten my mood.
The weather was cool but pleasant and the highway was empty as I climbed to the east for quite a while through open forest and numerous creeks among the rolling hills before levelling off on the high plains. There was little wind and the Elan just hummed along near the 70 MPH speed limit chewing up miles to the Center of Everything as we know it, aka the GeoCenter of the USA.
When I finally reached Belle Fourche and stopped, I noted that this 50 state GeoCenter was a much bigger deal than the one in Kansas for the 48 states. That one was whimsical and simple; this was an entire complex with lots on display beside the center monument. There is even an old cabin that was one of the first structures in the area built by John Spaulding and called the Buckskin Johnny Cabin. It was also staffed by some lovely ladies who volunteer from civic pride to tell the story of the way the center is calculated and how it shifted when Alaska and Hawaii were brought into the United States.
The determination of the center of something so irregular as the area of the various states is, they say, “precarious at best” but the one used by the Coast and Geodetic Survey is best called the center-of-gravity method. Imagine the exact map of the states is placed on a piece of cardboard which is cut precisely along the borders and that the oceans and interceding lands do not weigh anything yet take up the appropriate space. The point where the map would balance on a pinpoint is that point. As I have previously posted, the GeoCenter of the 48 states is near Lebanon, KS. When Alaska and Hawaii were added, the big shift was from Alaska, which moved the point about 439 miles northwest while Hawaii, whose mass is only 0.0017857 of the rest of the country, only moved it six miles west-southwest, to its present point in Belle Fourche. They do admit to the actual point being on private property about 20 miles north of town in Butte County and that there is an error potential of about 10 miles any direction.
As for me, I am happy to accept the point where they have it monumented as this trip has taught me that the spirit of the thing is the key not the details.
After a nice tour of the place and a commemorative photo to prove I was here, I adjourned to lunch and a drive through Spearfish Canyon which was the impetus for the opening comment about the delight of this day. Rather than a sprint, this was a leisurely drive at about 45 miles an hour in the sun, just taking in the beauty as the road wound upward next to the creek. At the junction with US 85 I thought I was done with the nice drive, but it turned out to be a climb through the pines to almost 6,500 feet elevation at O’Neill pass where the warm day became delightfully cool. Then I descended into pretty little Newcastle early enough to take a nap, a walk and time to write this blog all before supper. As I said, it was a delight of a day!
Impressions from the thirteenth day:
- As with every place one anticipates seeing, the actual place can either disappoint or excite. In this case I was pleased to find a very nice presentation and some gracious people.
- As I get closer to home it is harder to not just jump on the interstate and get to the barn. But on the other hand, these last couple of days should be pretty special with roads I know and love.
- I have touched seven of the eight points I planned to touch. Now to join with the LOCO’s at the last one in Alma on Thursday in sort of a victory celebration with friends. Perfect!
Hi, I’m Ross and I’m a tripoholic. I love driving especially in my old cars and then writing about the adventure that always follows. I’m old enough to know better but that doesn’t stop me. If you like stories of the road, every word true no matter how far fetched it may seem, then grab a beer or a cup of coffee and join me!
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