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01 New York
02 New England
03 Maine to Midland
04 Midland to Sturgis
05 Indians'n Cowboys
06 British Columbia
07 San Francisco
08 SF to San Diego
09 Baja to Canyons
10 Baja California
11 Northern Mexico
12 Mex. to Guatemala
13 Gua. to Costa Rica
14 CR to S. America
15 Ecuador
16 Peru and Bolivia
17 Chile
18 Patagonia
19 Argentina/Brasil
20 The road home
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Norwegian version

E-mail: mail at dagjen.no
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Chapter 05 Indian and Cowboy country

Start: June 24th, Sturgis, SD, Stop: July 4th, Livingston, Montana,
: 2329 km (1462 miles), Total Distance: 9394 km [Map]

Indian territory, or what should have been Indian, that's what we've been through lately. Ranging from the South Dakota plains, through the Black Hills and then to the last stand, Little Big Horn. Then we entered the Big Sky country, where cowboy hats and boots still are customary.

Crazy Horse Monument
Crazy Horse Monument, the model and the real thing. The mountain in the background one kilometer away, while the model is approx. three meters tall. You can barely see the horse's head drawn into the mountain side. Size matters.

Following Crazy Horse

The American Indian history is fascinating and tragic at the same time. As most Norwegians we grew up with cartoons, books and movies that romanticized the conflicts and relationship between the white man and the red, sometimes referred to as savage, people. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were known names, but little more than that.

Crazy Horse, whose name doesn't refer to a lunatic but to a spirited soul, grew up in a time when the Indians were under strong pressure to move into the reservations that had been "given" them, thereby relying totally on the support of the American government, since they would no longer be able to hunt buffalo - or the American bison - which they depended heavily on. Discovery of gold in the Black Hills - an area sacred to the Sioux for centuries - brought more settlers and gold miners, jeopardizing the treaty that gave the Indians the right to the area. Completion of the railroad across the northern prairie divided the great American buffalo herd in two, and slaughter of whole herds at the time reduced the numbers, making survival even more difficult for the Indians.

Then they discovered gold in Montana, and eager miners demanded that the army protected them when they crossed Indian territory to get there. When spiritual leader Sitting Bull and war chiefs like Crazy Horse fled the reservations with more than 10000 of their tribesmen and -women, the army was sent out to force them back. Some sources claim the order was given to trigger a war and hence justify taking the land. The Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahos had all gotten enough of broken promises and left in spite of orders, to go back to the life they once led on the open prairie. What further upset the army was that the Indians attacked settlers and forts set up along trails inside Indian territory.

General George Armstrong Custer had been in charge of the gold find in the Black Hills and was sent out to bring back the Indians. His orders were to "act at his own discretion", meaning he was more or less left to decide himself how he did his job. With six hundred men he marched out with a minimum of ammunition for the close range arms they carried and without the sabers they normally would bring along for such an assignment, believing the resistance he would meet would be scarce, and any potential battle would be fought in a distance. When his scouts reported a huge camp of Indians near the Little Big Horn river - the pony horses alone where more than 15000 in numbers, he didn't believe them and decided to attack.

More than 35 percent of his men were young, untrained immigrants who barely understood English, and he was to be met by more than 2000 very experienced and extremely well motivated Indian warriors, who were experts in close combat. Custer divided his men, and when he finally realized the numbers he was up against, he sent a message for help to the other regiments, but the Italian recruit who brought the message didn't speak English very well. The result was misunderstanding, and Custer was left alone on his little hilltop, now called the Last Stand Hill.

An old Indian survivor of the battle said, "It was like hunting buffalo in the good days, you could pick whichever you wanted". Not a single member of Custer's closest command survived, including Custer himself.

"They called this Custer's Last Stand, but who's last stand was it really", said the Indian ranger who spoke about the progress of the battle. After the battle, which is held to be the greatest Indian victory in the 4-500 year Indian/white conflict, the groups of Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho split up, some going north into Canada, some hiding and some going back to the reservation. It was the last time in history that such a large group of free Indians were gathered. The white people took over the land, leaving only small pieces to the Indians. The prairie was lost, and the Buffalo effectively exterminated, reduced from 60 million animals at the peak to a handful - a few thousand that is - in state parks today.

Sitting Bull was later killed while being arrested, suspected to be in charge of the Ghost Dance movement - a movement who gathered to do ceremonies in order to bring back the good old days of the open prairie with lots of game and no white man. Crazy Horse was arrested as well, and killed when he supposedly tried to flee. Both are regarded as two of the greatest heroes among the Sioux and Cheyenne people. Crazy Horse was a fearless warrior who never signed a treaty and never lost a battle, but also a leader who always had the well being of his tribe as his first priority. Sitting Bull was regarded a wise spiritual leader and the man in charge in the Last Battle.

The vision I kept imagining when I was at the battlefield was not the battle itself, but the sight of 10-15000 Indians with their camps and ponies marching out of the Little Big Horn valley into the Big Horn mountains, marching together for the last time. It touched me deeply.

A monument in the Black Hills

Me - a tough biker?
In Custer park, far far away from the buffalo, I finally managed to get into a reasonable cool and relaxed posing position.

In Sturgis the storms gave way for nice warm weather, but our home made dinner were followed by a card game with beers and whisky to it, so we had quite a hangover and opted for a slow day. Historic Deadwood, one of the gold mining towns in the Black Hills was our only goal for the day. To finance the restoration of the historic center of the town, the state of South Dakota has opened up for gambling again in the town, and today it makes quite a income from slot machines and roulettes.

This was the town were Wild Bill Hickok was shot dead. The killer was acquitted by the first jury, accepting his excuse that Wild Bill had killed his brother. Later he was sentenced to death though. The history is dramatic and close connected to the Battle of Little Big Horn, since opening up the Hills for gold miners were another blow against the treaties. The town had a very bad reputation in the beginning, probably well deserved, but finally it was civilized with the rest of the States. We enjoyed the stay but steered clear of the gambling though.

After a very quiet night we left the next day for the famous monuments in the area. Mount Rushmore, with presidents Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln carved out of the mountain, was our first stop. It was almost as we didn't really want to go there, filled up as we expected it to be with families taking pictures of themselves in front of it. And that was exactly what we saw. The monument is impressive in size though, but ten minutes after arrival we were on our way towards the Crazy Horse monument.

When we got the monument in sight, we couldn't believe the dimensions. Mount Rushmore was supposedly huge, but you can put all four presidents into the face of Crazy Horse. And if it ever finishes, the sculpture will be of Crazy Horse riding a horse, his right arm stretched forward, and the height will be almost 200 meter, making it the world's largest monument. The story behind it is fascinating and impressive. The Indian leader Henry Standing Bear, on behalf of all the chiefs in the area, asked the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowsky back in the forties if he would make a monument of Crazy Horse on a horse from a mountain in Blackhills. Korzak was very into the fate of the American Indians and said yes. In the beginning he lived in a tent, and with the help of an old BUDA air compressor he went to work. He started the BUDA and climbed about 750 steep steps up to the top of the mountain, often hearing the machine dying before he reached the top, went down to restart it, and climbed up again.

At the most he climbed down and up nine times during a working day. He was all alone, and having drawn and planned the whole project he surely must have realized that with the speed he was working, it would take several generations to finish the work. Later he married and had seven children, living on a small income until finally the project got public interest and they started making money from visitors and donations. Twice he declined an offer from the government to receive 10 million dollars for the project, stating that he didn't want any state officials controlling the project. To this day every dollar put into the enterprise has come from the same two sources, donations and the visitor center. When he died in the eighties, his wife and kids continued the work, and the first physical feature of the sculpture, the face of Crazy Horse, was ready only a couple of years ago. A whole mountain will be reshaped by the time the work is done, nobody dear give a date or a year, and the area will be made into a university town focused on Native American studies.

Chased by the American Bison

Just after taking this picture, we got the hell out of there, chased by an angry mother. "Why didn't you shoot a picture of her?", I asked Bente, who was holding the camera. She frowned.

Going through the Black Hills was much like driving through the Norwegian countryside, and we looked forward to the Custer National Park, where supposedly we would see the bison. There's very few left of this once great herd of animals, and after a disappointing start, we tried our best to call them forward. When we finally got to see them, they were simply too close. Ahead of us a group of cars had stopped to view forty odd animals close to the road. We stopped at the rear end of the line and watched as one of the drivers got out and started to pet a young calf.

We don't know much about these very impressive creatures, but you don't have to be a animal expert to know that walking over to a young calf when the mother is close by could be dangerous. The bison is an extremely powerful, fast and sometimes angry animal. We decided to get out of there, since we were the only unprotected motorcycle around and were by now surrounded by animals. I started up and drove very slowly between the cars, not seeing a second calf hidden behind a RV - a campervan. We scared it as it was crossing the road, and then, all of a sudden we had a huge bison chasing us - probably the mother. She was only meters away from us, and we barely escaped by giving full throttle. Or barely is what it felt like. In reality I'm sure the bison was only trying to scare us, or? We don't know what intentions she had, but talking to rangers afterwards, they have assured us that when we first got into the trouble, we did wise in getting out of there. After this incident we were a bit weary each time we saw a buffalo, and especially when there were cars around. Weary is maybe a little vague, since an ordinary cow managed to scare us a couple of days later.

Getting directions in Scenic
Howard to the right, forgot-his-name to the left. Both gave directions as best they could. Forgot-his-name wanted money to be taken pictures of, though, proving what we suspected, he was there to play the role as a drunkard in front of the old saloon - a role he played brilliantly...


We finally left Sturgis after three days, heading west towards Yellowstone, but we decided to do a little detour down to the Badlands. Badlands is a common name for many areas in the States, and it basically means what it says - Bad Lands. Rock formations have been trusted upwards from the ground and eroded over millions of years. Nothing grows there and survival was hard for settlers who tried to farm the land. But it created a wonderful and impressive sight. Our little detour cost us 400 km extra driving that day.

The first stop was in Scenic, a little village and old trading post in the middle of nothing, where the buildings, bars and the old jail house was left unchanged since the turn of the last century. Outside the closed saloon sat Howard. He didn't live there, he told us, but was born and raised there. Why he still came to Scenic to hang around the closed saloon, he didn't tell us. We shared a cigarette with him and got recommendations for roads to take into the National Park. A red skinned guy in his forties, already well into the first bottle-in-a-paper-bag of the day, joined in and persuaded me to come with him into the grocery store next door where two older women drank coffee and waited for the first tourist bus of the day to show up. The guy left, and I felt obligated to buy a few post cards. Bente told me later that when he exited the store he took out a bottle of liquor from under his shirt and grinned. It was a ghost town, and the two men fitted right in there.

After topping up the tank in Scenic - yes there was a gas station there as well - we took off the main road and entered a rough gravel loop road that gave us the best views of the rock formations. We stopped every few kilometers to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. It got more impressive as we got deeper into the formations, and we truly understood why the Indians gave the landscape a name that translated into bad lands.

Badlands 1
Badlands, a small man in a vast and dry landscape

Badlands 2
Badlands, incredible formations.

We left the Badlands going westwards through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a very long stretch of gravel roads. The road in front of us went up and down, down and up, with no turns for many many kilometers, and the only sign of life was the dust lifted by oncoming cars. In the middle of this dry wilderness was the little Cuny Table Cafe, run by Nellie, an old woman who had spent her entire life out there in the nothingness.

Cuny Table Cafe
The Cuny Table Cafe. Nellie the owner to the right, her sister in the back and a regular to the left. In the center, the singing fish - a big hit.

We overheard her saying she didn't want to try a hot dog after seeing how they made them on the television. Her grand children travelled thirty miles or fifty kilometers to school every day, and then back again. She served a delicious Indian Taco which have found it's way to the guidebooks. We talked with them for a while and listened to their singing fish, a big hit on TV shopping channels.

After another hour or two on gravel roads we had a quick stop in Custer for gas, then decided to get some mileage done. When we came to Buffalo, Wyoming that night we had driven 740 km and just beaten the rain. In the hotel room I had a look at the map, and found that the Little Big Horn battle field were just north of us into Montana. Bente agreed to wait with Yellowstone so we could visit the site the next day.

Montana - the last frontier

Around the world in 80n days
"Hey, is that a '46?". Raymond Carr and his mechanic with Bente in front of the '39 Ford going around the world in 80 days. Check out the homepage for more info: www.rcarr.org

The battlefield is little more than a low hill overlooking the Little Big Horn river. But being there and learning the story behind the battle, while overlooking the white markers set out wherever a dead soldier was found, had its impact. I really didn't want to leave the place, but rather just sit there and try to imagine the sight of thousands of Indians down in the valley. I almost felt stupid and childish up there, but couldn't help it. While we were standing next to the bike an Englishman, around fifty years old, stopped and asked about the bike and the trip. We answered willingly for a while, not reading the text on his college shirt. He marveled at our plans and finally we asked if he was in the area for a short vacation. "No," he said, "a short vacation is not exactly what I'm on, I work as a mechanic on a 1939 Ford going around the world in 80 days in a race with 43 other antique cars." Totally taken aback, we just stared at him and asked simultaneously, "Are you serious?". He certainly was, and took us over to the car. And there it was with a big sign on each side. An old man came over as we were speaking to the mechanic, and he said
"Hey, is that a '46? My uncle used to own one."
"No, it's a '39", answered the mechanic, adding, "Does your uncle still have it?"
"No, stupid thing, he sold it a long time ago"
Then both men started laughing. We had just met the owner and driver of the car, Raymond H. Carr, the oldest participant in the race with his 76 years. He said to us,
"That's the way we meet people all the time. Everyone has got an uncle or father who owned a similar car, but it's always a 46".
After learning about our trip he cheered and wished us a very safe journey, a wish we returned after exchanging web addresses. Eventually we got on our way and landed for the night in Billings, a major city in the wide open and scarcely populated cowboy state of Montana.

Leaning barn
Going south towards Livingston, this barn went out of business a long time ago.

After two days in Billings, where we finally sorted out our iPass connection subscription, allowing us to connect to the net wherever we are, among other things we needed to do but had postponed, we went north, passing through dry areas where a forest fire laid the land desolated in the eighties. When we came over a pass in the hills, we were astounded to see the vegetation was back in green and lush colours, changing from desert like to fresh forests just like that.

Repacking and thinking

We had by now covered more than 9000 kilometers of the trip, and Rocinante was still not cleaned. Except for the little mishap with possible bad fuel, she had run smoothly every minute. The chain was drying out quicker than I thought, and I suspected I had fed it too little oil from the Scottoiler the first few thousand kilometers. Now I started overfeeding it for a while to be sure it got enough. The engine had not used any oil, brake fluids were topped, and so was the coolant. The tyres started to show signs of wear, and the rear was acquiring a square shape from all the long days on the great plains. We had moved the luggage around a bit, trying our best to get the center of gravity forward on the bike. This meant all books, connection cables for the cyberspace tools, all mechanical tools and water bottles had gone into the tank bag and tank panniers. Two soft bottle holders were attached to the front panniers, just touching my knees with the bottles inside. The tank bag was awfully heavy, but for the moment we carried six books, a number which would be reduced to four on the next leg. The spare parts hidden behind the fairing will require redoing, though. Putting wheel bearings in thin plastic bags wasn't such a good idea. Now the bags have torn open at sharp corners, water have entered and as a result there are signs of rust in there. Heavy duty bags and a lot of grease will hopefully do a better job.

The long and winding road
A back road led us from Livingston to Big Timber through a fantastic little valley. This is Montana! And, as we learned later, this was the area where they shot the Robert Redford movie The Horse whisperer, a major contribution to our love affair with this state..

After five weeks on the road we were getting used to travelling again. The hours in the saddle were getting longer as our bodies adjusted to riding again. The stock seat borrowed from Kevin in Midland is the limiting comfort factor at the moment, but plans have been made on the Corbin factory to rebuild the seat for free. Terry, a fellow Tiger owner in the Corbin area, is taking the seat over to the plant for us, then we will get it shipped to a future destination, or wait until we get down there, depending on how long it will take. Doing long distances each day is anyway getting easier, and although we don't have to - we are already going at a daily average far beyond what we need - it's good to know we can get a thousand kilometers in a day if we want to.

Where are all the dual sport tourers? They're certainly not here, or anywhere we've been. So far on the trip we've met thousands of Harley and almost as many Gold Wings, at least half of them towing trailers. The average age on the couples riding the Wings must be in the late forties. They ride along in slow motion, often wearing only a open helmet and regular street clothes. The size of the people often match the size of the Wings, making the whole setup weigh the same as a small car. Most of the riders are not trying to approach us, and a short nod while walking past us in a rest area is as close as they come. The same goes for the Harley riders, except that many of them don't nod back, even if they're three meters away looking me straight in the eyes when I greet them. As I have said before, it both annoys and humors me. Dual sports motorcycles and long distance tourers are non existing. Once we saw a guy riding a BMW dual sport wearing the same Aerostich suit as we are. I tried to wave and stop him, but we had just stopped and was hidden from him by a RV. We're getting kind of desperate to meet other two wheel travelers that will talk to us and share stories and experiences. Where are you guys?

The worst thing about going through the States before heading south is the demoralizing warnings everybody gives us regarding any place "south of the border". "Mexico!!! Let me give you one advice: Get through there as fast as you can, like an express train. Don't stop for anything but gas and food. They're all bandits!". Sometimes advises like this get to us, even though we were prepared for the average American's fear of the other side of the border. Being hammered with disbelief, horror stories and warnings almost every day makes it hard not to take some of it in. It doesn't help much that the only motorcycle guidebook in our tiny library, "Going South" by Dr. Gregory Frazier - an otherwise useful source of information - tells us about daily death scenes along the roads mixed with illness and whatever bad things you can imagine. I tell my self time and again that these stories must be exaggerated. If accidents are that frequent, I'm surprised there are people left in Latin America.

Livingston, a lively little cowboy town

The cowgirl
Finally I got a picture in which Bente wears a Stetson with a smile. Mountain Mike placed it there, the hat that is.

After going zig zag on gravel back roads around the Crazy Mountains we landed for a long rest in Livingston, a small and attractive town along the Yellowstone River, only a short ride away from Yellowstone National Park. It was Thursday, and the Livingston Roundup, a three day rodeo festival ending on the 4th of July, USA's Independence Day, started the coming Sunday. We had read the town was quite a place to enjoy the nightlife, so after getting settled in the most centrally located motel so far on the trip, we went to the Winchester Cafe for some live music. Cowboy hats and boots dominated the place, and we quickly started to like the atmosphere, backed up by a three man band playing everything from country to western music. We sat in the far end of the bar, drinking Guinness and Moose Drool - a local beer a little closer to a stout than the average American water-with-gas-Bud-like beer. After a little while a guy in his forties, with a week old beard, Stetson Hat and the typical high heeled boots, walked over and said casually in a deep voice, "This seat ain't taken is it?", and sat down next to Bente. For the next half hour or so he drank three Buds and looked straight ahead, making no effort to start a conversation. Finally Bente commented the music and he broke up in a smile, a scar on his upper lip shining at us. After the introduction - his name was Mountain Mike, grounded 18 wheeler who got his name because he lived in the mountains of Idaho - we were buddies for the night, and I smiled at my first misconception of him. He had just arrived in town after a long day's ride to surprise his mother on her birthday the next day. He spoke warmly of her and the rest of his family, and both of us liked his tuned down appearance and soft talking.

A young man at the other end of bar, surrounded by quite a few up and coming Englishmen was waving a huge Nikon F5 professional camera, making me curious of who he was. If you wave a camera worth several thousand dollars around in a public bar at night and leave it on the bar unattended, then you're either stupid, you have a lot of money or you are a professional with a good insurance and three more cameras in your bag. The next thing I knew the guy was behind the bar as well, serving drinks and topping up the guests as well as the two bartenders, who were getting more and more pissed as the night grew older. My curiosity got to me and I grabbed him and asked him about the F5. He presented his card, "Lord Guilford" it said, "Professional photographer". I almost started laughing. Being from a country where titles are long gone and the only people left to use them is the royal family, it was kind of weird to meet a guy in his mid to late twenties who introduced himself as Lord. He told us that his gang of friends, 17-18 all together, were staying at a wonderful farm around Yellowstone for a while, just having fun. One of his friends came over after hearing about our trip. He introduced himself and told us about his own trip, from New York to Brazil on a BMW motorcycle in 1995. His name escaped me unfortunately, but it was interesting to hear about his experiences. At one o'clock in the night we said enough is enough and headed for bed, going in a not so straight line the fifty odd meters down the street. Since we needed one day for laundry and planned one day for Yellowstone, we opted for the laundry the next day, taking things very slowly.


Elks in Yellowstone
Elk is an animal somewhere between a deer and a moose. These two were resting in the Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. [Large image]

Yellowstone was the first area in the world to be declared a national park. The mountainous area is an ancient volcano, enormous in size. After the third major outburst some 700 000 years ago, the mountain collapsed and formed a region with lots of geysers and hot springs. The caldera - the boundary of the collapsed mountain - is several miles wide and hosts a multitude of wildlife including buffalo, elk, deer, black bear, grizzly bear, coyote, prairie dog, wolf and many more. Each year people get killed in the park, either colliding with big game or getting too close to them when curiosity and stupidity or ignorance takes over. Just today we learned about a death accident. Two people on a motorcycle died when they hit a tree after trying to avoid a deer or elk crossing the road. When we entered the park, we did so with much apprehension due to our earlier near miss with the buffalo in Custer Park. To tell the truth we were scared, quite simply, and at the first sight of a cluster of cars in the middle of nowhere we pulled over. And our suspicion proved right, a huge male buffalo, wandering on his own as most males do during the summer season, walked slowly between the cars, ignoring them all together. We were a little close, so I positioned the bike on the road shoulder next to a car so that he wouldn't get too intimate. We couldn't help it, the heart rate went up as he got closer, but then he turned to his right and disappeared into the woods. We saw quite a few lonely males that day, but all of them seemed totally ignorant of people and soon we travelled with more confidence.

Grand Canyon, YP
Yellowstone's Grand Canyon with the Yellowstone River running through it.

The park was badly hit by a forest fire in 1988, and the damage was still evident. Dry and burned down trees covered whole hill sides, changing a - again - Norwegian forest landscape to a desolate area. We drove past lots of hot springs and the roads were a blast, if it hadn't been for all the cars, RVs and buses going in slow motion. Slow motion was really fine with us after all. With all the big game in the area I preferred driving close to the car in front of me and let him take the potential confrontation. At another cluster of cars, we finally got to see a black bear. Two bears, possibly only one year or two old, were roaming around the hillside just fifty meters off the road. Again we were surprised and shocked by peoples reactions. From the car in front of us, a guy exited with a camera in his hand, starting to hike up towards the bear. The mother was nowhere in sight, but they can move very fast over shorter distances, so what in the world was he thinking. Was it really worth getting a close up picture of a bear, when that could possibly be the last memory his family would have of him. Maybe the photo could be placed on his coffin, saying "Brian's last achievement".

The park also has a spectacular Grand Canyon, which the Yellowstone River pours into from the lake by the same name. The views were breathtaking and the colours on the canyon walls were yellow, giving the name to the park. An earthquake some years ago took part of the pedestrian viewpoints and blew them down into the river, so today the viewpoint is moved back fifty meters. We ate a lunch in one of the many park malls, feeling rather stupid since what we should have done was bring along food to eat in a more picturesque spot along the road. After a northern circle we left the park again, keeping the option open to come back at a later stage.

The Livingston Roundup

The Livingston Parade, kicking off the Roundup rodeo festival, had a lot of horses and cowboys in it.

Each year a three day rodeo is held in Livingston, ending on the fourth of July. It kicks off with a parade on the second, and we watched it for one and a half hour. It was probably the longest parade both of us had seen, beating the never ending carnival parade we saw in Mexico a few years ago. Horses were in the center of most of the parade, unsurprisingly, and we saw more cowboys than ever before. Then there was the company PR elements and the politicians campaigning for themselves, the Roundup beauty queen contestants, the clowns, the antique cars, the trial bikers, judo fighters, scouts troops and lots of children. And in the middle of all this came a woman in a traditional Norwegian dress, holding a banner that said "Sons of Norway". The club is from Big Timber and is very proud of its Norwegian heritage. Following her was a banner saying "Leiv Erikson welcomes Lewis and Clarke". Lewis and Clarke were two explorers that were the first to map this area. It is probably stretching Leiv Erikson's adventures to claim that he came this far west, but then again it was most likely not serious meant. Bente shouted "Heisann Norge" to the woman as she passed us, but she stared blankly at us, not understanding the words.

Later that evening we went to our first rodeo, where they performed a multitude of hair raising events, like bare back riding - ride a horse without the saddle while the animal tries it's best to throw you off, the rider is laying stretched horizontally with his head banging up and down with such force that the word whiplash kept ringing in my head; bull riding - where the shear tempo in the bulls bucks and twists makes it completely incomprehensive why the rider isn't thrown off immediately and stamped to death; steer wrestling - where the big guys rides out of the starting pit chasing a steer, then jumps at him and wrestles him to the ground; team roping - where one guy catches
Bare back riding on bucking horses. Certainly some of the courageous riders got whiplash injuries from it.
a steer with his lasso, then the next guy catches the back legs with his lasso, a throw that demands a lot of precision and timing, calf roping (or whatever it's called) - where one guy rides out and catches the calf with his rope, jumps off the horse and ties up the back legs while his horse keeps a straight rope, sometimes done in a matter of seconds. All in all it was very impressive. What wasn't impressive was the commercial breaks during the show. Every fifteen minutes the rodeo would stop and the main sponsor would have a few minutes where we were told why we should buy just that product. Each time one of the contestants for the Roundup beauty queen would ride around the arena with a sponsor banner. When we left, we certainly agreed never to buy that unmentionable product. Then there was the clown who stayed in the arena during the whole show, telling jokes of varied, although sometimes good, quality, like when a bull wouldn't leave the arena after throwing off his rider; "Do you know the similarity between that bull and president Clinton? No? We let him in here and now we can't get rid of him...".

Now we're having the luxury of living on a ranch for a few days, going horseback riding in the Paradise Valley close to Yellowstone NP and grilling salmon on the terrace. What a tough life we're living. More about that later.

>> Next Chapter


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