MotoCamping to Grand Canyon Caverns/Route 66/Custers Scouts

“I did nothing great.” words uttered by Curly, who served as a scout for Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.”

Route 66 – Williams, Arizona

General Custers expedition started at Fort Lincoln on July 2, 1874, taking a southwesterly course and covering a distance of 292 miles, they averaged 18 miles of travel per day.

Our Day 1 – To put our ride into perspective. In three days we rode and thoroughly visited Mojave National Park, Lake Havasu, the Grand Canyon Caverns, Williams Arizona and more. It took Paolo and I just a few hours to cover a distance of over 350 miles on the first day.

From Highway 15, the two of us rode to highway 40, then we detoured while in the Mojave National Park to Kelso dunes, exploring the area and park. And since the 40 is also part of the original Route 66, we also enjoyed some great stops for photos and riding on Route 66.

On Route 66

Get your kicks, on Route 66. Sort of a way to break up a trip. Next we visited Parker, Arizona and the town of Earp followed by a visit and overnight stay at Lake Havasu. By the actual London Bridge we enjoyed a feast and home brew beers. Dare I say we exceeded the speed limit on occasions is to compare our ride to a trip to space.

And on our second day after breakfast we rode to the Grand Canyon Caverns. The caverns are not far from Williams Arizona. I elected to do some MotoCamping in early November. My nighttime temperatures were in the high 20’s. I was cold when I woke up and so I quickly started a fire and made coffee. breakfast. Our second breakfast turned into brunch and a twenty or more mile ride to Williams Arizona.

Paolo’s chiliquillies
My guevos Rancheros

I dubbed Pailo and I scouts for the Bike Bro’s as the rest of the group was now enroute to Grand Canyon Caverns since they started a day after us.

I chose the Bridgewater on and paid $48 for a very clean and modern room. Paolo on the other hand showed up with no reservations and paid considerably more. Yes I agree that having no itinerary makes for an adventure. Similar to our ride later this morning to the Nellie Desert Saloon from Havasu over some nice challenging rocky, sandy and hilly terrain. Paolo’s disadvantage lay in his motorcycle street tires. More on this later.

Our Day 2 – Grand Canyon Caverns – With reservations in hand we arrived around 4:30 p.m. to check in. Too late for the caverns tour but, early enough for me to set up camp. The low expected temperatures tonight – 29 degrees. Paolo opted for a motel stay at the lodge but, stuck around long enough to enjoy my blazing camp fire and a seasoned can of chicken potato soup and a hot tea. Fire wood is supplied to all the tent sites and since I was the only one camping I took all the nearby firewood. My fire lasted well into the night. My tent was close enough to the fire to receive some warmth but, far enough away to not catch my tent on fire.

The start of a fire that would stay lit throughout the night.
The road to the Desert Bar.

“The Indians were reluctant about entering the hills, protesting that the wagons could not be taken further.”

At the Nellie Saloon desert bar. When Paolo and I arrived after having ridden that horrible dirt road all that greeted us was a No Trespassing sign. Strange we thought? Is this place closed for the season?

Being the proactive scouts that Paolo and I are, we proceed cautiously. Soon we spot three white Ford pickups and think maybe they forgot to take the closed sign down. Suddenly we hear voices and walk inside. Soon a barrage of words from a Moses bearded one accusing us of Trespassing. Did you not read the sign he says? Yes I did I respond but, this is America. Who the hell pays attention to signs anyway. A gate. A gate and a sign. Another story. We came we saw we rapidly departed.

“A July 28, 1866, congressional act, authorized the president to enlist and employ up to 1,000 Indians as U.S. soldiers. As soldiers they received government uniforms, weapons and earned $13 a month.”

“Curly became the most famous of all the scouts that fateful day at the Battle of the Bighorn —he was sought after by the press to tell his version of the battle. His story became front page news as Americans became obsessed with the story of Custer and the defeat of the Seventh Cavalry.”

Our Day 3 – From Williams Arizona, Scout Paolo and I conflicted as to the best riding from Williams. This tends to happen to riders with a full belly.

Paolo says to me, let’s ride to Flagstaff. I respond back with, that’s just the entrance for tourists to Grand Canyon. Why not ride up highway 64, take a few canyon lookout pictures and ……Paolo decides on Sedona. I decide to gas up. And so we both continue our rides but, in different directions.

Once again I change my mind after filling up. I return to the Grand Canyons caverns for a tour. After arriving I find out that the next one is 50 minutes away. The outside winds are now howling and the air is chilly.

The receptionist at the caverns now wants to know how I enjoyed last nights camping. I say, I did. Weren’t you cold? She said I was the only one in a tent last night, the rest were all RV’ers. She also added that tonights low would be in the mid 20’s.

Faster than a two legged jockey I hop on my bike and am soon heading back to a warmer climate by way of Route 66. – Southern California here I come.

“Have you heard the one about the girl tuba player who was stranded on a desert island with a one-legged jockey?”

“Better sorry than safe I say”. Bucking head winds and with the road all to myself I look down at my Garmin that is showing Tecopa Hot Springs as my destination. Death Valley is a blistering 48 degrees. The campsite nearby at Tecopa is pretty rural but, the hot springs, are pool like soothing wonders.

In addition to wearing thermals last night I also wore a hoodie, covered by a sleeping bag, an Army wool blanket, atop a thermarest blow up air mattress. And I was still cold!

“Don’t worry about me baby, I always ride side saddle says the jockey.”

The rest of Custers Last Stand story: “The plan of the Sioux chiefs was to kill all of the Crows except the young boys, who would be raised as Sioux warriors to fight the whites. Fortunately, the Crows were able to hold off the attackers. If the Sioux had been successful, it is likely that Curly, may have been fighting Custer, rather than scouting for him.”

“On June 22, Curly and the other Crow scouts lead Custer and the Seventh Cavalry up the Rosebud valley. They constantly moved ahead of the column looking for any indication of the enemy village. It was not until the second day that they found the main trail which Curly and the other Crows knew would lead to a large camp.”

As the sun climbed higher into the sky on the morning of the June 25, the Crow scouts spotted smoke rising from the Sioux and Cheyenne campfires. A message was sent to Custer informing him that they had spotted smoke rising from the fires in the village, but were unable to see the village itself.

Custer believed that his camp had been spotted and decided to attack the village at once before the Indians could escape. Eventually, Custer and his men made it into Medicine Tail Coulee by way of Cedar Coulee, and then headed toward the Little Big Horn River.

After three days of traveling, he found the steamer Far West at the mouth of the Little Big Horn River delivering supplies to Gibbon and Terry.

Curly tried desperately to tell the soldiers of Custer’s defeat. The only thing the soldiers understood was that a fight had occurred. It was not until reports from Terry arrived from the battlefield to the steamer that the soldiers understood what Curly was trying to tell them.

They realized he was the sole survivor of the men who were with Custer at the time of the battle. As a result, he was identified as the first to deliver the message of Custer’s defeat.

In the spring of 1884, Curly and his Crow people were relocated to the southeastern part of the Crow reservation, near the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Curly lived near Fort Custer, located near the mouth of the Little Big Horn River, and still occasionally served as a scout. Eventually, he moved into a small cabin located about one mile west of Last Stand Hill. He later became a tribal police officer and then a judge.

Toward the end of his life, the famous scout was witness to a time of great change on the northern plains, as well as in America. Curly and the Crows who had once roamed the northern plains freely were now essentially prisoners on their reservation.

An invisible line represented the boundaries of the reservation where their world stopped and another world started.

America had become one of the most powerful nations in the world but not before the Indians were subdued.

Curly and many of the other scouts for the U.S. army aided in subduing the last holdouts, not realizing that when it was over they would suffer the same fate as all the other Indian tribes.

Would he have scouted for Custer if he had known the outcome? More than likely. After all, he did name his only grandson George after the famous leader of the Seventh Cavalry.

Maybe Curly realized that what was about to happen to the Crows was inevitable. In the words of Frederick E. Hoxie, “they didn’t go to America, America came to them.”

– ALDEN BIG MAN JR., a member of the Crow nation, his biography of Curly.

What an amazing year, Covid and all. In October of 2020 I did transporter duty by riding a 2019 BMW 1250 GS motorcycle from Motoquest Portland, Oregon to Long Beach California.

On day four of that ride I woke up in Florence Oregon to 42 degree temperatures. Little did I know that a mere five hours away I would soon be riding in 115 degree weather.

And now a month later my new 2020 BMW 1250 GSA has already visited six states; as far as Williams Az on Route 66 and Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway.

God bless America!