For the last hour yesterday we had started seeing a lot of references to Native Americans, including a weird Cherokee Subway (yes the sandwich shop). Dave had been very keen to visit the site of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado but the site is accessed on an 8 mile unpaved road, which is hard on a very heavily loaded bike, two-up. We decided on the Washita Battlefield site instead as we wanted to learn more and pay respects.
The site is part of the national parks service and free to visit. We already knew about the controversy surrounding whether this was a battle between Custer’s men and the Cheyenne or a massacre of Black Kettle, his wife and a hundred others, men, women and children. We watched a very informative 30-minute film about the situation leading up to the battle in 1868 and the massacre itself. We looked at a few artifacts, before riding up the site. It was on a lonely and isolated stretch of road, in a preserved area of grassland, which was really very beautiful. We hope to see more Native American sites as we move around. This was a good start and well worth the effort.
The rest of the day was a traveller’s dream. Empty roads, strange and unfamiliar landscapes and a real, old school motel at the end of it (as well as some terrible Mexican food in a restaurant without beer.) It took us back to days riding across India in 1996-7.
The main highlight was crossing into Texas from Oklahoma. The gently undulating plains and red earth immediately changed to become more flat and pale. The roads got worse. It got hotter. We saw our first real cowboys wearing Stetsons, jeans and spurs on their boots. We sat in a diner eating nuts and listening to the new but familiar accents (maybe from old western films, maybe from Dallas on TV).
The roads were dead straight and you could see for miles along the road in front and what looked like hundreds of miles across the plain either side.
Hawks soared overhead. We began to see a few oilrigs, small ones, then more, including nodding donkeys.
The only other vehicles were tankers. There was the odd cattle ranch but nothing else. We saw very few homes in 200 miles. Why would anyone live out here anyway?
For some reason the speed limit on this single carriageway road was 65-75mph. We bombed along, making good time. Towards the end of the journey to Dalhart, we began to see oil refineries and it became more industrial. At road works, we had a “pilot car” drive in front of us at 5mph so we could follow it through-a bit like the safety car in Formula 1.
At our destination, we were met by a lovely, old school, Indian gentleman, with a thick Indian accent, who told us he came from London. Later his wife sought us out for a chat about the old country. She told me she was from England and had lived in the US since 2003 but she hardly spoke a word of English. We shared how much we missed Indian food and she told me about how much easier life is here in the US. Her motel is old school, with flowery curtains and walls painted orange but spotless and welcoming.