Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Lakota Last Stand: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

As we traveled west on US Highway 212, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument appears on the left, sitting on a bluff above the Little Bighorn River.   The Battlefield lies in a spot of strange beauty.  A mixture of plains and rolling hills with small patches of forest in the background.

Here two cultures clashed in a battle for survival and dominance on 25 -26 June 1876  The Lakota Sioux to preserve their way of life and the Unites States to exercise the principles of Manifest Destiny and to ensure the dominance of the continent.

I have been to a lot of battlefields. Some of them in different parts of the world.  Waterloo, the Marne, Berlin, the Ardennes, Bastogne, Gettysburg, and many other Civil war battlefields.  I lived on the edge of the Civil War battlefield Petersburg for over a year.  Every inch of that park has a hidden surprise.   None of these affected me as much as The Little Bighorn National Battlefield.  I was honestly moved to the point of understanding.  The realization of the complete tragedy of the American Indian policy brought to the point of open warfare.  A people struggling for their existence.

There is a long road that leads up the US National Cemetery where the US Soldiers are interred.  On the other side of the parking lot, the Visitor center provides a film and exhibits explaining the battle.  There is an auto tour where you can stop and see various important highlights of the battle.  It is a sprawling area consuming 765 acres.
The 7th Cavalry on this day met a superior force with superior leadership and tactics in the Sioux tribes.  Markers are placed where both Indians and US Soldiers fell.  Custer's death along with the remaining 7th Cavalry Soldiers is marked at the top of Last Stand Hill.  An Indian memorial on the opposite side of Last Stand Hill commemorates the Indians heroic actions was authorized in 1999 and completed in 2003.

We have yet to come to terms with this dark chapter of our American History, but the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a start.  On this great American National Battlefield, the other side of the battle is well represented.  The Indian side of the story was never that important in our national culture or even to myself.  It was the Indians last stand and they won.   Although it only delayed for a short time their internment into the reservation system.  It remains a shining light in the Indian National psyche, a point of pride. They may have won the battle, eventually, a part of their way of life was destined to end.

Much of the civil service staff that works at the park are descendants of warriors that fought in the battle.  When leaving park I stopped at the entrance booth to thank the staff for all the great work they were doing.  There was a young man who could have been a young Lakota warrior in a national park uniform standing in the booth.  After I thanked him, he just stared to the front of the booth not making eye contact and said have a nice day.   I guess now I have a greater understanding of why he didn't say you're welcome.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Day at Flamingo Gardens, Good Cuban Food in Miami and New Family.

After our son, Ryan was married in Puerto Rico and our first grandchild Ethan Daniel Anderson was born we wanted to spend some time with him right away.  We were very excited about getting down to Florida to see him. Gracie was staying with her family in Miami while Ryan was getting their house together in Everett.  So road trip!!!

Once we drove into Miami coming across the Everglade Causeway Interstate 75.   Weston Florida was right off the freeway.  Weston is at the edge of the Everglades it seems to be carved out of them.  After checking into our condo we make the short trip down to the Miami Airport near were Gracie's family lives.

Once getting Gracie and Ethan loaded into the truck we all head over to a Cuban Restaurant to get some authentic Cuban Food.   Man, was it good I can't wait to get back to this place. Roast Pork with Rice and Beans I love this stuff and of course was it downed with some Cuban Coffee.  The ladies had Cuban Sandwiches.  Oh so Good!!! After lunch, we headed to Flamingo Gardens a botanical garden in the midst of Miami.

One of the Iconic images of Miami is the Pink Flamingo.  This is the first place I got to take my Grandson too, so Flamingo Gardens will always be a special place.  It was a great time seeing the plants, Flamingos, and other Animals. Gracie and Ethan seemed to enjoy it.  I don't think he'll remember it, being only a couple of months old. So, Francisco, you'll have to get him there.

After taking Gracie back to her parent's house. Gracie parents took us out to dinner I felt pretty bad when they insisted on paying the bill considering I ordered one of the most expensive things on the menu. Francisco said This is my town I'll pay the bill".  I will never forget his hospitality. Later on, is the week we would all go to a Miami Marlin Baseball game it was a lot of fun.

On the way back to Weston we drove through Downtown Miami and of course the famed south beach.  What a sight it was good to see the city and drive along the boulevard seeing the iconic Art Deco buildings.  Once back to the condo it was time for a lazy swim in the pool and commit these things to memory.  A big city with so much to see I can't wait to get back.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Motorcycle Ride to Key Biscayne National Park and Conch Fritters at Alabama Jacks

Man, this is the time of year when I miss riding my motorcycle in Florida.  Right now, in Tennessee, it is 17 degrees.  It is a long 8 weeks until motorcycle riding season.  Having these memories to get me through the long winter months is good.  We had a great ride to Key Biscayne National Park a year ago with a return trip to Alabama Jacks.  Best Conch Fritters in the state of Florida.

From our home for a week in Weston, northwest of Miami, it is a short 1 1/2 ride to Key Biscayne National Park.  We leave Weston on US Highway 27, which sits on the western shore of Miami.  Although Miami looks like it sits on the coast of Florida, it is actually an Island with the Atlantic on the Eastern shore and the Everglade Swamps on the Western shore.  US Highway 27 runs down the western coast, where we join Florida 997 to Homestead.  Once in Homestead, we take a right onto SW 338th Street, which turns into North Canal Drive.  Which brings us right to the National Park Visitor Center.

After taking a short tour of the Visitor Center, we walk the long pier where boats take visitors to the outer Islands and barrier reefs.  It was great to come and see this magnificent park, if only for a short time.

"Biscayne National Park encompasses coral reefs, islands, and shoreline mangrove forest in the northern Florida Keys.  Its reefs and islands are accessible only by boat.  Dolphins, turtles, and pelicans live in Biscayne Bay Lagoon.  The underwater Maritime Heritage Trail links dive sites, most of them shipwrecks.  On Boca Chita Key, Boca Chita Lighthouse has coastal views.  A museum at Convoy Point explains local ecosystems." -Wikipedia. 

After our visit to Key Biscayne, it's time for lunch.  So we hop on the bikes for a short ride to Alabama Jacks.  Coming back from Key West, we first stopped here and promptly fell in love with this place.  It is an open-air bar and Restaurant sitting on 905A Card Sound Road in an Everglade Mangrove Forest.  We loved the Raw Oysters and the best Conch fritter in Florida.  That's what they said, anyway.  I have to admit they were awesome.

After a fulfilling lunch, it was time to head back to the condo.  We did have to dodge a few thunderstorms but made it home mostly dry.

I don't know when we'll return to Florida, but sitting here in this cold weather, the time can't come fast enough.