Bighorns or Bust

Our 48-hour getaway to Wyoming was a blast!

We’re glad we did it. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally kicked off on Friday and, despite COVID, about 250,000 bikers arrived en masse to western South Dakota. Our road trip was timed to get away from the craziness for a couple of days. We both worked a half day on Friday and then hit the road for Sheridan, Wyoming.

We’d never been to Sheridan before, and it was exactly what you’d expect from a town of 16,000 in northern Wyoming. Very Old West-themed, with a classic downtown Main Street featuring bars, restaurants, saddlery shops, and lots of artwork: bronze statues, murals, and more. I liked the vibe.

Our first stop Friday evening was the Mint Bar, which dates back to Prohibition. Picture lots of taxidermy, walls lined with cattle brands, and colorful locals who randomly burst into song and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it was like. At one point everybody started singing along to “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton (though nobody braved the high-pitched shriek that follows the “La la la la la la” refrain).

That place started filling up, so we decided to find a less-crowded/more socially-distanced hangout instead. Chanced upon Just LeDoux It Saloon & Steak Out, a brand new spot that had just opened a few days earlier. Chris LeDoux was a country singer and rodeo champion born and raised in Wyoming, so this place was an homage to his legacy. And this drink was amazing.

Yes, $14 is pricey, but damn. It was worth the splurge.

Afterward, we wandered Main Street for a little bit, checking out all the neon. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

Saturday was devoted to exploring the Bighorn Mountains. We spent a solid nine hours up there and weren’t disappointed. I think what surprised me most was the diversity of the landscape. Also the cool temperatures; it was 94º in town but in the low 60s in the mountains—thanks to an elevation close to 10,000′.

The highlight had to be Bighorn Medicine Wheel, a circular stone monument consisting of an 80-foot rim with 28 “spokes” and seven additional stone circles inside. There are approximately 150 of these medicine wheels in the Northern Plains and Canada, but this is one of the largest and best-preserved. It’s considered sacred to Native Americans and, while nobody is exactly sure of its purpose, some of the stones align with star positions and the summer solstice, so it may have served as a type of astronomical calendar for the Crow or Shoshone Indians. It’s at least 250 years old, and possibly much older. The hike from the parking lot was three miles round-trip, and worth every step.

After that long day out and about, we found a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in somebody’s house/backyard that, no shit, had way better Mexican food than any place in Rapid City. We tried convincing them to move out here and open a restaurant, but they weren’t having that. Tara also told them they should bottle their green chili sauce and sell that; I wholeheartedly agree—that stuff was amazeballs. It was the perfect way to end a pretty great Saturday.

Sunday morning, we grabbed coffee and breakfast to go and ate it on a bench overlooking a stream in a nice little wooded park Tara had found. Afterward, we began the 3.5-hour trek home. Coincidentally, that’s about the same distance as the drive from Vancouver, WA to Seattle—a trip we made countless times over the years to visit Tara’s mom and nephew. The scenery is a lot different out here, though. So is the speed limit (80-mph for most of the drive).

We were back home by 1:30, which left plenty of time to…

…cut the grass. Because hey, no rest for the weary! All in all though, we had a great time and definitely need to do it again. We barely scratched the surface of the Bighorns; next time we want to explore the southern portion and/or do a loop. Maybe even camp; we scoped out some of the campgrounds and they’re all pretty nice. Though actually, I wouldn’t mind staying in Sheridan again. Just gotta practice hitting those Minnie Riperton high notes and I’ll be able to blend right in with the locals!



Categories: The Great Outdoors, Travel

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. Huh. Did not realize that there were 48 hours worth of stuff to see in Wyoming. Did you take a 43 hour lunch break?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sounds like a nice little adventure! Was anyone wearing masks? Or was it a throwback to pre-COVID vacations?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, travel. How I miss it. Looks like a fun weekend…. sorry it ended with lawn mowing. Been watching the Sturgis updates on the news… crazy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That wheel looks really interesting. I saw the image on insta too…that stuff fascinates me as well.

    Beautiful landscape. I’ve always wanted to see the western style towns in person. Must make the trip out there one of these…um…well, we’ll just wait for this pandemic to settle down first. 🙂

    Great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s definitely a romanticism to the Old West…especially when it’s preserved so historically in towns like Sheridan. And Native American culture fascinates me endlessly. I didn’t even know what a Medicine Wheel was until last weekend, and now I want to learn more about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. God, Mark, that song by Minnie Riperton brings back so many AWESOME memories for me (1970’s)! What an incredible voice she had. So unique!

    All your photographs are fantastic, but I especially love the neon! I LOVE neon! Wyoming is gorgeous!

    Sound and looks like you and Tara had a great time! Thanks so much for sharing, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love neon, too. Downtown Sheridan has quite a bit of it…this is just a small sample. There are also tons of bucking horse and rider signs everywhere. Makes sense, given that it’s Wyoming’s official logo.

      You should plan a trip out west someday. I bet you’d love it!

      Like

  6. That song brings back memories! Always awesome to be able to drive 80mph legally! Good grief, initially I thought that wheel was snow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There actually were a few patches of snow up there still. Given the elevation, that’s not really surprising!

      The nice thing about 80 mph is, you can just set your cruise control for the exact speed and you’re golden. I find there is no need to go any faster than that.

      Like

  7. Beautiful pictures. If I had to chose a place to visit, Wyoming and the Dakotas would be interesting and Northern California, en route to Nevada and Reno. I think it would be fun to have a long car trip or camper trip to this part. Good pictures.

    Like

    • I’ve been to all those places and each one of them has their charms. Far northern California, redwood country, is especially beautiful…as is the Oregon coast. Makes me want to buy an RV and spend my retirement on the road!

      Like

  8. Wow – the Bighorns actually look like mountains in your picture in which you approach it from the east. The only time we saw the Bighorns we approached it from the west. It looked like a giant rock wall – like a super long, flat mesa. Then we drove up and over it and it was really cool. Would love to go back. Sounds like a fun weekend. I don’t blame you for wanting to get away from the bike rally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re definitely more dramatic from the east. The landscape kind of peters out the farther west you go, but the dramatic view from the summit stretches out so far we were able to see the Rockies in the distance. Truly stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This looks like a great place to visit. I’m amazed by the colors in your photos and the expanse of it all. Forget camping, your drink looks like it alone may inspire you to re-visit Sheridan.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The motorcycle rally actually made it to the news (saw it pop up on reddit). From the sounds of it, a lot of people opted to leave for the weekend. Good that the getaway involved some awesome outdoors…!

    Liked by 1 person

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