Our tour through Montana (part 2), Wyoming, and South Dakota
12.05.2017 - 14.05.2017
Friday, May 12 was spent in Montana, one of our new favorite states. Ryan and I stopped in the capital city of Helena (pronounced “helen-ah”, not “hel-een-ah”) where a vigilante parade was taking place. After rerouting due to the parade, we found street parking so we could walk downtown to Blackfoot River Brewing Company. We quickly learned that breweries in Montana are limited to serving each customer four 12 ounce beers and they keep track with a quirky paper “honor” system, using a pen to mark each brew. It was later discovered that Montana breweries and distilleries alike must close shop by 8:00pm and that distilleries are even more limited to two drinks per person. Considered some of the best beer in Montana, we both enjoyed two pints of Blackfoot and then filled our new growler with their IPA. The chain known as Pita Pit provided a much needed lunch before we hit the road to Bozeman.
The Bozeman area is a very cool place to visit. Per a Blackfoot employee’s recommendation (thanks, Alex!), we went to Madison River Brewing Co. and then MAP Brewing Company. Madison River Brewing Co. was obviously a local favorite with most people drinking from their custom glass-made mugs. We sat at the bar next to a friendly gentleman who called himself JD. A navy veteran, JD was very knowledgeable about the outdoors, dogs, and beer. MAP Brewing Company led to more great conversation, this time with Ryan and Tammy, a local couple who are both army Veterans (Tammy is still active). We could easily get used to the charming people, amazing views, and awesome beer Montana has to offer.
After tenting for two nights in a row, we decided it was time for us to shower and get a good night’s rest in a real bed. I found us a cheap motel within walking distance of downtown Bozeman where we were happy to clean up and change into Friday night attire. It was getting late but we had yet to eat dinner so I “yelped” a spot that served the bison meat we were craving. Ryan and I walked downtown to Ted’s Montana Grill which received decent reviews. I ordered the braised bison short ribs while Ryan splurged on Ted’s bison filet. We were both impressed by the quality of our mixed drinks and meat. Ryan informed the waiter, “I don’t know who this Ted guy is, but he sure knows how to cut a good steak!” The server gave us a befuddled look and then smiled. “You don’t know who Ted Turner is?!” Durr… another tourist alert. Our waiter went on to inform us that there are 45 Ted’s restaurants all over America owned by media tycoon and philanthropist Robert Edward “Ted” Turner III. Silly us.
We spent the morning of Saturday, May 20 touring downtown Bozeman and completing more souvenir shopping. After sampling the huckleberry vodka paired with lemonade at dinner the night before, I insisted on stopping at the Bozeman Spirits Distillery to treat myself to my own souvenir. We didn’t want to leave the 4th most populous city in Montana, but knew we still had many miles to travel.
Since we were heading east, we figured Montana Brewing Company in Billings would be a nice place to have a late lunch. Ryan and I were surprised to find out that Billings is the largest city in the state of Montana. We sat at the bar and engaged in pleasant conversation with another east coast native who recently moved to big sky country. It appears that other people are seeing the same appeal as we did in the treasure state.
Ryan and I didn’t get to South Dakota until late Saturday night. We drove for multiple hours in a row, neglected to eat anything for dinner, and it was dark and raining by the time we arrived at the KOA campground just outside of Mount Rushmore. This led to the perfect storm for Ryan and my first fight of the trip. We were both admittedly “hangry” and the last thing we wanted to do was set up camp in a downpour. To make matters worse, the Wi-Fi wasn’t working and it was too wet to have a fire. As luck would have it, the next day on Sunday, May 14 was the longest of our road trip with 10.5 hours of driving in store. We had plenty of time to reconcile our differences and were in much better spirits after our grumpy visits to Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. Ryan even indulged me by stopping for dinner at the Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City, Iowa that night where I walked away $130 richer. My luck was back! We continued the trip east and eventually made it to my friend Ally’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska at 12:30 am.