Welcome back to the absolute best dang road trip blog featuring a Ford Mustang you’re going to read all day, I presume. Time to get into some real cowboy country, and that means Wyoming. In part eleven of Mustang USA I picked up my latest passenger: my mom, who, armed with many nuts and sticks of spearmint gum, is about to enjoy her very first bluegrass festival at the Grand Targhee Resort. But we have to hustle. A buddy of mine, flatpicking guitarist extraordinaire Ross Martin, is a performer at the festival and he got us free passes to get in, so it would be poor form to miss his set. We gotta go – let’s hit it!
After getting to know Zootown (aka Missoula) a little bit better the night before, my mom and I drove a little bit further south in Montana to spend the night in a town called Dillon. We didn’t know what kind of place it was at all. But when we woke up and ventured into the downtown area for some breakfast, we discovered that it is a really charming little old railroad town.
This is what a Holiday Inn bedroom looks like in Dillon, Montana. My mom and I had to share that single quilt and there was a dead person in the bed. Thanks, Travelocity. Just kidding! I would never share a bed with a dead person, or my mom. This is the inside of a hundred-year-old sheepherder’s wagon.
Here is Dillon, Montana in a nutshell. Friendly. We loved it here.
There were some cool relics sitting out by the railroad tracks. I have no idea what this is, but from the looks of the bullet holes in the door, someone was murdered inside of it.
Risk of being murdered didn’t stop me from being a jackass, no sir-ree. Probably will need a tetanus shot now.
We made it to Targhee just in time to catch Ross Martin (pictured) playing with Jeff Austin, Danny Barnes, and Eric Thorin. Ross is a great guitar player who I met through my girlfriend Margo, in whose band we both play. It was great to see him tear it up with those guys.
I think it’s fair to say my mom liked going to the music festival. I even have a photo of her expertly hula hooping but she told me she would hide a hula hoop inside of me if I put it online. I don’t want that to happen. She is really good at hula hoops.
Having grown up in Jackson Hole, Targhee is my girlfriend Margo’s stomping ground. Her brother Chris Valiante lives in Driggs, Idaho, and Chris brought his wife Lane and super-cute daughter Cora (pictured) up for the bluegrass. Once Margo’s parents heard we were coming too, they visited and met my mom for the first time. Was very cool to introduce my mom to all these great folks.
This dude on the other hand was not someone I was in a hurry to introduce my mom to. Is that a stars and stripes fanny pack peeking out down there, too? Way to complete the look.
For a minute I was tempted to camp and drink 1,000 beers (I did bring a tent on the trip for such an occasion), but then I pictured my mom inside a cold porta-potty, crying, and cursing me and so I decided we should sleep in a hotel instead. Did I just visualize my mom inside a porta-potty? God, what is wrong with me. Anyway, as night fell, we bid our goodbyes to the fine Valiante folks and struck out towards West Yellowstone.
The next morning we were both glad to have not slept in a tent, and we also glad to eat some kick ass pancakes at the Running Bear.
West Yellowstone is full of classic motels and tourist-y signs. This was one of my favorites.
The drive next to the lake in Yellowstone is one of my favorite parts of the park. This wasn’t a fast drive, but it was a pretty one.
Obligatory Old Faithful picture. So many tourists. I’m one of them.
What I thought was way cooler than water regularly squirting out of the ground was this beautiful building: the Old Faithful Inn. You’re looking at the lobby of the largest log structure in the world.
I probably won’t elect to drive through Yellowstone again at the height of the season, on a weekend. It was just too damn crowded. Nature and traffic just don’t work well together for me, because I’m from New York and I hate people. But I love that Mercury Cougar. It’s sagging in the back because it’s got an entire family inside of it. That’s awesome.
The plains in Yellowstone, dotted with wild buffalo.
These 13-passenger buses are used to give tours of Yellowstone. They are originals, built in the late 1930s.
OK, so even though you have to fight through an army of tourists it is pretty awesome to see all the wild buffalo roaming the plains. Yes, that is a baby buffalo down there. D’awwww.
We left Yellowstone via the east entrance and made our way towards Cody. The scenery inside the park near that entrance is mind bogglingly amazing, and once we got outside the park we were treated to a ridiculous Wyoming sunset.
Forgestar wheel porn! People ask me how I kept the car so clean on the trip. The answer is I made my mom wash it every day. Just kidding! I wouldn’t let my mom touch it. I’ve seen her car, what with all the garage scrapes and bird shit and everything. I carried a virtual Pep Boys full of car care products in the trunk.
Damn, Wyoming. And I thought California was stunning. This is just stupid. Stop it!
We made it to Cody after dark. Cody is named for William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill. Only fitting, then, that I would force my poor mom to sit on top of a fiberglass buffalo.
The famous Irma hotel in Cody. One thing about traveling in this part of the country at this time of the year was that every town was practically overrun with motorcyclists who just went to the huge bike week in Sturgis, South Dakota. The main street here was practically lined with Harleys.
But this little dude didn’t care about bikes! He had the right idea: ’60s muscle cars with a blower. My man.
We did the museum thing in Cody the next day. This really is a great museum. Its a combination of Native American, Buffalo Bill, natural history, and the largest collection of firearms in the world.
And, a kick ass ’70 Mach 1 Mustang right inside the front door. Cool, I can leave now.
Here’s another Ford inside the museum: a Model T. William Cody was a big supporter of opening Yellowstone Park to automobiles. He got his wish, and this is almost certainly what you would have been driving if you were among the first to drive in.
It’s interesting how much a stagecoach resembles a Model T when you see them at the same time.
My mom isn’t a fan of guns, but she was a good shot. I guess it’s that Idaho upbringing.
Just horsing around in Greybull, Wyoming. We stopped to look for some food to eat in this seemingly deserted town.
Did I say deserted? I meant dessert-ed! (God damn it.) My mom spotted this ice cream shop that felt like it was right out of the 1950s.
Margo Cannady is one of two sisters who run the Sugar Shack in Greybull. All those mugs behind her are for the morning coffee club: the locals come in and get juiced up out of their own cups every day.
An ancient trading post just outside Greybull.
We are heading towards Sheridan, Wyoming for the night but first we must traverse the Bighorn National Forest. We got into it at the perfect time as the sun was setting.
A beautiful lake inside Bighorn. My mom was picking up trash on the side of the road. I thought that was very nice of her. Then I realized she was bringing the trash into the car to throw out later. Who the hell litters in a National Park anyway?
Well another beautiful park, and another beautiful Wyoming sunset. My mom and I have been spoiled by great weather and mother nature the past couple of days. The next big moment on the map for us is going to happen in South Dakota, where I am determined to drive through the Badlands at sunset. My mom had not seen the Badlands before, so she kept asking me, “what’s the big deal with the Badlands? Is it going to be cool?” Hell yes it’s going to be cool, mom! Trust me. Stay tuned.
MUSTANG USA, CONTINUED
This July, I am going to drive from my home in Brooklyn, New York, to Los Angeles and back again. It's just something I've always wanted to do. It's a…
Dave thanks so much for sharing your story! This has been an absolute blast to read as you chronicle your trip!