In the morning when we awoke to a chilly but beautiful Wyoming sky. Our clothes were still a touch damp, but we couldn’t afford to wait any longer, it was going to be an arduous day of driving. Turns out the town of Cody is full of surprises – one being the Cody Laundromat was open (and was unbelievably clean). Apparently, this town is so kind to each other that they leave the laundromat open 24 hours a day, and only staffs it during normal business hours. They have a flat screen TV mounted on the wall, cable box, with remote, free Wi-Fi, complete free coffee pot station, an unused detergent donation basket, and cheap machines. I fully believed that we were on candid camera and at any second someone was going to come in and steal the TV. Instead, we spent a $1 and 15 minutes drying the rest of our clothes, in the cleanest laundromat I have ever seen in my life.
Before leaving the most honest town I’ve ever set foot in, we popped into the gas station across the street for coffee, then continued our drive straight across the state of Wyoming to get to the infamous Devil’s Tower. During our trek, we stopped briefly at the Smiling Moose Deli for lunch, and eventually landed in Crook County at the base of the iconic 867ft. National Monument.
We poked in to the very small visitors center and then started the uphill climb to the foot of the igneous intrusion. After taking some obligatory selfies while discussing aliens and walking around on the path through the tumbled boulders at its base, we realized we still had a minimum of 4 more hours of road time until we reached our destination for the evening. Happy with our brief but impressive exercise, we made our way down the path towards the parking lot.
In the short time that it takes to weave in and out of the path, I managed to immortalize myself in a random family’s vacation picture. The woman taking the picture informed me with great pride that I would officially be part of their treasured memories - I told her that my only request is that I make the fridge, I like being on the fridge – particularly for Holidays. Laughingly we parted ways, and climbed into the only orange car in the parking lot. Also, interestingly enough, the only car with New York license plates - while we were also the only people wearing nothing but shades of black. It was a very stereotyped moment in our lives.
We turned our tires towards North Dakota to reach the breathtaking Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we were most excited to see Bison for the first time. North Dakota is beautiful, but I have never seen a place where the majority mammal wasn’t human. Herds of cattle dot the landscape, it’s a place where cars, fences, and cattle guards are the only signs of human intervention. Well, that and the livestock tags that hang from their ears. (I keep insisting that they are free wild cows – undomesticated entirely, Joe says I’m adorable.) With each passing mile marker, the skies swelled and darkened. The clouds began to condense and swirl, beginning to reach further down; on the horizon was a wall of grey that grew heavy and bloated with the upcoming rain. We were going to witness one fuuuuuunn thunderstorm.
The wind picked up, giving our little box car (We call him Hefe) some fight, the rain poured from the skies - but the birds were the worst of it. The thunderous and unrelenting rain must have scared the birds and caused them to panic, because once it turned torrential, there was a wave of dive bombing birds that kept narrowly dodging the edges of our car. Until… one poor kamikaze bird obstinately approached us head on in a fight. Hefe definitely won. With a walloping “thunk!” and a small smear of blood and feathers, Hefe won his first joust. Joe exclaimed, I gagged, the windshield wiper wiped, and in unison, we wretched. In about 3 wipes and the assistance of the heavy rains all trace of Hefe’s fallen foe was erased, but the memory of it’s untimely (Intentional?) demise will forever make me nauseated. Joe was devastated as it was the first animal we had ever hit between the two of us. But guess what we caught on video?
Eventually, it stopped raining long enough for us to stop and eat dinner at the previously discussed Pizza Ranch (20 miles in the complete opposite direction, but legitimately the ONLY food I could eat within a "reasonable" distance) we ordered two very American pizzas; chicken, bacon, & ranch and a bacon cheeseburger with half pickles. Immediately after ingestion we deeply regretted the combination of these two pies. While driving the 36 miles back over the roads we just used, we relived every bite of our bad choices. Every belch tasted of pickles, garlic, and ranch - it was indeed a hardship. Our exhausted bodies and bothered bellies were only placated with the promise of rest at our previously reserved campground space in Medora Campground.
Weary from the hundreds of miles traveled, we pulled into the office to find that we had just missed the standard operating hours. Not to be discouraged, we set about looking for our night reservation papers… Not there. The dreadful thought that someone may have stolen our space for the evening began to creep into our minds. Determined to make this night go to plan, I called the phone number for after-hours service, and tried to sort out what had gone awry while Joe began to look more and more perturbed. Turns out, our reservation wasn’t stolen, it was lost in their system, and had been consequently canceled. Absolutely at our quickly fraying last wit, Joe and I searched in frustrated desperation on rain soaked grounds for an unclaimed piece of un-flooded campground. Our efforts were rewarded with a tiny plot off the fork of a road. Grateful for the space, we quickly began work setting up Hefe during the first lull in the rain. I’ll be honest, it was a tense set up. We both felt awful, smelled like pickles and pizza, and couldn’t wait to no longer be moving. Ultimately, we managed to get cozy before it began raining again, and fell asleep to its soft sounds against our roof. It was a cold night in North Dakota, and we were thankful to be warm, safe, and still.