I woke up in our tent for the first time on the trip. In the midst of partying with the cowboys the night before, Tom had made it out behind the Mud Butte Post Office/Bar/Store/Restaurant/gas station and set up our tent. It was a pleasant surprise. I rewarded his diligence by getting him a coffee. I sat on the front steps of the building looking out across the plains to a butte of in the distance and wondered if that was the "towns" namesake. It was impossible to judge the scale with nothing else on the horizon or in the foreground. It could have been 1/4 mile away or ten miles away. I wasn't about to find out. It took pretty much all the energy I had to walk back to the tent, drink my coffee and help pack up the tent. We thanked our elderly host and got back on the road. In parting we told her to watch out for those "bikers". She assured us she was ready.
As we got into far western South Dakota there were once again signs of civilization. The towns had more than one building and we didn't have any fears of running out of gas or being stranded next to a broken down car. When we got into Wyoming we took a detour north of the highway to "Devils Tower". It is a cylinder shaped rock formation jutting out of the prairie made famous by the movie "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind". Richard Dreyfus's character was obsessed by visions he had of the structure and started making replication out of mashed potatoes, garbage, dirt etc...Devil's Tower is where the aliens made contact with humans later in the movie. There was also quite the prairie dog exhibit at the viewing spot for the Tower which cautioned against venturing out into the area between the exhibit and the Tower due to rattlesnakes hiding in the prairie dog holes and attacking. We had tempted fate enough on this trip, so far, and I had no desire to be sucking venom out of one of Tom's extremities.
Back on the road heading west the topography changed. The road became more hilly and there was more vegetation, although scrubby; it felt less lunar. Around mid afternoon we noticed some mountains on the horizon and figured they must be the "Big Horns", a mountain range which cuts through the north central part of the state and was just outside of our next destination, Sheridan. For hours we drove toward the mountain chain as they slowly grew larger and larger until they towered above us.
In Sheridan we found a campground well before dark and set up our tent. We did some supply shopping in town which included some Coors Light Silver Bullets and some Yukon Jack. We had a nice campfire complete with Dinty Moore Beef Stew, Bread and Butter. A nearby camper came by and introduced himself. We offered him a beer and he offered us some crystal meth. I declined, but Tom snorted a few lines. The guy said it was like coke and with that reassurance I did a line. It burned my nostrils and I winced like having a nose hair pulled out suddenly. He offered another round and I declined. It was my only experience , ever, with that stuff. Tom did some more. Our guest drank another beer then excused himself as he had to get back to his campsite and his family. A real family man, I thought.
The next morning was chilly, but refreshing. We had gotten to bed early and with the exception of the crystal, had done relatively little partying. Our next destination was Yellowstone National Park . We made our way over some mountain passes through the Big Horns and down to Cody which is where the Buffalo Bill museum is located. We checked out the exhibits, ate some lunch and got on our way. We had been on the road for a week and it felt like a lifetime. The ride to Yellowstone was ripe with anticipation. I drove, while Tom perused some travel books he had about the park. The plan was that we would spend three days at Yellowstone and three days at the Tetons. All systems go.