A Road Trip. Day 8. Billings to Bismarck.
Much like on day seven of our road trip, there wasn’t a whole lot I wanted to see along our route from Billings to Bismarck on day eight. But unlike day seven, there was one big, monumentous, amazing thing I was looking forward to seeing above all else: Salem Sue.
When Tim first mapped out the route and sent it to me, I immediately took to Roadside America to look at what big giant things we could stop at along the way. Among them were some bucket-list worthy roadside attractions I’ve always wanted to see. Albert the Bull, the world’s largest buffalo, and Salem Sue, the world’s largest Holstein cow, among them. Her presence along the route helped softened the blow over the cancelled potato. She would be one of the biggest big things I have ever seen. And, on day eight, we would cross her path.
Of course, Sue was located near the end of the day’s route, and it was a long route, which meant careful planning for the rest of the day. We wanted to try to get a few things in but we also had to make sure to make good time in order to see that giant cow before the sun went down.
I really did want to drive down the Enchanted Highway, but if we were to make it to Sue, there just wasn’t time to fully enjoy that detour. And we debated going to Little Big Horn and the Custer Battlefield Museum, but it was a little out of the way and, frankly, it seemed more like something that “maybe we should do” instead of something that we really truly wanted to do. So, instead, we decided to stop at Pompeys Pillar to check off a historical landmark that was right on our route.
But first, I couldn’t leave Billings without stopping to see their muffler man, who I decided was better than the cowboy muffler man we’d seen in Idaho and really is the perfect man. He’s tall and handsome, he has a magnificent beard, and he holds down a good career selling tires.
Really, it’s all I need in a man.
Our next stop was Pompeys Pillar National Monument. Pompeys Pillar is a giant rock formation best known for carrying the signature of Captain William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition). He etched his name into the side of the rock with the date, July 25, 1806, along side it when he passed along the Yellowstone on his return journey.
It was a nice site to see, despite the rainy morning weather and the 200 plus stairs to the top.
After working up an appetite climbing to see that famous graffiti, we found a little cafe in Miles City that advertised a steak sandwich special for lunch. And since I was in Montana and I wanted steak in Montana.
“It’s a weird steak sandwich, huh?” the waitress said to me when she came back over to check on us. “I saw your face when I put it down.”
It was true, this steak with a side of toast and jam wasn’t exactly what I expected when I ordered the sandwich. I expected, well, a sandwich. But, it was a delicious lunch all the same (in fact it was so good I really think I’ll get a side of toast every time I order a steak from now on…).
After lunch we shot back to pull over for an unexpected giant bull we’d passed, and then still had one more roadside attraction to stop at before crossing over to North Dakota: Glendisaurus.
Glendisaurus is a Triceratops Dinosaur Statue in Glendive, Montana, an area known for its famous fossil beds on the Montana Dinosaur Trail. It was a fun stop, and a necessary stop for me as there weren’t that many roadside attraction in Montana I was super excited to see. So I felt I had to see…something.
I’m kind of kicking myself, though, that we didn’t stop at the Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum. Billed as “where biblical history comes alive,” the creationist museum claims that dinosaurs and humans coexisted and that dinosaurs were even on Noah’s Ark. Sounds totally plausible and historically accurate if you ask me. Next time I’m in Montana I am so there…
And then, we finally make it to North Dakota, the eighth state we’d pass through, and home of Salem Sue.
We were making good time and knew we’d see the giant bovine before dark. Miles before we reached her we started seeing signs advertising her existence, and soon, we would see the tiny speck of cow on the horizon.
We drove down a country road and up a small hill and at the top found the biggest fiberglass cow, perhaps one of the biggest fiberglass animals period, that I had ever seen.
She was a towering cow in black and white with big pulsing pink veins around her udders. Standing on top of the hill she watched out over the neighboring farmland, and we joined in, admiring both the view and her heftiness.
The sun was setting over the cow, and we knew it would be dark soon, so we pressed on to our final destination of the night: Bismarck, North Dakota. We checked into our hotel then found a place for dinner that had cocktails and tapas, some traditional, some with more local flair. We had duck gyoza and drunken noodles and fish and chips and…tater tot hot dish.
It was dark when we got there but there was still one thing left to see on day eight, the restaurant happened to be right around the corner from Bismarck Art Alley. An alley, similar to Freak Alley Gallery in Boise, full of murals by local artists.
We admired the murals, ate some tapas, drank some drinks, and retired back to the hotel, with only two days left before us on the road ahead.