If you’re asking yourself, “Does Wyoming actually exist, or was it invented by Annie Proulx to sell books?” Let me tell you: It absolutely exists, and it is nuttier than hell.
After visiting Cheyenne recently for the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo, what I found had nothing to do with rowdy livestock: ghosts, weird statues, hat-themed pastries, and old cowboys slow-dancing to “Purple Rain” at the Outlaw Saloon.
Let me tell y’all about Cheyenne.
There’s like half a million people in the whole state, and about 65,000 in Cheyenne.
Visiting Wyoming is not so much “getting away from it all” as “immersing yourself in a vast sensory deprivation tank where it’s just you, your thoughts, a sky bigger than probably the entire planet, and various mammalian smells.” If you’re in town for the rodeo, for instance, Cheyenne becomes a pocket metropolis of tourists and legit cowboys. The important thing here is to acquire a cowboy hat immediately.
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If you don’t already have one, it’s imperative that you hit up The Wrangler in order to fit in with the behatted masses. Otherwise, it’s you and the wide-open abyss of Wyoming, and you’ll need something large to cover your head from the sun that is literally always in the sky.
They’ve got weird museums.
History is a very important thing in Wyoming, not only because of the ancient and sprawling landscape, but also because it’s been home to some truly outlandish people and things and events. The Nelson Museum of the West is filled with things that used to kill people, and things that have been killed, and paintings depicting the process of getting killed. (There are also statues of a cattle baron and his loving yet curiously headless family.)
There’s also a place called the Warren ICBM and Heritage Museum, a place to reflect on frontier life and history and the looming threat of nuclear winter.
I was given a cupcake with a cowboy hat made of chocolate.
Y’all, I can’t stress this enough–the cupcake that a human person brought to my (very nice) hotel room at Little America Hotel & Resort had a tiny, dark-chocolate cowboy hat on it.
There were other things about this that excited me, like the cupcake itself and the fancy syrups splattered on the plate like a Jackson Pollock painting, but I cannot stress enough that of everything with a cowboy hat on it in Cheyenne (and that’s everything), your hotel cupcake is one of those. If you’re lucky enough to stay at Little America, do two things for me: Don’t buy any of the insanely expensive plaid shirts in the gift shop, and wolf that candy hat down as soon as you’re able.
A bison’s tongue defiled my hand and I’ll never be clean again.
The Terry Bison Ranch & Resort is home to horses you can ride, feral cats you can try to pet and be snubbed by, and, predictably, bison. Huge, alarmingly friendly bison who want what we all want in life: to be handfed snacks via train-riding strangers. I had a fantastic time riding horses across the scenic Wyoming countryside, but the main thing I took away from this experience is the unholy sensation of a rough gray tongue wrapping around my wrist in search of snacks.
The bison don’t have any top teeth, so there’s no risk of getting a digit snapped off, but the sensation of a muscular, wet, sandpapery bison tongue rubbing your hand as you try to get the snack pellet … it haunts me. Sometimes the thought of that tongue, that horrible tongue, finds me in quiet moments, and then I research how to immediately stop having a body.