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Experience: Miles City


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April 2012

The Realest.
The Rawest Rodeo.

360 days a year, Miles City is a peaceful slice of deep-rooted cow-town Americana. But on the third full weekend in May, the town erupts into ranch rowdiness sheep-shearing, untamed-horse racing, street dancing (out here, that's two step), mutton busting, bronco selling and bull riding. Calling it a rodeo is an understatement, so we'll just call it what they call it, the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale.
A Ranch Makeover
With real-deal cowboys everywhere, you might want to change out of Tevas. Get ranch-ified quick at the leather-aromaed Miles City Saddlery (serving cowhands since 1901) and the Kickin' Ass Hat Company (specializing in handmade hats). If you've rediscovered a long-forgotten pair of boots, refurbish them at the Cowboy Cobbler. Then, brush up on cowboy lore with a visit to the Range Rider Museum, 11 buildings stocked with C.M. Russell artwork, gun collections, Native artifacts, pioneer tools and more.
Nugget In 67 years, the Bison Bar has only missed one day of business--May 18, 1980, when Mt. Helens erupted. Local Scoop Mason C. encourages you to check out the men's room at the Montana Bar. Even if you're female. Seriously.
Gone Country
While bucking broncs are best left to the professionals, you can still taste cowboy life firsthand here. Eat like a cattle king at local steakhouses (try the Iron Horse Supper Club). Or, check out the greasy spoons (the 600 Cafe has worn counters from countless flannel elbows). Cowboys have sipped cocktails for 120 years at the historic Montana Bar (might be where they get the courage to two-step afterwards at the street dances).
Please Press Pause
When you need a change from all the rip-snorting and boot scooting, watch birds and camp at quiet Matthews Recreation Area. Catch a break from steak and opt for lighter fare joints like Main Street Grind and Kafe Utza, and sip local vino at the Tongue River Winery. For snoozing options, turn in at historic bed and breakfasts like the Horton House and the Yellowstone Bluffs. And, if you ever want to catch Miles City in a different light, try returning for the Miles City Music on Wings Bluegrass Festival in September.
Whether you thunder into town in time for Bucking Horse (as the locals call it) or just swing by on a slower-pace-of-life spring day, you'll unearth a real-deal ranch town, Western all the way to its roots.


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