When the cowboy boot project came out in the open in Sheridan I was more than a little surprised and concerned. "There's no way we can fit four pairs of clunky cowboy boots in our bags", says I. Lynn's response was, "Well why can't we just mail the boots to the children?". "Do you have any idea of how that much would cost?", I asked. "Surely it couldn't cost all that much" said the optimist in our party. "Oh yeah???????"
I know you're all ahead of me and yes we did mail four pairs of cowboy boots to Australia..... including the ones which didn't fit when they reached some recipients!!!
This was not the last boots saga. There's another one coming but you won't be able to read about that one until I publish the "Week 8" webpage.
After a seven very comfortable and interesting days in Sheridan WY we were ready for the road again and headed off south to the small city of Casper Wyoming (see point "L" on our route map). We were pleased to discover that a big street parade was due to occur next day. "This is a major annual event in Casper", we were told, "so make sure you don't miss it".
Next day it seemed like half the city was in the parade whilst the other half lined the streets. There were heaps of floats, lots of marchers, dancers, funny vehicles and a good number of idiots doing strange things. All in all it was lots of fun. In particular, children of all ages were having an absolute ball. The fact that about 100 tons of assorted candies were being tossed to them from passing floats might have had something to do with their joy.
It was a stinking hot day and everyone was drinking bottled water by the gallon. One benefit was that many people on the floats were armed with various kinds of hoses, water canons and water bombs which they used to spray or bombard the curb side spectators. So long as you didn't suffer a full on water bomb square on your nose, all the water spray was a welcome relief.
The parade went on and on and lasted over two hours. By that time our feet were sore, our clothes were drenched and our faces were sunburnt. We went looking for a place to eat and were surprised to discover the Red Lobster chain had an outlet here in Casper so guess where we went? Can't resist the chance to have a good feed of lobster at prices at least 60% less than in Australia.
We only stayed two nights in Casper and before we knew it we were back on the road again bound for Rawlins Wyoming (see point "M" on our route map).
The countryside around this part of Wyoming is extremely dry and arid. Overlay the fact that this is the hottest summer in 10 years. Not surprisingly green vegetation is in very short supply.
We arrived at Medicine Bow WY around 1.30pm feeling famished. It's a town of only about 300 inhabitants and there was really only one place to eat. We walked into the infamous Virginian Hotel (which is in Wyoming so go figure) and sat up to a very rustic and deserted bar counter where we took a stool and were served by an 11 year old girl. She was obviously on summer vacation. Fortunately her mother did the cooking and we were soon served with soup, salad, a huge burger, and a packet of potato crisps. According to the menu this princely meal was priced at $6.50 and also a choice of coffee, Sprite or Coke. Pretty good value wouldn't you say? It didn't taste too bad but it was far more than we could eat.
More driving through desert-like countryside brought us to Rawlins WY, a city of about 9,000 inhabitants. It's over seven weeks since I had a haircut and I'm looking a little rough around the edges. And although I hate going to strange barbers I can see that I can't really put this chore off for another 2-3 weeks when I'll be back home. BIG MISTAKE! Anyhow, I figure, I can get by with a minor trim so that should minimise too much damage should I end up in the hands of a bad barber. ANOTHER BIG MISTAKE.
Finding a barber shop I walked in and find an old fat guy wearing badly rumpled jeans supported by suspenders with three inch wide straps. He's wearing very muddy work boots and not wearing a barbers' jacket whatsoever, let alone a nicely starched white number with a pretty stitched monogram over the breast. Anyhow, my thoughts begin racing and I'm wondering how it will go down if I walk straight out but the barber accosts me saying "take a seat, I'm just finishing my friend here and you're next". So I reluctantly sit down.... BIG MISTAKE... thinking well I'm only going to get a trim.... MISTAKE, MISTAKE, MISTAKE.
Let's cut to the chase. I told the guy that I just wanted a light trim But unbeknown to me he clipped one of those plastic guide templates onto his clippers and like all barbers he started at the rear and out of my sight. By the time I saw the red plastic template thingie rise over my crown and become visible in the mirror it was "all over Rover". I was left with the shortest haircut I'd had in decades. When I courteously said "hey this isn't exactly a trim" the barber said "seems fine to me. You look like a real American now". My brain was in shock so I missed the chance to say "yeah only I didn't serve in Vietnam or any Gulf war either!" A tiny voice in my head said.... "Brian, I think you made a huge mistake coming in here"
I met Lynn back at the car. She just laughed and laughed and laughed. Then she said she felt sorry for me but it didn't sound all that sincere to me. We drove up the road and found the bed and breakfast place we'd booked. I carefully checked our hostess' demeanour for any telltale signs but although her eyes wandered over my head she somehow managed to keep a straight face.
There's no way you could call Rawlins a sophisticated town but thanks to Trip Advisor we found a small place which served a very nice meal indeed. I had roast duck with cherries and it was superb. Lynn had a first rate rack of lamb, which was about the first time we've seen lamb since we left San Francisco.
Next morning I awoke to find find a family of wild mule deer in the front garden. I woke Lynn up, grabbed my camera and fired off some shots to capture what was a rather unique experience for us as it would be for most readers of this newsletter.
On our one free day in Rawlins we explored the Snowy Range Road in Medicine Bow National Forest. Unfortunately this year's light winter snowfall followed by the exceptionally hot summer means that there is very little snow on the mountains. Still it's a little cooler up in the mountains and very little traffic so we enjoyed an interesting scenic drive and had a nice picnic as well. We had intended to drive home via Centennial and Laramie but we like to avoid Interstate Highways as much as possible so after we explored Centennial we just did a 180 and drove home back along the morning route. This is often a very worthwhile decision in very scenic areas because entirely new vistas can open up when driving in an opposite direction..... as it did in this particular instance.
It's time to leave Wyoming and make our way down into Colorado. I've fleetingly mentioned my Colorado based friend Mike Paulick who was very influential in helping us plan our itinerary. He recommended that we skip the various logical routes and opt for a quiet deserted gravel road which is really a long forestry trail that passes through forests and lakes on the way to Steamboat Springs CO. As we have a long drive today and given that the gravel forestry trail will be very slow and maybe uncomfortable I emailed Mike again, "do you feel that Forest Service Road 550 will be really worth the effort and what do you like about it?" This is when he admits to never having been down that trail EVER. He adds, "I've long wanted to drive that trail one day and I thought you could check it out for me".
BING BING.... for the last six weeks I've been driving in and out of some tight situations all based on Mike's "recommendations". Now I'm starting to wonder whether a lot of the time I was actually just Mike's unwitting scout !! I must ask him about that when I see him next week.
We decided to take Forest Service Road 550 anyway. It was fairly slow and rough with heaps of corrugations on the curves but we've driven worse washboard roads in Australia so all we needed to do was keep our speed down, exercise caution on the curves and not get too cocky. We enjoyed most of the drive but were saddened whenever we drove through large patches of dead pine forest which had been decimated by beetle infestations. This is a huge problem in many American forests. The cause is generally known for the most part and I leave you to Google it if you're interested.
In due course we left the forest and lakes behind, crossed the border into Colorado and re-entered civilisation (??) again. Soon we reached Steamboat Springs (such an exotic name) which looks to be a very prosperous small city thanks to being a popular ski and tourism hub. Then it was onto Glenwood Springs where we intend to spend the night. The road took us through Glenwood Canyon which has some pretty amazing sections of cantilevered highway and great scenery but the photos below don't really do it justice.
After picking up some groceries in Glenwood (see point "O" on our route map) we finally reached the Four Mile Bed & Breakfast some four miles out of town right on dusk. We're being housed in an extremely rustic old barn but it is spacious and comfortable enough, with a kitchen and wifi internet service so we'll be ok here. Notwithstanding the self catering nature of our barn, a full Western style breakfast served in the owners' home is part of the package. Next morning we were to discover that "full breakfast" really meant FULL BREAKFAST (groan).... we could hardly walk back to our barn !!
Colorado surprises and adventures (and they shall be many) lie just ahead. See you on the next page.