Culture & Conversation

On the road with Anna

Wyoming

My pal John, his friend Jim from Nebraska and I started out right after coffee, and headed for Fort Collins from Boulder. We met up with Cheri, Jim’s partner, in Fort Collins and had breakfast. Then we headed North for Cheyenne, Wyoming. We were in two cars, and John and I were pretty quiet on the way and at lunch at a Perkins.

We then went north to Casper, Wyoming. The flatlands were Greener than I had ever seen. There were lush copses of scrub oak, lines of cottonwood and willows along the creeks and rivers and everywhere, sage bushes in that incandescent green. Indian paintbrush grows in the higher fields, and higher up were blue spruce and pines.

“That first night we stayed in Cody, Wyoming, the town built by Buffalo Bill. In the morning two of the cleaning staff told me of a year when the Hell’s Angels and the Bandidos had both booked into the motel on their way to Sturgis for the yearly Harley Davidson convention. Police from a hundred mile radius had surrounded the motel to keep the peace.”

That first night we stayed at the Sunrise Motel in Cody, Wyoming, the town built by Buffalo Bill. It was reasonably quiet. In the morning two of the cleaning staff told me of a year when the Hell’s Angels and the Bandidos had both booked into the motel on their way to Sturgis for the yearly Harley Davidson convention. Police from a hundred mile radius had surrounded the motel to keep the peace.

After breakfast at Peter’s Café (where a waiter from Chicago tried his cowboy twang on us), we headed to the Cody Buffalo Bill Museum. It is an amazingly beautiful building. John and I headed straight for the art gallery. The paintings were a fine selection of western art, but the Russell and Remington sculptures were breathtaking. The natural history section was beautifully laid out in four storeys, and the Native wing was almost as comprehensive as the one in Tucson, Arizona. We ate in the garden and were loathe to leave the building and the fantastic grounds.

At Thermopolis, Cheri and I got a chance to bathe in the sulphurous hot pools. Then we started out again and headed for Greybull, John’s hometown. We went shopping at the local supermarket and looked at the houses where John had grown up, and finally, he took us to the Sugar Shack. This was an authentic old soda fountain kind of place, filled with high school memorabilia. This included the flags of the year John’s class had won the state championship in football. There was a terrific old jukebox, and an old classmate of John’s who reminisced with him as Cheri took pictures.

When we headed towards the mountains we stopped at the spectacular Shell Falls and walked along the concrete path marvelling at the sandstone and pumice, which had been sculpted by the Shell River.

The Big Horns aren’t steep and angular like the Rockies; they seem to grow gradually out of the plains like humongous mammoths. The golden colour of the rocks was particularly spectacular when the sun began its decline, and we approached Burgess Junction and headed for the Bear Lodge Resort. After a small misunderstanding at the highway, we finally made it to the glorious two-storey log cabin where we stayed. John was catching a cold and went to sleep immediately, so Cheri and Jim and I all headed to the lodge for dinner.

When we got back, Jim went to bed and Cheri and I took a walk through the campsite at dusk and into a meadow. It was magic hour, and the cars in the distance had incandescent taillights, and the stars were close and huge. When we returned to the cabin we were not ready to sleep, so we built a large fire back of the cabin, and talked until midnight.

“At the Medicine Wheel there was a new fence, and inside its circle a group of First Nations people were drumming and singing in a cleansing ceremony. In every direction the green hills and golden rocks receded into larger and even more varied vistas, and those into others at the horizon as they finally faded into mist.”

We were still sleepy the next morning, except for John who, nursing his incipient cold, had slept for nine hours. Jim got up and made great sourdough pancakes. Then we all napped. I cooked some cauliflower brunch and after we headed to Medicine Wheel. The landscape was startlingly variable and we barely talked, gob smacked by the beauty of it. From the road up to the Wheel, one catches sight of vistas of mottled green and sage hills strangely spotted by the clouds, which seem ridiculously near.

At the Medicine Wheel there was a new fence, and inside its circle a group of First Nations people were drumming and singing in a cleansing ceremony. In every direction the green hills and golden rocks receded into larger and even more varied vistas, and those into others at the horizon as they finally faded into mist.

We got back to the cabin, and started dinner. The air at 9,000 feet is fragrant with sage and pine. Our final day, John and Cherie and I had all developed this mega cold, which takes weeks to get rid of. When we left in the morning, a group of hunters was moving in next door, and over at the Lodge, there was an archery contest which made any walking in the woods a risk. Along with the thousands of Harley Davidsons which were beginning to crowd the highways on their way to Sturgis for the annual rendez-vous, it was good to head back to Boulder.

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Anna Fuerstenberg is a writer, director, performer and teacher. She will be premiering her new play Guerrilla Caregiver at the Dark Horse theatre in Nashville, Tennessee in October 2014.

 


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