Monday, August 21, 2017

Wyoming - Some People

Two weeks away from home, on my own in the van, it's obvious there was a lot of "quiet" time, something I need from time to time, in doses less and sometimes more.  This trip to Wyoming provided that quiet time, exactly as I'd hoped.

Still, my goal wasn't (never is) to avoid people, only to have a bit more control over how and when.

I like driving, always have and doing it alone is not only tolerable, but very pleasurable.  Driving across our country's Great Plains allows for a great plenty of that drive time and while some complain about it, avoid it and do it only as a last resort, my attitude about it is at the other end of the spectrum.  Mixing the drive with where I went, what I did when I got there and how I spent my time allowed for a near perfect vacation and time away.

When I did actually spend time communicating with, interacting with and seeing people, it was a real treat and almost always savored though there was that guy.....:)

Meeting and speaking with Bob in Chamberlain would have been a real treat; Bob is always fun to visit with and each time I manage to do so, I learn a little and more often, a lot.  Timing wasn't on our side this time but that's OK, I'll see him again.  I got a real kick out of just seeing his van nearby in the parking lot.

Just a couple of miles east of my campsite outside of Cody, in the Shoshone National Forest, is where the Wapiti Ranger Station is located.  It's the very first Forest Ranger Station in the US.  Adjacent to, is the Big Game Campground.  There's a large field there and in those first days of my arrival, there was a fire fighting crew, maybe 35 strong that was in the process of extinguishing the last of a forest fire to the south.  A windsock and helicopter, plus 30 or so brightly colored small tents made it clear when I first passed that they were not recreationally sleeping there in that large open field but workers with a job to do.

I saw them later in the week at a local eating establishment and felt disappointed that I hadn't made more contact with them.  A healthy, optimistic, dedicated and hard working bunch of bearded men they were.

I stopped at the Yellowstone Fishing Bridge Visitor Center that opens out onto Lake Yellowstone, right at the back door with this view.  I didn't take a selfie, but there was a couple that was trying to.  I offered to take their photo, proud of my mix of Portrait and Landscape proportions in the photo.  Two young women followed and before I could even get my camera back out of its case, they asked if I could take one of them.  In the next 10 minutes, I took photos of 4 couples in this spot.  Hope they're all happy with the images that I left on their cameras.

I'll copy/paste my interaction here already posted that I had at the Heart Mountain Internment Camp...

Over the previous weekend a special ceremony had been held..."350 people".  Here one of the hosts at the Visitor Center was picking up 2 very destroyed pop-ups.  I offered my assistance as I've had lots of recent experience folding up mangled popup frames and covers.  "I guess these couldn't withstand the 70mph winds on Saturday evening...."

LaVon Wheeler (now) from numerous places since 1942.  She was 8 years old and living in nearby Powell when the camp was built with many memories.  Their neighbors, a family of Japanese descent had to leave and the neighbors didn't understand why they were sent away to a different camp and not kept at nearby Heart Mountain.  Now 82, she travels everywhere and from what I could quickly tell, excels at it.  "Why can't a woman travel...a man can?"

Travel long and far LaVon, a true pleasure to meet you! 

My 2nd day at the Buffalo Bill Cody Center, during a coffee break near the atrium, I noticed a young man carrying a camera tripod 'thing' I'd never seen seemed to almost be alive.  Also enjoying a coffee, he sat down at the small table next to me so I asked him about his camera and equipment.  I learned that the mount wasn't really a tripod but a flexible support, on a gimble for very fluid movement; his primary shooting being video.  It was a Lumix camera (same brand as my Point and Shoot) but a much finer instrument that unlike many other cameras where video is almost an add-on, his camera was biased the opposite the primary method of use.

He shared that he was originally from Lander and once he learned that I was headed that direction the following day, had all sorts of suggestions of things to do, roads to explore, places to visit.  Never learned his name, but our time over coffee was very well spent.

Also in the museum, I had just gone down the stairs and a woman that appeared to be an employee saw me looking a bit confused, then asked if she could help me find something.  I mentioned that I was thirsty and in dire need, if possible, of a water fountain.  She gave me the universal curled finger that says, "follow me."  We walked down a corridor on the lower level and around the corner, there was our target.

"Best and coldest water in the entire facility," I was told.  I drank a lot and later went back to drink a lot more.

On my "Teton Day", I rode through Jackson Hole, curious to see by not really to stop in the actual town on my way to Nora's Fish Creek Inn in Wilson.  Eric had suggested that Nora's was one of many places I would like and that it was close to where his son and his family live.  The place was really busy at 10:30 or whatever time it was.  There were cars parked everywhere, in spots and some not actually real so I hunted for a skinny few feet to leave the KLR.  Walking in I happened to notice a couple of other big Baggers parked on another edge of the parking area.

I'm normally not a counter-eating guy but will on occasion and that day at Nora's, it was counter seating or Wait.  I took the stool next to a couple of guys that were obviously the two belonging to the big Cruiser bikes out in the lot.  Other than a nod, we didn't really acknowledge each other in any other way.  Our waitress was very friendly, on the proper edge of flirty, having fun with anyone that would 'fun' back.  After a lot of banter back and forth, I mostly listened and let the guys next to me have most of the fun, she asked the one sitting next to me where he was from and he replied, "Minnesota."

She asked him if it was cold there and he answered, "not today."  I waited for an opening and asked him where in Minnesota.

"Lake City"

In our rural world, that may as well be on our same street; we are 8 miles from Lake City.  Over the next 15 minutes, I learned that Dave works for the local power utility, had been on our farm and had set the power poles on our property.  He mentioned many family names that were familiar though not having grown up where we've been for 25 years, we aren't as familiar with families as we might be ( we're still considered newcomers).  It can be a very small world sometimes.

That afternoon, after my late breakfast, after riding through Teton National Park with my visit at the Visitor's Center, as mentioned, I headed up Gros Ventre Valley where I found the single track that was going to be too taxing for my hot-running KLR.  Back down on Antelope Flats Road......

with views like this....looking north

Looking west.....

And looking behind me.....

Eric from St. Louis on a REAL Transalp.   Only just acquired before he left St. Louis, it wasn't the bike that he was initially planning to ride west.  Turn-key ready, at the last minute he decided to make the trip on his 'new' bike; this he got an incredible deal on and was outfitted as you see here.

We got a lot accomplished in 15 minutes standing there in the sun. 

 Hope the rest of your trip went safe and well Eric!

That evening while I was watching my fire, I noticed a couple of young women gathering firewood in and around the empty campsites across the road.  Their second trip, they were pulling branches that had been trimmed from this freshly cut behemoth....and while not absolutely green, there hadn't been a lot of seasoning at that point either.

I walked over and asked how the wood was burning.


I showed them, that not 30 ft away from this pile, there were sticks everywhere that I'd been gathering to start my purchased chunks that were split big.  Dead and dry small pieces that had been lying there for years.  Big smiles and a return later for one more load, they thanked me with a big Thumbs Up.

Union Pass Day, I stopped here at nearby Lake of the Woods, the road leading off to the right went right down  to the edge of the lake.  While here, a couple of 4 wheel machines came up and asked if everything was alright.  They had seen me ride by that morning, they were camped not in a campground, but legally in the National Forest as long as the proper distance from any main road is maintained.  A surprise to me, I saw many, many campers camped in like spots.  Self contained, a Bear Storage container, no rest rooms, no water and certainly, no A/C power.  What really surprised me was how big some of the outfits were.  I looked over as I had ridden past and thought I remembered and recognized their machines.  We talked a bit here, nothing really special, then wished each other safe and fun travels.

The next day, after I'd had my little tippy-do, I came upon 3 hikers.  During my days of back country riding, when I wasn't on the highway doing 60mph but rather 20-30mph, I was going without my earplugs, mostly out of convenience.  There were chance encounters with bicyclists and hikers, more often than not, lone hikers in some very remote areas.  Approaching blind corners in the 'wilderness' and suddenly bearing down on someone going even slower than I was gave a quick lesson in paying attention.

So without my earplugs in, I could quickly engage in a conversation without always having to remove my helmet, then plugs to even get caught up, let alone start a conversation.  These 3 walkers were asking if they were on the right road and just as I was in the process of pulling out my (beautiful) National Forest map......

The 4 wheelers that I'd seen the day before drove up.  THIS time, we all had a chance to talk and get to know one another.  The 3 hikers, dad, son and dad's friend, had walked from Lander, almost 150 miles at this point.  The son, nearest me here, had just come home from 3 years as a Peace Corp volunteer in the South Pacific.

Gramp, originally from AUS, and grandson are in the blue Honda.  Mom, dad and Grandma are in the Kawasaki.  The middle generation family from the Casper area.  Mom immediately jumped out, opened the cooler and offered Cokes and Hersey bars to the hikers, to me as well and didn't have to ask twice as MY grandfather used to say.  Dad (standing next to me) was telling me about the area, the hunting, how the area had once been full of moose and elk.  I actually met or was politely overtaken by this family 4 times over the course of a few days.  We later talked some more, each sharing info about our homes, lives and machines.

Later that same afternoon, I went up Forest Road #513.

Somewhere near the center of this.....

I came upon another one of those quasi campsites, a travel trailer setup over against the woods,  a bear-safe food storage box but this site was a bit different....there was a Porta-John there.  I didn't think much of it, noticing that the man was between their campsite and the road, walking a beagle on a leash (mandatory in bear country).  He waved, I waved as I went quietly past continuing deeper up #513.

Maybe an hour later, I came back down and curious about whether #513 actually looped around to the very large and private Dunoir Ranch Road, thought I'd stop and ask the man walking the beagle if he knew about the connecting roads.  My Forest Map said no, my GPS showed the connection being made.  Knowing the Ranch Road was private, I half expected to try the loop only to find a gate and deciding that I didn't really need to find out for myself, turned around and headed back the way I'd come.

When asked, the beagle walker did not and the reason he did not was because he and his wife were only recent residents of Dubois, having come from Alabama last September.  My small question about the road led to our talking of everything....his stents, his triple bypass,  his other health issues, how close he'd come to his "end" and how very, very happy they were to be up, about and enjoying life in Wyoming.

He asked about my bike, told me about his absolutely perfect CB900 he'd once owned.  Just a bit skeptical, I was about to ask when he volunteered...."that dual range transmission was the most wonderful thing."  I immediately knew that he knew what he was talking about.  I helped them with lifting the two heavy 6 gallon blue water jugs they had and pouring them into their trailer's water tank.  I don't remember how many times I was invited to join them (the grill was going) for "sausages".  I learned of their son, his troubles in life, etc. etc.

Not curious enough to ask, I soon learned about the tan Porta-John that actually was quite out of place in that environment.

"We had a baptism here this morning, 40 people came, we dammed up the creek with a few rocks so that the water would be deep enough.  Posted some signs on the church door, that church that's right there downtown, you know?  We were just tickled that so many people came and you know what, not a soul used the portapotty.  I guess they'll come out to pick it up tomorrow."

"We absolutely love Wyoming, couldn't be happier."

Bill and Linda, I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to meet you and to share all that we did.  You are the kindest, most full of life and engaging couple I ever remember.  Wyoming is so very lucky to have you.  God bless!

The next day I was on Forest Road 30100, a narrow section and met the only other vehicle I'd seen on that road.  We were a long way from pavement, from anything resembling grouped civilization.  Because it was quite narrow, I pulled way over to the side and actually stopped to let the Subaru pass.  As the car got close, it slowed and stopped beside me, the driver window going down.  A couple, definitely more 'seasoned' than I were in the car, he with his pipe and prospector hat.  There was an air of experienced and quiet confidence; I sensed it right away.  He asked how I was doing, if I was enjoying the day and I responded that with the perfect surroundings and weather, it would be difficult to do otherwise.

With a very deadpanned look on his face, he asked, "Is this the way to Old Faithful?"

He really caught me off guard with that and would have surprised me less if he'd asked me about any Grey Poupon that I might have.  I know that I giggled, looked over at his wife and saw the slightest smile.  It took a few seconds but I came back with, "it's only a couple more miles, you can't miss it."

He responded, "we'll be on our way then, good day!"

I'm still smiling when I think about it.

If Bill and Linda were the most engaging, the most interesting discussion happened later that day.  After being asked about the 'nearby' Old Faithful, I got back out on to Hwy 26, heading east over the pass and back to camp.  I stopped at The Hatchet Resort again for an afternoon coffee break.  While sitting out on the front deck, 3 Harley's stopped, 3 couples pulled in for fuel and a chance to stretch their legs.  Once gassed up, they politely wheeled their bikes over to the edge of the parking lot and out of the way.

We asked about homes, where they were from, friends in MN, school at one of the MN Ag colleges.  All from South Dakota, they were on their way north from there to Montana.  When I said Red Wing, one of the guys volunteered that he used to haul grain to Red Wing.  I know that the Archer Daniels plant in town processes linseed oil from flax and canola and much if not most of that comes from the Dakota's, so I guessed and it was confirmed.  No longer making that trip, I found out that he now custom farms (primarily harvesting for other farmers).  With that, our discussion floodgates opened.  I had all sorts of questions and opinions, he the same.  We talked and we talked, to the point that his partner and the rest of the group was wondering if they'd ever get away.  I easily could have stood there another hour.....our subjects and he made it that easy.

No photos, no names, not this time but it was all very interesting and better yet, rewarding.  I thought about and am thinking about our topics discussed to this day.

My last real discussion with and around anything on the trip happened with Ranger Swanson.  A Minnesotan, his knowledge of this place, its subject matter and his ability to convey it all to the public was impressive.  I walked in on his talk midstream, stayed long enough to hear it in entirety and then even heard parts of it again.  Plus, I got to ask questions.

I will not mistake you for Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation fame as others have, I promise!

What he was holding....more on this soon.

Other than gas stops, quiet hello's and smiles, that just about wraps up the "talking" that I did.  There was emailing and texting with my family and friends.....when service allowed.  As mentioned before, my trip was Properly Balanced.

Next, some animals, some plants, some bugs....all still Wyoming.


  1. Good post truly can be a small world sometimes as you saw when you bumped into the rider from MN!

    1. Dom, running into someone from the area one thing but then someone that remembered being on our farm....

  2. Part of the trip is definitely the interaction with other, often likeminded people. Even if one has its doubts about people and where the world is headed, these little encounters will help restoring faith in mankind. Excellent writeup, Doug.

    1. Sonja, the randomness and chance part of meeting those people, the contact and sharing something in common; they are Traveling Treasures.

      Thank you.

  3. Great post Doug. I too was thinking it was a small world when you bumped into folks from near home.

    I guess you meet the nicest people when you're riding a Kawasaki....... and probably Hondas too.

    1. Thanks Brandy. Not sure if it's my age, possibly the way I cut my jib or what. I've done a lot of traveling on my own and this time, this way, the green bike, the blue van...not sure but it just seemed that folks were a bit less receptive this time to "make contact". Cautious? Less curious? Saw my photo at the Post Office?

      A generalization yes but overall, it took more effort on my part than I ever remember it taking before.