Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cruising Down the Road

Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the
Elizabeth Drew

Three hundred sixty-eight miles. 368 miles. Last week, after a plane ride to Denver, I had that many miles to drive to see middle son in his summer habitat. Sometimes, when I pause to ponder what I've planned for myself, I get a few extra thumps in my heartbeat. A 'what were you thinking?' thump.

I remind myself that often I drove 3000 miles, with three young boys in tow. (My husband flew in as he didn't have as much time off. Gave us more time with the grandparents and side trips.) But driving alone in the wilderness is something different for me. Adding to those tangled thoughts, if you recall, after the trip my husband and I took in the spring, I no longer want adventure. I want to rotiss, on a beach, with a book. For days.

Once I got behind the wheel and started driving, all those ridiculous thoughts went away.

But first, the night I arrived in Denver, I met with a gathered family for dinner at a favorite downtown restaurant.

I admired the lawn chairs in my brother's backyard. I want them.Come morning, I was on the road -- all the way to Lander, Wyoming and beyond. It had been some time since I'd been to Wyoming. In my earlier life, I'd never found Wyoming particularly pretty. (Of course, when I'd visited in times past, I hadn't yet been to West Texas.)

Travel at any age is certainly beneficial and eye opening, but just like re-reading a book read 20 or 30 years before, at 54 I hold a complete and different perspective.

On this adventure, I found wonder in the ever changing scenery. Around every curve the terrain reshaped from the size of the hill or mountain to the color of the soil, the plant life. I found it beautiful. Geology suddenly seemed a fascinating study.

A sight on the road was I, I'm certain. My right hand alternated between holding my little tape recorder to my lips and my camera out the window. (I lost my camera a few weeks ago and had to buy a new one. So you'll have to bear with me getting to know how to use it, one handed.)
I often went 15 minutes or more before a car came from the other direction. Later, listening to the tapes I made, I described the scenery as a different kind of no where. And then...

I came to a place on that empty highway where a car was stopped in front of me. I stopped, thinking they had a car problem or perhaps an animal on the road before them. But no, It was a stop light. Right out there in the middle of a different kind of no where. A stop light. A red stop light. I sat behind the car ahead for about ten minutes and all I could think of was the movie Blazing Saddles. You might recall the part where the bad guys came to a toll booth in the middle of the desert. The leader yelled out, "Someone go back to town and get a shitload of dimes."

Light turned green and after six hours of listening to NPR and singing loudly to old rock and roll on the radio, I drove into yet another new valley and there I found...

... my son.He had washed the sheets and cleaned the bathroom for mom's visit. Even did the dishes. As I sat on his front porch peering through the Aspen trees, it was most comforting to see him in his new habitat. (Side note for new readers - Jordan is working for the Nature Conservancy this summer on a 3000 acre ranch.)
I shared with Jord all my reading material and maps. He was so excited to be on a road trip with mom, once again.

Next day, we began our adventure. Didn't have a particular plan except a night scheduled in Yellowstone and one in Jackson Hole.
Jordan showed me Red Canyon Ranch, a 30000 acre ranch owned by the Nature Conservancy. A couple of his buddies work here.
Once again, the changing terrain fascinated me. I've been reading about hot springs in Wyoming and Montana for some time. The main character in my novel in progress has a rather sensuous encounter at a hot spring. I'd had difficulty picturing the scene in my head. No more.

The visit to the state park at Thermopolis satisfied that vision. We took in a 20 minute soak at the park's free pool. Very hot. Lots of people seeking a healing of their weary bones. Me included.

Our body aches healed in the warm waters, we drove on to Cody.
And our hotel.
Oh, wait.
This was our hotel.

While Jordan took a nap and enjoyed having WIFI and cable TV (not available in his cabin) I walked down the road to take in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Fascinating find - five museums in one. I was interested in the Plains Indian museum, but was most surprised to discover the western art museum showcasing the works of Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, among others.
The Yellowstone sections had displays explaining the geothermal activity as well as the varied wildlife. I took a few photos of the stuffed animals just in case we didn't see any real ones in Yellowstone.

That way we could say we saw wildlife even if we didn't.

Little did we know...



  1. Funny how they put stop lights in completely stupid places, yes. And then none where you need them! Sounds like a great trip.

  2. Nice cabin and grounds for you to picture your son in, after you've returned home. Sounds like a nice road trip, just mother and son.

  3. I grew up in Colorado and have grown to love the open plains now that I live in the deep woods. Your trip sounds like a treasure and you will be so happy you did this. We have donated to the Nature Conservancy and appreciate such environmental work.

  4. Can't wait to read abt. the rest of your adventure ... I was in Wyoming once, in winter, and the landscape was awfully bleak -- but your photos make the place look nice. Have to go back in summer. (Btw, was impressed that your son cleaned up!)

  5. My wife and I drove through Wyoming last summer as part of our 5,000 mile "drive till you drop" road trip. Southern Wyoming doesn't attract me, but the northern part of the state was exactly as you describe it: something to see around every turn.

    We had the same experience in both Wyoming and Montana of driving for 20-30 minutes and never seeing another car, even on main highways.

  6. This was the MOST delightful little adventure I've been on in a long time! I felt like I was in the passenger seat, smokin' a cig with one foot out the window! Really. One of your best blog posts ever! What a special time you're having with Jordan, one you'll always, always cherish. I'm staying tuned!

  7. So now I know why I've never been to Wyoming. JK
    But really, it is rather strange. I suppose I should say different.
    Regardless, your son looks good and his cabin looks like a cool place to live, and it is great that you're having this time together.

  8. I am loving this travelogue--you're taking me to some of my favorite places on the planet. I've always loved Wyoming but never seen that stop light. Hilarious. Keep enjoying each other and the beauty. It just gets better.

  9. WAIT! You had me at he washed the sheets and cleaned the bathroom! my breath caught in my throat and I sighed :)! Lovely scenery, though. But the sheets AND the bathroom--Oh my!

  10. I love road trips. Your trip sounds (and looks) fabulous.

  11. Oh how exciting! The scenery is magnificent!! Gotta love a good road trip!!

  12. What a great little nest your son has there!
    I am awed by the landscape photos. All that FLAT and then the huge hills rising out of it...
    The colors!
    It's beyond my comprehension, that geography...just like Europe's aged buildings are beyond my comprehension.
    But they both set my imagination on fire.

  13. So glad you and Jordan are getting a road trip in! We are going to Jackson Hole & environs in September and will be looking forward to your recommendations. Breathe! Enjoy!

  14. I agree that those sort of long journeys are more scary before one begins the drive - once you are on the road somehow you begin to enjoy it. I spent a nice holiday few days in Denver once and then went fromn there to Salt Lake City by Amtrak - now that was a lovely journey.

  15. Oops, that last line is a bit of a teaser.. I sure hope the wildlife proved friendly?

    I am incredibly impressed your son is surviving the summer without any access to the internet, I can't imagine how my eldest would cope without his (sigh).

    How lovely to be on a road trip with your son, laying down memories to last a lifetime!

  16. When we are younger we take everything for granted, scenery included. Now the variety of scenery never ceases to amaze me and I can'tget enough of it.

  17. The one time I visited Wyoming, Cody included, what I remember most was how windy it was. It was very interesting as is much of the terrain in the west.

    I love Jordan's cabin. Looks like he's become quite self-sufficient. Looking forward to the next chapter.

  18. I love that Elizabeth Drew quote....

  19. Aw, this just warms my heart. I often feel like all I want is to ..."rotiss, on a beach, with a book. For days." But given the option of that or a trip across gorgeous countryside with my son, I'd definitely take the latter.

    How wonderful that you're spending time together, exploring the great outdoors. These are trips of a lifetime. So happy for you. :)

  20. What a fascinating trip! The scenery is incredibly expansive in places, stretching endlessly to nowhere. Of course, we know the USA is vast, but your trip brings it to life. I am intrigued as to the purpose of that robot in the middle of nowhere, though! So nice that you were able to break your journey and enjoy a family gathering. Some happy snaps to remind you of the pleasant encounter.

    Jordan was obviously greatly looking forward to your visit. Warms a Mother's heart, doesn't it, when our sons go the extra mile to make us feel welcome. Clean sheets, clean bathroom, clean dishes! He is staying in a very pretty spot. It must be wonderfully peaceful.

    I'm looking forward to continuing this journey with you both :)

  21. USA seems so vast compared to our little island and I think I would feel a bit scared going so far in a car.
    The photos are really beautiful and it is great to share your adventure from a comfortable seat in my small corner of the world!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  22. Looking forward to the next chapter...yes, you could use a little trailer and explore everything for your future books...I mean really need to have first hand knowlege I would think...any excuse for a roadtrip..p.s...I'm available for the navigator position...I think we could travel the country and never spend a night in a hotel between all of all blog friends!

  23. this sounds too fun, what a lovely trip. In the last month I have driven 4000 miles and biked across Iowa. I tell everyone I biked to improve my carbon footprint. LOL The hot springs sounds the best.

  24. What a great road trip you're having! We did one ourselves last spring. It was remarkable how few cars we passed.

  25. WOW! What a adventure! Don't think that your hubby could accuse you of not being adventurous, after this trip! Love all the pics! Such beautiful scenery! Have fun!

  26. Gorgeous pictures, thanks for sharing.

  27. Those photos are making me want to travel. Do I want to ask why they would have a moose positioned with it's leg up?

  28. Wow, that's quite a road trip you took there!

  29. Fascinating! Thanks for taking us along.

    Your travels are feeding your writing...a wonderful thing :)

  30. I'm so glad you're documenting your travels through the gorgeousness of Wyoming; I've never been. Stoplight is hilarious. Can't wait to read about the rest of your adventures--enjoy the scenery and the time with your son!

  31. You are so right about how the same outing or scenery can mean something so different or look so different at a later time in life. When I heard Wyoming my first thought was about bear sightings. So anxious to read your next post. Hope you are having/had a fantastic time with your middle son!

  32. I loved your photos. I felt as if I were 'cruising down the road' with you. Have a wonderful time.

  33. What a wonderful adventure you're having! I loved Wyoming, and Cody especially. I don't remember the red light, though. What a hoot. I'm laughing at you taking pictures while you're driving and talking into a recorder. You are a writer to the core! Looking forward to reading the rest of your journey.

  34. What I find most fascinating is the wide open and endlessly empty road you travel. I wish I could do that. I'd love a road trip in America.

    Here, everything is small and cramped and narrow. It's pretty too, of course, in the bits between the cities, but everything is so SMALL. I miss the space of Europe, the way you can travel from one end of the continent to the other. England is just so tiny, if you drive for too long you fall into the sea.

  35. I'm the same way. The idea of something is always so much worse than the actual doing.

    Your pictures are beautiful! And I love those chairs of your brother's.

  36. Isn't it amazing how age changes one's perspective?! When I was 13, we took a family trip through the Southwest. I was bored to death - no souvenir shops, no fast food, fighting with my sisters over the window seats.

    I wish I could do it all over again; I'm sure I saw scenery as breathtaking as your pictures. And now your son is old enough to appreciate it all, which is wonderful for you both.


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