Subject: Wanderlust 3 - Lusk, Wyoming
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 1997 22:32:56 -0700
WanderLusk 3 - Lusk, Wyoming
Better than a picture, these are more than a thousand word days! When I started this daily report, I intended to try to keep to 1000 words so you wouldn't mind reading everyday. I can't. The days have so much to say ... I'd have to stop traveling about mid day. And that wouldn't make sense, would it?
Kemmerer was a refreshing rest. After the second one, I never heard the freight trains that passed the motel every hour. My, this is a chilly spring in the high country. 36F 2C was the overnight low. At last the oil was changed (even though I had to buy the 20-50 at the hardware store), and I settled into the Busy Bee Cafe for breakfast. Among my many talents (modesty not included :) is the ability to find the best places to eat with just a glance. It's been called my 'Cafe Eye'. It worked again. How can you go wrong with a place that has cowhide tablecloths? (No, they are not leather. Can you imagine how messy that would be? Ewww)
The nice waitress answered my question why Kemmerer, although a reasonable sized town, has a relatively large, very old J.C.Penney store still operating. Most like that were closed years ago. She said "Because J.C. Penney himself opened his first store here. This is where the company started." Corporate shrine?
About 40 miles east of Kemmerer I met and started following the Oregon Trail. I wondered as I traveled 'against the tide' whether the trail guides followed the same trail back to start another wagon train. You only ever read about westbound travelers. While at my one historical marker stop for the day, South Pass, which happens to be the Continental Divide, I remembered a phase told to me by someone who has seriously studied the Plains Indians. One of the medicine men observed that the people who could be seen in a line stretching to the horizon must be returning by a different route and coming around again. These must be the same people over and over "For surely there can not be that many people in all the world". I looked at the trail marks and realized these emigrants invented the traffic jam! The original rush hour! The long commute! (Get back on the road Sam.)
Over the high plains, past snow drifts still several feet deep behind the wind fences, past the southern end of the Wind River Mountains still covered with snow half way up, I thought I could see the purple mountain majesty - and just then a plane flew high over the range ... so I started singing the Fractured Fairytale version of 'America': "Oh Beautiful! For spaceship skies. For amber brews of grain. For purr pull mountains magic ring. Above, the flying plane." Etc. (Is this riding getting to me?)
Just when I think *I* am too silly I see Wyoming Highway Dept. warning signs about this being 'open range' and animals on the road. HUGE sign - life sized drawing of a steer. Large letters: 'Caution, slow traffic ahead.' Cute. 2 miles later, another HUGE sign - life sized elk: 'Caution, heavy traffic merging.' And again, life sized antelope, running: 'Caution, antelope entering highway at 55 mph.' Ah. This is a state that takes itself seriously with humor.
The Twilight Zone Moment of the day occurred when I stopped for gas
in Jeffrey City. After filling up, I walked into the Split Rock Cafe and
Bar (the other side of the same building) to see about getting something
like a fruit juice or gatorade. Well, neither Snapple nor Odwalla has discovered
Jeffrey yet. Beer will do. There was no one in the cafe. There was one
old cowboy at the bar. So I nodded hello (He touched his hat with one finger.
It's a cowboy thing.) and I sat further down the bar. After, oh, 3 minutes
with nothing moving - not even the dog asleep under the pool table - I
asked old cowpoke "Do I help myself or do I have to ask someone to get
a beer." He said (in local dialect) "Wuna beer? Ahl git y'wun." He walked
behind the bar, grabbed one without looking and said "Ha zis?" Fine, whatever,
it's cold. I took a sip, set it on the bar, and went to the men's room.
Barely a minute later I walk back into the bar ... and there are 3 guys at the bar, two others playing pool, and a female bartender. The bartender asks "Zat yur beer?" Yes. "Buk7d. Ha'ja git it?" Now I look around and both the dog and the cowboy were gone. "Sorry, ma'am, there was this older cowboy at the bar ..." (and I'm thinking I've just been set up) but she just laughed and said "Luks lahk Charlie been playn bar agin!" Whew. But where WERE these people? Was there a time warp in the bathroom?
At Casper I had to get back on the Interstate. There is *no* other road through some parts of this vast state. Before the interstates there were either excruciatingly slow dirt roads - or some areas had access from only one direction. Off again and through the ? town of Lost Springs, population 4. But Lost Springs has 6 buildings? Looks like 3 houses, the requisite bar, an old grange or town hall, annnd I'm past the town before I can decipher the last.
Finally to Lusk. Or, return to Lusk. Or, Wander Lusk? :) I was here 10 years ago and was waiting to meet someone coming from Nebraska. While waiting I wandered into (appropriately) Sam's Bar and had a beer. A couple of the patrons were discussing whether 'red beer' really did work as claimed. After a while I asked what's 'red beer'. Seeing either a virgin or a sucker, one of them said "You never had a red beer? I'll buy you one." And kerplop there was a beer glass in front of me with what looked like the red swirling clouds of some planetary atmosphere. Gulp. No - I mean I took a gulp ... and it was beer. With tomato juice. Apparently this is the local cures-what-ails(ales?)-you for hangovers. Not having a hangover, can't say it worked.
Anyway, you gotta love a town that makes fun of itself. Three T-shirts in the local dry goods store: "I have Lusk in my heart" "Lusk, Wy. (I often ask myself)" and my favorite, a picture of a road sign "End of the world, 12 miles. Lusk, 15 miles."
Here I will rest early. The wide open spaces were gorgeous, but being so open I was drawn to ride farther than I want to. I have to be careful not to overdo it simply because it can be done. There will be more road tomorrow. No rush, remember? Instead I can still see in my mind that one perfect moment of the day when I crested a rise and had a 270 degree panorama of mountains, ridges, buttes, snow capped mountains in my mirrors, and a view of the plains so vast that you could see the curvature of the earth. This is one of the loveliest places. Come wander Wyoming.
Observation: I've been wearing earplugs for three days. Do you suppose they work like shoehorns? Will my ears expand? (See why it's time to rest? :)
Quote for the day:
How much a dunce that has been sent to roam
Excels a dunce that has been kept at home.
- William Cowper, English Poet
(Cowper <== how's THAT for an appropriate name for today!)
FuelPlus statistics: 388 miles, 6:29 engine run, 60 mph average
P.S. An obvious reminder. I am signed off all mailing lists.
Comments (welcomed) or questions should be mailed direct to me.
Sam Lepore, San Francisco, 1988 R100RT and 1995 K75RTA