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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, February 25, 2011

What's With Wyoming ????

I cannot figure it out--am I going to wind up living in Wyoming? Not an appealing thought at this point but I seem to always get held up when passing through this state--The Equality State. In 2000, in September, the snow kept us fenced in at Meteetse. On the way to Bozeman, this trip, the snow held us up in Buffalo and today, the 25th, finds us planning to spend a second night in Cheyenne because of snow! Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice used to say.

Yesterday started with a good-bye visit to the Ladies at Lunch, who were actually serving the youth of Bozeman their breakfasts. They are wonderful women, all of whom hugged me good-bye and assured me once more that they will watch out for my sweet girl. From left to right, Laura the eldest at 71, Betsy, Sally, the boss, 68 and very outgoing and warm and the youngest, Alison,48. Sally said that Betsy is going to cook them dinner at the new apartment--I said you'll have to play musical stool, since that's all she has--one stool on which to sit. Sally said no problem they'll bring a card table and chairs. Last night when speaking to Bets on the phone I suggested that she do invite the gals over for simple finger foods or a casserole. I really think they'd be thrilled. I hope she does because they are all very fond of her and I do believe take maternal interest in her.

Then off we went, leaving Bozeman around 8:30 with Bridger Peak totally invisible. On into Livingston Pass --a bit snowier than the day we arrived. As we ascended a coal laden train descended into Bozeman. The wind blown snow covered everything including the signs along the way. The ranches in the pass are simply beautiful but I certainly would not like living there--even though it is close to Bozeman, which I really like. It is a town similar to Hanover without the snobbery but is definitely a costly place to live. Although it is a college town it is also a bit Stowe-like with Bridger Bowl in town and Big Sky not too far down the pike. Our motel was filled with people mostly from Minnesota here to ski. The temperature was 2 when we left town with a biting wind that I'm sure provided a sub zero wind chill. I cannot imagine what it was on the mountain--crazy weather for skiing, I think. Frost-bite waiting to happen but I suppose if I'd paid for the trip I'd be up there, too! I lost a love for downhill many years ago.

By the time we reached Livingston on the other side of the 23 mile pass the sun was attempting to break through and looked fabulous back lighting the Absekotas. By the time we passed their flank, however, the snow blown snow won out and the Crazies were totally invisible. :(

As we approached Laurel, where the high kept the steam from the refineries from rising very far into the atmosphere, Bill said the Bear has his mouth closed and isn't baring his teeth today! And so it was, no Bear Tooth mountains to be seen. Nor, as we continued southward into Crow land were we able to see the Big Horns. As a matter of fact visibility was very limited and only became more so the farther south we traveled.

We passed through several areas of forest fire damage, particularly at the northern end of the rez. I like the topography of the rez and there is certainly grazing land for cattle but the poverty in the villages is so sad. Crow Agency has come a long way in the eleven years through which I've seen it change but boy, there are still some unbelievably inhabitable trailers which are, unfortunately, inhabited. Every time I pass through this area I think of the saying I heard somewhere in my travels: The Sioux got the glory, the Cheyenne did the fighting, and the Crow got the land.

Soon we reached Wyoming and I was able to get a shot of the welcome sign--just--as snow obscured as it was. For the most part the only living things we saw were snow covered black cattle ,a few horses and once, anyway, some tiny antelope in the distance who ventured out of cover to graze. And so we continued, backtracking over ground covered several days ago, through Buffalo and into Casper.

We pulled into the motel parking lot next to the Dog Wash!!! The second one I'd seen--up the road had been a big installation with a billboard touting a car wash, a truck wash and a dog wash!!! I cannot imagine. At any rate, it being about 3pm and having driven 428 miles, we were ready to call it a day. In speaking with the Choice Privileges rep, in Bangladesh or somewhere other than the US, ( the other day it was New Zealand!) we were told that there was a minimum stay of three nights in this motel in Casper--actually across the river in Evansville. That seemed strange so Bill went inside and was told that the State Wrestling Championships were on and that everything in Casper was booked. She nicely called ahead, 44 miles, to Douglas only to find that the basketball semis were going on there and they were booked also. With no other options, we gassed up and headed out for Cheyenne, 180 miles away.

Although the highways are lined with huge wind break fences I cannot imagine how much worse it could be without them. As the weather worsened we found that the cattle, when possible, took refuge among the few trees available in places. At each exit there is a sign that says if the lights are flashing exit the road now since it is closed ahead. The closing gates are very serious looking and the area around them highly lit--no way to miss them. The fines for being found on a closed road are significant. I'm not sure where you'd go at some of the exits--the are ranch roads, unplowed and with no ranch visible. Are there pseudo villages of trucks and cars etc lined up along these desolate roads just waiting out the storm? Although I am glad we didn't have to find out, I also cannot imagine how bad the conditions must be before the roads are closed.

Before visibility totally disappeared we were interested in the wind sculpted rock formations south of Casper. Atop one, eerily in a bluish scene , appeared a lone horse rider surveying the highway below him. Another of those one dimensional metal sculptures mounted in unexpected places. In the whiteouts, I never saw the Trail of Tears one mounted near Guernsey--heck, I never saw Guernsey.

At one point we came across a police car with the officer approaching a van and its driver which had left the highway and through the fence. Fortunately, there was a road and not a drop off for the fellow to land on. It was reassuring to know that the Highway Patrol was out here with us --just in case.

It is hard to explain the conditions--a plow would be going in the opposite direction and the snow would cause a whiteout for us. Trucks, cars, pick-ups with traction and four wheel drive would pass in the unplowed passing lane and cause a white out for several seconds while we drove blind hoping to stay in lane and on the road. There would be a wall of blowing snow in front of us and we'd know that a vehicle was hidden within it but how close? Sometimes it would be a plow cum sand truck, sometimes a semi, sometimes another car with flashers going. Some of the worse scenarios were vehicles in both lanes, flashers going on some and icy roads. At one point Bill passed a double trailer truck --it took forever--both vehicles sliding a bit. The truck unable to slow for us without losing traction and us unable to increase speed for the same reason. I think both drivers were working hard on that one. Another time we came suddenly upon a whole lane of cars going slow, slow, slow and had to brake and sliding precariously. Needless to say there was no way to tell what was behind us or how close. Other than the truck passing incident I kept my apprehension pretty well hidden although I'm sure Bill was just as, stressed if not more.

At long last we came to the first Cheyenne exit and a more lit road although not any clearer so far as plowing or sanding was concerned. We crawled along with the rest of weary travelers and were relieved to reach Exit 7, on which the traffic came to a halt. We sat for about five minutes with traffic backing up into the highway behind us. Soon, several cars behind us decided to pass in what we assumed was another lane--and we ventured out there,too. Good thing. We'd probably still be there --THREE unloaded flat bed trucks were simply stopped on the ramp. I guess they couldn't make the grade but not one of them let the rest of us know that. God, where is common sense? Anyway, the motel lay right across the deserted street and so, at 6:39 and 14 degrees we checked into our room. They had already upgraded us to a king suite. We dropped our bags anywhere, stripped off jackets and boots etc and left them where they fell. Opened a bottle of wine and watched the poor fools still out on the highway and those trucks entering it on the ramp outside the window.

I offered up one last Hail Mary--a thank you for her listening to the ones too numerous to count that I'd sent her over at least 200 miles and a last request that she continue to protect those still rolling out into the storm. This time we were wise and reserved the room for two nights, knowing that we could always cancel should the weather be travel conducive today--NOT!

Watched the Mentalist and then into exhausted sleep.

Arose to a window spotted with snow like the pelt of a leopard. Sat leisurely over a breakfast of sausage, OJ, coffee and a danish. Periodically, we look out on the snowy scene and watch the traffic, mostly trucks heading south --not many--and coming into Cheyenne from the south--more. A few are moving at speed, which here is 75 mi/hr, but many are more cautious. The wind is blowing, it is subzero and the road surface icy. I won't have any pix to take today, nor much to blog. Going to start The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and otherwise veg. Not sure what poor Bill will do--not venturing out to a bank--so no new nickels to examine. Perhaps one of the GodFather's or Bourne's will be on TV or God help me, Clint in Italy!! LOL

Hope weather is nicer where you are --although those of you back home aren't having a great day either from what TWC is saying. Take care all. Hopefully, my next missive will be from Southern Colorado--the last of the 48 for me. I'm excited. Hope it is clear enough for me to at least see it.

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