In one of our last stops in Wyoming, we pulled into a KFC to get some much needed fried chicken. It had been years since we ate a KFC, but so far on this trip up North, we’d eaten there three times. When there is no Chick-Fil-A or Zaxby’s you have to make do. While there, struck by a burst of curiosity, I asked the three people behind the counter what they called people from their state? Wyomingians? Wyomingers? Wys?
They looked around at each other and had no idea. “I call them idiots — I’m not from here,” someone interrupted from the back.
Whatever you call the local residents, we found Wyoming to be a wonderful place to explore en route from the Tetons to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Here goes:
One of the oddest side trips of our 506-day adventure started at a gas station near Wyoming’s Wind River. While I pumped gas, we noticed at sign that said “Sacajewa Grave” with an arrow pointing up the road. I’ve mentioned before, Braden had been really into Lewis and Clark ever since St. Louis, especially Sacajewa’s baby Pomp (English name “Jean Baptiste”). Pomp was born on the expedition and Braden always liked the pages with Pomp in the little papoose. So up the road into the Wind River Indian Reservation we went. The grave of the woman on the $1 coin is tucked away in a quiet cemetery along with dozens of other Shoshone indians. It has a nice statue, but compared to many other Wild West grave sites (Buffalo Bill Cody for example) it’s really pretty understated. Buried right next to Sacajewa — who lived to be 100 — is her son Pomp (Jean Baptiste). I’m still amazed by how lucky we were to have accidentally found a major piece of history right out of Braden’s book.
I suppose we hadn’t really taken Braden to a cemeteries before. We explained to him what it was: The place where we bury people’s bodies after they die. We obviously had some more explaining to do because he asked “Is this Heaven?” No son, we’d already been to heaven — it’s a baseball field in Iowa.
Finally, we crossed into Colorado and stayed our first night at a KOA in Ft. Collins. It was pricey (about $50), but it was the Sunday night of Labor Day Weekend and many places were sold out. Braden enjoyed the bouncy houses and I enjoyed the Wi-Fi in the laundry room I used to catch up on work.
After one night there, we chugged into Rocky Mountain National Park. It was to have been a beautiful few days, but that’s not the way we remember it. Let’s look at the positives first: we saw snow on mountains, heard elk bugling all over the place, saw a marmot, visited the highest visitor center in the National Park System (12,005 feet above sea level) and took a beautiful hike around bear lake. While the park was busy, Labor Day weekend there was not nearly the madhouse that Memorial Day had been. We took a very pretty drive up a sketchy, curvy dirt and gravel drive that the park ranger and KOA host recommended. I’m not sure they knew we would try it in a Honda Fit, but we came through it just fine.
We met nice neighbors Mike and Pam, who taught us a tiny bit about cribbage. There seemed to be a lot of math involved so I’m not sure why people do it for fun. They had passed through Nebraska on the way to the park so we asked them about places to see. Our route back could take us through the corner of Nebraska if we got a little creative. The biggest point of interest they could think of was Kearny, where a little arch was built over the road. It was 200 miles out of our way, so we skipped Nebraska.
Now for the more memorable, but less pleasant parts of the trip. I did not realize I had booked us a site without electricity or water. Normally, we can do this when we know ahead of time. We just prepare for it with foods to cook on the fire or with propane. This time however, it was not until I was parked and looking for the 30-amp receptacle post that I realized none of the sites had power or water. We filled up the water tanks to solve one problem, but had unfortunately planned some meals that needed a microwave or other appliances. Now anything that needed power involved cranking up the generator which is noisy and is only allowed a few hours of the day.
What made this worse was an electrical problem where the house battery refused to charge. We could run the generator to charge it up, but within two to three hours it was dead again. This wouldn’t be so bad if the carbon monoxide detector didn’t go off whenever the voltage drops. When that happens, the ear-piercing “DEET-DEET-DEET” can be heard throughout the campground. It also usually causes Braden to scream and the dogs to shake uncontrollably for 30 minutes. To solve this, I would have to crank the generator or engine to charge the system enough for 2-3 more hours or through the main kill switch at the battery. The kill switch meant no lights, water pump, carbon monoxide detector or anything else.
A night spent like that was the backdrop for an even worse discovery. When Jess happened to look under the RV at the tires, she noticed the steel belt was showing on one of the inside dually rear tires. It’s dually partner tire also was bumpy like an alligators back. I had never seen anything like it. From Rocky Mountain National Park, we’d planned a four day blitz back to Tennessee for a conference my company was hosting the following Monday. The tires were holding air, but one look told us they were not going to be able to get us back to Chattanooga. On our way out we stopped at Bob’s Towing in Estes Park where Bob was even a little confused as to why the tires would look that way.
When he got the rubber off the rim, he discovered the problem: the outside tire was a nice Michelin that matched the other side. The inside tire however, was something called a Geo Trac that was a different size than the outside dually. Essentially, one of the tires had been carrying all of the weight, while the other had just been skipping along for the 9,000 miles we’d had it. We had not done anything with the tires, so we bought it from Paul Sherry RV in Piqua Ohio like this. Needless to say, we’ve been trying to get our “Paul Sherry RV, Piqua Ohio” stickers off the RV and have trashed our “Paul Sherry RV” license plate frame. How many times do I have to say Paul Sherry RV in Piqua Ohio before this post will show up in Google search results for people searching about the dealership?
That same day, Jess had been checking out at the grocery store when the cashier picked up the bag of deli meat at the checkout and all of the turkey fell out onto the conveyor belt that pulls the groceries up to the register. She had also gotten in a super-sized line at McDonalds that morning (Labor Day weekend in a resort town) at about 10:15 to get a biscuit. It was 10:32 when she got to the register and was told they no longer had any biscuits.
Needless to say we were both in a pretty foul mood on our way out of town when I grumbled something about the stupid RV. It was that moment when Braden piped in, with his sweet cherubic little voice: “Dada if we didn’t have a camper we would have to stay in Tennessee and we wouldn’t get to see mountains and all of the animals.”
He was right. Leave it to a four-year-old to put things in perspective.
We learned that elk antlers can grow an inch per day!
On our drive in Colorado, we ran across what the GPS called Jackass Road. The road sign said something completely different. I think someone who lives there must have an ex working at Garmin.
We knew we were in Colorado when we saw people meditating at their camper.
Don’t worry, we didn’t end up like these folks just outside of Chattanooga: Motorhome carrying 100 pounds of marijuana seized in Marion County. They don’t sell marijuana in Estes Park or the county where we were in Colorado.
While we didn’t find any diamonds on our visit to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas earlier this summer, somebody did this week: Jackpot! Dad and daughter find 2 carat diamond at Arkansas park