Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Hundred Bucks and A Cheap Motel

One day, I’ll tell my kids: “When I was in my twenties, before I knew how my life would unfold in this old town, I took a solo trip out West.....”
Experiencing stress from more than one thing in my life, I found the tiny town of Greens Fork, IN to be too confining....and I ran. I booked a flight and a rental car and tore my map into tiny pieces before I threw it in the trash can  sitting on snow covered Maple Street. I longed for open spaces and a car with an empty passenger seat. I didn’t want to talk to anyone I knew for a few days; and in fact, I couldn’t. 
Looking back....
When I interned in Washington, DC during college, a successful lobbyist in the agriculture industry took me to lunch. There, I drilled him on everything from life growing up in Texas to his transition to Washington and several stops in between. The best advice he gave me was to “Go West. Pack a bag, a journal and go." Even though he had more than one degree, moving west and working on a dude ranch for a year was like setting his soul free. And although I didn’t exactly follow his route, I knew this weekend away would feed my own soul. 
And it did, indeed.
I learned a lot in that long weekend. 
  • I learned to fill up on gas at every opportunity, no matter where the needle sits. 
  • I learned that if it looks like a scary hole-in-the-wall bar, and it smells like a scary hole-in-the-wall bar, it really is a scary hole-in-the-wall bar; make note of where the nearest exit is. 
  • I learned to get out of the mountains before sundown. 
  • I learned to take your camera, everywhere. 
  • I learned that you can’t wait until you actually do “have the time and the money” to take a trip like this - as long as you make the time, you can adjust your lifestyle to find the money. 
  • I learned that it’s okay to talk to yourself when you're driving, because at some point, you realize Someone else is listening. 
My weekend can be pretty well summed up in one song and several pictures: 
Miranda Lambert’s, Mama I’m Alright
Enjoy the photos; a few have a story behind them. 

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

I appreciate any educational institution that houses the county feed supply, and stock trailer, in the same parking lot as the athletic team mini-bus. 

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

Who doesn't like a post office where you can grab lunch while waiting in line?

This tree was familiar to me...

Railroads built Wyoming - Did you know that?

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

My Granddad loved to read. His favorite was an old western, “The Virginian”. When he passed away, I found his copy of this book (dated 1922 by his mother, who was not yet married to my Great Grandfather - let alone have Granddad). It’s about a cowboy’s struggle over cattle theft in Wyoming in the late 1890’s. When I crossed the Wyoming state line, I was determined to find Medicine Bow, where part of the novel took place. Below is an excerpt from the novel describing the old one-horse town. Over a hundred years later, The Virginian's depiction of Medicine Bow is nearly spot on. Go ahead and read Wister's excerpt; it will take you there....

“Town, as they called it, pleased me the less, the longer I saw it. But until our language stretches itself and takes in a new word of closer fit, town will have to do for the name of such a place as was Medicine Bow. I have seen and slept in many like it since. Scattered wide, they littered the frontier from the Columbia to the Rio Grande, from the Missouri to the Sierras. They lay stark, dotted over a planet of treeless dust, like soiled packs of cards. Each was similar to the next, as one old five-spot of clubs resembles another. Houses, empty bottles, and garbage, they were forever of the same shapeless pattern. More forlorn they were than stale bones. They seemed to have been strewn there by the wind and to be waiting till the wind should come again and blow them away. Yet serene above their foulness swam a pure and quiet light, such as the East never sees; they might be bathing in the air of creation's first morning. Beneath sun and stars their days and nights were immaculate and wonderful. 
Medicine Bow was my first, and I took its dimensions, twenty-nine buildings in all,--one coal shute, one water tank, the station, one store, two eating-houses, one billiard hall, two tool-houses, one feed stable, and twelve others that for one reason and another I shall not name Yet this wretched husk of squalor spent thought upon appearances; many houses in it wore a false front to seem as if they were two stories high. There they stood, rearing their pitiful masquerade amid a fringe of old tin cans, while at their very doors began a world of crystal light, a land without end, a space across which Noah and Adam might come straight from Genesis. Into that space went wandering a road, over a hill and down out of sight, and up again smaller in the distance, and down once more, and up once more, straining the eyes, and so away.”

And then, I left Medicine Bow....

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

Note how deep the snow is compared to the corral...

On my final day I woke up to snow clouds across the plains....and temperatures that had dropped significantly.

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

God Bless American Agriculture. 

I marked Shawnee, WY as the next "town" where I'd fill up on gas. I didn't exactly do my research before going out on that limb...

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

Old school house in Shawnee, WY

 I anxiously awaited Lost Springs - where I'd surely find fuel...?

Some background (from Wikipedia):
Lost Springs was first inhabited in the 1880s, when it received its name from railroad workers who could not find the springs shown on survey maps of the area. The town was incorporated in 1911, and it originally had 200 residents, most of whom worked at the nearby Rosin coal mine. After the coal mine closed around 1930, the population of Lost Springs steadily declined. By 1960, the population of the town had dropped to five. In 1976, both the state of Wyoming and the U.S. Bicentennial Commission designated Lost Springs as the smallest incorporated town in America; its population was then eleven.
In 1983, Lost Springs became involved in a court battle with the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company. The railroad, which ran adjacent to the town, attempted to seize 5.2 acres of land to build a 22-foot  railway embankment. Lost Springs Mayor Leda Price alleged that the embankment, which would lie between the town and U.S. Highways 18 and 20, would separate the town from traffic on the highway. A Wyoming district judge ruled in the town's favor, and the railroad ultimately agreed to build an unobstructing track bed and use its own land for track.

Lost Springs: My Kind of Town

Population went from 1 to 3, some where between the county highway and the church.  

Seems legit. 

They really made it look exciting. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder, is that you?

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman

NOTE: All photos property of Lindsay J. Bowman. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
- R. Frost


  1. Wow, you gave me goose bumps! I miss you Ms. Lindsay Jean Bowman!

  2. I love reading your blog. I am always alerted to a new post by Stacy Norin Peters, a former student of mine. Keep writing, please; I'd like to see you publish. My two favorite blogs were Building Character, and the Lone Tree.

  3. Lindsay Jean you are an amazing story teller and your pictures are amazing! I want to take this trip now :) Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Beautiful Lindsay! Ummm may I go with you next time please??!

    Good bless American Agriculture!!

  5. Great blog post and I love your photos!

  6. You are my hero and have inspired me! I am totally booking a flight and renting a car and doing a solo roadtrip very, very soon. Thank you!

  7. I don't really talk to myself, i talk to my car....


  8. Lindsay! This post was awesome! I wish I was brave enough to cut loose and do that! However, I feel like I've had a little bit of all of that...I grew up not too far east of Lusk in Western Nebraska and I guess my decision to move to TX for school (and eventually stay for awhile)... My sense of adventure has gotten bolder as I've gotten older. Is there a maximum age for gypsy life and ramblings?