Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh, The People You'll Meet

I've been home from the Wild West Adventure for a few days now. I've reflected fondly on the the incredible landscape we took in and the laughs we shared; what a trip of a lifetime, during a time of life changes. 

The West was wonderful. The paths we took were like none other, but the people we met along the way made the trip. 

Saturday, after a Shoddy (with a capital S) experience in the parking lot of a diner in Cheyenne...

.....our faith was restored in the people of Wyoming when we stumbled upon Hostler's General Store. 

Roy was working that fine day and he took the time to help us plan the next adventure that was ahead. Roy lived in Pennsylvania previously, but moved to Wyoming to retire because the taxes were lower. When he gets bored in the winter he hunts and skins coyotes and foxes.

"While we're here, I need to buy postcards. Do you have any?" - Katie
"Oh you bet we have postcards! Back in the corner behind the hanging skins but before the antiques." - Roy

Thanks Roy for the travel advice and free map. 

Then we made it to Medicine Bow...

Back in February I blogged about my solo Wyoming adventure. It was there that I found The Virginian, a historic hotel and saloon that was named after Owen Wister's novel. The Virginian was my Granddad's favorite western novel of all time; when I came across it in Medicine Bow I knew that I wanted to learn more. Not knowing the culture of the place in February, I was a bit too nervous to walk into a saloon, in the middle of no where, alone. When Katie and I decided to make this trip, I knew we had to return to learn more. 

We were the only two in the saloon when we arrived, besides the bartender. I could tell he was a little taken back by two gals walking in alone, carrying cameras, a journal and wearing cotton dresses - so I explained myself. I told the bartender that The Virginian was my Granddad's favorite book, and that I came to visit this place some time ago, but didn't have the courage to walk in. So, here we were, two gals eager to learn more about this old western saloon and hotel that was named after the famous 1902 novel. 

"Well I suppose I can tell you thing or two about this place. My great grandfather bought shares of it when the hotel opened one hundred years ago. This place has been passed down four generations since then, and I've owned it for 30 years." - Scotty

Scotty and Katie 

Bingo. We found the source. 

Owen Wister came up with the story line behind the novel while he slept on the counter of the general store that was just across the road from where the historic hotel and saloon stand today...

That general store is still there, though it's no longer in business. Today it is a literary landmark. 

Wister was a good friend of Teddy Roosevelt; they would get off the train at the station just in front of The Virginian and spend their vacations on big game hunts. 

Roosevelt and Wister

We were fortunate enough to sit down with the owner for thirty minutes and have a intriguing conversation before the little saloon in no-man's-land filled up with Wyoming fans. Medicine Bow sits between Casper and Laramie, so on game days, folks stop in a have a famous bloody mary before making it to the game. 

Not only did we have an awesome conversation, but Scotty also turned us loose throughout the entire building (4 floors) to take pictures, look around and soak up the history. 

On the road again....

At a gas station in Shoshoni, Wyoming we came across an 18 passenger van packed with 14 children, 2 grandparents and 2 parents; that's a full load. The thought of that many children within 20 feet of Katie at one time made her almost 1) throw up 2) have a panic attack. I barely got the gas tank full before she made us leave. 

We passed through Meeteetse, WY where we found the Charles Belden (famous cowboy photographer) museum - what a gold mine. Unfortunately, we had to "waste" thirty minutes before it opened. So Katie and I decided to take some random gravel road out of town and drive around the countryside. Once we got into the beautiful country, I took a picture of the landscape with an old stone house and a weathered barn that sat along the banks of the river; I texted this photo to a former coworker whom I knew grew up near Meeteetse. Jared and his wife now live in Idaho, so I knew he'd appreciate knowing someone had stumbled across the tiny town he loved so much. I sent him the picture text...

Within minutes Jared responded: "That stone house is the house I grew up in. That's our old homestead."

Chills came over me; how very ironic that the one picturesque ranch scene I sent to him was the very ground on which he was raised. Life is funny. 

At The Grizzly Bear, a fantastic steakhouse in Roscoe, Montana, we met Vince who helped us plan our route for the next day. Vince, who was working at the steakhouse as his "last hooray" before finishing school, suggested we travel to Cook City, MT - which lead us through the Beartooth Pass adventure. Vince was so intrigued by our Wild West Adventure (and stories of shoddy motels and mace guns) he bought us wine as we mingled with the (5) locals. 



Ronnie's advice to us: "First. Be careful. I guess second would be this place is changing fast. Bozeman is growing too fast and you girls just need to enjoy this Montana country while it's still here." 


On our way out of the Beartooth Pass we came across LaDonna who works construction, currently on a road widening project in the pass. She seemed like she had a long day (and we sat there with her for thirty minutes before she flipped her sign and let us through), so we gave her string cheese, granola bars and pistachio nuts to get her through the rest of the day. LaDonna grew up in Wyoming and depends on her mom and sister to care for her two daughters while she's gone for months on end on construction projects. 

As I wrap up the stories and moments captured during our Wild West Adventure, I do a few things....

I count my blessings for the opportunity to pack up and travel the open road for five days before I start another adventure professionally. 

I realize how lucky I am to be able to really live this life. We only have one. 

I thank God that we made it home safely. 

And I once again I go back to the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
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.

Thanks for being a part of our journey!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed it I am waiting for the pictures to down load