Wyoming and Southern Montana
Jul 18, 2012
|I left the lovely and beloved Estes Park reluctantly, knowing it is one of those places I WILL come back to linger a while, God willing. I drove for about 10 miles on CO 34, and signs warned (promised) me that the bighorn sheep were in the area. I kept my eyes peeled as much as I could on this curvy mountain road but didn’t see even a hoof. It was a gorgeous drive following the Big Thompson River as it winds and rushes its way to wherever. Soon I was back on I-25 heading north to Wyoming. Cheyenne, the capital, is just inside the border and proved easy to navigate through. I saw a fairly large Air Force base, called Warren, which I didn’t recall ever having heard of before. I certainly don’t know ALL of our bases, but usually I can at least recall having heard the name. Then I wondered if this is where the Cheyenne Mountain Defense thingy that’s talked about a lot in Clancy novels, among others, you know, the top secret one. I really wanted to stop at the welcome station, but missed it because I was not expecting it to be a regular exit. Later, when I stopped to get gas and then eat lunch at a rest stop
I noticed something different about the exit and entrance ramps here in the wild west. They have cattle guards! Also, I noticed those railroad crossing type gates I mentioned seeing in Kansas, usually just around some sort of city.
I had planned a stop at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper. Almost half a million people migrated across the western plains on several “established” trails and this museum tells their story. It’s fascinating and there were several interactive exhibits like this one
where you could sit inside the wagon and experience the trail as those pioneers did. One new thing I learned was that there were several distinct waves of migration, each with its own reasons for enduring the hardships. There was also some information about the Pony Express and how it came to be phased out once the telegraph was established.
Eventually in 1869 when the trans-continental railroad was completed, wagon trains also faded out. The center sits on a bluff overlooking the city of Casper
which I learned has a population of around 50,00 with another 20,000 or so in the county. Not unlike my hometown although it looks much larger. Maybe it’s all that open space of the west.
I hit the road again for another 100 miles or so further north to the town of Buffalo where I stopped for the night here.
I enjoyed a refreshing swim and Ed had a good run in the large open field. I wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment on this motel sign next door.
The next morning I headed west on I-90, stopping at WalMart in Sheridan to replace the meat that spoiled when my fridge wasn’t working, gas up and head for Montana. I only spent one night in Wyoming, my 35th state, but will be back next week in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. After crossing the border I began to see signs for the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and decided to stop and check it out. At the entry kiosk I whipped out my newly purchased National Parks Pass and saved the $10 entry fee .(I had planned to purchase my pass at Rocky Mountain but due to the construction and bus situation they weren’t able to collect the fee. Instead I purchased it at the Historic Trails Center but I’m counting the RMNP entry as part of my savings)
At Little Bighorn I attempted to park in the designated RV/bus spots but some** (fill in your choice of adjective) guy was sitting in one of the large spots in his medium size sedan. I asked if he was planning to stay there and he said he was waiting for someone. The same thing happened at Garden of the Gods except that guy parallel parked his compact car in between me and a mini bus as I waited on traffic to clear so I could leave. Honestly, what are people thinking? Where do they think we big guys can fit if they take out spaces – into one of theirs?
Anyway, I found another spot and opened a few windows for Ed and went to look at the National Cemetery there where many soldiers from the Western wars lie with honor.
Starting in 1999 the tribal warriors graves have been marked with red granite markers to distinguish them from the traditional white marble used for US veterans. This cemetery also includes the remains of soldiers from other forts that have since close so that they can be honored and cared for as they deserve. It was very crowded inside so I just took a quick peek. Did get this shot of the diorama of Custer’s Last Stand. #
I stamped my passport, bought a few package of stamps and made my way to the patio to hear a little of the special presentation that day. Watch some of this video - he was teaching us Indian signs. It was quite interesting but it was a very hot day, Ed was in the rig without air conditioning and I still had a long way to drive.
My planned stopping place for the night was the tiny town of White Sulphur Springs. My GPS told me that I should arrive there by 3 pm so I intended to visit the town pool fed by the hot spring to soak some of the road stiffness away. Instead after three lengthy construction delays and travel down very pitted gravel lanes I had a flat tire. I pulled over to the side where there was not much shoulder and tried to call for help. No cell signal – 18 miles from my destination. I said a quick prayer for help and soon a nice man named Gary Bishop stopped. He reminded me that I should put out my emergency road flashers. He has a very bad back and didn’t think he could manage to change it by himself so he left to seek assistance at the restaurant/bar we had just passed. He told me his name and promised he would return, regardless, and would not leave me stranded. While I waited another man in a Montana state truck offered to blow up the tire with his compressor so I could pull it off the road in a pull out just 100 yards ahead. Soon a team of 4 men plus the state worker were busy loosening lug nuts, jacking it up and replacing it with the spare, which was in great shape. All of them refused payment, but did accept my offer to have a beer on me. Gary returned also to make sure I was okay.
When I pulled into the campground it was nearly 6 p.m and I was exhausted. The lady in their office showed me two garages in town that might be able to help me in the morning and where they were on the map. I decided to treat myself to dinner out and used a coupon from the local map I was given at check-in at the Branding Iron Cafe. It was a tiny, homey place and the food and service were only mediocre, but I didn’t have to cook it or clean up the mess. I learned an exciting fact about Montana there – they have NO sales tax. That should save me a few dollars on the purchase of the new tire in the morning.
It was a beautiful park with a small pon
, complete with fountain PIC and there was a gorgeous western sunset
My next door neighbors had a motor home the same make as mine, which I hardly ever see, so I started a conversation with them. They were a couple from Australia who are spending a year touring the USA in their RV. We had a wonderful talk and exchanged many stories of great places to see. In the morning, one of the two garages had a used tire that would fit and was in good condition. Within an hour, the young man had it mounted, balanced and my spare re-mounted underneath the rig. My grand total for this service was…$34.
I filled the tank and headed off. The first 60 miles or so featured one delightful view after another like this
PIC and I stopped at one scenic overlook to take this
I drove north on I-15 then on a state route due west into the wonderful wind. Soon enough (although it didn’t feel like soon enough while I was driving) I was back on will stay for several days.