Chapter 219 The Long and Winding Road

We are headed home now. The road is long and winding.  The next three days of our trip are purely for driving and sleeping.  Not very exciting, but a necessary part of a trip that covers such a great distance (3,600 miles round trip).

I’ve spent the past few days driving through Wyoming. I had no wireless signal, because there were hundreds of miles of remote road and little else, so I didn’t post anything on the blog.  I also had no idea how beautiful Wyoming is.  I want to move here.  Why? The wide open prairie, the high mountains, the beautiful meadows. The wildlife. The cowboys.  The unrepentant red-meat eaters. It is about as romantic a place as you can get, if you can tolerate dust and tumbleweeds. By some miracle of fate, I have been spared sights of the large insects that I can hear humming in the grass.

One thing that was a shock to this lifelong Californian — there are hundreds and hundreds of miles of unsettled land in this part of the country.  There are plenty of small towns, some pretty and some not so much. The largest town we’ve seen in the past few days, not counting Jackson Hole, WY, had a population of 500 (compare that to my suburban town of almost 100,00).  I can’t wrap my head around the fact that there can be so much beautiful, uninterrupted open space and so few crowds of people.

I live on the San Francisco Peninsula. Surrounded by water on three sides, there is little room for growth or expansion of any kind.  All the houses are packed close together, even the “old” houses of 100 years or so.  Houses with a half-acre of land or more are uncommon on the peninsula, but not in South Dakota or Wyoming. I think it is the idea of these wide open spaces that appeals to me.  They say that the Wild West has died, but there is still so much potential here — room to dream and room to make your dreams incarnate.

Thoughtful Husband has interrupted my reverie to ask me how much I would like a wide-open South Dakota or Wyoming space in February in the middle of a blizzard.  He’s such a spoil sport.

Several days ago, we drove from Spearfish, SD through Ten Sleep, WY to Cody,  WY.  This is a scenic and solitary route.  We encountered few things except the occasional antelope, elk, and gas station. Once in Cody, we visited the huge Buffalo Bill Historical Center and attended the Nite Rodeo. It was my first rodeo, and a very exciting experience. More about that later. 

We then drove to Yellowstone National Park, where we camped one night and then to Grand Teton National Park. We saw buffalo (one walked across a footpath we were on, about 10 feet in front of us! I’ll post photos when I get back), elk, and antelope.  We saw geysers, mud pots, and caldrons.  The geology in Yellowstone is truly a wonder. 

We slept in Jackson Hole, WY last night.  It is a cute town, but after the vast solitude of the rest of Wyoming, it felt crowded. Judging by the culinary offerings there, it also felt “fake”.  I’ve spent the past 10 days or so eating beef, buffalo, and barbecue. The only vegetable I have seen is iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing. Coffee is either cooked over one’s campfire or on the RV stove. I haven’t seen pasta (ubiquitous in the Bay Area) on a single menu.  When we arrived in Jackson Hole for lunch, I perused a menu. It was the first time in at least two weeks I saw the words “balsamic vinaigrette” and  “espresso”. 

This was a far cry from the BBQ pulled pork sandwiches we ate with some rodeo clowns at the Nite Rodeo in Cody, or the all-beef menu we encountered in a one-restaurant town in South Dakota. The only fruit I’ve seen in these two states are cherries and apples. Being from the Bay Area, I am inevitably a food snob. I like my food, and I like it to taste good. I like organic fruits and vegetables.

All the same, I’ve enjoyed eating the cuisine of a different geographic area from my own. Really. Eating bbq dinner and baked beans with rodeo clowns was so much fun, and I know I will remember it far longer than the Chinese Chicken Salad I ate in the upscale restaurant in touristy Jackson Hole. I was almost disappointed to see the range of offerings in Jackson Hole — Thai, Chinese, Chop House, Italian, Sushi (!), Mexican.  A lot like what I can eat at home any old time. Seems to me they are missing the point of highlighting the beauty of what their own area has to offer.

We’re in Twin Falls, ID tonight, and will stop in Winnemucca, NV tomorrow. These last few days are purely driving with little sightseeing. We are on the long road home. We expect to return Monday night.

Went to a new bookstore (as opposed to used bookstore) in South Dakota.  Picked up and have been reading Larry McMurtry’s Buffalo Gals, much of which takes place right in the areas we’ve visited.  Loving it.


Filed under A Family Business, Laura Ingalls Wilder

5 responses to “Chapter 219 The Long and Winding Road

  1. Remember the music list you posted at the beginning of the trip? How did the pop music reconcile with those wide open spaces? What reverberated the best? And, what side music goes with BBQ with the rodeo clowns? Can’t wait to see the pictures!

  2. BiblioHistoria

    If I ever travel through the wide open spaces/states that you have – I think I will take a bus. That way I can sleep and read and not have to worry about driving.

    Do you and Thoughtful Husband take turns driving or is he the lone driver?

  3. Jill

    Fantastic posts! I have really enjoyed reading about your trip – you have brought it to life so well. I grew up in the Central Valley of California, and there are still wide open spaces and miles of uninterrupted farm land there. Lots of red meat eaters also. The bug life that you described gave me the creeps – I almost have a phobia about certain insect life. But apart from the bugs, your posts have given me travel fever – preferably somewhere with a literary history. Look forward to hearing more once you have had the chance to settle in!

  4. WM

    All the houses are packed close together, even the “old” houses of 100 years or so.


    More like “especially”. They knew how to build a real neighbourhood then, unlike the low-density sprawlurbs that dominate the landscape these days.

  5. Thanks, all for your comments. In answer to your questions:

    1) I’ll post about the music later, but I listened to all of it. Tom and Huck have voted The Who’s “Going Mobile” as their favorite. They like to sing along with the song, “Play the tape machine, make the toast and tea, when I’m mobile.” That’s pretty much what we did while driving.

    2)Thoughtful Husband and I swapped the driving duties, but he drove more than I did.

    3) I have been to California’s Central Valley — Thoughtful Husband’s sister lives there. It does have land, a lot of land, but it doesn’t quite have the scenery I loved in Wyoming.

    4) There is not much room for “sprawlburbs” in the Bay Area. We are about as tightly packed as we can be. What has sprawled is the little group of suburbs that used to be considered “the Bay Area”. I What used to constitute the Bay Area 30 years ago — San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Peninsula has now expanded to include faraway places like San Jose and Fairfield.
    My point was mainly that I had no idea of the amount of land that is relatively undeveloped in South Dakota and Wyoming. Literally hundreds and hundreds of miles. Coming from a crowded town with lots of traffic, I really appreciated that wide open space.

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