Lost in Wyoming (Part 3)
Well, I am still on my journey to visit my friends living in Wyoming. So far, the weather has been warm and beautiful with no hint of foul conditions along the way. It seems that God has seen fit to bless my little excursion as once again I drove along Interstate 90 with optimism and confidence. It never occurred to me that I would have any sort of difficulty. I had it all planned out in my head to drive into Buffalo, pull up to my friend’s house, and surprise her at her doorstep. I was sure I knew the way and so now set off without delay. A part of me knew that there is always some danger when on such a long journey but it seemed to me that things were going so very smoothly; I had no unusual fear or foreboding as I cruised along enjoying another day of glorious sunshine to light the way.
I had now crossed most of South Dakota and was edging closer to the Wyoming border. I remember seeing sunflower fields which also brightened my long journey and the scenery was changing as the flat terrain became hilly. And those hills became steeper and steeper as I drew nearer to the mountains. I stopped at a scenic outlook at one point to study the hills a bit and to gaze at the distant mountains now on the horizon. The slopes were rugged with blunt shapely edges as if God, the Creator and Artist, had reached down taking clumps of earth to hand sculpt these towering and protruding hillsides. I thought of a potter working with lumps of clay in his hands to lovingly create an awe inspiring masterpiece. No two hillsides looked the same. The grass is also different as it is a softer green than the vibrant hues you may see in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I stopped in scenic Rapid City for lunch and to gas up.
I am now seeing tourists’ signs for the Wall Drug Store/Wax Museum, the scenic Badlands, and Mt. Rushmore. All of these are very fine places to visit and see. Once again, I experienced a flood of memories as I recalled my mom and dad on our trip years ago visiting all those places. I also remembered touring through caves then also. Soon I was approaching the Wyoming border and a certain gas station with a long row of gas pumps. I never counted them but it was much more than usual as the store itself looked tiny compared to the elongated row of pumps. I don’t recall the name of the station but I do know there used to be this informational sign which warned drivers that this gas station would be the last one they’d see for many miles. As you might imagine, that piece of advertising worked as every car, truck, motorcycle, and camper pulled off to fill their gas tanks. And you probably guessed; it worked on me too as I didn’t relish becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere. Another factor in my decision making at this point was that now, according to my cell phone carrier, I was in a dead zone where my phone would not work. So if I have car trouble at this point, I couldn’t call for help.
Soon I had crossed the border cruising up and down the steep, wild hills of Wyoming. The country side itself emitted this wild and untamed sensation as for miles there was nothing but wilderness. I was seeing a lot of brush and clusters of trees; and very few farms or other housing. And the towns now seem very, very far apart. According the latest US Census, Wyoming is the least populated state of the US. And, apparently according the same census report, South Dakota is the fourth least populated state. As I continued along, I learned to recognize the bluish green sage brush along the way because my friend had pointed it out to me on a previous visit. Also there were these long, tall and strategically placed wooden fences all along either side of the interstate. These were not meant to pen in herds of animals. No, they had a very different purpose in which they were used to block snow from blowing across the highway as was explained to me. Now, I have never driven this way during the winter months and so I have no idea how well they worked. However, I am guessing that they are somewhat successful and make a noticeable difference in protecting this road because there seems to be quite a number of these long wooded barriers in place. And why would someone keep building and installing these fences if they didn’t work?
But as for fencing in the farm animals? Well, a lot of Wyoming is open range so the animals are free to wander. Many farmers and ranchers here do not use barbed wire fences, electric fences or any other type of fence to pen their herds of animals. This is so different from where I grew up in Wisconsin! There are some barriers in place such as these metal, gaping grates built in some driveways and some roads to keep the animals from crossing. And I think the interstate highway is somehow guarded too from wandering herds of animals although, I am not clear on that.
One time on a previous visit, my friend and I were sightseeing along a dirt backroad when we came across a dairy cow with a tag in her ear just nonchalantly standing in our way. We came to a complete halt as she was in no hurry to cross. I rolled down my window and kindly called out to her, “Hey Milking Cow Number 33, could you please move along?”
My friend who was driving burst into laughter but my remark had very little effect on the cow as she just stood and stared at us. Slowly though, she did decide to meander along.
One difference I noticed on my current trip was an increase in mining in this state. Companies hungry for new fuel resources were hard at work digging up this beautiful and pristine land. I saw a number of mining sites along the way. To me they were unsightly eye sores searing scars in the midst of Wyoming’s natural and wild beauty. From what I understand now, most of those mining operations have ceased and moved to other locations in their hunt for more fuel resources.
I hope those mining companies had plans in place to restore the land as much as they could to its former natural beauty but I don’t know if that was the case. And I do understand that mining is an important industry as we need to wisely use our own resources instead of depending on other countries. My father had worked in an iron mine near Black River Falls, Wisconsin while I was growing up. That mine is closed now and the land has been restored and even renovated into a beautiful county park known as Lake Wazee and is a serious tourist attraction. That lake is actually the former mining quarry and the water is as pure and clean as can be. It is about 355 feet deep at its deepest point and attracts boaters and scuba divers. There is also a camping area, beach and a swimming area. It costs a small fee to visit and there is a nearby sports store to rent or purchase water sport equipment and supplies. I enjoy visiting the park and walking along the wooded trails that surround the lake.
But as I drove along the Wyoming highway today, the coal and methane mines all were in full operation with plenty of huge trucks and heavy equipment transporting along the roads. As I drew nearer to Buffalo, the roads became more hilly and steep. I was nearing the mountains. As I reached the top of one steep hill I glanced in my rearview mirror and my heart pounded wildly in fear. For the first time on this trip I was meeting terror head on.
I saw a huge mining truck reach the crest of the hill I had just crossed. Most of the time large trucks move at a slower pace especially on steep grades. However, this driver knew how to shift and keep his vehicle clipping along at a very face pace. Several minutes earlier when I was atop that previous hill that truck had been many miles behind my car. It never dawned on me then that he would catch up so quickly. From judging how fast he had climbed that hill, I knew he would catch up to me in no time. That driver was in a race and this highway was his racetrack.
Now in full panic mode, I frantically wondered what to do. I was sure he would collide with me as I mentally envisioned that I and my car would become flatter than a pancake. What should I do? No room to pull off and no other roads to turn onto. I was afraid of speeding like he was. The road was curvy as well as hilly and I knew I could lose control. I checked the mirror again. That speeding missile on wheels was temporarily out of sight as it had dipped down between the two steep hills. And here I was a moving target about to be plowed and pummeled to death. I knew he’d be behind me in seconds. Should I move into the other lane? That seemed like a good idea but then I thought no. He may already have seen me (since I had also spotted him) and therefore may already be prepared to go around my car. If I moved now into the other lane while out of his eyesight, it could potentially goof him up. He may have already moved into that lane but I couldn’t tell. So, with a pounding heart, I stayed put in my lane driving as fast as I dared with white knuckles glued to the steering wheel. I prayed for God to welcome me into his beautiful home in heaven for I was preparing to die. I didn’t know if I was making the right decision. I didn’t know if I would be alive in the next few seconds.
Suddenly, the hugely ominous truck loomed behind me and I felt my heart nearly jump out of my chest. He was still in my lane. This was it, I thought; will I live or die today? I gripped the wheel tighter than ever and continued to drive faster as I tried to keep some cushion of space between the truck and my car. Then, much to my relief, the roaring monstrous vehicle swerved into the other lane and flew passed me. That driver did not slow down for anything and was soon out of my sight. This road continued to be his one truck racetrack. I heaved a long sigh of huge relief. I continued to breathe deeply trying to calm my beating heart and my shaking arms. I was so thankful to be alive and safe. It was God’s will for me to live a while longer and to continue this journey.
Soon after that I reached Buffalo, Wyoming. I was so overjoyed that my long drive in the car was soon over. Feeling very confident again, I drove through the streets as I pictured myself showing up unexpectedly on my friend’s doorstep. Oh yes, I thought, I know the way to go; just turn here, then here, and then one more turn and in a few blocks, I will pull up in front of her house. Except… That didn’t happen. I pulled up to the wrong house and was baffled. What happened? I was sure I knew the way.
Oh well, I was certain I was close so I drove around a few more blocks. I was positive that I’d recognize the right road and then find the right home. After all I prided myself with having a photographic memory. I just needed to spot the right old house, turn at that corner and just drive a few more blocks and I would be there. Yeah, right. Well I drove and drove in circles. Obviously, I didn’t have such a great photographic memory. Perplexed, I knew I would have to stop somewhere and dig out her address from everything out of it. Her address wasn’t there. I had left it sitting on the table at home. I then checked my gps device to see if I had entered her address there. I had done no such thing; so much for careful planning and paying attention to details. Now I was 1300 miles away, lost in a city I did not know and my larger than life self-assurance had finally deflated.
“Well,” I thought, “I will just have to call my friend and her daughter and admit I got lost.” I flipped open my small cell phone, dialed her number and listened. It was not a smart phone, by the way, just a very basic cell phone.
“Sorry, that number is no longer in service,” answered a female robotic voice.
I didn’t have the right number. I couldn’t believe it but I thought of the next step. I simply called my cell phone carrier’s directory to retrieve my friend’s number that way. However, to my stunned surprised, my carrier didn’t have a listing for her for two reasons; her cell phone number is with a different carrier and she didn’t have a land phone. Therefore, my carrier had no listing for her. I also tried calling the regular phone directory and they also had no listing for her as she seemed to have a private listing.
More perplexed than ever, I wondered what to do. I thought about booting my laptop computer to contact her through facebook but I didn’t think I would pick up a signal to connect to the internet. But, with a start, I thought of someone who could do that. Picking up my phone again, I called my cousin living in the state of Washington, “Hi, I’m lost in Buffalo, Wyoming and need your help.”
My cousin sounded incredulous, “What do you want me to do?”
“Go on Facebook, send a friend request to my friend and her daughter, and see if they answer.”
“Okay,” replied my cousin who was eager to help.
She logged into her computer and into Facebook. I gave her my friend’s name and her daughter’s name and she sent the friend requests. Then we waited and waited. No one answered her requests.
“Shoot,” I said feeling more deflated, “neither one is on the computer right now. What could they be doing? They both know I am arriving today so they must be home.”
My cousin had the next brainstorm, “Do you want me to search for her in the white pages?”
“Okay,” I said a bit more hopeful.
She went to work entering my friend’s name and searching through the pages, “Well, several entries have come up but it is hard to tell because only the initials are used.”
I thought about it, “Can you just read each entry and I will see if one of them sounds right?”
So, carefully and concisely, my cousin read each entry to me. By process of elimination, I was able to determine which one might be my friend.
Kathy clicked on the entry I indicated and found an address. She read it to me and I entered it into my gps unit.
“Thanks for helping me, cousin,” I replied, “and I will let you know if this worked.”
“Okay,” answered my cousin, “I will talk to you soon.”
So off I went again to find my friend. I followed all the instructions supplied by my gps device and soon I was indeed pulling up in front of a familiar house. I knocked on the door, and much to my elation and relief, my friend answered the door. And was surprised to see I have arrived. Excitedly we hugged and then I exclaimed, “What have you been doing? I actually got lost and couldn’t get hold of you. So my cousin tried contacting you through Facebook for me.”
“Oh?” My friend and her daughter looked at each other and then me trying hard to not laugh. Then they explained, “We fell asleep!”
Curious now, they jumped on their computers, logged in and checked their Facebook messages. They had indeed received my cousin’s message requesting to be friends and explaining that I needed help.
We all laughed and began planning the next few days. We all liked hiking and geocaching so we planned several of these along with some sightseeing.
One of the biggest highlights is that we hiked to the top of a certain mountain where an old fire lookout house still remains. We had engaged in a geocaching hunt and the cache was hidden near the old building. We searched under rocks, around trees, and around the old building. Due to the steepness and rocky terrain, it was a challenge to safely maneuver around. Numerous times, I grasped the edge of rocks, tree limbs, or small boulders to keep from slipping. My friend found the cache this time. But even more thrilling than finding the hidden “treasure” was the treasure of seeing the mountainous beauty and just being with my friends. We don’t get to visit each other often enough so when we do, we cherish that time. Just writing this account now, I am once anxious to be on that long and wondrous journey again to visit my Wyoming friends.