Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Happy Birthday, America. The Wild West

Posted on | July 21, 2016 | 1 Comment

We drove through Grand Teton National Park as we headed through Wyoming.  We didn’t stop as I figured I couldn’t summon any more enthusiasm from the kids for hikes and waterfalls and mountains for a few more days.  It was odd how quickly we developed nature fatigue—-one week we were ooohing and ahhhing over the buffalo and the next week they were just getting in the way;  one day we wanted to get as close to the falls as possible to feel the spray and climb on the rocks and the next day were were happy to just pull in at an overlook.  Breaking up the trip with cities was definitely a smart part of my plan and this time we were on our way to Jackson.  But driving through the Tetons and the Jackson Hole valley along the Snake River still provided a whole lot of scenic appeal.

Unfortunately, Jackson, Wyoming was not quite the city that I expected.  I knew it was a tourist town and I didn’t really think I’d run into Harrison Ford or Sandra Bullock (Well, maybe I considered it for a minute.  Just a second.).  It was mostly just a couple blocks of expensive stores and high-end realty offices.  Although the antler arch was cool.

We settled for some window shopping and ate at the Saddlerock Saloon at the Jackson Hole Playhouse. Where the cowboys sing to you over your bison burger.  Because tacky is underrated and if we’re going to support anyone in Jackson, it should be the starving theatre performers.

We did get a chance to talk to our waiter about real life in Wyoming. He told us what a lot of locals told us about living out west.  That the summers were crazy with tourists and the winters were long and isolated.  Locals on either side of Glacier and Yellowstone told us that once the park roads closed with snow in the winter there was no way through to the other side except all the way around—-more than a day trip on snowy roads.  Our waiter told us that stores in Jackson were only open sporadically in winter because the skiers tended to stay at the resorts for whatever they needed and the homeowners flew into Jackson airport and took a private car straight to their vacation home.  Oh, Harrison.  How rude!

So Jackson wasn’t that exciting.  And we didn’t see any famous people.  And we didn’t even see any moose, despite all the moose warning signs along the road and the moose parephernalia in the stores.  So I settled for a delicious slice of Very Berry pie from the The Bunnery and this picture.  Because it includes a moose and it screams, “Family Vacation: Aaaaagggh!”

From there the country opened up and all along I-80 we watched the terrain roll into the horizon, interrupted by scrubby hills and the buttes of the west.

Sections of I-80 were an old stagecoach route and we got out at Point of Rocks, a desolate and deserted town that consisted of a few trailers and a weary gas station, to read about the Almond Stage Station built in 1862.

Easy to see how the stagecoach feared bandits and Indians alike in this wild territory.

Not far ahead was a town that Middle and I had been eagerly anticipating.  Middle has a given name (of course) and although I stole it from a book character (of course) in All the Pretty Horses, there is also a town in Wyoming that knows the correct spelling.  Unlike everyone that Middle has encountered in his life that wants to spell it like a sports manufacturer (um, never!) or punk rockstar (maybe, but so many tattoos!).  I think all this spelling confusion is a sign that Americans don’t read enough.   Anyway, in celebration I drove Middle around town taking his picture with all the correctly spelled name signs.

I really wanted to get one of the street signs hanging around town for him, but there didn’t seem to be a way except vandalism.

Since the local cops were probably already alarmed by an out of state vehicle driving around taking pictures of their town center, banks, and public safety organizations, it didn’t seem worth it.  I wanted to explore the wild west without actually taking part in a shoot out.  But even if the town name is meaningless to you, they do have a great Frontier Prison that operated from 1901 until 1981.

The prison and the grounds are pretty run down, giving you a pretty authentic idea of what it was like to serve time there.  We had an excellent tour guide who walked us through the prison, detailing stories of the inmates, escapes and shootouts, and the history of the structure.  They did carry out executions at the prison and both the gallows and the electric chair are still in evidence.  There was also a small museum with lots of old photos, homemade shanks, and other prison paraphernalia.

The whole family absolutely loved it.  Which says something about our family.  I don’t know what, but….something.

We blew through Vedauwoo, settling for the view from the highway instead of getting in to rock climb.  Vedauwoo was different from most of the other jagged rock we’d seen during our travels.  Most of the edges there were rounded, making the features appear soft and gentle.  It was an easy stop off the highway and I plan to keep it on the list as a stop during next year’s return drive through the state on the way to Oregon and California.

And we only stopped in Laramie for a quick look at their Wyoming Territorial Prison, famous for briefly housing Butch Cassidy.  The prison itself was much less interesting than the detailed exhibits on Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch.  There was a lot of info on the gang, how they got started, and their activities throughout the west.  Plus, this opportunity:

Once we hit Colorado I dragged the family through the Denver Botanical Gardens….

and in return the boys took me on a walkabout of Mile High Stadium. Or whatever it’s called by whatever large corporation owns it currently.

With that we left the Rocky Mountains in our rearview mirror and returned to the plains as we entered Kansas.  And the windmills as far as the eye can see. What would Dorothy think?


One Response to “Happy Birthday, America. The Wild West”

  1. Andrew
    July 21st, 2016 @ 8:42 am

    nice butte!

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