Posted: August 8, 2005 in Uncategorized

One thing about this trip, it’s reset my internal clock a bit so that when eight AM rolls around, I’m wide awake and moving at full steam as soon as my feet hit the floor. This morning is no different, and I quickly get in my last hot shower and breakfast for a couple days, load up the car, say goodbye to my grandparents, and put Greeley behind me.

I’d never thought Wyoming was so close when I’d visited my relatives in the past, but I find that driving that far suddenly puts so many things mentally within reach. Cheyenne is now a casual drive north, and Colorado blinks away behind me, leaving Wyoming’s unending waves of grassy hills in front of me. The towering peaks of the Rockies pacing alongside me to the west seem to tire and gradually give up the chase, leaving the ground unbroken as it stretches away in all directions. My car’s odometer, the roadside signs marking towns little bigger than a gas station and some trailers, and the map laying on the passenger seat become the only guages of the distance I’m travelling. Meantime, the Rev. Horton Heat and Elvis preach the gospel of booze, women, and rock and roll.

Eventually I find the turnoff for one of my main destinations of the trip: Devil’s Tower. The route itself is remarkably unceremonious and even a bit hard to find, and I can’t help thinking that these days when people have trouble finding their ass without both hands and a map, it must not see a lot of traffic compared to so many other national monuments. As I get closer, I can tell that one of the massively dark stormclouds moving over the plains is in the process of passing directly over Devil’s Tower, however it’s moving so fast, it’s a safe bet that the rain will stop just before I get to it. I do still have to drive through it though, and the torrent of rain mixed with the huge wind gusts that have pushed my car along the entire length of the state make it seem like a couple prop guys are standing just off camera throwing five gallon buckets of water at my windshield, complete with pauses to refill.

On reaching the base of the tower, two things strike me right off. First, after watching Close Encounters so many times, the buildup of this huge rock tower in the middle of nowhere that drives a man to carve up his taters, it’s ultimately much smaller than I’d anticipated. From all the pictures and footage of it, of all the people speaking so reverentially of its spiritual power, I’d expected something that truly stood out from the landscape. But while still impressive and beautiful, it’s by no means an awe-inspiring monolith of nature. Perhaps my bar has simply been raised a bit high over the years. Secondly, since my thoughts of climbing the tower have been shot with the first several lightning bolts from the surrounding storms, I decide that paying $10 to drive a mile to the parking lot is unnecessary, and $5 to hike up would be money much better spent. While I’m correct about the better use of my money and time, I get caught in a hailstorm on the way back, and by the time I get back to the car I’m drenched to the skin. But with a change of clothes waiting, I’m unphased, and exchange comebacks with some Minnesotans on the trail as we’re pelted with ice (“We’re from Minnesota. Why is the snow so wet?” “I’m from Oregon. It’s raining?”).

Refreshed by the unscheduled shower, I make a few quick calculations, gather my National Parks receipts, and confirm that I can redeem them for a National Parks Pass, which is only going to save me money at this point. The process of actually obtaining this pass becomes far more complicated than it needs to be, and at its height has two park rangers and a bank teller crammed into a little booth on the verge developing a new branch of mathmatics based on the uncertainty principle of debit card transactions. Card eventually in hand, I turn back to the freeway and start heading west again, estimating the best national forest area to pull off in for the night. I finally opt for a pulloff in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, which once again proves to be far superior to any pay sites I’ve passed, watch the sun set behind the snow-dusted peaks, and settle in. I’m in motion once again, and while I’m feeling some of the pangs of my return to isolation, I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be at this moment.

  1. muffster says:

    after reading that i am ready to get out of town and get away from everything. “life is and open road to me”

  2. Anonymous says:

    after reading that i am ready to get out of town and get away from everything. “life is and open road to me”

  3. a_wags says:

    you should be a photographer

  4. Anonymous says:

    you should be a photographer

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