Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 13- The First Female Dr in WY was Kinda Strange, Not Gonna Lie

September 27th, Day 13

I stayed up late last night reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had not planned on it but it was a mixture between Tyler hanging out with his new friends so I was waiting for him, the fact that it was extremely windy outside with wind sweeping through the canyon and blowing from what seemed like every possible direction, making our trailer creak and at times even shudder. The final contributing factor was that I had gotten to two really creepy parts of the book and my imagination was a bit too vivid to just put it down and say, goodnight! I should have known better because The Girl… is not exactly a bedtime story. 

We had some trailer technical difficulties as well. We woke up to a ticking sound in the night and thought that meant we were out of propane so Tyler got up and disconnected it so we wouldn't die if it turned out the propane was malfunctioning in some way. First thing in the morning Tyler went to fill the propane tanks because our fridge needs propane in order to operate correctly, otherwise we'd lose our food! So it turned out that the battery had died and that the fridge needs some electricity, as well as propane, in order to function. This is just one of those things that you learn the hard way. I felt bad for Tyler because it was really annoying for him because he had to drive all around Lander trying to find somewhere to fill up the tanks, only to be told that they were full. He explained that he must have just gotten a lot stronger lately because the tanks didn't feel very heavy, lol. Gotta stay positive!

The rest of today was spent packing up, going over our route, talking to Tyler's two new friends, and finally hitting the road. As much as I liked Lander, I really did not like the roads leading to and from it. It was basically driving through an incredibly dry landscape littered only with the occasional casino and Native Americans' trailers. The way out of Lander wasn't reservation land so it wasn't depressing in that respect but it was still desolate and after 5 minutes you could fall asleep because you had just seen the whole five hour drive.

Of course, as careful as we are, we are human and we kind of forgot to fill up with gas before we left. We also kind of didn't think about it until we were about 3 hours away and not seeing any gas stations. We pulled over in some small, no tiny, I'd even say almost non-existent, town where people do who knows what to make a living. I don't even think it showed up on our map. Luckily we had two 5 gallon gas canisters that Tyler had attached to our rig so he got out to get as much gas into the truck as possible (even though the canisters are designed in such a way that you can't pour out more than half of what's inside of them because there's not enough room to tilt them all the way up- they just hit the truck and you start muttering about the lack of proper engineering, or even just common sense). Tyler managed to contrive a pseudo-funnel and get all of the gas into the tank. Well, almost all of it ended up in the tank. A good amount ended up on him, which I'm sure does wonders for his health. We proceeded on our way with the windows down to air out the gasoline smell, but not before I snapped a photo of the lone structure that still looked to be inhabited. 

I got to see how truly creative I could be to pass the time as we looked for a gas station. I took pictures of various things and with my photographer's eye I noticed that Hanz's adorable mug was reflecting beautifully on Tyler's cell phone, which was sitting in the center console cup-holder! See below!

Hanz's lovely fangs reflected in Tyler's Android phone
We attempted to stop for lunch in Rawlins. Literally, the first four places we checked out were closed. We ran into a game warden and asked if he had any suggestions and he said there was, supposedly, a great Thai restaurant. I say supposedly and probably doubtfully, as well, since it's in some random place on the outskirts of Wyoming, no traditionally known for its ethnic populations. Alas we never got to find out because it was, you got it, closed. 

The town's economy revolved around mining and it's obvious that in its heyday it was a bustling city but now it's just trying to keep alive the infrastructure that was built back in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were tons of old murals on the older buildings that made up the downtown and even a statue of a goat outside the courthouse! One of the creepier buildings was a huge Masonic lodge with barely any windows. What is up with the free masons???

We ended up finding a little diner with some people in it, which we took to be a good sign. Also there was nobody smoking, so already this place was like a 5 star restaurant in our hungry eyes. The only downside was the tremendous amount of dead animals covering every possible surface- beavers, coyotes, foxes, deer... Welcome to Wyoming!

It's interesting to note that this now slightly(?) depressed town of Rawlins was quite the hot spot back in the day. Rawlins was home to the first female medical doctor in the state of Wyoming, Lillian Heath, back in 1893. Rawlins was also the place where cattle rustler Big Nose George Parrott was murdered and turned into a pair of shoes! You read that right and I swear that I kid you not! You can look it up for yourself! Parrott was not exactly a saint, he murdered two officers of the law and was being held in Rawlins until he could be hung for his crimes in 1881. He tried to escape but when the patriotic people of Rawlins heard of this, 200 of them stormed the prison and dragged him out onto the streets, stringing him up on a lamp post and lynched him. Medical doctors at the time thought you could see what made someone a criminal if you just literally looked at their brain, so his skull cap was removed in order for this to happen. The sickest part of this (God, do I love history! People are so weird!) is that his skull cap was kept by Lillian Heath (at that time only an assistant because she was only 15 years old) and actually used alternately as an ash tray, door stop and pen holder! Like I said, look it up for yourself. And it does get weirder. One of the doctors, John Osborne, who later became the first Democratic Governor of the State of Wyoming had his skin removed, including his nipples and used that flesh to make shoes. Thank you very much I am ready to move on in to Colorado!

We didn't get into Steamboat Springs, CO until after dark but we had just enough light on the outskirts of the city for me to see the landscape change. Vast sage brush desert was slowly replaced with green shrubs and fuller vegetation. Cottonwoods dotted the skyline and mountains obscured the horizon. We drove a good while into Steamboat and zig-zagged up into a mountain-side neighborhood. We finally came to the house at the top of the mountain, and Tyler announced that we had arrived. We would be parking our travel trailer on the beautiful property owned by Bear and Rayne (pronounced Rain-ee), the father and step-mother of Tyler's childhood best friend, Joel. 

Bear must have seen or heard us arrive because he quickly came outside and greeted us warmly. He even had a completely flat place for us to park our travel trailer in front of his RV and hook up to electricity! He invited us to come inside as we waited for Joel to arrive. Joel is working as a logger and lives further north, near Steamboat Lake, so he was still making the drive down to meet us. We stepped into their warm and cozy log house and were greeted by Rayne, who quickly recognized Tyler despite the fact that his hair was so much shorter and he was a couple feet taller than the last time she had seen him when he was 13. We sat around their kitchen table and chatted until Joel arrived. I was instantly clued into the fact that Rayne was awesome when she offered me a shower "for as long as you want!" I gratefully accepted but wanted to wait to meet Joel first, despite my probably disheveled appearance. He arrived a few minutes later and after introducing myself and chatting for a bit, I excused myself so I could once again be clean and civilized. No, there weren't any showers where we were staying in Lander!

Joel is an extremely gifted musician- he plays 3 instruments! I got to hear him play the piano while I was in the shower, the sound traveled really well! Even though Joel and Tyler were childhood best friends they lost touch when Tyler moved to St. Croix so they had not really spoken in six years! It was really great that they were able to reconnect, I was so happy for Tyler because he was so excited. 

Two things I have come to seriously, seriously appreciate on this venture have been showers and concrete. There's really nothing like going from travelling on a bumpy pot-hole ridden dirt road to the sudden and silent purr of concrete beneath your tires, especially when you're pulling around a travel trailer. We have already had two flat tires, thank you very much, and we don't especially want to get anymore. We have proven (or rather Tyler has, hahaha) that we can change a tire on something that weighs almost two tons so since we already know that, no need to go testing ourselves in that capacity anymore. 

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