CASPER, WYOMING—As vagabonds have direction but no daily route or destination, lodging and where to have dinner is always in unknown. Last night, after inquiring at several lodgings, we got two of the last four rooms available in Idaho Falls, which was booked for its annual Independence Day fireworks show (and it was a good show!). For dinner we lucked out. The kind lady at the desk pointed out the Snow Eagle Brewing & Grill, a short quarter-mile stroll away, where I feasted on a good IPA and milk stout and a salmon Thai salad. Tonight we found an affordable room at the Super 8, as luck would have it before the majority of the crowd arrived for the rodeo going on this weekend.
We had hoped to stop at a small town between our rest and stretch stop at a convenience store in Shoshoni, Wyoming, and Casper. The signs we saw rolling out of town didn’t offer much hope. Turning back on to US 26 we passed Main Street, which ran perpendicular to the railroad tracks, where a long line of oil tank cars waited on a siding. There were maybe eight two-story brick buildings there, four on a side. All of them were dressed in faded paint with plywood where their windows once were. Not one car was parked on the street. About halfway to Casper we passed two 1940s-era motor courts, low wooden structures of conjoined rooms, each with one door and one window. One was yellow, the other red. Both hadn’t seen life in decades. Weeds had overtaken their parking lots and were reclaiming the land.
Situated at the corner of Wyoming Blvd. and Cy Ave., the dinner options were limited. There was the Pizza Hut, three Mexican restaurants from two blocks to a half mile away, and across the street at the Walmart Superstore Plaza, the usual fast food franchises. Neither of us were in the mood for anything heavy, so Ed opted for Starbucks, where he retired to its air conditioned comforts reminiscent of his Seattle home. Hoping to find something a bit more substantial, with a good beer to wash it all down with, I had a nice mile or so stroll to the Supercenter, where I scored a 6-inch turkey breast Subway and a Foster’s Premium Ale. It paled in comparison to last night’s IPA and Stout, but at least it wasn’t brewed in St. Louis.
Carrying my feast back to the Super 8, I found on the shady side of a building a sturdy plastic bench with a can holder in its arm perfectly sized for the Fosters. Munching and sipping contentedly, I watched the cowboys arrive and others roar down Cy Ave. in their NASCAR sounding pickup trucks with big wheels and patchwork paint jobs of gray, brown, and reddish primer. A couple in jeans and black sneakers walked hand-in-hand to Pizza Hut.
During my after dinner cigar a spotless white Chevy Duramax 3500 HD dualie crew-cab pulled to a stop in front of me. Both of its cowboys were sun beaten. The driver was older and wore a straw cowboy hat. His younger passenger emerged under high visibility green ball cap; and he still had his spurs on. The only dirt on the truck, which they left running while they checked in, was the impacted remains of bugs on the structural steel nose guard. With a room for the night they mounted up and then parked. Mud flaps from Lee Hoffpaur, Marble Falls, Texas, matched the dealer sticker on the tailgate. But the truck wore an Oklahoma plate.
The driver hauled a large wheelie bad from the bed of the truck and a cluster of clean plaid shirts still in their plastic sheaths from the back seat. Spurs hauled a well traveled hockey-sized duffle from the back seat. On the end was an embroidered shield with NFR in block letters. Google says that it’s probably the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. As they passed me, the driver asked, “How ya doin’?” When I answered “Never Better!” He summarized the evening with, “That’s what we like to hear.”
Tomorrow we continue east, and where we’ll spend the night, and what we’ll find for dinner will reveal themselves when we decide our vagabondage is done for the day. It’s always an eagerly anticipated surprise, like the dinner of shrimp and grits, with Andouille sausage, I had at the Wildfin the night before Ed and I started our trip east. It was a unique combination that begged for a chance, and it’s a chance I’ll take whenever I get the opportunity.