Salt Lake City to Sidney, Nebraska

We left the anonymous motel near the Salt Lake City airport without bothering to try to complimentary breakfast buffet, under the assumption that the food would be about as undistinguished as the motel.

An hour later, after a dramatic drive up over the mountains to the east of Salt Lake City, we arrived at Bear River State Park near Evanston, Wyoming. We walked along the paved path next to Bear River, a fast-flowing turbulent stream about fifty feet across that looked like a good place to fish. We walked for most of an hour, pausing to look at the showy Yellow-headed Blackbirds, with heads so stunningly yellow that their Latin name — Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus — tells you twice that they have yellow heads. We also stopped to look at the captive bison and elk, looking majestic even though they were stuck in fenced-in pens of only a few acres, lying on their bellies calmly chewing their cuds. We saw a young man fishing from the bank of the river. “Any luck?” I said. “Nothing today,” he said, “even though I been here for two hours.” “Looks like a good river for fishing, though,” I said. “Oh, it is,” he said enthusiastically.

We stopped in Green River to find a place to eat lunch. Walking along the sidewalk, Carol stopped to admire a handmade barbeque, with purple legs and a burnished stainless steel lid. The man who made it came out of his store to chat with us. The sign on the store window read “Mr. Cleo’z Exotik Oilz and Inscenze,” while the sign above the window read “Cleopatra’s Way Yummy Incense.” He showed us how he had over three thousand signatures on his wall, and I signed the wall as high as I could reach while he took a call for his other business, running the town’s taxi service. We bought some incense from him at the ridiculously low price of six dollars for thirty sticks. He recommended we eat at The Krazy Moose Restaurant across the street, so we did.

Late in the afternoon, Carol wanted a cup of coffee, so we stopped at Wamsutter. We drove to a combined supermarket and pizzeria. The parking lot could fit fifty cars, but there were only two other vehicles when we pulled in. Inside, the supermarket consisted of mostly empty shelves. Carol walked to the end of the store that was the pizzeria and bought a cup of coffee for seventy cents. The smiling woman who took our money told us that Wamsutter was an oil town. It was a bleak place, and we left without regret.

By the time we got to Laramie, we were ready for dinner. We found the Big Hollow Food Coop and stocked up on food for the next couple of days. The young woman at the check stand was singing along to Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain”; she had quite a nice voice. When she checked us out, she told us that she was from the midwest, had moved to Laramie to attend the University of Wyoming, went to school for just a semester but decided that she would stay in Laramie. We told her that it looked like a nice place to live. She asked us about the Bay Area, and we told her that it was nice, but expensive. She said it must be densely populated, and we said it was. She had lived in a big midwestern city for a while, but because she grew on a gentleman’s farm, she found the big city was too much for her; yet she also seemed interested in hearing about the Bay Area. Maybe she was a little adrift.

The rest of the day, we drove in the increasing darkness, and arrived in Sidney, Nebraska, at ten o’clock.

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Above: Medecine Bow Peak in Wyoming, as seen from Interstate 80.

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