There's been an ass-load of stuffs going on this past week. I'm going to hit up the last couple days in this post, and then draw on my notes for adventures in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Let's do this. In reverse chronological order.
I spent last night camped out under the stars beneath Teapot Dome. This was not my plan. My plan had been, after driving clear across the state of Wyoming, to get a motel room in Casper for some well-needed shower and internet time. I went to a motel. No rooms. I went to a second motel. No rooms. I went to a third motel...
I'll say this much: never again will I underestimate the fantastic drawing power of the mighty metropolis that is CASPER, WYOMING. Apparently this city had not one but TWO conventions starting up today, and the demand was so great that every motel within a couple hour's drive of the city was booked. So no motel for Dave.
I got back on the road heading north, and reviewed my situation:
Been driving for over 8 hours? check.
Sun is going down? check.
Crazy lots of deer near the highway? check.
...Which brings us to why I found myself sleeping under the stars near Teapot Dome. And I learned some things last night:
1. When you are in a remote place like Teapot Dome, miles away from any towns, the stars are brilliant. Countless stars shone down on my little tent, and the broad sweep of the milky way made a bright white arch across the night sky.
2. When you are in a remote place like Teapot Dome, where the speed limit is 65, you learn something: Semi trucks are freaking LOUD. Like end-of-the-world, better-get-religion-fast LOUD.
3. I cannot stress this enough; Casper Wyoming is crazy popular! Also: people who go to conventions are dicks. Dicks who take up hotel rooms.
4. There's something eerie about oil drilling rigs in the light of dusk. The collection of bright lights alone surrounded by perfectly dark prairie...the unnerving scent of refining gases...the slow oscillations of the sawhorse pumps...well, I'm just glad that I'm moving on. An oil field is a sad, lonely place at night.
Other highlights from yesterday:
1. I see the National Bighorn Sheep Center. Apparently, Dubois, Wyoming, is home to the largest herd of Bighorns in the entire country...maybe even in the world. They live on and around the slopes of "Whiskey Mountain" south of the town. Sounds like a good place. Also: one of the natural predators of the Bighorn Sheep is the Golden Eagle. Seriously. This bird can pick up a freaking sheep. I'm all for the Bald Eagle; it's totally cool, and it looks really good on currency. But until it starts picking up livestock, I'm going to have to award the title of "Most Badass Bird" to the Golden Eagle.
2. Jackson Hole is too damn crowded. It's largely my fault for checking the city out during peak tourist season (late July), but still. It's as if you were to take North Conway, make it twice as big, and then smothered the whole thing in a big schmeer of fake cowboy. Not my cup of tea. The mountains nearby look like the skiing is freaking awesome, but I'm not sure if I'd be able to put up with the apres-ski scene there. Or I'd just need to have another beer.
3. The Grand Tetons are absolutely beautiful. More to come on this in my next post. These things were incredible.
4. I've finally managed to find the place where gas is at or below the national average. This morning's fill-up: $3.69/gallon (though it was 85 octane, which sort of concerns me now that I've double-checked my manual and discovered that I shouldn't put anything less than 87 in. "Regular" gas out here is 85 or 85.5 octane, and you need to pay "Plus" prices to get 87. 87 is "Regular" where I'm from. what's up with that? Why do you hate high octane gasoline, Wyoming and possibly also Montana?). Now I just need a year or so of these prices to make up for all the screwjobs I got at the pump in California (note: I fully support increased gas prices, because I see them as the only sure way to force people to start conserving gas. I just feel that I should get a discount because, well, I'm doing a road trip here. Also, I deserve special treatment. Let's go hypocrisy!)
5. There is no #5.