DESOLATION OCEAN ROADTRIP
(with a stop to photograph the DICK CHENEY Federal Building in Casper, Wyoming)
I’m sitting in the backseat of Jon Langer’s jeep using the cool metal of my fly rod case as an armrest, headed North out of Boulder through Wyoming to Livingston, Montana.
Dry, hot brown hills, straight railroad.
On Talk of the Nation radio, a caller: “If we cut and run, like we did in Vietnam…”
A small green inchworm humps across the thin black edge of Nick’s iPod. “Whadda you guys wanna listen to? Manitoba? Anyone want some jerky?” Jon reaches for the jerky, swerving.
“Don’t crash Langer.”
“Get used to ‘em Timmy. Oh, but you got the good side of the car.”
I look to my left, and see the foot hills of the front range, haze.
Applebees, Taco Bell, Fusion Food and Spirits, Radisson, Buick - Pontiac, Jeep, Rocky Mountain Kawasaki, Payday Loans Turn Here!
Are you HOT?
Midas. Starbucks. Mattress King. Safeway food and drug. And a 7-11 undergoing a makeover, morphing into a Kwikee Mart.
Jon – “This area sucks I’m never, ever coming here. It’s like New Jersey.”
Nick – “This looks just like Long Island.”
Jon – “It always shocked me, when I lived in Montana, driving down here and seeing all the lights, all the people.”
Nick – What's in Wyoming?
Jon - “Fucking nothing.”
Nick - “Careful there Langer, you’ll spill the mate all over yourself.”
Jon - “Ooo, now we’re entering the county with the highest foreclosure rate in the country! Lot’s of really crappy big $300,000 homes and adjustable rate mortgages.”
We pass a sign with a rip-off of the Walmart smile - face logo – “Home Ownership – Now Only $800 a Month!”
Jon (sarcastic) – “Yeah, and this isn’t a trailer park.”
We pause for roadwork. Across the street are a liquor store, a Mobil station and a McDonalds, sitting in a row.
We cross the St. Vrain river.
Massive earth moving machines raise dust on the field. A tractor trailer passes us, hauling 5 large engines, tubes and wires.
Past a development of swollen houses, each with a horse paddock, surreal huge white picket fences.
Jon - “All this should be windmills and solar panels.”
Cop car comes out of the median, pulls behind us, passes and goes off at 90 mph.
Jon - “God I hate cops in Wyoming. They make me so scared.”
Cheyenne: A Lays Potato Chips truck parked in the lot of a LOVE gas station.
We pass another cop, lights flashing, someone pulled over.
“Colorado plates,” says Jon.
We pass another cop.
And the F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
Jon - “There’s this one county in Wyoming that outlawed bears. You can kill a bear anytime. It’s your civic duty.”
We pass the Little Bear Inn.
Jon - “They’re all about bear iconography out here, they just don’t like the bears.”
We stop in Chugwater for famous Chugwater Chili, (he gourmet spice of western life). “The recipe was patented right here in town” said the pleasant lady at Horton’s gas n’ go. We get the chili to go. It comes in a specially made tray.
Pretty sweet little downtown, coffee shops and the attractive Dick Cheney Federal Building.
“You’re always welcome at Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters.”
Lou Taubert – “Some of the best trout fishing in the world, right here on the North Platte. Going to Montana? Take the Beartooth Highway.”
Past Casper – Nick driving, we smoke, the sun piercing bands of light through pale thunderheads, dull and empty landscape – Nick crests a curve, listening to Medeski - so much space spread out below – scale stretched.
Nick - “Man, people must go crazy driving these roads.”
Jon – “For real, I would come up here and spend a week driving around Wyoming for meetings, and it really made me feel bad about myself. I mean, life is hard here, and it shows on people.”