TURN RIGHT AT SHOSHONI – On the Road, Is a Long Day a Wrong Day?

Mar 22, 2011 | Book Tours, Books, Girls Trek Too, Spirit of Adventure, U.S. Travel

I’m not doing this right. Every time I travel, that thought occurs to me at some point. I woke up yesterday morning at 7:30, and was ready to go by 9:00, which made me feel so grownup and responsible. Then I remembered I hadn’t yet checked the driving directions from Cheyenne, at the southern end of Wyoming, to Lovell, at the northern end. I regretted my lack of a GPS or smart phone — though I don’t know how I would have swung that, when I had neither enough cash nor credit for this trip until a couple of days before it started. Ah, panic: sometimes I rationalize that this is what adventure is made of.

It was a gorgeous second day of spring, but wow, I’d forgotten how windy Wyoming is!

I copied the directions off Google Maps, then decided to call the Fort Causeway Hostel for specifics, because I might arrive there at dusk. I thought I had the phone number, but I didn’t. So I checked the website, but the number wasn’t listed. Odd. I thought I made my reservation by phone – how did I do that? I gave up, and hoped to arrive before dusk. So, I left at 9:30. No problem. Google said the drive would take about six hours, 45 minutes. I had budgeted eight, including a lunch break, gas breaks, and a few stops for photos. Plenty of time.

It was a gorgeous second day of spring, but wow, I’d forgotten how windy Wyoming is! Every time a big rig passed, I gripped the steering wheel, struggling against the push-pull of the slipstream. Every time I got out of the car, the wind either almost tore the door out of my hands, or tried to slam it into me as I squeezed out and leapt aside to avoid smashed body parts.

Ghostly trees lined reborn streams.

The whipping wind lent excitement to the subtle beauty of wide open spaces, where leaning prairie grass shifted from gold to yellow-green, ghostly trees lined reborn streams, flat land gave way to undulating hills and sudden buttes, and the distant mountains pointed a crooked finger north – at least for a while.

The distant mountains pointed a crooked finger north – at least for a while.

I stopped in Casper for lunch. I considered Taco Bell – cheap and fast. But I thought, who knows if there will be a place to eat near the hostel? Better eat a big meal. I ended up at a Mexican restaurant that made me yearn for Taco Bell. Then I remembered I needed to buy extra pens, and make a bank deposit, and gas up, and shop for car snacks, and hit a Starbucks for some caffeine – after a tamale and empanadas, I didn’t trust myself to stay alert.

So, at 2:00 I still had more than four hours to go. No problem. I drove west to Shoshoni, where I was supposed to turn north toward Lovell. But, since Shoshoni is northwest of Casper, I got it into my head that I was already heading north. So imagine my surprise when I made no turns, yet the road started curving south. It took me nearly an hour to realize my mistake. I found a park service employee who set me straight and gave me a map. Ooo, a map… how quaint.

I relished the chance to enjoy Boysen Reservoir at sunset.

I decided not to let two lost hours spoil my mood. Instead, I relished the chance to enjoy Boysen Reservoir and Wind River Canyon at sunset. My car slipped between massive rocks rippling with alternating shadow and sepia.

My car slipped between massive rocks rippling with alternating shadow and sepia.

Then I raced the sunset to Lovell, hitting the brakes for instantaneous drops from 65 mph to 45 to 30, each time I hit a small-town speed trap. Dusk was falling when I hit the lightless road to the hostel. I drove up and down the street with my high beams on, puzzling over mailboxes with numbers that went from something like 127 to 22 to 1100. I finally walked into a roadhouse, where the regulars were happy to tell me that it was just “two miles… no, three miles… no, six miles down the street.”

“The house looks just like a Fort. It’s really cute,” said a beer-drinking guy in a ball cap, the one who guessed two miles. I drove nearly seven before I spotted Fort Causeway. By night, the Fortress-like logs along the top were shadows upon shadows, so I might have missed it except for the lights blazing in the many windows.

It was 8:30. No one answered when I rang the bell, but a sign said guests were welcome to go upstairs and check themselves in, so I did. When I came back down for my bags, a voice called out from the dark, “Hello!” I yelped in surprise.

“Sorry,” a youngish woman said.

“That’s OK. I’m glad to see someone.” I told her I’d gotten lost, and politely mentioned, “Did you know your phone number isn’t listed on your website?”

She knew. Her family lives downstairs and they’re trying to avoid random calls at all hours. She’s planning to get an 800 number.

The rooms are spacious and comfy, even by bed-and-breakfast standards, and they all surround a largish kitchen, lounge, bathroom, and laundry room.

It’s hard to complain. The lodge is, to borrow a phrase, “really cute.” It’s off-season, so I have the hostel to myself. The rooms are spacious and comfy, even by bed-and-breakfast standards, and they all surround a largish kitchen, lounge, bathroom, and laundry room. The place has wi-fi. Pretty awesome for 25 bucks.

So what if my silly choices turned an eight-hour drive into an eleven-hour slog? I had a good time on the journey, and arrived at a great destination. Travel can be something of an art, and as with art, it’s the unexpected mistakes that sometimes yield the most satisfying results. Still, if you ever drive from Cheyenne to Lovell, don’t forget to turn right at Shoshoni.

Today I’m heading to two book events in Billings. The drive is less than two hours… I think.

About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

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