March 31, 2018
Curt Gowdy State Park, near Cheyenne, Wyoming
The snow is coming down and slowly covering the cactus that are what passes for groundcover here in this odd place, which looks like Colorado but has cactus like New Mexico. Happy Easter! April is spring, she said, there will be flowers and balmy breezes, she said, you can wear your T-shirts. It is 29 degrees outside. The space heater is struggling like mad trying to get the camper up to 65 and not succeeding. I’m going to have to turn on the propane heat again and try to warm the place up. I don’t like the propane heat because it causes condensation – and there is already mold growing in various places around the camper, ugh – and I’m always afraid it’s going to kill me with carbon monoxide poisoning. I have no faith whatsoever in the CO detector that came with the camper. Hardly anything else that came with the camper worked, after all, so why should it be any different?
I have driven 735 miles since Monday. That is a lot of miles for me, a huge amount, I’m 235 miles ahead of schedule, even! Not only did I manage to fit in a major RV repair, I’m on my second snowstorm in seven days. At least this time my view is this –
This is my third camp since I got to Wyoming. I left Antelope Island on Wednesday and drove too long – I also stopped back at Charlie’s Auto to have handsome Justin the mechanic explain to me what the trailer brakes were, what the controller was, what it did and so on, in words of one syllable. He also test drove the rig to make sure it was all working right. And then off I went on Interstate 84, which soon became Interstate 80. I hate interstates. They go too fast; you can’t stop; and they’re full of trucks. But they do not scare me anymore, not like they used to, and my gawd they do eat up the miles. So into Wyoming I went.
Wyoming from the vantage point of Interstate 80 is beautiful and desolate, empty land broken by occasional heavy industry. There are parts of it – cough Rock Springs cough – that look like you are at the bottom of the Grand Canyon IF the bottom of the Grand Canyon was filled with a huge mining conglomerate.
I stayed at the KOA in Rock Springs on Wednesday night. I was exhausted when I got in and then I decided I had to shower and do laundry. KOAs basically suck. They are, like, the last resort camping place. Only go there if there is no other alternative and you have to do laundry, or you are tired and scared and just want the comforting anonymous consistency of corporate America. I was all of the above and so into the KOA I went, despite that fact that it was right next to some kind of terrifying giant plant. Nothing like sleeping next to huge tanks! Tanks of what? Who knows. They looked nice in golden hour as the sun illuminated the spiral stairs winding around the white, enormous cylinders and I tried hard not to think the word Bhopal. I filled my water tank there too, so if I start mutating, blame Wyoming. But I did meet the couple next door!
The KOA was filling up fast – I was not the only person fleeing bad weather, or Easter, or some combination of the two. Tiny Amelia always looks sort of ridiculous squeezed in between two huge rigs. The KOA approach to weatherizing their water faucet was to build a little house out of a plastic bin around it. They insulated the plastic bin with styrofoam and that shiny bubble wrap stuff beloved of Rvers – it was actually a pretty cool setup and I was impressed. It was not, however, immediately understandable at first glance and so I was trying to figure it out when my neighbor emerged. Well, the lady emerged.
“Hi!” she said, and “Hey!” I said, although I know nobody says Hey here, they all say Hi. But that’s OK, I have finally found somewhere that thinks being from North Carolina is exotic and I want to milk it for all it’s worth.
“This is some setup!” I said, planning just to start a conversation, but apparently it scared her, because she promptly disappeared into the motorhome and sent her husband out.
“I hear you need help!” he said gallantly and I thought, I do?
“Um,” I said, “Well, it’s OK. . “
But he wanted to show me how to turn the water faucet on, so I let him do that and it totally paid off, because he told me that he and his wife were birders. “So am I!” I said, excited, although I’m not sure I actually am a birder, like, is there a test I should pass? Can I really just say I am one? Am I one? I can’t find the binoculars. If I were truly a birder I would probably be able to find the binoculars.
He didn’t ask me for my credentials, though, just told me that there was an annual migration of cranes in Kearney, Nebraska, and it was going on NOW. I googled it later and it might even still be going on in a week or two, which is super exciting and I am ON MY WAY.
The weather has been chasing me scared all through this state. I knew it was supposed to get windy, like, seriously windy, and there were dire warnings of snow and wintry mixes and so on. I knew, though, that I couldn’t stay more than one night at that KOA – it was truly dire, just awful, a giant gravel lot in the shadow of the chemical plant, but there was something white and fuzzy and small hiding under a shed. It wouldn’t come out and I couldn’t tell what it was. Be well, fuzzy creature!
So I left pretty early for me on Thursday morning and drove 100 miles or so to Rawlins. I was almost thinking I could keep going but no, I-80 was CLOSED to “light, high profile vehicles” which is to say, campers and RVs and, I guess, trucks full of styrofoam packing pellets or feathers or like the one I saw today, AIRE FRIGIDE. Rawlins actually looked like a pretty cute town. I did not explore it, though, I just parked my ass between two larger rigs at the Red Desert Rose Campground – after a long conversation with the desk clerk who was, I have to say it, smoking hot and super nice. And, he used to have a job transporting live fish. Aquarium fish? I asked but no, apparently rich people have ponds and so on that they stock with bass and trout and who knows what else. Koi, maybe. These fish get transported in insulated tanks stacked inside trucks – not, as I had promptly begun to imagine, in tanker trucks with huge hoses that just SHHWOOOOSH suck them out of the truck and SPLOOOOSH into the pond (I could just see standing there wielding that hose, it’s like a dream job, really) – and anyway, he used to deliver some to North Carolina. I told you North Carolina was exotic.
The Red Desert Rose Campground is totally charming, in that it has its own tiny, tiny mini golf course, a remnant from a weird and vanished era. There is a dinosaur. There is a covered wagon. There is an inexplicable hole decorated with real cow skulls, like some strange cowboy goth snuck in and created that part. There is an even more inexplicable angry chimpanzee with a saddle on its back (on long reflection – it did honestly take me a week or two – I have realized that that chimpanzee is probably a horrible racist dogwhistle and I am sad, I just thought it was creepily weird as fuck. And maybe it is. Maybe it is just a chimpanzee in jeans wearing a saddle. Um? Any which way, it’s creepily weird as fuck.) and a collapsed teepee. Such joy. And on the outside of this tiny mini golf course (it fits in, like, a small fenced area that is smaller than my front yard, perhaps 30 feet on the long sides?) there are two statues, a cowboy and an Indian, both created for maximum comic effect: horrifying. So awful. Just truly bad. I broke out the FILM cameras for this bonanza.
Meanwhile, though, while I was walking around taking pictures and looking at the campground, which is under new management, the wind was blowing up a storm, 50 – 60 mph gusts. Those shake Amelia like a small boat on the North Atlantic (yes I’ve been in one) and they’re always a little unsettling. I was glad to be between two huge rigs at that point! When I checked in, the guy told me that the showers were being renovated but that I could use the mens room, probably, just knock, he said. So in the morning before I left I just knocked. There was a builder guy working on the ladies room. He was about 5’4” and thin as a rail, a few missing teeth, red hair, big smile, weird unidentifiable to me accent.* “Go ahead!” he said, “I’ll make sure nobody comes in, lady!” And so I went on into the mens room and the Shower of Doom. I keep meaning to write up a whole essay on Showers I Have Survived – this one should get its very own entry. I mean, there’s dirty and there’s decrepit and then there are showers that hit it out of the park in both those categories. I would have backed out except I didn’t want the helpful guy outside to think I was a) mean or b) snobby or, hell, I don’t know, afraid of dying of a Mysterious Shower Linked Disease. This is called being a Nice Girl and you can die of it. So I took a shower and, okay, it was filthy and falling down and the taps were falling off and the molding thing around the bottom of the stall had collapsed, revealing the straight up mold underneath and, oh gods, I will stop here. But there was HOT. WATER. and it was blessed beyond belief. When I came out, much cleaner and happier, my builder friend in an excess of zeal had constructed a barricade all around the door of the men’s room with tarps and buckets and lumber and sheetrock and I could barely get out. “I wanted to make sure you was okay, lady!” he said happily and I thanked him and said it was a great shower. And I haven’t died of a shower related disease. Yet.
* Why does it matter how short he was? I have a theory that all campground showers were built by Dwarves of the Misty Mountains after the trade in precious metals and inlaid axes dried up, around about the 1920s. They came down out of the Mountains and became plumbers. And that is why almost every campground showerhead is approximately 5’5” above the ground, which, if you are 5’10” like me, is a royal pain in the ass. The Dwarves are still giggling.