Winter Break Escape

Well...I intended to be writing blogs every night on my trip, but I left the charger to my laptop at my sister's home in Nebraska as I ventured on to Wyoming-Idaho-Utah-Colorado and back to Nebraska. I'll do my best to recap, and somewhere down the line may copy and paste some notes that I took on my phone along the way, intended for blog postings later in the evening.

"On the Road Again" left off with me cuddled up in bed with Bella at my good friend's home in Scottsbluff, Nebraska on....what day was that...(checking previous post) December 28th. For a brief moment I thought about staying out in the 4Runner to test out the sleeping conditions during a winter storm while still in the immediate vicinity of a warm bed. However, Bella and I were already IN that warm bed...so we decided to utilize that cozy comfort while we had it. The next morning we woke up and had breakfast and I was attempting to plan the route of the trip. See, for nearly a month prior, the travel plan for winter break was to head to Haiti to help a inspiring and beautiful young woman there with an EMS program that she is starting from the ground up. Unfortunately schedules with flights and getting back in time for school, not to mention ticket prices, debunked those plans last minute...and by last minute I mean it was still an option until that morning.

So, with almost 10 days left of freedom I had to fill them with somewhere new and exciting. I'm from Nebraska and appreciate aspects of it, but after years of living in California with countless things to do and abundant outdoor activities, I absolutely get cabin fever in the harsh grey winters.  

I decided to call a bud of mine who I inherited after we lost my brother in Iraq in 2007. Josh is a Superintendent at Salmon Heli-repellers and I've always wanted to come up there and see what that world looked like. Idaho, for one, is a state I'd never been to, so it was all the more enticing to put another pin in the map. When I got a hold of him he told me to come on up as they're on the off season and during the winter he grooms the nearby ski hill for work and rides snowmobiles with his buds any chance he gets. That all sounded like a wonderful time to me and I told him I'd head that way. Now, to plan the route and return to Nebraska. I drew out a little map on a piece of notebook paper and calculated driving distances from point to point, friend's place to friend's place. I started to get a little anxious as I wasn't sure where I was going to stay on the first night as I drove through Wyoming. The trip could be made straight through but there was no way I could drive through the Tetons at night and not stop to enjoy them. Also, the two routes I had in mind meant very different things. Route one: Wyo-Idaho-Utah-Co-Ne would allow to see plenty of fiends and family. Route two: Wyo-Idaho-Montana-SD-NE would allow for some new scenery and more solitude to work on writing blogs. Finally, after 2pm, Bella and I loaded up and hit the road with the 'tentative plan to be route one. 

As we headed West on Highway 26 I thought it was remarkable how many signs I continued to see for the Oregon Trail. There are a few spots where you can pull off and actually see the ruts in the hills from the wagon wheels. I wasn't able to this trip because of the deep snow, but remember seeing them as a child on field trips to somewhere here in Nebraska. It's remarkable, the feeling you can get when you are in the exact same place and looking at physical evidence of significant historical events. It didn't take us long to get into Wyoming and of course I had to pull over to get a shot of the state sign. I pulled the 4Runner in the deep snow alongside the road, just because I could and absolutely act like a child trying to play with his new toy any chance he gets. 

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Now, of course, one can not stop for a picture and not let the dog out to play. Besides, I Love to take as many pics of her as I can because, lets face it, she's an absolutely adorable model.

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That was the last picture that I posted on a Facebook page "Nebraska through the Lens" as I said: "Goodbye Nebraska" the post received a lot of attention hoping that we weren't leaving for good. Though I hopefully will return to a more suitable climate, I reassured the folks of Through the Lens that I would be returning shortly. I invited followers on that page to subscribe to the blog so they could continue on, but the post was deleted as the admin don't want people flooding the photography page with adverts for their own businesses/pages/agendas. I totally understand. I'll find a way to diplomatically post on there someday to let some of the followers on there tag along for out of state adventures.

Next stop was Ft. Laramie, Wyoming. It wasn't far down the path, yet definitely called for a quick pull over to grab a photo or two. A door with an old cow skull caught my attention right away, and I would've Loved to have been able to have made it into the town before Calamity Jane's closed for the day.

I absolutely Love the snow in this picture, especially on top of the skull and lanterns.

I absolutely Love the snow in this picture, especially on top of the skull and lanterns.

Putting off leaving Mitchell (Scottsbluff area) until after 2pm definitely had it's downside. I missed anything being open, such as Calamity Janes. I absolutely adore towns with this much character.

Putting off leaving Mitchell (Scottsbluff area) until after 2pm definitely had it's downside. I missed anything being open, such as Calamity Janes. I absolutely adore towns with this much character.

This little town made me think that perhaps my next adventure will be more free and flexible and I could just find places like this to stay for as long as I wished to gather all of the history and stories before moving on to the next. 

From Ft. Laramie I continued west and made the decision to go a bit out of the way up north on I-25 to Casper, Wyoming to drive through the town where my maternal Grandmother was born. When I rolled into the town the first thing I noticed was an impressive "Welcome to Casper" monument. I did a quick google search to reveal that the "two and a half time life size bronze monument depicts four prominent local oilmen (Fred Goodstein, Mick McMurry, Dave True, and John Wold) working on the floor of a drilling rig. However, what I almost forgot to mention was that I passed this on the way into town...and drove much farther than I would've preferred before there was another exit so that I could turn around and capture a picture of the sculpture. The temperatures were plummeting and the wind was whipping through any protective clothing I was wearing. When I stopped for fuel at my turn around point my debit card says: "Check ID" When the lady asked to see my ID she said: "California?! What the hell are you doing here? It's so cold, I would do anything to get to California." For those of you who don't know, I recently moved back to Nebraska from California to finish some schooling and haven't updated the ID as I may make the journey back west to those beautiful Cali winters again. Needless to say, as I returned to the monument and got out to take the picture I was definitely NOT in California. I let Bella out and she was running around the ditch area and excitedly digging for "fun." I decided to name whatever she was looking for in the snow "fun" so that no matter where we went she could help me find some. Let me find the pic and get it posted so we can move onto the next. At this rate, I may never get this blog finished because we have so much more to go over.

It's nice to see that number increase...but not when there is a minus symbol preceding it.

It's nice to see that number increase...but not when there is a minus symbol preceding it.

As my way to "give back" this holiday season I posted pictures that I edited to look like Greeting Cards of many of the communities in Nebraska that I drove though and posted them on Nebraska through the lens allowing free reign for downloading, sharing, and printing. This was the only one that I did out of state. 

As my way to "give back" this holiday season I posted pictures that I edited to look like Greeting Cards of many of the communities in Nebraska that I drove though and posted them on Nebraska through the lens allowing free reign for downloading, sharing, and printing. This was the only one that I did out of state. 

After I snagged that pic we hopped back in the car and I looked up little towns on the road to Jackson's Hole and found one called Dubois. I plugged that into the GPS and again, we headed westward. While driving through the Wind-River Reservation I drove past a sign that said "Sacagawea Gravesite" at near midnight. Again, I turned around and followed the arrow on the sign. Of course, there were no more additional signs once I got to the fork in the road and I pulled over to once again use the google machine. I quickly found "Sacagawea Cemetery" on the map and navigated towards it. When I got out, it appeared to be closed, and then I found another entrance a little farther south than the main gate. At this time, it was in the negative teens and the wind was whipping brutally. When I got out of the car it was extremely eerie and I could hear two men talking but there wasn't anyone in sight. I'm not scared of many things, but being a white man in the middle of an Indian Reservation that I'd never been to, in the middle of the night, at a cemetery no less, and looking for the gravesite of a legendary Native American Figure...hearing these voices with no one in sight might have just given me the heebie jeebies. Nonetheless, I saw a set of footprints in the shin-high snow and assumed that another person had trekked to the grave since the snow had fallen. I followed them step by step and sure enough it led directly to her gravesite. It's an impressive stone, and not too distantly erected either. I did some research of course, and as always there is much debate as to when she actually died and where she's buried. You can read more here: http://www.history.com/news/whos-buried-in-sacagaweas-grave  Nonetheless, I have a good friend who recently told me how she's been inspired by the Story of Sacagawea and I text her to let her know that I was passing through the supposed gravesite and that she was there in spirit with me. That's my favorite part of traveling and sharing it with friends and family. If you are on my mind while I am somewhere, I feel like I've brought you with me and if I take a photo for you at that spot, it's as if you were.

Had to touch the headstone to add for the "closeness effect" for the pic I sent to my friend.

Had to touch the headstone to add for the "closeness effect" for the pic I sent to my friend.


It didn't take long for the blood to run away from my fingers in those temperatures. 

It didn't take long for the blood to run away from my fingers in those temperatures. 

From there, it was back on the road through the pitch dark night en route to Debois. I was adamant that I wanted to drive over the pass and on into Jackson's hole in the morning so I could see the Tetons in the daylight. I passed by a jack rabbit that was hit by a car and got out and took a picture holding it by the foot so that I could prove how big it was. I could barely fit it into frame. I won't post it on here but just know that I sincerely thought about lobbing off a foot to keep as a traveling heirloom. My very own lucky rabbit's foot, but then I remembered I was still on the Res and thought I'd better leave it right where I found it. Well, I placed him on the side of the road so he wouldn't get completely decimated by oncoming traffic. He was in great shape, maybe someone could still make a few dollars on pelt if that was legal. I have no idea, but hey, why not try.

The journey for the evening stopped in Dubois and by the time I pulled in town it was near 0200. I wasn't about to pay $140 for a few hours in a hotel so I looked at the dog and said: "All-right girl, if we start to freeze, go ahead and eat me." I could never eat her, she's too precious. I think I'd lob my own leg off and share it with her if that were the case. I drove to a hotel parking lot, just in case I felt we couldn't survive, and pulled the 4 Runner into a spot out of the wind. That's a crucial piece to keeping the vehicle at livable conditions. I let Bella out one more time to run and the weather was now at -20F, no wind chill included. I was impressed, however, at how well we were both holding up as the Wyoming -20 was a dry cold and without the humidity we were used to in Nebraska, it seemed we were prepared for it. Also, I kept the heat on 65 with the fan on med/low the entire trip as to slowly acclimate us along the way. I got out our layers, which included an iso mat to sleep on top of, and a furniture blanket below that. My REI sleeping bag is only rated for 34, and I have an old coleman sleeping bag for Bella to lay on. I threw on a hoodie and my sweat pants and crawled in. Took my coat off and wrapped it around Bella and we sheltered in for the night. 

All tucked in.

All tucked in.

Because: Brr.

Because: Brr.

Obviously we made it, because I'm typing this post...but the journey the next day is going to have to wait until my next blog post as it's time for me to get to moving on to class today. I hope you enjoyed that bit of the trip so far. I'll post about the town of Dubois and my trip into the Tetons in a few days. Until then, Live Life Illustrated. -Rob K.