Friday, July 24, 2009

And Miles to Go Before We Sleep...

Pictures: Baby and the Pines Motel, Newcastle, WY; Thunder Basin National Grasslands; Coal Cars; Baby dropping her oil at Express Lube; Wind River Scenic Highway (2 pics)

23 July 2009 Newcastle, WY to Shoshoni, WY 311 miles

There is a whole lot of land in Wyoming! It didn’t help that we traveled about sixty miles west across the top third of the state, then turned south for about seventy miles to Douglas before turning west again. We decided on this route because it was the only one that we could bypass all the interstate highways.

The drive from Newcastle to Douglas was beautiful. We went through the Thunder Basin National Grasslands, which was the epitome of the wide-open spaces I’ve always pictured Wyoming to be. Rolling hills, and sometime plateaus of grassland. We saw many, many antelope (Dave said they were Pronghorns) along side the road, and oftentimes they were intermixed side by side with cattle on the ranches.

Just before we turned south on Highway 59, off in the distance we could discern a haze in the sky. It turns out that this part of Wyoming is home to Thunder Basin Mining Company, which is the largest surface coal mine in North America. The mining site utilized those huge monster-sized dump trucks. This operation was massive. On the opposite side of the highway from the mine, a six-track railroad yard was busy filling rail cars with the coal. Over the next 80 miles of driving, we probably saw at least 10 trains hauling coal to whatever power plant they were headed for. This obviously led to a discussion about coal mining…we were estimating that each car probably held about 196 cubic feet of coal, (this number may be way off, as I have no idea how big a train car is) and the trains were at least 100 cars long. That is a lot of coal!

This part of Wyoming is also dotted with oil pumping rigs. We made an observation that there are many similarities here with West Texas…

We still felt pretty good when we hit Douglas, so we stopped for lunch and decided to go another 45 miles to Casper. So from Douglas, we headed west once more along highway 20. We thought we were taking a side road which would lead us to another road that would bypass a 40 mile stretch of the interstate, but much to my chagrin, the side road we were aiming for must have a secret entrance. Instead, this roadway merged onto the interstate, along with three other “highways.” There was no choice for the frontage road, and not a single exit for 23 miles, and there was no way to make a u-turn. We were stuck on the interstate until we hit Glenrock where we were able to take a side road into Casper.

We started looking for camping possibilities, but we’re not coming up with a lot—there were some for RV’s, but not tent camping. We decided to go into town and ask someone, and also, if possible, see if we could find somewhere where Dave could change the oil in the car. He has been wanting to do this before we started pulling the elevation gains. When the first few places he called to see if they would be able to dispose of his oil for him told him no, we headed for AutoZone. Right next to AutoZone was a Lube Express, so Dave thought, “It can’t hurt to ask!” He pulled in, and when he explained that he just needed them to drain the old oil, and that he had everything else he needed, they said, “No problem!” They were not busy at all…in fact they were just standing around. When all was said and done, they wouldn’t take any money from us, and the oil change only took about five minutes—Dave says, “Almost like a NASCAR pit stop.” While this was happening, Dave did notice that water was draining out of the radiator hose. We thanked the Express Lube crew (after they were done taking pictures, of course) and went in search of some shade to replace the hose. Once again, the parts are under the back seat, so we had to unload the car to get this job done. Once fixed and filled with water, we took out the map…

It was decision time…go back, and north 15 miles to the nearest campground, get a hotel, or push on. It was only 2:00, and neither one of us are into retracing our miles, and we were in a hotel last night, so we opted to push on to Shoshoni, WY, a long, desolate stretch of high desert—94 miles of it—to the west. This was far and away the longest stretch for us…probably because it was coming after already completing close to 200 miles, it was at the end of the day, and also, Central and Eastern Wyoming are experiencing a heat wave…and temps are about 10 degrees above normal—I think we hit 90 or so. Unfortunately, the heater in the A was working at optimum capacity. We restocked our water supply and a few snacks, with the idea that we might stop for ice cream at one of the three or four towns along the way. This didn’t happen, because those “towns” consisted of a sign with the elevation, and maybe two or three run down buildings.

We made it to and through Shoshoni, and headed northwest to Boysen Reservoir State Park, which is a reservoir along route 20 as it heads toward Thermopolis, WY. We are stopped, on the lake, which looks and feels an awful lot like Lake Havasu, on the Colorado River. So after nine hours of driving, and over three hundred miles, we are crashing. Our only consolation is that tomorrow’s drive will be shorter.

24 July 2009 About 5 miles north of Shoshoni, WY to Cody, WY

Once the mosquitoes started attacking last night we quickly brushed our teeth and climbed into the tent. It was a beautiful night. I woke up a couple of times torn between sleeping and forcing my eyes to stay open to watch the stars…sleep won out! (David said he did the same thing!)

We woke up this morning before sunrise and decided to pack up and head into Thermopolis to try and find a laundromat and breakfast before it got too warm (or the weekend laundry crowds hit). The drive between Shoshoni and Thermopolis is probably one of the most scenic drives we’ve seen on this trip. Traveling along the Wind River, (much of this area is part of the Wind River Reservation) between two towering cliffs, we felt like we were driving on the valley floor of the Grand Canyon. Absolutely stunning. With the river traveling down the center, the railroad went along the base of the cliffs on the west, and the highway on the east. We picked a perfect time to travel…not only was traffic light, but the early morning light hitting the canyon walls was spectacular. Supposedly, bighorn sheep and antelope are prevalent in this area but we did not see any this time.

After breakfast and laundry, we continued on our journey toward Cody, WY. We are planning on staying at a forest service campground which means no electricity for a few days...

1 comment:

  1. Eleven of us Cap A's members returned this weekend from the NWRG Meet in Cottage Grove, OR. It was a great week. We trailered five A's and drove them to the seminars, the grand tour/bar-b-Q, and awards banquet. Only minor car problems on one modern, one A and a trailer. And on the return trip, Beanie was lost for two nights at the Willows Rest Stop. A kind traveler found Art's lost dog note, saw Beanie, and delivered him to Art. We all love reading your blog. Keep on A'ing. What a story you have for the Restorer and your friends.