The Odyssey of Super Mon & Wolverine, Part 1
Wolverine and I took a road trip in the summer of 2000. I had a Jeep Wagoneer which I had taken in and had the radiator flushed and new tires and hoses put on before we were to make our epic journey from St. Paul to points West. We were going as far as Salt Lake City to see our friends, Jen and Dave, and then to southern Utah to do the National Parks and back home again. The auto shop signed off on my car, and the same day we packed up and drove south toward Iowa.
It was hot.
The one week of 100 degree plus weather we get in Minnesota was happening that year in mid-August. The further south we went, the hotter it got. When we got to Des Moines the Jeep’s temperature gauge started to climb. It was about 8 at night, so we checked into a motel, let the Jeep cool down, and added water to the radiator in the morning and kept going. Big Mistake. It was about 105F outside and climbing when we got to Lincoln and the Jeep’s temperature was dangerously high. So, we did what anyone determined to continue their vacation would do, we pulled the failing Jeep into the airport lot at Lincoln and rented a new Toyota Camry. I realized that I was probably erroneously counting on some sort of “CAR REPAIRS ITSELF” type-miracle when I did this, but I REALLY wanted to go on vacation. At the time, I was working at the Rossmor Building in St. Paul, which is one million times crazier than where I work now, and there had been enormous friction between me and the owner’s son, all summer. I was super stressed out by what he was (NOT) doing at work and the many alarming things he was saying about me to the tenants and our co-workers and anyone who would listen. Since they all owed his dad money, they all listened. Anyway, lesson learned from that: Owner’s Son vs. me= Me looking for new job. But, I digress.
So, we rented a car in Lincoln, and made the uneventful and air conditioned drive through Nebraska into Wyoming for a brief visit, and then on to Colorado. What I wanted were mountains. And Wyoming and Colorado have plenty of those. We could worry about the Jeep later. And, oddly enough, once in Wyoming, we began to have so much fun, that I didn’t think about the Jeep at all. We stopped in Cheyenne late at night for a room. There was some convention in town, and all the motels/hotels were booked.
We pressed on through that bizarre town until we saw a lit vacancy sign on a dingy, and darkened motel just off a very dark road that was under major construction, called The Lariat. We walked in through beaded curtains into the main office. The smell of incense and the blue light of a TV emanated from the back room. A very small and ancient woman in a sari emerged from the back room, looked at us as though surprised by our appearance, and turned right around without saying anything. Moments later, a middle-aged man emerged to help us. Something made me ask if we could see the room first. The gentleman let us in and closed the door. There was a bucket under the brown leak-stain on the ceiling filled with brown water. The air conditioner was emitting gasps and rattles. There were two twin beds, covered with what appeared to be wool army blankets. We were not staying there, even though we were tired from driving and looking for a place to stay. Wolverine really had to go to the bathroom. He turned on the light, and two roaches skittered into hiding. Wolverine used the bathroom, washed his hands and went to tell them we wouldn’t be staying. The man behind the counter said, “I know you used the bathroom, gimme a dollar.” Wolverine was so shocked, he obediently handed over a dollar. The man called after us as we were exiting the office that the whole road was out of electricity due to the road construction and he had the only motel that had power.
We left, laughing and freaked out at the same time, and drove down the gutted and darkened road, doing who knows what to the under carriage of our rental car, until lights appeared on the buildings again and we found another motel, which was bigger, and well-lit called the El-Rancho. The parking lot was full, but they had a vacancy sign. We walked into the office just in time to hear the front desk person tell a woman checking in that the rooms don’t have telephones, and if you wanted to use the phone you had to come to the office. Before 11. Great. Bates motel # 2. I was so tired and hungry that I didn’t even care about the fact that there was no phone. The room we got was huge! There were 4 beds! This would not be the last time this happened to us while traveling through Wyoming. Hunters, we’re told. That’s who stays at places like the El Rancho. We stayed too. The comforters were all mismatched, and there were small open soaps and shampoos left in the bathroom, with unopened soaps from The Holiday Inn and the room smelled like smoke. We ditched our stuff and went across the street to an all-night family restaurant (like a Perkins) that was filled with local teenagers, truck drivers, and cowboys all staring in our direction all knowing that we were outsiders. Wolverine kept making jokes about us being Agents Mulder and Scully investigating alien abductions of sheep.
After Wyoming we stayed in Beautiful Boulder for a couple of days, wandering around, dreaming about living in such a gorgeous landscape, filled with rich hippies in sporty gear, driving Subarus, and authentic cowboys in tight pants, Western wear, cowboy hats, over-sized belt buckles (soon to be a hipster trend) and dogs in the back of their pick-ups. This was true of Wyoming and Utah as well, except the rich hippies were replaced by rich Mormons and Republicans.Boulder sang a a five minute siren song to us, but we snapped out of it, as we knew we would not be happy to live there, and that would it be too expensive anyway! s
Some interesting things happened while we were on our trip: 1) it stayed HOT. It was our intent was to camp our way out to Utah, but it was so hot and miserable that we decided that we had to reevaluate our decision and camped only in motels with A/C; 2) In the news–Hunter S. Thompson mistook his girlfriend for a bear and shot her (he lived in CO.; she survived) and due to the weather, there were wildfires all over The West. As we drove through Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, we saw huge plumes of black smoke and encountered closed roads, warning signs and evidence of previous fires in the blackened hills; 3) we were accosted by a citizen crossing guard in Estes Park when attempting to jaywalk. Lesson learned: DO NOT JAYWALK IN COLORADO or the long arm of the citizen-law will reach out in front of you, yelling “Ma’am! Ma’am!” blocking you with his arm across your chest, from crossing the empty street. We jumped expecting imminent danger, but there was only a stern and erstwhile person in an orange safety vest; 3) taxidermy is alive and well in Colorado and the rest of the West that we saw; 4) we hiked on an Alpine glacier above the treeline in Rocky Mountain National Park, and saw moose, bighorned sheep, bears, and lots of other wildlife; 5) we ate great breakfasts at small, cheap places–Wolverine was very appreciative of the plethora of Denver omelets in Colorado (heh); 6) Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah are totally white. We remarked several times how eerie it seemed that there was no diversity everywhere we went. And, we were uncomfortable, maybe rightfull so, that it would appear that we fit right in. When you think of it, who goes to Boulder on vacation? 7) the landscapes were amazing–truly gorgeous and defy description. We were alarmed by some of what we saw was juxtaposed with, or part of, the landscape–billboards, trash, fake dinosaurs, oil wells, rusted, and abandoned cars ; 8) When we stopped in Laramie, WY, a year after the murder of Matthew Shephard, Wolverine was prone to shouting everywhere we went, “isn’t this where they murdered Matthew Shephard?” He couldn’t help himself, butt I didn’t really want to get strung up on a fence either so I kept telling him to shut it! This only spurred him on, of coure; 9)We discovered while on that trip that, as a couple, we had differing views and appreciations of what is relaxing, fun, interesting, and required destinations for maximum value, etc. Wolverine enjoyed the scenery, but was longing for the city as soon as we left it. I, on the other hand was overly-enthusiastic/romantic about every vista, cliff, valley, and peak, and spoiledly and irrationally disappointed in realizing I had planned a ROAD/camping trip with a dead jeep in the middle of a heat wave/drought with my boyfriend who didn’t drive and who loved the city more than the mountain vistas. As I drove, he had his nose in a book on Arthur Rimbaud, or Poe.I am the one who wanted to drive to the West, to show Wolverine, who had never been past the Dakotas what I knew and loved and discovered. He’s so sweet and wanted to make me happy so he went along, even though he expressed doubts about the ability of the jeep, the idea of a long trip in the car, and how we should be saving our money for our wedding.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Salt Lake City and The Return To The Jeep, including: THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCOLYPSE, special underwear, no liqour allowed, $4 cup of regular coffee, Stranded, a giant toad, a semi with a search light, a tow truck driver cum cylcops with a cell phone, a mob in Omaha, derilicts, cardboard suitcases, abandonment, cigarettes, a Greyhound bus, a nutty professor, a fossilized fish, and more!