Feed on

I’ve been wanting to wander around Wyoming for a couple of months now and finally decided to go last weekend.  No real planning, the only requirements were to see Jackson Hole and some big mountains. Friday morning I took my truck to the mechanic to have the transmission and differential fluids changed.  I picked it up that afternoon and after work I went home to grab some cold weather gear (highs of 35 F were forecast there), then started driving.  I went up through the panhandle and crashing at the usual I-27 rest stop near Plainview, TX around 1:30 AM.

Saturday, May 29: For whatever reason it was a fitful night of sleep and I finally gave up trying to sleep at sunrise at 7.  Ultimately before arriving in Denver I’d have to stop at two rest stops to take naps because I was so tired.  At some point I actually debated calling off Wyoming and go back to do silly things with my friends in Denver instead.  I decided I was “so close” and kept on going.  When I hit the Wyoming border, my motivation and excitement level jumped.  I hopped out of the truck to take a photo at the border sign and realized it was super windy and cold due to a storm front rolling in. It was quite a contrast to the smug and hot weather I just left!

The drive across Wyoming on I-80 was pretty uneventful.  The whole area is this flat rolling grassland which sort of reminds me of a decent high school softball field — not particularly magnificent, but not covered in weeds, rocks and bare spots. As a coworker summed it up, it’s just a notch above the scenery in West Texas on I-10.

Once at Rock Springs, the approach to Jackson is exactly like that of Burning Man, “turn north on I-80 and drive through nothing for 100+ miles”.  By now it was after 11 PM and very dark.  The road got windier as I went, having to concentrate that I didn’t drop off into the black darkness below.  Around 1 as I was about to enter the forest, highway 191’s pavement completely ended, turning into a rough one-lane gravel road. This was the Road of Bones (Jungo Road) happening to me all over again!  Fortunately there were less death defying experiences this time and it was over in a few miles.

Sunday, May 30: Sometime after 2 AM I rolled into Jackson after 18 hours of driving from the Texas panhandle. A quick cruise through town and seeing all the rustic wood facade buildings made it apparently this was clearly a fancy resort town. I crashed in a Motel 6, hoping to get a decent night’s rest.  My plan was foiled by the rowdy kids next door who were desperately banging on the door+windows to get the attention of “Cynthia, you bitch!” most of the night.

Sunday morning I got my first look of the town in the daylight.  The very first car I saw on the road was a Maserati Coupe. Then I found out there was a Four Seasons ski lodge there.  This, on top of what I saw last night, was all starting to make sense now. Clearly there was a lot of yuppie ski dollars flowing into this place! I also realized why it’s called Jackson Hole: the entire town of Jackson is in a valley rimmed by mountains.

I had breakfast and wandered around the town square for a couple of hours. The “town square” area was really nice, almost out of a movie set. Being surrounded by mountains definitely helps!  I saw that there were quite a few higher end shops there, art galleries, jewelry stores, and restaurants.

There’s a certain stereotype of Wyoming people I established long ago, that of black felt hats and long duster coats.  Turns out that stereotype was pretty true, I saw lots of people walking around Jackson in black hats and long coats. I guess they’re pretty effective at staving off the chilly air while being fashionable in a west sort of way.  Once thing I noticed about WY, the “bucking horse and rider” icon was on practically every sign.  Texas has our Lone Star, they have their horse.

I calculated I needed to leave by 2 PM in order to reach Denver by 10, so I headed outside of town to see the Tetons.  I immediately saw the National Elk Refuge and was taken in by the scenery.  A couple miles down the road was an even bigger surprise, which was full on white capped mountains.  Magnificent.  This made the whole drive worthwhile.

The further I went, the more I liked what I saw.  It was chilly which added to the allure somehow.  There was always something new to take pictures of.  When I got to Moran Junction I entered the actual Grand Tetons National Park area.  This took me even closer to the mountains and right into the thick of the forest.  People were fly fishing in the water below the Jackson Dam, others were having lunch on the shore.  I saw several people out on bicycles and a few more on horseback.

I was in awe at how pretty all the scenery was.  I’m already plotting how I can go back for a week. I would love to go hike up a mountain or go horseback riding all afternoon. One thing I didn’t realize was that the major ski area is just over the pass in Teton Village. This will give me more to look at the next time I’m there.

After a full morning of sight seeing I left Jackson.  This also gave me the opportunity to see the pass in the daylight, what tried to kill me the morning before.  That night I stopped through Denver and had a cup of coffee with Steve to catch up.  I kept on going and spent the night at a rest stop near Pueblo.

Monday, May 31: At daylight I was up on the road again, making it to Austin at 10:30 PM. Denver to Austin in one day is quite a haul and this two hour head start from Pueblo didn’t make that much difference.  While I was thrilled to have seen so much beauty in Wyoming, I was equally glad that I was finished driving.  I wanted to kneel down and kiss the floor in my apartment!

The complete set of pictures are available on the Flickrs.

The numbers

Overall, it was 3,027 miles and 43 hours, 14 minutes of driving. This was by far my most ambitious weekend road trip ever and I don’t think I want to repeat it anytime soon. I’m definitely flying into JAC next time!

Waypoint Time Odometer Fuel
Post, TX 5/29 12:30 AM 184,424 21.6
Raton, NM 5/29 12:11 PM 184,807 22.8
Layfette, CO 5/29 5:10 PM
Laramie, WY 5/29 7:34 PM 185,196 22.5
Rock Springs, WY 5/29 11:00 PM 185,410 13.2
Jackson, WY 5/30 1:45 AM 185,590
Jackson, WY 5/30 2:15 PM 185,667 13.3
Laramie, WY 5/30 8:13 PM 186,060 20.4
Pueblo, CO 5/31 12:48 AM 186,306
Raton, NM 5/31 11:19 AM 186,430 20.4
Slaton, TX 5/31 5:05 PM 186,776 20.7
Austin, TX 5/31 10:30 PM

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