Lisa and I are finishing up the first part of The Great Rectangular State Adventure of 2012. We arrived in Denver on Saturday and drove up I-25 to Casper, Wyoming, to visit my mom and her husband.
For those who don’t know, I was born in Iowa, but I grew up in Wyoming. The Equality State holds a special place in my heart (despite everything that’s “wrong” with it from the perspective of an urbane person who lives in a major Eastern metropolitan area with high-tech jobs and cultural attractions and diversity and laws). I made great friends here, did a lot of fun things, and heard so many fantastic stories about all of the crazy things that happen in a state with more cows than people. While hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and driving around the state alone and with friends, I built up my own trove of Wyoming lore, too. (Most of it’s even true.) High school cross-country and debate trips were almost always overnight affairs with lots of shenanigans and fun. I estimate that I met 10% of the people my age during the three years that I lived here full time.
But, like most of my friends, I went away for college and never moved back. We’re a band of expatriates, and—as with all people who move away—when we come back this place is strangely familiar and foreign at the same time. I walk a line between nostalgia for an idealized golden age and trying to appreciate the state for the way that it really is now, warts and all. I love thinking about this place and all of the things that we did at the same time that I wonder what I’m possibly going to do this time without just doing the same things that I’ve done in the past.
(One of my best high school friends keeps finding her way back to Wyoming. She’s the most improbable native daughter a state like Wyoming could ever have. We had hoped to meet up, but sadly, we’re just going to miss her on this trip and won’t be able to make the reading from her collection of short stories, “Cowboys and East Indians.”)
This trip is one of the rare times that we’re here in the summer, so we’re doing more outdoorsy things. Wyoming is a great place to be outside, even when it’s been hot like this week. (Although, it’s definitely nicer when you’re not in the direct sun.) Because I’m deep into triathlon training, I brought my bike, so this is also the first time that I’ve been cycling here in almost 20 years. Hiking and cycling in Wyoming is so much different than where Lisa and I live now. The mountains are higher; the roads and trails are less crowded; and views are much more impressive.
The elevation is much higher here, too—5000+ feet vs. 300 at our house—and I can definitely feel it. Actually, I feel it a lot! Tons of sparklies everywhere I look. (I think it’s also wreaking havoc with my blood sugar, making me low all the time.) Sunday’s 60-mile ride with Mom and Miles was a bit more challenging than I expected. And my plan to ride up Casper Mountain this morning was thwarted after the first six miles by a 25 MPH headwind and the sparklies. (Although the 50+ MPH ride back down was totally sweet and all too short!)
After my less-than-successful attempt to ride up the mountain, we all drove up in the car a little bit later. We took a short hike, saw a rattlesnake, and visited a fantastically beautiful (and new-to-me) part of the mountain. I loved being on the edge of one mountain, seeing the range extend far into the distance as the shadows from the clouds moved across the meadows between them, the air full of the smell of sagebrush. This particular park has a quirky, New-Agey mythology to it that is very much not normal for Casper, and it just made me very happy to be there.
I’m kinda sad that we’re starting the next phase of our adventure tomorrow when we drive to Colorado Springs.