The mountains around Provo rise in what seems to be an impenetrable wall ahead. The sky is clearing a bit but is still threatening. I’ve decided not to spend my time micro-examining the weather on my phone every hour, que sera’ sera’. But as I drive through the pristine streets of the lovely town, I’m imagining a steep grade in my future with snow at the top. Probably should have gotten those chains.
The campus of BYU seems to be all around us, and I notice the home of the Cougars and think of the many basketball games I’ve watched them play on televisions in different homes throughout my itinerant life. Gonzaga rules their Division, but the Cougars always play like a true team.
And then we hit that wall, dropping in along a stream bed and turning East and climbing gradually. Michelle is as quiet as the mountains this morning, gazing out not exactly blankly. Warm enough it seems to me. Mo is Mo, always hoping for the door to fly open.
And there is no grade! It was my one big concern, hoping I didn’t have to drop to 25 with trucks whizzing by at 80. In fact, everyone seems to slow down. We pass Bridalveil Fall and it is well named.
Utah continues to deliver green vistas of distant and not so distant mountains, all warming in the early Spring sun, early for mountains though it is May. My GPS companion offers a faster alternate route and I accept, wanting to get through to the plains before the clouds turn to snow.
And then… Highway 80 at 80 MPH with intermittent showers and roaring monsters on their way to deliver the things we need. After a while I get used to it and find subtle ways to go with the hurricane they create and even fall in and draft with a semi that just wants to go a couple miles per hour faster than I and he pulls me down the road, creating a little oasis of silence in his wake.
Even Highway 80 is lovely this day as we pass through red rock cliffs on our way across the Continental Divide. I wonder if any of the drops that fall will split in two, one half to the Pacific through the Colorado or Columbia and the other to the Mississippi and the warm Gulf.
Rawlins, Wyoming is our destination, and we get there late in the day, and I can’t find the KOA at first, my phone glitches and I have to restart it. Then, it boots up and the Maps functions delivers, it’s just a few blocks away and we arrive on a windswept ridge near the freeway and pull in, the office is closed, just five minutes earlier, and my heart sinks a bit. But as I’m standing there the owner pulls up in the cart and welcomes me and he steps from the cart and… he’s a giant.
He could have been a player for those Cougars, easily 6’ 6” (He later corrects me, “Six Seven.”) and he is the kindest, friendliest person. He guides me to the campsite, advises me on how to set up to block the wind, moves the football quarterback target out of the way, “My son was practicing, he’s not very good.” And tells me we can pay tomorrow. When he meets Mo, he lights up and I feel like I’ve met one of life’s many unknown saints.
Rain is coming and lots of wind, but I feel ready for it and go about the business of protecting us from the elements. It’s a long night but I keep Michelle cozy in the tent using our Mr. Buddy heater.
Right next door is the local package store with a sign that says, Laundromat Saloon. My kind of place and when she is asleep, I walk over and there is indeed a laundromat to the left and a bar to the right separated by a pool table. There are several people at the bar, not a big one, and a woman works away handing over drinks. All eyes turn to me as I walk up, a stranger in a small town.
Two men sit on stools to either side as the bartenders goes to get a six pack and a small bottle of whiskey for me. We fall into conversation for that moment. “Is that your bus that pulled up over there?” (Small town.) “Yes. We’re from Frazier Park, California.” He doesn’t like California which isn’t so unusual but he knows Frazier Park which is very unusual. “Used to run loads through there.”
I tell them I only sip whiskey when I’m camping. They nod, “And I like to camp a lot.” And they both crack up and we are friends in the way you make friends at a bar.