am in Gillette, Wyoming. Where is Gillette, Wyoming? Take out
your map of nowhere, place your finger in the middle and slide it slightly
to the east. Now you know as much as I do. I don’t even really
know where Gillette, Wyoming is and I wasn’t really planning on being here.
But here I am. Certain psychology patients will argue this is the
story of their lives.
I started out this morning planning on a long
drive to Billings,
Montana. It seemed like a reasonable distance for one day.
It was 47 degrees outside and starting to rain when I left Gardiner.
I queued up the CD player and off I went.
It appears, however, my calculation of the distance
from Gardiner to Billings was off. Instead of arriving five hours
later, I arrived in two. Arriving at the hotel after a lovely lunch
and some train
watching, I am greeted by a handmade sign stating: “Absolutely no Check-ins
before 3:00.” Well then, I’ll just keep going, I say to myself.
I call the hotel from their parking lot, cancel my reservation, and put
the car back on the freeway. (A completely unrelated note:
Directly next to the hotel in question was what appeared to be another
hotel - except it had a chain link fence around it and a sign that said
“Montana Women’s Penitentiary”.)
hours later I’m pulling off the freeway in Sheridan, Montana. Like
Billings, Sheridan is a railroad town. Unlike Billings, it appears
to have no redeeming qualities and a whole list of unredeeming ones.
The most reasonable hotel requires using a walkway over the main street
to pass from the lobby to the rooms. What the hell, I’ll keep going.
Seven hours after leaving Gardiner: Giant
poured rain so heavy that at times I cannot see the hood of the MINI,
Dr. Laura provided hours of questionable wisdom through the one AM station
I can find, and I no longer really have a concept exactly where I am.
I pull off the freeway at Gillette,
Wyoming. It’s the coal capitol of the world. In fact, the
power running your computer while you read this probably comes from Powder
River Basin coal. (Coal which is carried all over the country by
not big evil semi-tractors with “Oversize Load” stickers which make it
impossible to pass on rain-soaked freeways). There is a lot of coal
here. It will run out someday, but Americans don’t like to think
that far into the future. Besides, all the vending machines at this
hotel are out of Vanilla Coke, which MUNI
Guy allowed me to become addicted to on Day
One of this trip.
The upside to driving and driving and driving,
especially when I didn’t plan to drive so far, is that I have less distance
to drive tomorrow. This means I can go see Deadwood or Sundance on
my way to Rapid City.
father used to read aloud from the bible after dinner each night.
Then he’d ask us what we learned from what he read. At some point,
I figured out that if I answered “I learned to be a better person”, I didn’t
really have to listen to the bible reading to begin with. What will
I learn from this road trip? Well, I can’t say. But I do know
that I may start a tall-rights group to lobby for showers with nozzles
above my nipples and free Vanilla Coke in every room.
City….and maybe Deadwood or Sundance…
Oh, shit! I forgot one of the best items
of today. The local version of 7-11 is called “Kum
and Go”. I am not making this up – some marketing person actually
created a brand which is plastered from one side of Montana to Wyoming.
Unfortunately, they don’t sell shirts or I’d be
making a fortune at Folsom Street Fair!