Pit stop in Thermop


My “normal weekend” is catching up on chores in town on Saturday and heading home to Bonduring and whatever else I can fit in.

With luck, Kevin and I will spend Sunday riding – as I say often, “I’m (blank) years old and I want to enjoy this while I can!”

On longer weekends, when somehow I’ve got two full days and even a third off, as happened last weekend, all I think about is “road trip!”

I’d long planned July 17 to traveling to Cody for an early birthday party and family reunion for one of my favorite bosses ever – John R. Winter of Two Ocean Pass Outfitting. His kids always entertained me in our Teton Wilderness camps and Yellowstone pack trips. Now they have beautiful kids of their own, the same age they were when I met them. And John R. is now a politician…?

Many years ago on my trips to Cody, locals harassed my 22 plates and said Cody would never turn into another Jackson. Basically, it has done just that. It was crammed with people.

First I’d stopped in Lander for a long overdue visit with friends Susan and Rob – almost two years – and slept in their 1963 camper. Looking at the shocking motel prices in Cody, I considered Thermopolis, another destination I love with its small-town charm. I balked at its prices too.

Flying by the seat of my pants is not the smartest plan for Wyoming’s popular summer stopovers, I learned to my regret.

“I’ll find a room in Thermop, walk on real grass under my bare feet, enjoy the sun and soak in the mineral springs.”

To my chagrin, every room in town was booked. Pulling into parking lots of the cheap and seedy as well as the unnecessarily expensive hotels, “no vacancy” signs greeted me. Returning to Lander and the vintage camper was always an option. But first, as the day shifted into evening, I went into Thermopolis State Park and walked barefoot on the lush grass, watched kids feed overgrown goldfish in warm ponds and crossed the shivering “swinging bridge” across the Bighorn River.

With many of the tourists – there for countless family, high school and college reunions – gone inside for dinner, I almost had the park to myself. Locals wandered around as well, standing in the balmy shade of tall leafy trees and ambling along the boardwalks. It was heavenly.

Then – on the road again.

I was very happy to see my Lander friends again as I would be to spend the night on my own in Thermop. Lander itself is always worth exploring – also greatly changed since my first dusty impressions 30-some years ago.

On my next road trip, I’ll need to break this longtime habit and come up with a plan. Either decide ahead of time and reserve a room – or figure out how to camp in the back of my car.

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