By Bill Sniffin, publisher Cowboy State Daily
We blew this popsicle stand. We skedaddled. We flew out of our nest. We ventured cautiously out in to the world. Hell, folks, last week, Nancy and I went on a real road trip, ha!
After being confined for exactly three months, we decided it was time to go rescue our 15-year old motorhome, which had been held hostage in 100-degree heat at a Las Vegas RV park.
The poor thing, which we have named “Follow My Nose,” was in disarray as we left in a hurry on March 19 at the request of our children. We had been attending a Rod Stewart concert at Caesar’s Palace when we were told, under no uncertain terms, “get out of there and get your butts home!”
Our middle daughter Shelli Johnson, who lives in Lander with her husband and three boys, keeps a pretty good eye on us. But she says it’s challenging.
Like many folks her age, she could be described as being in a “sandwich generation.” This means being responsible for their own kids and their parents. She says the kids are much easier to manage!
Back then on March 17, I thought it would be fun to email some photos of a Rod Stewart concert in Las Vegas to our kids. Instead of them being thrilled, they told us to pack up and get home to Lander. Now.
We dutifully complied and left our motorhome there, thinking we would return and get it in 30 days.
It was too cold to bring it home in March, as Lander usually gets two or three big snowstorms with freezing temperatures in April. As time passed, we seriously wondered when we could go down and fetch the big rig.
As an aside, the only casinos in Wyoming are here in Fremont County. All four of them are still shuttered. We heard that Vegas was going to be opening last week so we wondered what we would run into down there.
Our motorhome is 40 feet long and weighs 34,000 pounds. It is also 13 feet high and that stretch of Interstate 15 from Vegas to Salt Lake City is notorious for terrible cross winds.
Ace Weatherman Don Day from the Cowboy State Daily said the weather on Saturday, June 20, should be nice along that route. “Don’t you want to know about Wyoming’s weather?” he asked. I told him that all I cared about was getting past that north-south stretch.
Wyoming’s South Pass, which is notorious for winds, was mild on June 18 when we left Lander. We always take the La Barge highway, which goes through the largest solar array in the state. It is huge and going to get bigger.
We stopped for gas at Little America. This frontier outpost is amazing. I went inside wearing my mask and noticed about a third of the travelers had their masks on, too.
There were several families and a bunch of truck drivers. We didn’t linger. We were trying to make it all the way to Vegas in one long day, some 700 miles.
Interstate 80 was busy. There were lots of cars, campers, and motorhomes. It seemed tourism counts were normal. And semi-trailer trucks were everywhere. The Interstate 80 Railroad, which is what I call it, was operating at full-strength. Seemed like two semis for every car.
We stopped again in one of my favorite towns, Evanston. I was scouting for places I could park our motorhome on the way back, in case of high winds or even mechanical issues. We had not driven the coach since last October when we took it to Vegas and left it there in storage.
It was a beautiful summer day and we loafed along, getting to Las Vegas about 5 p.m. We put on our masks and ventured to Sam’s Town, a nearby casino, and ate some dinner.
It was at 20 percent its normal capacity and all the help were wearing masks. Every other employee was scrubbing things down with sanitizer. We felt uneasy and left early.
We were going to spend a couple of days but Nancy says, heck let’s go home. We hooked up the car to the back of the motorhome (now, we were 60 feet long) and started home. It was 99 degrees.
Before doing that, I insisted we take one quick spin around Vegas. We checked out the new shiny Las Vegas Raiders stadium. It is a huge black dome just off Interstate 15 near the south end of the Strip. It looks magnificent. Locals call it the Death Star.
The strip was almost empty. It was actually eerie on a Friday afternoon. Normally, it would be wall-to-wall with people and bumper-to-bumper for cars. Not on this day.
We headed north and Don Day was right. No wind. We got through Virgin River Gorge and made it to a rest area near Cedar City. Temperatures were 105 going through St. George and we discovered our air conditioning was not working. Whew!
We like the Heber City bypass around Salt Lake City through Provo Canyon. The road goes by a couple of lakes that were jammed with people. No masks or social distancing in sight.
Also drove by Coalville Reservoir and Jordanelle Reservoir by Park City – lots of folks on the lakes having fun. We were sweltering in our big, ponderous motorhome slowly working our way home back to cool Wyoming.
Then in Wyoming the wind hit us. Uh-oh, what was Don trying to tell me a few days ago?
It is easy to appreciate those informational signs that WYDOT uses to let you know if bad weather is ahead. The sign leading up to South Pass in Lander had been reading “40 mph gusts on South Pass” every day for two weeks prior to our trip. That was on my mind at this point.
When we got to Farson, the informational sign was blank. Blank? Was it out of order? Forty miles closer to home, at the South Pass rest area, another informational sign was blank? The wind was howling. What the heck?
Luckily, just over South Pass the winds calmed and we headed down the pass for home. It was the longest day of the year so we rolled in at 8:30 p.m. with plenty of sunlight left. The weather was wondrously cool.
We were home. We were back in jail. We plan to self-quarantine for a while, just in case we somehow got exposed in Las Vegas or at a rest area along the way.
It sure felt fantastic to be free again even if it only lasted 65 hours.