Going from room to room at the Best K-Bar Motel in Greybull, it still gets pretty cold despite being bundled up for the weather.
Cars also can freeze up on a girl in Wyoming who is making trips here, there and everywhere for what is a massive hotel renovation project.
But despite all that, Amanda McGrew, who moved to Wyoming from California to restore the vintage motel, couldn’t be slowed by the recent polar vortex that put Wyoming into a deep freeze.
Part of how she does that is the warmth McGrew gets from her new Cowboy State neighbors.
“People are definitely checking on me,” she said. “Pretty much everyone I’ve met has had something to say. Like, ‘Oh, how you holding out,’ you know, and everyone I’ve met has had some good knowledge to share.”
McGrew feels like she’s got all the right attire now to weather Wyoming’s cold months and keep going on her project restoring the Best K-Bar Motel in Greybull to its former vintage glory.
“I’ve got my long johns, got my gloves, got my wool socks, got my insulated bib, so I’m in pretty good shape,” she told Cowboy State Daily.
McGrew has also learned all about the importance of a good, clingy base clothing layer — one that’s not made of cotton so it will wick excess moisture away.
“Everybody says the base layer should be really tight to your skin, and then, everything else, kind of layer on top of that,” McGrew said. “Whether that base layer is a T-shirt, then sweatshirts and vests and jacket, or however you want to do it. Everybody seems to have their own way, but that has worked very well for me.”
All the friendly advice has not been lost on McGrew.
“The coldest it normally gets in Santa Monica is about 45 on a cold morning,” she said. “I’m realizing right now how grateful I’ll be next week when it hits the 30s again. I had no idea I would be so grateful for that.”
Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
McGrew bought the K-Bar with Montana investor Kyle Black last year.
They both renovate old spaces and had met online through McGrew’s sister.
After chatting about their various projects for a while, McGrew and Black eventually decided a collaboration would be fun and potentially profitable. They made plans to buy a motel together in Wyoming, with McGrew signing up for the sweat equity part of the investment.
McGrew became interested in Wyoming because she particularly loves small-town rodeos, and Greybull fits that bill to a T with its Days of 49.
“I’ve taken a bunch of road trips, you know, from California, up the coast north, out toward Texas, up through the Grand Canyon, and up through all the way to Whitefish, Montana, and back down through Wyoming,” McGrew told Cowboy State Daily last summer. “I’ve made it a goal of mine to find the coolest small-town rodeos in my journey, because that is just what speaks to me.”
Black and McGrew met in person for the first time in Greybull, where they plunked their money down on a big huge K-Bar bet. Their first sight of the motel was initially disconcerting, McGrew told Cowboy State Daily.
“Well, this is gonna be a lot,” McGrew recalled saying.
Black then said the words that have kind of become McGrew’s personal motto. “Bite off more than you can chew, and then just chew like hell.”
Wyoming Is Now Officially Home Base
McGrew has been working since last spring on a top-to-bottom, inside-to-outside renovation that is saving a historic and once popular destination from certain death.
It is now Day 162 of her renovation work, and she has so far finished a complete makeover on three units — rented out to a mix of short- and long-timers — and she’s almost finished with the fourth unit, which already has a prospective tenant as well.
“I should be done with that one in the next week or so,” McGrew said. “And then I’ve got a travel nurse coming to move into that unit at the end of January.”
The instant success of these refurbished rooms is not only heartening in these cold winter months, but should be helpful in making the case for additional financing from a lender, to speed up renovations on the K-Bar.
“We want to get a little bit bigger budget so we can kind of push through to the finish line,” McGrew said. “Until now, the renovation budget has just been our own funds.”
She’s had lots of support from Greybull community members along the way, and that’s helped her feel comfortable with making the Cowboy State her home base.
“When I was home in LA, I have a condo where, I guess, is my official bedroom, which I cleaned out and, you know, decided to officially rent out,” McGrew said. “So now there’s no real home base other than Wyoming. So that was kind of my own little personal declaration of officially moving out here.”
How Wyoming Wins Hearts
Among the things McGrew particularly appreciates about the Cowboy State is how spread out everything is. There’s room for her on the sidewalk, she said, and having space to explore and new things to learn about is fun and exciting.
“So much of this is out of my wheelhouse, especially the winter stuff,” she said. “I’m not familiar with really any winter sports or winter, like it’s just so far out of my comfort zone.”
Despite that, she is willing to give things like snowmobiling and other winter activities a try.
“There’s just so much opportunity and potential to really see and do a lot of cool new things,” she said.
But aside from all that, what’s really sold her on the Cowboy State is the friendliness of everyone she’s met.
“People are just reaching out nonstop, and that’s been awesome,” she said. “I’ve had people, I mean not necessarily just because of the cold, drop by with jerky they’ve made, or cookies they’ve made, or stew that they’ve made. That’s not really just because of the cold, but that’s just been happening ever since I got out here. So it’s been, you know, no shortage of incredible support from people out here, and it’s amazing.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.