|Sunday, September 2,
Greetings from Casper, Wyoming, now and forever in the middle of nowhere.
This vacation began yesterday afternoon, when I left work early to fly to Colorado Springs by way of Dallas. I had allowed myself plenty of time to reach the airport -- a very wise move, as it turned out. When I reached LaGuardia, the Departure board showed my flight was already running 45 minutes late...but I had arrived early enough that the ticket counter was able to rebook me on an earlier flight to Dallas.
At least it was supposed to be an earlier flight. We pulled away from the gate more or less on time. Five minutes later, the pilot announced that between the weather, holiday travel and the slightly modified flight path during the US Open tennis tournament, the runways were so backed up that we were thirtieth in line to take off. The hourlong wait caused most of the people on my flight to miss their connections, but merely cut my layover time in half.
Then flew on to Colorado Springs, where I stayed with an old friend from college: Wendell H., the pride of Grandview, Texas. Wendell, who served in the Air Force after graduation, now works for an aerospace consulting company, earning much more than before to sit on the other side of the table from his former colleagues. (I suspect that if Congress ever passed a military budget I'd be happy with, they'd all be discovering the joys of true private sector employment.)
Wendell's always been a man of...er...unusual enthusiasms. One year during college, he decided to convert to Judaism, complete with the minor surgical procedure that's not so minor for a 20-year-old. Later, when stationed in southern California, he accumulated a frightening array of purported nonfiction with titles like UFO Contacts from the Pleiades, and he has the largest collection of I Love Lucy material of any heterosexual male under the age of 60. More recently, he seems to be into motivational books and tapes -- not the "you're not the total loser you think you are" sort, but the ones that help one project a Dynamic! Positive! attitude that can "sell anyone on anything." And to take proper advantage of these new skills, he's marketing an online shopping club founded by the nice people who infected the world with Amway.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen! You, yes YOU, can now buy name-brand goods at wholesale or near-wholesale prices, while earning bonus points convertible into frequent-flyer miles with every online purchase! If you'd like to know more, let me know; Wendell will be happy to send you the information. Alas, since I support laws which would decriminalize the shooting of telemarketers, proselytizing Jehovah's Witnesses and Amway salesmen, I can't ethically take advantage of what is doubtless an outstanding opportunity...
Keeping the Front Range of the Rockies to my left, I drove north on I-25 past Denver. The mountains receded as I approached Wyoming, leaving me to contemplate an endless panorama of eroded rangeland. It's probably no worse than the view across South Dakota, but that drive's got billboards and tourist attractions galore. Eastern Wyoming has nothing but depressed mining and oil towns. On the brighter side, since there are no trees, either, I'm safe from the wildfires...
I've already covered the Oregon Trail as far as Casper, but since the next town of any size along the Trail is at least 250 miles away, there wasn't much doubt where I'd be spending the night. Before stopping, I visited the reconstructed Fort Caspar, just west of downtown. The Fort's not really from the Oregon Trail period -- it was built in the 1860s, the let's-run-the-Indians-off-their-land era -- but it was as close as I could come today. The real fun begins tomorrow: Independence Rock, South Pass, Fort Bridger and other true Trail landmarks. Stay tuned...
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