Saturday, July 2, 2011

Great American Road Trip, Part 2

Cody, Wyoming

On the evening of the morning on which we visited Carhenge, we landed In Cody, named in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody, who helped lay out the town.

We arrived without much of a plan. Or rather, having scrapped the plan that I had in mind.

Insight into this marriage: I was telling a friend recently (a friend who's married to a bit of a control freak) that I was reading up on our destinations, I was booking this or that excursion, and I was making decisions here and there. She, wide-eyed, asked, "Can you really plan the whole vacation with Mike just looking at you in the car to ask where he should drive?"

Kind of embarrassed, I shrugged and nodded.

On second thought, I don't know if this is insight into the marriage or into my own inner Control Freak. I just know that whenever I've asked for input into those kinds of things, the answer has always been, "I don't care."

I have never answered 'I don't care' to anything.

Nevertheless, *I* had decided that we would take in the Cody Night Rodeo, which happens every night just outside of town. It would be a chance to experience what Cody has to offer and take in a bit of cowboy culture, too. Of course, I hadn't bothered to share any of this with my family. There was nothing sinister in it, just distraction and cluelessness.

Twenty miles before we reached town, we started seeing billboards for the rodeo, which Ava begged to attend.

"Oh honey, I really don't think you'll like it. I think you'll think they are being mean to the animals."


Fast forward through the next 30 minutes of Ava tearfully protesting, Mike sagely insisting and me irrationally grouching about my apparently secret plans being rebuffed. Yadda, yadda, yadda, we went out to eat instead.

We decided upon The Irma, the dining room of the 1902 hotel of the same name. Built by Buffalo Bill and named for his daughter, the focal point is a giant cherry bar. The bar was a gift from Queen Victoria to Buffalo Bill after she watched him perform. I was also impressed by this and other buildings I have seen on this trip which are kept so original. Even the wallpaper looked to be original. As for the rest of the decor, think ornate chandeliers, taxidermy and, strangely, photos of every governor in Wyoming's history.

I'm sorry that the decor is the most newsworthy part of our evening in The Irma, but I definitely got the sense that the proprietors were not counting on repeat visitors. Just get the tourists in, get their money, and get them out.

The next morning, after finding a supermarket to replace some of the forgotten items still at home, we drove past the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It seemed a bit pricey for no more time we had to spend in it, so I decided to just snap a shot of the sculpture of the hero of the wild west before driving on. While getting my shot, I struck up a conversation with an apparent cowboy named Phillip, who was drumming up interest for the Cody Night Rodeo doing rope tricks in front of the museum. He asked if we would be attending the rodeo. When I told him our concerns for Ava, he asked if he could talk to her to put her mind at ease. If I was at home, I would feel as I do when at the mall, when the middle eastern college guys ask if they can show me what the Dead Sea products can do for my nails - that is: I would try to get away. But On Vacation, I figure I'll never meet anyone like him at home, so I wanted to interact and see what he's about. Sorry, middle-eastern college guys.

Now, Phillip did give us an education on the rodeo. He said the bucking horses were bred to buck, not tortured or frightened into bucking. He told us the young calves are roped on ranches in order to be doctored and the rodeos came about because the cowboys were competing to see who could be the fastest, and therefore, the least disruptive to the calves. He made me feel like roping is like parenting - there might be times when the calf/kid is annoyed or uncomfortable but it's because the cowboy/parent is responsible. Truth or propaganda? I dunno. What I do know is that Phillip's moustache was fascinating. It was actually FEATHERED, like my hair in the 70's. He also had two boys, named Roper and Rider. Roper was doing rope tricks with one arm. The other was in a sling since his collarbone was shattered from a fall in the rodeo! So Phillip, I get why you might allow your calf to participate in the rodeo, but what are you thinking putting your CHILD out there?

For our last hour or so in Cody, we visited Old Trail Town, a group of 26 buildings dating from 1879 to 1901 . They are not all original to Cody, but many have been. Relocated here to offer interested parties the chance to see how the early settlers might have lived. I really enjoyed this little visit - its exactly the way I like to visit a museum. We could get into most of the buildings, which included a saloon, a trapper's cabin, a store and a Livery stable, to name a few - and we could touch and handle a lot of the things. As much as I enjoyed it, I do worry for the preservation of those items, being no more protected than they were. Items encased in glass are less enjoyable than an item in my hand, but the ones under glass tend to last a lot longer.

(A buggy in the livery barn)
Just as we were finishing up, Ava caught sight of an old codger volunteer, who was carrying around his own oxygen tank and practicing his roping skills on a mock-up of a calf. After checking with me, she trotted right up to him and asked to be taught how to lasso.

He let her try over and over, as long as she wanted. Or really, as long as I allowed. Eventually I had to practice my own cow person skills, herding my family back into the van. We needed to get to Jackson (is it Jackson or Jackson Hole?) for other activities I never bothered to mention.

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