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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Anniversary Archives - - June 12, 2003

Jonathan and I continue westward . . . .

Wandering Onward

Leaving the dreary plains behind, Jon and I headed south out of Rapid City for the half-hour drive to the famed Mount Rushmore. It was worth the side trip. Much more imposing than the photos. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the high-ceilinged, glass-walled restaurant looking out onto the monument that was the scene of the fake shooting of Cary Grant by Eva Marie Saint in the Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest, was still intact. Jon had never seen the movie and I delighted in recounting the scene to him.

As I looked out onto the carved faces of the four prezes, I couldn’t help but see visions of Cary Grant attempting to rescue the divine Ms.Saint, and being pursued by bad guys as he scampers over the forbidding rocks in his Gucci loafers, dapper as ever, every hair in place, suit and tie perfectly pressed.

As we left the Black Hills, we descended into the utterly boring central plain of the immense and sparsely populated state of Wyoming. Wyoming has some of the world’s most gorgeous scenery, but in the middle of it are these huge, ugly flats, scarred by all sorts of excavations from things being ripped out from the underbelly—coal, lead, uranium, oil, gas, you name it. The poor buggers who do the dirty work are, of course, much poorer than the dirt they excavate. They drive forlorn, beat-up trucks and live in ramshackle towns that look almost like “third-world” countries.

We can be sure, though, that the folks for whom they’re doing the digging are making out just fine. One of these would be Dick Cheney. As we drove through Casper, the Veep’s hometown, we passed The Casper Petroleum Club, and I thought to myself, “that sonovabitch was a big oil guy from the beginning.”

At day’s end, we reached Indian country—the Wind River Valley, home of the Shoshone and Arapaho—and bedded down for the night. Unlike some of the Indian country of New Mexico, there was no haute cuisine here, to be sure. Just a lot of grinding poverty.

Next morning, we headed up the valley toward Jackson Hole—one of the most spectacular drives to be found anywhere. As you leave the sandstone bluffs of the valley and climb into the mountains, you gradually rise to nearly ten thousand feet. Even though it was now June, the snow was thick, the alpine air unbelievably refreshing, and the views eye-popping.

Then--descending on the western side of the pass, the moment we were waiting for. The great valley floor of Jackson Hole came into view, with the mighty Grand Tetons thrusting skyward on the far side of the Hole, rising abruptly, thousands of feet straight up from the valley with no foothills to impede the view. What a sight! Surely one of the geographical wonders of the world.

We were on our way to the resort town of Jackson to spend a couple of days with my old college buddy, Ed Minczeski. Good food, drink, vibes, and story telling, in the midst of majestic scenery, were about to be ours. . . . (to be continued)


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