ABC Guide to Wyoming

Only a few days left until I leave for Edmonton, Alberta and I thought I’d share some wisdom for future travellers to the Equality/Cowboy State. Hope this comes in handy for the next people who come this way (like the new engineers Doug’s been training!)…
Adobe Town. A very cool, and very hidden place in southwestern Wyoming for a hike or camping trip.

Book & Bean in Green River has awesome service, tasty drinks, and neat local and hard-to-find gifts and books. Say ‘hi’ to Sarah or Misti for me next time you’re in!

Curry. If you’re a curry fiend like me, you’ll have to be a little creative while you live here. You can get great Thai curry at the Siam King in Rock Springs and can even buy the fixings at the grocery store, but for Indian curry you’ll need to buy it, naan, and pappadums at Whole Foods in Park City or ‘import’ it when you visit other major city centres. Or learn to make recipes from scratch like I tried on occasion.

Dog park in Rock Springs. They just built it in the spring of 2009 and it’s one of Riker’s favourite spots. If you live here and have a dog, you’ll want to stop by.

Escape Day Spa in Rock Springs. Don’t be frightened off by the cluttered boutique you first walk into. There are some great products in there and when you go through the door into the back you step into another world. It is calm, quiet, the staff is very professional and the treatments are lovely.

Fiery Hawaiian Pizza from Domino’s is amazing. It’s like the company combined my fave (Hawaiian) with Doug’s (italian sausage and hot pepper) to create a feast of fruit, roasted red peppers, and tasty meats. I will miss Steve, our pizza guy in Green River. So will Riker.

Green River Farmer’s Market. One of my favourite things to do last summer was to wander down on Wednesdays to pick up fruit and veg from Grand Junction, CO and other areas. I also committed carbicide at the Bread Lady’s stand and sure enjoyed the buffalo sausage on our hiking trips.

High altitude: Sweetwater County is a good 6000 feet above sea level, so you’d better believe you’ll be working harder if you’ve just arrived from lower ground. Keep this in mind before going off to climb the Wind River range or Tetons!

I-80. This is the second longest interstate highway in the U.S. and will get you from San Francisco to New Jersey. I’ve heard the section linking the sister cities of Green River and Rock Springs is one of the busiest. My best advice: watch out for the ‘semis’ (i.e. tractor trailers), consult WYDOT frequently during the winter, and if you can make it to Utah you’re alright because they salt the roads.

Castle Rock perched high above I-80 in Green River.

Jalapenos, tortillas, and margaritas. There are some great Mexican (and Tex-Mex) restaurants around here (Don Pedro’s and Mi Casita), the fresh salsa at the supermarket is delicious, and in the summer time you can pick up roasted peppers at road-side stands. Even at Bonzai, a Japanese restaurant in Rock Springs they have a stuffed-Jalapeno sushi on offer (and the portion sizes are definitely Texan)!

Killpecker Sand Dunes. I’ve never seen anything like it before!

Lunatic Fringe Salon in Park City. I tried to get my hair done locally and it was not pretty, so I found Karly at Lunatic Fringe. She’s a junior stylist (so the price is very reasonable) and knows how to cut, colour, and style. You get free Voss sparkling water, a luscious wash and massage in their lather lounge, and they validate parking.

Mormon Church aka Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). For anyone not familiar with this religious group you should read up before coming to the area as it’s one of the dominant ones. Otherwise you won’t understand terms like Jack Mormon, Jesus Jammies (pejorative), etc.

National Public Radio. This might be an oversimplification, but I have discovered there are two types of people in the U.S. – those who listen to NPR and those who don’t. And Doug and I definitely have focused our friendship-making on those who do. NPR brings in BBC broadcasts and the Wyoming program Open Spaces is terrific. So much better than the screaming pundits mixed in with oversensationalized crap on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. In fact, the only TV news I watch is the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

Organized religion. Actually, if you’re coming from a large city or place where religious beliefs are not something you discuss regularly (or that you’re used to discussing/debating at all) you might be a little shocked when you move here. I was. Rent Religulous for research purposes.

Pubs. Your best bet is to go to the Bittercreek Brewing Co. in Rock Springs for a pint of their microbrews (Doug’s fave is Bob’s Beer and mine is the Coal Porter) but don’t stay for food – it’s good but the service is abysmal. Better yet get a Growler to go. In Green River go to the Red Feather to enjoy a smoke-free drink.

Quaaludes, Methamphetamine, and other drugs are a problem in this area as the newspaper stories and drug counselling centres indicate. People also like their chewing tobacco and have drive-thru liquor stores. There is an ongoing joke about whether it’s the churches or bars that are winning the numbers game…

Recycling. I had to work a little harder to do this while I was here, but Green River has a drop-off centre that takes just about everything except glass, hard plastic, and some metals. So then you take the hard plastics to Rock Springs and the rest of it to Park City or Jackson Hole – a great excuse for a road trip!

Sweetwater County Libraries are terrific. The library staff work incredibly hard to put on exciting programming, support local artists/authors, and share their love of the written word. Take advantage of inter-library loans, online databases, and the staff’s good natures for your research needs!

Tanger Outlets in Park City, Utah. The best and nearest shopping destination to SW Wyoming. Yes, it’s a 2 1/2 hour drive away, but it’s totally worth it. Stop for lunch at the Red Rock Brewing Co. or the Hapa Grill. You won’t be disappointed.

Umbrella. Don’t bring it ’cause you won’t need it here much, which I love. It is sunny almost every day and big storms blow in and out in the summer so quickly you’d hardly have time to open your ‘brelly anyway. You’ll hardly use a snow shovel in the winter too!

Vicki, Evonne, Chris, and Christine all rock! They are great fitness instructors at the Green River Rec Centre (GRRC). Without them I never would have fallen in love with spinning, weight training, or be able to do ‘man’ push-ups!

The Green River Rec Centre

Weather. Wyomingites, like Canadians, love to talk about the weather. And it’s a safer topic of conversation than say, politics or religion!

XXX entertainment in the region: The Mast in Green River (which has a better website than most businesses in the area, I was just surprised to discover!) and the Astro in Rock Springs. Even small towns have their ‘dens of iniquity’!

Yoga is on offer five days a week at the GRRC with the lovely and soothing Shannon. These sessions helped me stay centred, stretched, and relatively sane through the craziness of the past year. Namaste.

Zumba, the dance-aerobic craze that’s sweeping the nation! And the Green River Rec Centre has just started offering it every other Friday night at 6pm. Lots of fun and a great workout.

A Festive Staycation

Doug had another set of days off last week, but after a bunch of long-distance, long-haul travelling and a particularly gruelling “hitch” (days on), we decided to go the “staycation” route and hang out close to home.

This turned out to be a good thing since here in Southwestern Wyoming we got hit by a week of frigid temperatures and a couple of decent snowstorms. So we hunkered down, got stuff off of our to-do lists, and tried to generate body heat at the gym (where snow was blowing in under doors).

During the two-day clear weather window last week, though, we did head out to Park City and Salt Lake City, just across the state line in Utah. The roads were good, our Visa was paid off, and the sales were on at Tanger Outlets, so we left Riker at the kennel and drove west.

2 1/2 hours later we were in Park City right as the outlets opened and were the first through the doors at Columbia. We blitzed through a couple of stores, loading up on cold weather gear like snowpants (Doug got his for $18!) and a knee-length down coat to keep my thighs from freezing when I walk the dog. Then we headed over to the Red Rock Brewing Co. where both of us immediately zeroed in on the Kobe Burger on the specials board. I tell you, every once in a while I think I should go veggie, but it is meat-a-licious meals like this that keep me from it (I did keep my fingers crossed that it was ethically raised and slaughtered and said a little thank you to the cow that gave up its life. Mostly I thanked it for being so delicious, though…).

After lunch we drove to Salt Lake City to check out spinning bikes at a couple of fitness equipment stores. Some of you may recall that a few months ago I was a little afraid of group cycling classes (aka Spinning). Well, I have been converted to this awesome workout that now regularly kicks my butt. And Doug decided that indoor training might be preferable to risking life and limb on the icy sidewalks so we started talking about a home gym for the new place in Edmonton. Treadmills are too noisy and crap out more quickly because of the beating they take (makes you wonder about your knees!) and ellipticals are large and very expensive. But with our budget we could get a pretty good mid-level spinning bike that will likely last 10-15 years because of the activity’s low-impact nature.

We’d found some pretty good deals online but wanted to actually get on the bikes to check them out. So we stopped in at two places in SLC and were immediately icked out by the used-car-salesman vibe we got from the people there. So we decided to go for the person-free transaction of online shopping and free shipping to our doorstep. It’s supposed to arrive in a week or so – review to follow!

The main reason for stopping in SLC was to get the Mini brake pads checked out. The light had come on a few weeks before but everything seemed fine, so we just kept driving it until we had time to make it to the Mini dealership 300 miles away. Another reason I can’t wait to move to Edmonton: there Mini is right in town!

$400 later our rear brake pads were fixed and we were ready to drive back to Park City to check in to our hotel, The Yarrow. We’d booked it through, our go-to for killer deals on hotels and for $70 it was more than decent. My only complaint is that they’d had the heating turned off in our room and so it was probably hovering around 10 degrees when we arrived.

This wouldn’t have been such an issue if we could have just turned on the heat and headed out to dinner, but our Visa had been declined at the front desk and so Doug wanted to figure out what was going on before eating. Well, that turned out to be a huge hassle (which it tends to be when the Schlumberger Employee Credit Union is involved). Thirty minutes later after calling multiple phone numbers and only being able to get through to a live person after saying “help” repeatedly (and pitifully) into the handset, we were both ready for a stiff drink.

Instead, we ended up walking uphill in snow into a stiff wind on Main St. But it was all worth it when we arrived at the Riverhorse . It was decorated in a sparkling, festive way and had classic holiday tunes playing. The staff was attentive, knowledgeable, and most importantly, the food was amazing. The chef sent out an amuse-bouche just as our glasses of red wine arrived. Then came the cranberry-walnut bread from a local bakery. We decided to share the appetizer sampler: smoked salmon on crunchy potato latkes, chicken satay skewers, and to-die-for goat cheese wontons. Doug’s lamb was perfectly done and his butternut squash and fig risotto – heavenly. My pear/praline/blue cheese salad was also incredible and then we topped it off with a warm apple and toffee cake. It sounds like a lot of food (okay, it kind of was – hence the spinning bike), but the portions were just perfect. Unlike so many restaurants these days, the Riverhorse really focuses on quality over quantity!
Pleasantly full, we endured the cold once again until we got back to the room, now warm. The hotel boasts a heated year-round swimming pool and hot tub, though, so it wasn’t long before we squeezed ourselves into swimwear. While there is nothing quite as nice as sitting in a hot tub when it’s chilly outside, it is also true that stripping down and getting to said hot tub when it’s

-20 is probably one of the worst! Nevertheless we did it, loved it, and Doug showed off for the other patrons by periodically getting out and rolling in the snow…

Friday we got up early (okay, I got up early and bullied Doug into waking up) and went to the hotel’s restaurant, the Mountain Grill, for breakfast. It was pretty chilly in there too, but we snagged a seat near the fireplace and by the time we tucked into our carafe of coffee and our breakfast skillets, we were warm and happy.

Then we split up – Doug to Best Buy and other places and me to the outlets to continue my hunting. By noon our budgets were exhausted and we were hungry again (Again?!!). I’d read about a neat-sounding restaurant called the Hapa Grill, that did a Japanese-Thai-Hawaiian fusion, and it exceeded our expectations. The Miso soup was fantastic, our fried calamari with Hawaiian salsa exquisite, and the California roll scrumptious. Doug also ordered a wrap he only got halfway through that was tasty (and spicy!) and the fries that came with were awesome. Surprisingly they really do it all!

Our last stop on our foodie adventure was to pick up supplies at Whole Foods, a supermarket that specializes in organic and yuppy-hippy foods we love. Our neighbour had given us a shopping list as well, and we managed to drop a pretty penny on curry stuff (that we shared with friends the next night) and some goodies for our own personal Christmas celebration later this month. I feel like I already got my presents, though!

Photogenic Salt Lake City

Holy Mecca for the LDS (Church of Latter Day Saints) aka Mormons. This area is called Temple Square for good reason.

Brigham Young, who led the Mormons to Salt Lake City from the east. I have no idea why they wouldn’t have stopped in the high desert country of Western Wyoming (where no tulips are in sight – see below left)

The flowers were certainly out in force while Doug and I were there – helped along, no doubt, by
the bountiful rain we experienced the entire weekend. But we were able to get inside and warm up. The Saturday night we went to see the Off-Broadway Theatre production, Transmorphers: Mormon Meets the Eye, which was absolutely hilarious. And brought back all sorts of 80’s flashbacks!

Then of course I took advantage of Salt Lake City’s shopping centres to find outfits for my upcoming book tour – I can’t go around wearing my normal ‘work clothes’ of hiking pants and hoodies! So off I went to The Gateway, a chic outdoor mall (where I actually didn’t end up buying anything since I know I can get it cheaper at the outlets in Park City!). I also visited Fashion Place Mall, Nordstrom Rack, the Burlington Coat Factory, and Talbots before collapsing at a Borders (where the ‘barrista’ took forever to get my cup of overpriced tea and I listened to some guy using the cafe as his personal office, shouting into his cell phone and typing away on his laptop!). Don’t worry, Doug was not dragged around to all these shops – he was off scuba diving near Logan, Utah and joined me later!

Doug and I also took refuge from the rain at the Beehive Tea Room, which is supposed to be an iconic spot where generations of brides have come to plan their weddings, host bridal showers, etc. We went in because it was one of the only places to eat near our hotel (the very cool historic boutique Peery Hotel) that was open on a Sunday (the city rolls up the sidewalk apparently)! It is such a cute place and they serve the biggest, moistest pieces of cake ever. I only got about 1/8th of the way through mine, but Doug finisher ‘er off!

We also ended up eating at two of Salt Lake City’s other traditional establishments without realizing it: the Lamb’s Grill Cafe and the Market Street Grill (they’re all about their grills in SLC!). The service at Lamb’s was absolutely terrific but the food was a little bland. They did have a live pianist playing, though, and apparently it’s the place where company execs always go for business lunches. The Market Street Grill also had terrific service – when I said how much I liked the bread and how there weren’t any bakeries in our area, the waiter brought us a whole loaf to take home! The food was quite good too, but a little pricey. I would say always go for their specials – definitely the best deal!

Our final morning, we went in search of the ultimate breakfast (can you tell we’re foodies?) and found it at the Original Pancake House, where a ‘normal’ sized breakfast is 6 pancakes. I got the half order of the blueberry pancakes and they were the fluffiest ever! Doug got their specialty, a plate-sized oven-baked pancake covered in apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. He ate half and we split the other half later as a dessert. Good thing we pounded the pavement all weekend 🙂

The Great Escape

After a month of being solidly at my desk and Doug being off on jobs constantly, we decided to make a break for it last weekend. He had a few days off and I was feeling on top of my work and unable to do any more editing without a brief change of scenery. So, we packed the dog off to the vet’s (for boarding, not the little blue needle – although there were days when he woke us up so many times during the night the latter was contemplated!), packed the car full of recycling and our bags, and headed off to Utah.
We stayed at the Homestead Resort in Midway, nabbing a good deal on, the website where you book your accommodation before you get to find out where you’re staying. The Midway-Heber-Park City region seems to be full of very overpriced places – Aspenization has taken hold – so we were having a tough time finding good shoulder-season discounts. Hotwire to the rescue!
The Homestead was a Dirty Dancing-esque resort on the edge of a golf course, with lots of family-friendly activities, and I’m sure a Patrick Swayze type instructor to delight the bored housewives. It sounds as if it would be absolutely insane in the summer and even on this late March weekend the pool area was teeming with children. We managed to escape them most of the time, though, and there is a crater on site filled with bath-temperature mineral water. I went swimming (with a very uncomfortable flotation device!) and Doug got to go on his first scuba diving adventure in over a year.

Doug standing on top of the Crater at the Homestead Resort

We nicknamed our accommodation in the “Milk House” the “Hotwire Hobbit House” because it was this teeny building with three rooms, one of which was ours. Add in the doilies for curtains and the country-chic bedspreads (but subtract the silk flower wall hanging, which quickly got shoved in the closet) and it was definitely a little hokey. And people pay over $140/night for this room in the high seasons!

On an extended scenic tour around Midway-Heber we stopped in at the Race Horse Lane Boutique, which was pretty neat – although the sales lady started talking about how they should start drilling in national parks, which seemed a little strange considering I just wanted to buy my “Shopping is cheapter than a psychiatrist” nailfile and chick-lit book. Let’s keep it light, lady!

I call this fellow the “Midway Man” – no idea what he’s doing or why he’s there!

We ate very well over the weekend, which for two foodies like Doug and I is the most important thing. There were the banana-granola pancakes one morning, the wood-fired pizza at the Cafe Galleria in Midway, and the onion rings and veggie sandwich at Red Rock Brewing Co in Park City. The piece-de-resistance, though, was the Snake Creek Grill in Heber which looks a little tourist-trappish from the outside but rivals some of the nicer restaurants I’ve been to in Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa. Delicioso!

Of course good food demands good beer, and we sure found some along the way. At Red Rock Doug tried the Abbey Ale (which we swear tastes a little like a peanut butter and banana sandwich) and on another visit to Park City we had the Oatmeal Stout and home-made Root Beer. The winner for best and most provocative brew names, though, goes to the Wasatch Brew Pub on Park City’s Main St. There you can sample Polygamy Porter, Evolution Amber Ale, and others that poke just a bit of fun at Utah’s Mormons and right-wing Christians more generally.

Even with a teensy snowstorm, we had a great escape and are looking forward to our next one. In the meantime, though, it’s back to my desk for the final two weeks of editing and indexing before the book goes to the printers!

Must be a full moon

I know it’s an old superstition, but the little white dog two doors down keeps yapping, I’m having trouble sleeping, and the last few days have just been too weird.

First of all, Doug and I keep hurting ourselves.

1) Guinness was lying on one of the stairs a few nights ago and Doug almost stepped on him. Luckily for our poor cat, Doug managed not to, but in the process fell down quite a few steps and ended up with a nasty cut on his wrist from his watch.

2) Doug and I have both sliced ourselves opening up the cans with the pull-tab lids. Mine was a tomato soup can and his was the can of coffee grounds.

3) At least we got to enjoy the can of soup. Not long after Doug had brewed his first pot of coffee I was doing dishes and managed to smash the pot on our darling retro laminate floor. Darn! (notice anything in the photo to the right?)

On a much happier – but equally strange – note, yesterday Doug and I had just finished a little walk along the Green River boardwalk when I glanced across the parking lot at a familiar figure.

“But,” I thought to myself. “We’ve only lived here for a few days and we’re in the middle of nowhere… how could it be?” Well, one look at Darcy and Don’s van with the Small World Adventures sticker on the back and the kayaks on top and it was clear that my good friends from UBC grad school had somehow managed to appear in Green River, Wyoming.

Over a quick beer and dinner at the Bitter Creek Brewing Company (we don’t know any other places in the area!) we learned that Darcy and Don were on their way from Aspen, Colorado to Seattle, Washington via Idaho for her grandfather’s birthday party. The funny thing is, they never meant to stop in Green River and we had originally intended to go play tennis up at the high school and ended up at the boardwalk on a lark! Don took a photo to prove this encounter actually happened!

Today started out relatively normally (other than I was up at 4:30am) and Doug and I headed out to Red Canyon in Flaming Gorge Recreation Area in northeastern Utah for the hike we’d planned. The 9-mile Canyon Rim Trail was well-groomed, devoid of people, and had just enough elevation gain so we knew we were hiking, but not enough to be hard.

While I love hiking, usually something comes up to make it memorable: I trip and fall and start bleeding; Doug misjudges the length or difficulty of the hike and I start crying; or both.

Today, though, nothing bad happened.

That is, until we got back to the car. We had parked at the Greendale Overlook (it’s what ‘lookouts’ are called in Utah) around 9:30am and headed out for our hike. At 2pm we returned and discovered that the passenger window of our cute little Mini was smashed in. Staring in disbelief, the two forest services workers in the parking lot came over and told us that they’d been waiting for the car’s owners to return. Apparently they had already called the Flaming Gorge Dam sherriff who had been by to take a look. They gave us a garbage bag in case the encroaching clouds decided to dump on us and lent us their broom to sweep out the shattered glass.

From there we drove the 1/2 hour to Manila, Utah to chat with a different Sherriff and deputies there and get some duct tape to secure the garbage bag to what used to be the window. After exchanging info for the police report and heading to the local country market, we sat in stunned silence in the car.

The weird thing was, nothing was missing from the car. We had nothing of value in the car – visible or otherwise. And it also sounds as if between the wilderness ranger, other tourists, and the forest services rangers, there was usually some activity in the lot during the day. Our theory is some desperate, opportunistic Manila Meth-heads (the local store had a sign saying they would only sell certain chemicals and pharmaceuticals in limited quantities) smashed the window with the intention of taking things or even stealing the car but were startled off by the arrival of another car (or befuddled by the Mini’s foreign door-locking system).

The funny thing is, the Mini is apparently one of the hardest cars on the market to steal. If they were after electronics and cash they should have come after us in the bush: that’s where our US cash, camera and GPS were! All we had in the car was a change of clothes, our old refillable coffee mugs, a cooler with water, and a change purse with about $10 in Loonies and Toonies. As Doug said, maybe we should have left the car unlocked and just let them have our deodorants. As is, we’ll have to find an auto-glass place tomorrow and probably shell out several hundred dollars for a new window. Hopefully they can do it locally – if not, the nearest Mini dealership is 300 miles away and they’re calling for thunderstorms!!!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.