Cowgirls Up

OK- I’ve never ever said “Cowgirl up” before, and I’m not sure what the term means. Is it a reference to “cowboy up” and is that a rodeo term and does that mean like “sit on that bull and show us how badass you are?” If so, then that’s the official permanent title of this blog post. But if someone sends me a note telling me it means something else, then I might just call it “Things we did in Cheyenne.” Either way, you’ll know.

It was over 100 degrees the first day we were in Cheyenne. We all felt cranky and two of the destinations we’d walked to were closed. Because it was Monday. Like that’s a reason, but I get it… if there was a good day to be closed, I’d rather they do it on Monday than on a weekend. But still. I didn’t feel much like a badass cowgirl that day.

Our 14 year old was being rather vocal about her dissatisfaction and anger just spread like a rash throughout the family. Each of us, in our own time, threw a temper tantrum and by the end of the night we were up to our ears in apologies, remorse, regret and confusion. I knew from other families on the road, that we’d go through some ups and downs as we all adjusted to traveling together 24/7, but it still wasn’t fun. I’m glad it’s over. I hope we all learned from it. I did. In the end, the thing that helped the most was the Peace Garden at Lions park. Or maybe the vegetable garden. Or the Greenhouse. Either way, as I edit this a few days later, we’ve all processed and the love is stronger, so all is well. The images below are from the Peace Garden and Labyrinth at Lions Park in Cheyenne.

After the cranky day, I had nightmares all night long but woke up feeling a hundred times better. Seriously- I’m kind of manic that way and I felt like a million bucks. I was singing and dancing while I made my coffee and it tasted like awesome sauce even though I failed to measure it right and still haven’t adjusted to food preparation in the new teeny tiny hobbit kitchen.  I’m sure my Pollyanna-sunshine attitude drove my husband a little nuts, so I took my cheerful self outside with the kids for a nature walk.

We were at the Curt Gowdy State Park and it was so lovely. The rock formations and pine trees reminded me of the Devil’s Punchbowl area in Southern California. They have the most awesome full moon hikes. Anyway, we identified a bunch of wildflowers (some without even consulting the field guide), we picked a bouquet and smelled every one of them. We saw deer poop and rabbit poop. We saw the furry bone of something dead. We climbed giant boulders, we chased jackrabbits, we threw teeny rocks into the canyon and then into a puddle, we saw Ponderosa Pine trees as tall as each one of us. The day was off to a beautiful start.

We needed oil in the engine and The GPS said there was a gas station 5 miles west. The grassy hills were beautiful, with farm houses, herds of cattle, horses, windmills and wooden fences. After 5 miles, the GPS decided we should go another 17 miles west. OK, so here’s a total of 22 miles opposite of the direction we needed to be.

We could have returned to Cheyenne by driving 25 miles East, but isn’t this the sort of adventure that road trips are made for?

Unexpected diversions often reveal some nice surprises, like a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln and a town called Buford, with a population of 1. And we met him, he’s a very nice man. Incidentally, he’d been featured on the Today Show that very morning. Here’s a picture of us with Don Sammons, owner of the Buford Trading Post.

Welcome to Buford sign

The real live Welcome to Buford Sign

The real resident of Buford, Wy

Buford's only resident, with my kids

If you click on the one of him and the kids (who were looking at me like “why the heck are you taking our picture with this dude? This blogging thing is going too far, mom“) , you’ll see the first attempt at that photo, which was just creepy. Sometimes I wish I was elasti-girl so I could stretch my arms all long & skinny and stretch my fingers until my hands look like ET and then maybe I’ll be able to use that gigantic heavy camera to take a self-portrait. That’s Ok, though everyone has their own skills ;)  Anyway…

As we cruised down the hill, grateful for the little surprises and unexpected reminders of goodness, the power in the motorhome stopped working completely. Totally. I held my breath as my husband white-knuckled the steering wheel to keep us from careening into a rock wall and pulled us off to the shoulder for safety. Cowgirl up; stranded on the side of the freeway a thousand miles from home with 5 kids.

My husband took 3 years of auto shop in high school and he’s always been mechanically inclined. He was able to look at the messy, dusty, dirty greasy engine and see a broken starter solenoid (thank goodness spell-check knew that word) Once he pointed it out, I could see that it had a big chunk missing, but I never would have noticed if he hadn’t mentioned it. Triple A was able to send out a tow truck with a new starter but unfortunately, the problem went a little deeper than that. Wires needed to be replaced. And other stuff. Dirty stuff. And not the fun kind of dirty.

The girls and I seized the opportunity to give each other roadside manicures and pedicures in the comfort of the motorhome. We painted flowers and stars and little swirly lines on our nails in purple, green, red, white and blue. Then, we did our toes. We played Monopoly. We ate cheese sandwiches and peanut butter and Jelly. We climbed a rocky embankment and looked out at the rolling hills. We noticed the differences between the granite rocks we’d seen near Rushmore and these shale and sandstone rocks.

We ended up needing a tow into Cheyenne (Thank you, AAA) and since there aren’t enough seats in the tow truck for our big family, we also owe a big note of thanks to Barry from Enterprise car rentals in Cheyenne. The auto parts store closed at 6 so we spent the night in the motorhome in their parking lot. Carrol from Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant cooked us a delicious dinner of fish tacos, cheese enchiladas, bean tostada, beefy nachos and even sent us back with extra hot sauce.

In the morning, I took the kids for a walk downtown, we took pictures and strolled through boutiques and antique shops in historic downtown Cheyenne. The folks at CarQuest did a fantastic job of helping us with parts and advice about the neighborhood. We even made friends with one of the ladies, Robin spent 8 years on the road with her husband, taking back roads from coast to coast, and was so excited to follow our adventure. We left Brandon at the motorhome to finish the repairs while we had a “girl’s day” together, strolling historic downtown Cheyenne.

He ended up calling in Mike Grey from Onsite Auto Repair, who had specialized electrical testing tools and was able to isolate the root of the problem and have us up and running again in no time.
While the boys were busy, the girls and I found the most awesome shop. Bohemian Metals is run by artist Brian Snyder, an amazingly talented guy who makes badass metal jewelry AND digs for fossils and turns them into art. We saw a 50,000 year old fossilized fish he was currently working on. In his shop he had a nest of dinosaur eggs, an ancient alligator-looking thing, an ancient rhinoceros-type-skull from Asia and several other absolutely amazing specimens. I could have stayed there for hours listening to the stories behind each piece, the slide show below has images from our visit.

Afterward, we hit up the Cowgirls of the West Museum. Did you know there was such a thing as a Cowgirl’s Hall of Fame? The museum had a replica of an 1800′s era kitchen and dining room, plus cowgirl clothing, boots, saddles, children’s toys and clothing from that time period and interpretive displays focusing on several cowgirls from the area, highlighting their claims to fame. The girls and I were completely impressed with the stories we read, about women who built their own houses, stood up to men who thought they should be following the norm, operated ranches and kept shops and saved babies and canned their own vegetables and rode in the rodeo and smuggled medicine and caught criminals and built fences and baked everything from scratch and sewed their own clothes and made their own soap and stored all their food in pretty stoneware that they probably like baked in their own earthen ovens, right? Either way, we were inspired and proud of our sisters-in-history.

Adjacent to the Cowgirl Museum is the Cowgirl Emporium. THAT was a treasure- they had tons of vintage toys and children’s furniture, like a little potty chair from the 70′s. They also had cowgirl stuff, country kitchen stuff… it was fun, but we were done. Great place for souvenirs and to share some nostalgia with my girls. By the way, we all want cowgirl boots now, but I want like three pairs. Red, pink and purple. The girls just mostly want pink. And to be clear, I want hot pink and a lighter shade.

On our way out of Cheyenne, we visited at the Terry Bison Ranch Resort. I didn’t see any real Bison, but we did see camels, yes CAMELS, we got to pet camels and while I was hunkered down doing dishes and laundry, the kids tell me that camels make a sound similar to cows. This resort is absolutely awesome, they have pony rides, they have miniature horses and we got to pet one that was only a week old, her name was Little Star and her mom’s name was Twinkle. We saw wild rabbits, more camels, ostriches, a train ride, a petting zoo, carnival rides that looked absolutely awesome, it was like steampunk cartoon, they were made from like tractor parts or something, they had big gears and visible pulleys and the were painted bright colors… just look closely at the pictures. These were some seriously funky rides, the kids kept saying “Daddy can build that” and now Brandon has to start collecting some metal drums and big gears ASAP. In addition to carnival rides and farm animals, the Bison Ranch has live music every night, a gift store / museum with a stuffed Jackalope (the kids were totally creeped out by this) and also an antique photo studio, hay rides, a train ride and a restaurant onsite, plus three huge playgrounds. Plus, the kids learned how to throw a lasso. Awesome place, check out the slideshow below…

Anyway- we had a blast in Cheyenne. We still didn’t visit the Children’s Village Garden or the spray park, but we did make some awesome memories and met some really fun people. Betty the Beaver (which is our unofficial name for the motorhome) is showing us a really good time so far.

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