First of all I stocked up on provisions and paid a visit to Rock Springs library – or tried to – as the snooty woman there wouldn't let me in before the opening time of 12. As this was half an hour away and there was nowhere else to go, I decided to leave posting my blog and straddle my machine. Yes indeed, I was up against a 25 mph headwind from the start, and although I soon warmed up, my speed was pitiful and there were 76 miles to cover. My head was down the whole time, I had my cagoule hood pulled over my helmet and I rode standing up to try and gain momentum. After 12 miles a pick-up truck pulled up in front of me, a woman climbed out and told me I would not make it to my destination as a storm was coming and she knew about Wyoming weather, having lived here 30 years. I stubbornly tried to resist her offer of a ride, but she said I would die if I continued and that was that.
I could barely talk to her as we drove to her home town of Point of Rocks, some 20 miles up the road from Rock Springs, because I felt so disappointed with myself for giving up so easily. Perhaps she didn't know what she was talking about... It didn't seem that bad... Maybe she was like Kathy Bates in that film Misery and I would end up having my ankles smashed with a hammer and she would make me rewrite my entire blog so as to conform to her radical religious views... Actually Tammy was very nice and totally normal. She took me to the petrol station in this place, which was little more than a trailer park, where the grandson of the man who owned the whole town let me stay in a motel room (a portakabin) free of charge! It was rough and ready, like student accommodation, although I was very grateful. I don't mind dirt on the floor, foil covering a crack in a window and having to take a panel off to turn the heating on because the knob has broken. It had a very effective fan-operated heater, hot water and a comfy bed. Then I went to the one public indoor place in Point of Rocks (ie a bar) where I stayed in the company of Denese and an assortment of truck drivers, from 2 to 8 pm. The storm did arrive soon enough, with horizontal snow drifting in from the north and a wind chill factor well below freezing. The weatherman said it was unseasonably cold and snowy in these parts. Great. It was forecast to be as bad tomorrow, but back up in the 60s on Monday, when I would have to try to get back on schedule. As usual people were aghast at what I was doing, especially with what I was wearing. “Are they your warmest clothes?” they would ask. Tammy had been camping once on a beautiful summers day when it was in the 70s. Suddenly a storm arrived out of nowhere, the temperature plummeted to the 30s and it started to snow.
Tammy, whose grey hair curled out from under the woolly hat she never removed, worked as a janitor at a nearby coal-fired power station and she was one of the most interesting people I'd met up to this point. From an Illinois family of nine children (the other eight were all racist she said) she used to be a street performer and was accomplished in martial arts, and once hospitalized a 6'4” man making unwelcome sexual advances. She was of the opinion that some political leaders, such as Gandhi and Kennedy shared a 'world view' and others, such as Bush, had a narrow view. She also believed the Bush Administration was behind the 9/11 plane crashes and Lyndon Johnson had Kennedy assassinated. Everyone she speaks to says they hate Bush and that they will vote Democrat, and yet something doesn't add up because this state is staunchly Republican. It may have the lowest population, yet it is economically vibrant due to the oil, gas, coal – and trona mines (producing baking powder amongst other things). People come from all over the US to work here because of the job situation and because wages are high.
We had a few beers and a pizza, played pool (she didn't care for Scrabble though) and we listened to bar room banter. There were no tables, only the curving bar, around which people would start conversations with anyone else who cared to listen. Tammy would say “Where are you from?” and “What are you carrying?” as soon as they walked in. One man said that his former profession (musician) and present one (truck driving) were much the same, as the majority of both were spent on the road, and the only difference was that he was paid more for the latter. He was away for a fortnight at a time, returned home to be with his four young children for a weekend and then he was off again. A conversation with another man went like this.
He : My longest marriage lasted 17 years.
Me : How long was your shortest marriage?
He : Four days.
Tammy took me back to her trailer, which although tiny, was cosy and had a handmade spacecraft feel with its silvery insulated walls, and its minimalism appealed to me. She earned $350 a week, parking and plumbing in her trailer here cost $200 a month + electricity. She was also paying for her daughter's rent - a student in nearby Green River. She showed me her pencil drawings and then drove me back to the 'motel', where I settled down in front of the box with milk, Whoppers and Trail Mix for the night.
In the morning it was snowing some more.