A collection of moments

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As my family navigates countless echoey byways of the American West, people worth remembering, oddities worth experiencing, and stories worth telling never fail to emerge from the deceptively quiet landscape. Our exploration of Idaho, Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City, and northern Colorado yielded a surplus — and I am glad to share the bounty with you.

1) Frostop Diner — Ashton, Idaho
I begged my wife to brake as we zoomed past the vista of a gargantuan twirling frosted mug. I am a sucker for an icy root beer, especially if it is locally crafted. I rummaged a couple of fives from her purse and galloped inside for a frozen mugful. I asked the waitress to tell me about their version of the crafted soft drink, to which she replied, “Uh, it’s just A&W. Do you still want some?” I tucked my tail between my legs and wallowed back to the car — just as thirsty as when I arrived.

2) Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
After a full day of exploring the volcanic instability known as Yellowstone National Park, we ran into a traffic snag just shy of the exit gate. Unlike any other jam I have ever sat through, this one was caused by a stream of Buffalo — at least 40 — marching single-file down the road. Unlike the Atlanta gridlock I have endured on countless occasions, this parade of bison quickly became my favorite sight of the day (and among the best moments of the trip.)

3) Thousand Trails Campground — Centralia, Washington
Before dusk, a somewhat frantic fellow camper scampered over to our site. Through quick breaths, she heralded the urgent message that she spotted a cougar sprinting through the campground. Though we never actually saw the beast, I have never sprinted through the dark for a restroom as madly as I dashed that night.

4) Strawberry Hot Springs — Steamboat Springs, Colorado
The hot springs atop a long mountain climb a handful of miles from Steamboat Springs are touted to be among the best in the world — and I heartily agree. The drive up the mountainside to its parking lot, however, is not quite so pleasant. After spinning our wheels in the dirt, we made the decision to drop our beloved 1969 Shasta travel trailer on the side of the gravel road. Even minus the extra weight, our elderly Honda Element barely made the summit. With the hot springs parking lot finally in view, I hit the brakes and hung my head, suddenly remembering that our bathing suits and towels were all folded neatly inside the trailer, now two sinewy miles in the rearview.

4) China Star Restaurant — Duchesne, UT
Riddle: where can you order a bowl of chicken chow mein, a patty melt and fries, carne asada tacos, and a chocolate-banana shake? Answer: at the China Star restaurant — Duchesne, Utah’s ONLY restaurant (unless you consider roller hotdogs from the Chevron station legitimate dining). Jacks-of-all-trades are generally thought to be masters of none, but the whiz-kid chef at the China Star aptly rose to the challenge. For twenty dollars, we tore through a pan-continental lunch and washed it all down with a tall, thick, gooey shake that rivaled the best I have ordered from much more famous, aluminum-and-neon-clad diners across the country.

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My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped in Ogallala, Nebraska and headed toward Omaha. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!

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2 thoughts on “A collection of moments

  1. 1) What exactly is root beer? We have ginger beer here (which I hate) and ginger ale (which I also hate but is apparently different).
    2) I remember when I was a kid we would often get stopped by the herd of cows crossing the little one lane bridge on the back country road we would travel on to get to school each day. (not that it would have made a difference if it were a two direction bridge – I’m sure they would have still taken up BOTH lanes…) I was always extremely excited by this little event and thought it was awesome. I’m sure this was nothing compared to a herd of BISON! That must have been an absolutely amazing, awesome moment in your journey! I hope you got photos!
    3) A cougar? AAARRRGHHHH!!! I think I would have simply crossed my legs all night…
    4) Strawberry Springs sounds just delightful! Don’t feel so bad about having to unhitch your Shasta. I once had a little Renault 12. I had three big friends in the car once and got to a red light at the top of a hill. When the light turned green, the rest of the traffic moved off, but not my little Renault! I ended up telling my passengers to get out and meet me at the top of the hill round the corner. Once the ballast was removed my little car merrily chugged to the top of the hill with no problems. I awaited the arrival of my mates and we resumed our trip. At least I didn’t leave my swimmers behind there! And on that note, I hope you all went skinny dipping since you made such an effot!!! 😀 😉
    4 (part two)) Don’t you love it when you find a restaurant that does good EVERYTHING? I am wishing the China Star restaurant were in my local shopping precinct right now! I could go a banana/choc milkshake washed down with some chow mein and a patty melt. 😀

    • Hello StraberryQuicksand! Root Beer is not the same ginger beer, but I am not quite sure how to describe the difference. I love ginger beer too. Root beer is simply a different taste — almost minty, but not exactly. When you come to the states, you need to put Strawberry Hot Springs on your list. It may be my favorite stop from the whole trip. A complete WOW! Thanks so much for the great stories and comments. Keep ’em coming.

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