Washington Road Trip Journal

"Take the Long Way Home"


Days 14/15 - American Fork, UT, Evanston, WY, Paxton, NE

by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz

September 10, 2007: We took another relaxing day today as we prepared for the long trip home.  Sol and I got up early to meet good friend Aaron Boone and his new wife Lindsay for breakfast at his new home in Sandy, UT.  Aaron was a star wide receiver at the University of Kentucky and went on to do some NFL work, was a star in the NFL Europe and is currently a starting wide receiver for the Utah Blaze in the Arena Football League.


Lindsay and Aaron Boone with Sumoflam and with Solomon



Aaron "AirBoone" Boone in action as member of the Utah Blaze


After a nice breakfast, I took Solomon over to meet with his brother Seth, who is currently serving as an LDS (Mormon) Missionary in the Salt Lake City South Mission.  Typically, family members are not encouraged to visit their sons or daughters who are serving missions, but we got special permission so that Solomon would have a chance to see his brother.  Solomon joined Elder Kravetz and his current companion Elder Peters, from Pennsylvania, at a missionary zone meeting in West Jordan.  While Sol was there, I visited with a number of friends from Murray, where I graduated high school back in 1974.  It was nice to see some of my close friends.  Afterwards, I picked them up and we were joined by my close friend Jonathan Jensen, who is now a litigation attorney in Salt Lake City, where we all had lunch.  We tried to not take too much time with Elders Kravetz and Peters, but it was a joy to see them.



L -Solomon with Elders Peters and Kravetz    R-The Kravetz Men: Sol, Seth, David


We had a nice lunch and then Sol and I were off to Springville, where I had some business to take care of for the Trailer Park Troubadours.  We stopped by Knucklehead Strings, a provider of quality guitar strings for musicians world wide. They are well known for their eclectic advertising and packaging.  In fact, there are many similarities to the Trailer Park Troubadours.  We really love their T-Shirt and their goal: "Committed to Proving Dad Wrong"


Knucklehead Strings' Famous T-Shirt Design


Finally, after visiting them and getting the strings and shirts, etc., we were off for a final visit to the Batemans, my in-laws.  We had a nice dinner with them.  They just celebrated their 60th Anniversary last week.  Way to go Maury and Arlene!!!


We swung by a gas station in American Fork to get gas.  Ironically, it was called Kade's Place, so I couldn't resist playing a little bit and adding my grandson Kade's photo to the shot of the gas station.



Sol and I finally took off and we made it all the way to Evanston, WY for the night.  We had to go to five motels before we found one with an available room.


September 11, 2007: This 9/11 for us would be a big and eventful day as we would travel from Evanston, WY all the way to Paxton, NE, much of it on back roads and most certainly not the direct route.  We most certainly took the long way home.


We left our hotel in Evanston fairly early and drove the 60 or so miles straight to Little America, WY, one of America's biggest truck stops (but not the biggest as will be shown tomorrow!!).  We filled up with fuel and filled up on food and were ready to take the long trip.  It is also a fancy hotel and would have been a great place to stay.  Click on the link below to get an idea.


We were soon heading east on I-80 again towards Rock Springs, WY.  Along the way we drove through prairies of sage-brush and we also saw many herds of prong-horn antelope.  According to the link at the left, Wyoming has the unusual distinction of having more prong-horn antelope than people!!



Antelope can be seen throughout most of southern Wyoming


As we neared Green River, WY we could see the beautiful rock formations that the area is noted for.  This area is similar to some parts of northern Arizona with unusual rock formations and almost painted desert types of hills.



Some of the amazing scenery near Green River, WY


As we exited and headed closer to Rock Springs, the scenery changed a bit and we son could see why some consider Rock Springs, WY to be the Trailer Park capital of the U.S. (and maybe the world!!)


In the small town of Rock Springs there are more than 50 different trailer parks


Many of the residents of Rock Springs work the oil wells of southern Wyoming.  Historically there was a coal mine nearby that is noted for the Rock Springs Massacre, where a number of Chinese miners were killed on Sept. 2, 1885.


Heading east towards Rawlins, WY on I-80


Continuing east, we headed towards Rawlins.  I had planned on going all the way to Cheyenne, but decided we would cut up through central Wyoming to Casper.  I like getting off the interstate so we can see the scenery.  And in this case it was a great decision as we ran into some unplanned surprises along the way.  We headed north on US 287 through sagebrush and antelope country.  We actually saw numerous antelope on the side of the highway. We also noticed a sign saying that we were on the Chief Washakie Trail.



Chief Washakie Trail


Chief Washakie, c.1804-1900, was a chief of the Eastern Shoshone Indians of Wyoming. He was noted for his exploits in fighting and also for his friendship with the white pioneers. When wagon trains were passing through Shoshone country in the 1850s, Washakie and his people aided the overland travelers in fording streams and recovering strayed cattle. He was also a scout for the U.S. Army.  There is now a foundation dedicated to provide study materials and archival materials about the Shoshone.


But, this area is also noted for another important trail or two.  Both the Mormon Trail and the Oregon Trail ran near this area.  This was made clear when we stopped at the only gas station for miles, which was at Muddy Gap Junction, where US 287 splits heads northwest towards Yellowstone while WY 220 begins and heads northeast towards Casper.  We stopped here for a restroom break and for some drinks.  We got our first hint of the pioneer heritage by the signs at Muddy Gap (also known as 3 Forks).




We went inside the store and I went to the restroom.  While in there I saw a painting that looked just like the Nauvoo Temple.  I had no inkling that this was near a very well known Mormon historical site, Martin's Cove.   The store inside claimed to have the cleanest restrooms in Wyoming (and there were jars around the store for donations to help keep them that way).  The store owners provide pens for people to jot on the walls of the store.  I took advantage of the opportunity...got get that Sumoflam brand name out there!!



My signature right on the side at eye level.  The proprietor with a map of visitors from the US


So, why is this site so amazing?  Why do they get over 100,000 visitors a year?  It is because of Martin's Cove, where the Mormon Handcart Company Historical Site is located.  Every year hundreds of youth and church groups come here to reenact the handcart walks.  Historically, the Martin Handcart Company came through here in the midst of winter.  It is a poignant story recounted to LDS youth everywhere.  In fact, my boys have actually done handcart reenactments in Kentucky to have some understanding of what the hundreds of poor Mormon pioneers had to go through (see here).



Entrance to Martin's Cove.  Sumoflam with replicas of the Mormon Handcarts



Devil's Gate, near Martin's Cove


Devil's Gate was considered a major landmark along the trail for not only the Mormon pioneers, but also for those that came along the Oregon Trail.  Just to the east of there is Rattlesnake Pass, where all of the pioneers had to cross to continue westward.



L-Rattlesnake Pass  R-Map of Martin's Cove; Rattlesnake Pass on the far right in the middle


My wife Julianne's great grandparents were pioneers that crossed the plains and it is very likely that this was the same place that they came westward.  As a genealogist I had great appreciation of being here.


We drove back to WY-220 and continued northeast through some beautiful desert scenes as we approached the oasis lake of Pathfinder Reservoir.


Heading east on WY-220


Pathfinder Reservoir in the midst of the desert -- looks more like Arizona!!


We finally made our way into Casper, WY and then continued on towards our next destination of Douglas, WY.



The entrance to Casper, WY


My goal for getting into Douglas, WY was to see the Jackalope Capital of the World.  Jackalopes have always been one of my favorite animals and now I could finally see where they are a big thing.  According to the Wikipedia, the jackalope legend in the U.S. is attributed by the New York Times to Douglas Herrick (1920–2003) of Douglas, Wyoming, in 1932. Postcards showing jackalopes were also sold in the U.S. in the 1930s. Herrick and his brother Ralph had studied taxidermy by mail order as teenagers. A 1930s hunting trip for jackrabbits led to the idea of a Jackalope, according to the Douglas, Wyo., Chamber of Commerce.  The brothers returned to their taxidermy shop following the hunting trip. Herrick tossed a jackrabbit carcass into the shop, whereupon it came to rest beside a pair of deer antlers. The accidental combination of animal forms sparked Douglas Herrick's idea for a Jackalope, according to the chamber.  However, the legend of Horned hares also abounded in European– particularly, German and Austrian– legends as the Raurackl, Rasselbock and Wolpertinger. These legends were possibly inspired by Shope papillomavirus infected rabbits. The many illustrations of horned hares shown in scholarly works by European naturalists in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, may have been similarly inspired.  Following are some shots of Jackalope...and we found some in other places as well.


Supposedly the world's largest Jackalope statue, located at the Douglas, WY visitor's center



L - Another large Jackalope statue in downtown Douglas  R-One of hundreds of stuffed jackalopes to be seen around Douglas


Enjoying the thrill of seeing the jackalopes, we had to move on eastward towards Lusk, WY.  We would head south on I-25 until we got to Exit 126, where we would then head east on US 18/20.  Along the way we came to the sprawling metropolis of Lost Springs, WY.  According to the Wikipedia article, Lost Springs is one of only five towns in the United States that are officially registered in the census to have only one (1) person.  The photo below shows the sign one can see as they enter town.  What is not seen is on the other side of the tracks.  I would be amazed of only one person was keeping this up!!  I drove into the town and took a couple of other shots.  The church says there are three people in town, which I found attested to on this site.  Apparently Art Stringham and his brother run the Lost Springs store and Leda Price runs the Bar.  Leda is also the Mayor of the town.



So, which one is correct?  Population 1 or Population 3?



The big sign welcomes you to the town with more satellite dishes than people!!


After our visit to Lost Springs, we then headed towards Lusk.  I find this interesting because just three weeks ago I was at the Casual Big and Tall Store and there was a large advertisement for jeans in the window with a rustic photo of the Lusk Drive-In Sign. I had to get a photo of this while I was here.



Lusk is also the home of an old water redwood tower.  The Lusk Water Tower is significant because of its association with the Chicago and North Western  Rail Line (C&NW), a major railroad that stimulated Wyoming's settlement and development of rail transportation corridors. The Lusk Water Tower was built by the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railway (a subsidiary of C&NW) in 1886 when it extended its line from Chadron, Nebraska to Lusk, Douglas, and Casper, Wyoming. The redwood water tank is supported on timber piles; water was pumped from a well to the tank by windmill and then discharged into steam locomotives for boiler water. Originally, the water tower was built in the center of Lusk near the depot. The water tower was moved to its present location near the east boundary of the town of Lusk in 1919 when the depot was rebuilt. The Lusk Water Tower is Wyoming's only surviving railroad structure of its type.


The Lusk Water Tower - Listed on the National Register of Historic Places


Also in Lusk is one of those fascinating old-fashioned neon signs from the olden days of highway driving that I remember as a kid:


The Covered Wagon Motel - Lusk, WY


From Lusk into Nebraska we saw some extraordinary white cliffs and we also saw trains that seemed to be miles long.  After one train passed, another came by a couple of minutes later.  These appeared to be coal-haulers.


Van Tassell, WY



Miles and miles of trains -- seemingly endless


As we continued along many stretches of the Oregon and Mormon Trails, we came upon a trailer graveyard.  Obviously, as a Trailer Park Troubadour, I had to mourn the passing of all these tornado magnets (what's the difference between a tornado and a redneck divorce?  Doesn't matter, either way, someone loses a trailer)



L-An Oregon Trail Marker near Martin's Cove  R-Oregon, California, Mormon Trail Highway Marker



A true to life Trailer Graveyard


We finally made our way into Nebraska where we continued to see these white cliffs all the way into Scottsbluff.


Welcome to Cornhusker Country


We took a small local highway towards the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  Since I always try to catch these when I can, we went a bit out of our way turning south on NE-29 at Harrison.  We got there at 4:45 PM, so I was pretty elated.  We drove the 3 mile road into the visitor's center only to find that they closed at 4 PM!!  Aw shucks!!  I will hit this on the next trip.


Agate Fossil Beds National Monument - make sure you check their hours of operation before driving in!!


We drove back out and headed further south on NE-29 until we got to Mitchell, NE, on US 26, where we headed east towards Scottsbluff and more beautiful scenery, emphasized by the setting sun and all the shadows.



Scenes from the Scottsbluff area


Coming down the hill into Scottsbluff


Of course, always on the watch for the eclectic, we found this unique little convenience mart along the road near Scottsbluff.  The restroom had a bunch of old 45s (some of them classics!!) glued to the walls and graffiti to go along (like American Graffiti??)


Route 26 Mart on Route 26 near Scottsbluff, NE


After fueling up again (both car and bodies), we were back on the road for the last leg of our day's trip.  Our final destination was Paxton, NE.  This would be another 3 hours of driving.  I wanted to make sure we got there in plenty of time because we were going to have dinner there at one of those restaurants that I searched to find.  This time it was Ole's Big Game Steakhouse


As always, I look for the interesting places along the way to eat and this was one I had selected before we had ever left Lexington.  Opened in 1933 by Rosser O. Herstedt (known as Ole to friends) as a tavern, it soon became a menagerie of hunting trophies, beginning with the first deer in 1938.  For the next three years Ole traveled to every continent and went on hunting safaris.   To this day there are now over 200 mounts of animals from around the world.  Following, without explanation, are a number of photos I shot with Solomon before our wonderful steak dinner!!  And I can guarantee you that this ain't no bull!!















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