The two cowboys learned against the gate holding it closed with their weight. Behind it was an award winning Canadian Rodeo Cowboy on a bucking horse who was rearing to let loose once the gate flung open.
The announcer yelled –
“Who here is from Canada?
-Welcome to America.”
“Who here is from California?
-Welcome to America.”
My friends, it WAS my first rodeo. We entered Cody Wyoming and were greeted by a huge rodeo sign in front of us . It was the 4th of July rodeo and it seemed like destiny. We turned into the parking lot and approached a couple with Nascar looking rodeo jackets.
They turned out to be rodeo die-hards who had season passes and tickets to spare. It was meant to be! We grabbed our sweatshirts, picked up some hot dogs and followed them in.
They explained the rules as each event was happening. How many seconds the cowboys needed to stay on a bucking horse or bull, how the calves needed to be roped, who the women was hanging off a saddle, the whole shebang.
The wind was wailing and when I looked over out toward the horizon I saw lighting shooting out of black clouds. The announcer read my thoughts and said: “enjoying the breeze? In Oklahoma they call that a twister. Here we just call it wind.” He ?
But if you’re in unvaccinated country, sitting in packed bleachers watching a rodeo, 60 mph winds can actually be comforting.
You know what wasn’t our first rodeo? Going through Yellowstone the SECOND time. Yup, we’re on our way back from the Big Adventure. And backtracking through the National Park we rushed across the country to see 10 months ago was emotional for all of us. Here’s how we got to that point.
When last we spoke, we had just left the Seattle area. From there we took a long drive to a little lake 40 minutes from Spokane. On Airbnb this place looked too good to be true. It was right on a lake, had plenty of rooms, a hot tub, and they took me up on the lower price I offered. We wondered- Does this place even exist? To our surprise, it did. And it was all that.
Some of us were ecstatic that it was our last Airbnb of the trip (my eldest) and some were sad and emotional (you know it.) But we had a grand finale to look forward to and that softened the blow – we were going to tour Glacier National Park with my cousin and brother.
Our stay at the lake was wonderful. We swam, soaked, and enjoyed a full week and a half in one place. My cousin and her kids added even more reason to celebrate.
From there we headed to Montana to meet my brother and his family who we hadn’t seen for a year. Glacier Park was a spectacular setting for a reunion. We’ve seen a bunch of national parks on this trip but this one takes the cake. The huge snow capped mountains, blue lakes, green landscape, wild animals, canyons, rivers, it’s got it all.
After that we headed to Yellowstone. It had changed a bit. There were more people, the hot springs were different colors, and the sun was scorching. But driving through the park listening to the Gypsy App again was like reuniting with a friend.
Before we started our drive back we put the boys on a plane to sleepaway camp. After a full year of being joined at the hip the separation was painful. My younger son was ambivalent until the end and as the plane pushed off I was breathless with excitement and worry. They’re going to have so much fun! Do they remember how to make friends? Independence will be amazing for them! Will they even eat?
Now I scour the daily camp photos feeling personally insulted that every shot doesn’t contain my boys. Also, both have written letters begging to be picked up.
Apparently they’re not alone and neither am I. According to the director of the camp they’ve got a lot of homesick kids and panicky parents on their hands. “No offense,” she said to me, “but speaking to all of the parents so much makes it hard for us to do our job.”
I blame COVID. And our trip took isolation to yet another level.
The way back has been eventful. We traced Lewis and Clark’s steps on the way out but the way back has been following Laura Ingalls. We’re super fans now so when we toured her family’s homestead in South Dakota and saw the site of her first sod house in Minnesota we were giddy with excitement.
Sitting at Laura’s school desk and holding twisted hay that they were forced to burn during winter made us feel like her memories were our own. We just missed the Little House Pageant happening the week after. Maybe there are bigger fans than us after all.
We also got to have a new experience of the 4th of July. There is an overwhelming feeling of patriotism in middle America that is moving and also desperate. It’s a love for an ideal notion of America of the past – the cowboys who lived wild, the settlers who moved west, the farmers who tilled the land, the miners who risked everything for gold. It feels similar to missing a childhood of exploration and abandon.
After a year of traveling we’ve seen a country in its adolescence, caught between resisting growing up and rejecting being young.
Seeing friends along the way is softening the blow of this trip coming to an end. We made it in time for a friend’s gallery exhibit and got to stay in their beautiful home in Chicago. Then we experienced life in Bloomington Indianapolis with our friends there which was comfortable and easy.
The way back feels different. It’s not the exploratory trip of before. We don’t have an open timeline or an undecided route, rather we know where we’re headed and when we’ll get there. A four hour driving day feels effortless. We work in the mornings and drive in the afternoons.
So what’s next for us you ask? That’s coming in the next post…