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by Mike Blakesley

Originally published in 1990
in the Forsyth Independent-Enterprise

I had to make a trip to Green River, Wyoming recently. Let's just say that the trip there would normally be a rather boring experience. . .but I managed to jazz it up a bit.

If you've never been to southern Wyoming, let me describe it for you. Imagine, if you will, the sandbox I had when I was a kid. It started out as a level expanse of sand, courtesy of my dad. Then, using my arsenal of Tonka trucks, graders and loaders, I constructed and moved and piled the sand around until I had great mountains of sand in one corner of the sandbox, filled with roads and tunnels, bridges and even a lake or two.

Now imagine the other side of the sandbox, which was nothing much except a great sandy hole with occasional deposits of cat crap, and every now and then a weed or two. This would represent southern Wyoming (except for the cat crap).

My dad dug into his vast file cabinet and found a 1968 Texaco "Touraide" map of Wyoming, with which I plotted my course. Forsyth to Sheridan, to Buffalo and Casper, then a diagonal stretch on the two-lane, and rejoining the Interstate for the last miles into Rock Springs and Green River. No problem.

I headed off into the vast uncharted wilderness. The fact that the "Touraide" map was printed at a time when most of the Interstates in Wyoming were unfinished didn't bother me. A highway is a highway, I thought. Merrily humming "On the Road Again," a song by Willie Nelson that I hate, I set off.

After what seemed like hours of driving, I spotted a sign..."BUFFALO, NEXT EXIT." However, I didn't want to go to Buffalo; I was headed toward Casper, and the highway on the map seemed to head toward Casper, so..."On the Road Again!"

More driving, more hours, one hasty stop under a bridge because there don't seem to be any rest areas in Wyoming, and finally I spotted a sign reading "GILLETTE."


Pulling over to the side of the road, I stared at my "Touraide" map in disbelief. Gillette, I found, is in the northeast corner of Wyoming. It is nowhere near Casper, and it certainly isn't very darn close to Green River. In fact, it was not even on my route. I had taken the wrong highway.

My anger at what I had done was overshadowed by downright embarrassment. After all, I am a guy who, just last summer, went to Los Angeles and negotiated the freeways with the greatest of ease. I have driven in Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and even Billings and haven't been lost in any of them. And now here I was, in the northeast corner of Wyoming, when I had just spent four hours supposedly driving toward the southwest corner of the state. Why, I'd be laughed right out of the Triple-A.

After venting my anger by getting out of my car and kicking its tires for a while, I headed down Highway 59, a miserable two-lane. I was a little worried that I might not have enough gas to get to Casper, but according to my trusty Ford "Trip Computer," I had miles and miles to spare.

Unfortunately, the "Trip Computer" isn't smart enough to know about the wind in southern Wyoming, the gale forces of which have actually blown most of the buildings, people and trees out of the area and dried up all the rivers and lakes. The Wyoming winds were in full blow tonight, and I was headed right into them. Unbeknownst to my "Trip Computer."

So about 15 miles out of Casper, I watched as my "Trip Computer" slowly counted down the miles I had to go before I'd run out of gas: 11, 10, 9... I still had 13 miles to go... 8, 7, 6...

And then, amazingly enough, an exit! "Gas, food, lodging," the sign said. I was saved! A mile down the road, I turned off the highway and drove up to the gas station. It was closed.

Thoroughly scared now, I backtracked. I was still 5 miles from Casper, and my "Trip Computer" said I had one mile's worth of gas left. Just as I reached the highway, the big ZERO GALLONS indicator began to flash. I prepared to hitchhike.

But the car kept going. Either there's a small reserve built into the Ford gas gauge, or their gauges are designed for eternal optimists, because I rolled into Casper and into the nearest gas station.
My 22 1/2-gallon tank took 23.4 gallons of gas.

The rest of my trip was without incident, unless you count the ruckus I caused at the Super 8 motel in Green River when I cruised in there at 1:45 AM and asked for a room, and then the room key they gave me wouldn't open the door, so the manager had to come out in his pajamas and show me how you put the key in, turned it and kicked the door in just the right spot while you pushed with your shoulder.

I wonder if the Triple-A knows about that?