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
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
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
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
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?