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No Flies on Me


Cody, Wyoming

Saratoga Springs is a little town with everything a camper needs: a $2 municipal dump and a 24 hour hot spring.

The dump is north of town. The opening is 2 feet across. This is the first time I've dumped without a slinky. Just position over the hole and let'er rip. You can't miss. All you have to worry about is losing a tire in the thing on the way out.

The hot spring is down on a lazy curve of the North Platte River, as you might expect, next to the municipal swimming pool. The swimming area itself is fenced in, apparently for the purpose of charging admission, but the hot pool next to it is open and free, and empty in the middle of the day.

This is the hottest pool I've ever dared enter. The warning sign states that it is at LEAST 104 degrees. It is a pool within a pool. The small one at the bathhouse end, where the spring bubbles up, seems just short of boiling. I asked the attendant if anyone ever gets in there, and she said it might happen, but she'd never seen it. The outer pool is about 30' by 40', maybe 3-4 feet deep, and every bit of it poses a threat of scalding.

I wish I'd thought to bring along a dozen eggs, just as an experiment.

People must get used to it, sort of. There's one tough little 6 year old girl here jumping in and out unconcerned, making fun of her scaredy-cat older brother.

I am up to my knees, and wondering whether my will is current.

For rational folks, there's the "hobo pool" out in the river. It's the usual collection of rocks enclosing the outflow from the formal pool. Here you can get any temperature you want. If you just happen to blow through this burg about 11 o'clock of a January night, with snow deep on the ground and a million stars crackling in the black sky, this would be a great place for a significant pause.

From Saratoga I made my way to Lander, just as the sun was going down. South of town on 131 is Sinks Canyon State Park, along the Popo Agie River. The campsites here seemed designed to accommodate Model Ts, and maybe they were. Many are much too shallow for the average Subaru, let alone a behemoth like mine. For a while I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get out of there without bringing a tree or two with me.

Finally I extricated myself and moved on up into the forest, where I found a suitable flat spot along the river. The temperature at 10 pm was about 70 degrees, much warmer than I've been used to lately, so I turned on the fan to cool things off. Later I turned it off and went to bed. About 3 am I woke to the subdued low roar of a fan. Crap. Forgot it. I'd better get up and turn it off before I drain the batteries.

This conversation went on for some time in the dark, until finally I did raise up, stagger to the closet, and flip the switch to the inverter.

WAITaminit. What's that sound? I just turned the inverter ON.

That's right, folks. Bob Giddings woke up in the middle of the night, muttered a low curse, roused himself heroically, and tried to turn off the Popo Agie River from a remote switch in his closet.

No doubt the Nobel Committee will soon hear of this.

On the way up to Cody next morning, I stopped at a Radio Shack/Verizon Office and inquired about enabling my phones up in Canada. No problem. Just $10 a month per phone. The National Singlerate phone service is unaffected. The America's Choice phone is actually improved, as there is no roaming in Canada. All I have to worry about is roaming from some sneaky American tower near the border. Maybe in Vancouver.

I am now near Cody, in the State Park on the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, and it is magnificent, right on the water, across from a mesa on the other shore that makes you want to curl up with a couple of Louis Lamour westerns. Every now and then you could look up and people that promontory with his characters. $12 a night. I could get used to this.

Last night was cold. It is nearly noon now, and 89 degrees. But you know, it isn't bad. As they say, it's a dry heat.

I've been methodically assassinating insects all morning. This might be a good time to note certain native peculiarities of the flies up here. They are big, dumb, and slow. They have in miniature all the qualities of an average University of Oklahoma backfield. The slightest breeze knocks them down.

They mass, though, in their myriads, apparently for the purpose of reminding me to close the screen when I go out. They possess strength in numbers, but as individuals they are pathetic. You can grab them out of the air. I've killed a couple by STEPPING on them. No respectable Texas fly would stand for that.

Even the mosquitoes here are barely able to annoy. If it weren't for the West Nile virus, I'd pay them no mind at all. They are tiny, feeble, and tentative. I'd heard much guff about the formidable Minnesota mosquito, but I am on a latitudinal level with that particular Canadian Province even as I write, and I am unimpressed.

Perhaps altitude innervates, if you're an insect.

Back in Texas, you can hear the bloodsuckers boring in from 4 or 5 yards away, an unnerving whine that rises to fever pitch as they begin their final approach. They seem particularly to like the taste of ears.

Bad enough when it's just one. Combine this terrifying psychological tactic with the myopic coordinated intelligence of a whole cloud of the murdering bastards, and you may have some notion of a mild Texas summer evening.

In Houston, I have heard, there are brownouts caused entirely by bug zappers. In Elgin, Texas, once, I myself witnessed a strapping young bull of a fullback carried off the gridiron, feet dragging, delirious from loss of blood. The poor lad never got off the bench. Ah, Memory.

Whap! Well, that about does it for now. I'm headed into Cody to wash some clothes. Last evening I thought about going to the nightly rodeo in town, but it was so beautiful along the lake I couldn't imagine anything I could see that would suit me better. There are yet colors related to red that I have no name for.

Besides, a "nightly rodeo" sounds more like a pageant a la Disney than a blood and guts affair. Same horses every night, same riders, same stale peanuts. Even the flies are more fun.

Maybe, though, before I leave. I'll be here at least a couple of days.


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