Thursday, October 19, 2017

Homeless - Part 4

For the week or so that we camped on BLM land LC and I started to slowly dial back the stress that had been our close partner for almost two months.
For late September the days were very warm and the nights were very cool, although not freezing.
We spent a number of days in the sunshine, wandering alone on BLM land that was very similar to what we had just left in Idaho.
There was more wild life here.  Antelope everywhere and occasional sightings of the wild horses that we had enjoyed so much the last time we lived in Wyoming.
No people.
Snow capped mountains in every direction.
LC and I had both worried about Kory, thinking that while we camped on BLM land we would have to spend much of our time and energy keeping our adventurous dog close.
Afraid that she would wander too far and get lost.
I think she realized that this was a new place.  A strange place.  A place she didn't know.
And so Kory intrinsically seemed to understand that she had freedom but that she needed to stay close to her people. 
Until we walked away from camp our dog seemed content throughout that week to wander close by and that suited all of us just fine.
Yes.......we were finally starting to slow down....................

I snapped these pictures as we explored on BLM land one day during our camping adventure.
Most of the pictures didn't turn out because of the broken zoom-function on my camera, but happily some did..................
By the time the bottom dropped out of the weather, we were staying in a motel in Meeteetsee.
It wasn't fancy by any stretch.
But it was clean, comfortable, had a kitchenette, and a welcome bathroom (mostly a welcome shower).
We had been to Meeteetsee a few times the last time we lived in this state and had always liked it there.
Population 300, the small and isolated Meeteetsee was 30 miles from Cody, was cut in two by the Greybull River that ran right through the center of town, was historic in terms of its cowboy history, interesting in terms of its western themed buildings, had beautiful scenery and abundant wild life, and at this time of year (aside from many hunters) was a quiet little place.
A good place to hold up for another week or so until we moved into the cottage in Cody.
Even though LC and I had visited Meeteetsee a few times, I never realized (until we stayed there for just over a week) what a sweet little town it really was.
During our brief stay we explored the town, explored the area, talked to the people, and looked (really looked) the place over.
And fell in love with this little town.............

One of two reservoirs that are within easy driving distance of town.
When we first stopped here so Kory could run, both LC and I wondered how she would make out with the terrain.
The picture below is of the boat ramp, but on both sides of this ramp are a series of very steep hills containing ample amounts of loose rock.
When we parked at the top in the overflow parking area would she be scared of the steepness of the terrain?  Of the loose rock?  Of the inability to see us once she ventured down each of the steep hills?
The answer was no on all counts.
This reservoir turned out to be one of her most favorite places during our stay in Meeteetsee, and we both relished the sight of our happy dog running with abandon up and down steep hill sides...............
We snapped these pictures during a freezing cold, grey and snowy day early in our stay, on the Pitchfork Ranch a few miles outside of town.
The Pitchfork is an amazing place.
Beautiful.  Expansive.  Isolated.
Smells like cattle.  And astonishing amounts of money.
One more place we need to visit again.  These pictures come nowhere close to doing this amazing place justice..................
Old rusty remnants of old rusty vehicles, wedged against the concrete pillar.
The picture does not do adequately show just how many old vehicles lay there and one day we'll go back and do better.
A unique way to slow bank erosion.  At least, so we hear...................
One of many huge herds of antelope we came across on this day..................

One more quick visit to "Korys Reservoir" before heading back to the motel.
It had been a long, cold morning.
But also a great morning.
It was time for a quick run for pup, and then back to the motel for a nap...............
More on Meeteetsee here:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Homeless - Part 3

We all three spent one night in a very "civilized" campground just on the edge of Cody.
Complete with power, gift store, laundromat, restrooms and showers, a video game area, wig wams for those who want to venture away from their campers for a night or two, mini golf, a playground and more.
It was shocking how expensive it was to spend one night, but it had been a very long day and we were all very tired.
After walking with Kory for a short while to dial back the stress a little, we left Kory with the bus and walked to a nearby restaurant to eat dinner before finally collapsing in exhausted sleep.
We had made it and it was good to be in Cody...................

OK.........the school bus.
Within days of accepting the offer on the house, LC came across this bus on line.
It was the proverbial "short bus" (which garnered good-natured window licking comments by me right from the get-go), was four wheel drive, had originated in Wyoming, but was now located in Idaho Falls.
LC found the bus on a local classified site and expressed immediate interest in it.
I on the other hand, was less enthusiastic.
"What do you want a school bus for?"
"It's cool.  And it's four wheel drive"
"Yes it's cool.  But what do we need a school bus for?"
"We could camp in it"
"We already HAVE a camper"
"Yes.......but if we had this we could tow the boat behind it instead of pulling a truck AND a camper AND a boat" 
Hmmmm.........he had a point.
"We already have three vehicles.  I don't want four vehicles"
"We'll sell one"
"Which one?"
And there lay the rub.
We had three vehicles - a 3/4 ton truck, a Tahoe and a Suburban.
All were older model 4 wheel drive vehicles, but we had been careful when choosing them (LC looked over, crawled under and test drove the Suburban for almost 2 hours before deciding to buy it), and we had maintained each of them meticulously to keep them running well.
With only weeks to go before moving out of the house, the thought of selling one of our good (known) vehicles so we could buy an unknown bus scared me.
We were too stressed out.
We shouldn't be making these kinds of decisions when we're so busy and stressed out.
What good running and well maintained vehicle do you ditch to get a school bus?
LC sat on it for a while and watched the posting, fully expecting someone else to jump on it.
Nobody did. 
LC finally called the owner.  The guy was possibly interested in a trade.
Not the Suburban (which was LCs first offer) but possibly the truck.
That added one more layer of concern for me - that was LCs truck.
He needed a truck.  I wanted him to HAVE a truck.
I expressed concern to him for days.  
Concern that he was making a sacrifice to get into a 4x4 short bus that I still wasn't convinced that we needed.
I had asked LC to "study" on the idea, but the longer he studied the more convinced he seemed to become that he wanted this bus.
And then the home buyers' bank didn't finalize their end in time, and we missed the first closing date (in hindsight that was a godsend).
But it also threw off our plans to move into the cottage in Cody.
After the first closing date came and went we still did not know for certain when the signing would take place.
Once we had a second signing date the cottage had been rented out, and we learned that we would not be able to get into it until October 10.
With closing on September 21 and the cottage no longer available until October 10 we had almost three weeks of lag time.
No way did we want to rent a motel room in (or anywhere around) Cody for that length of time.  It would be far too expensive.
We went to see the bus.
LC drove the bus and inspected it from stem to stern the way he always does when buying a used vehicle.
The bus owner did the same thing with our truck.
The bus needed the air gassed up.
The truck needed the fan clutch repaired.
Each took their respective vehicles home with them.
A week later repairs had been done all around, and the two men made a straight trade across the board.
Four wheel drive trucks are a dime a dozen in the west.  Four wheel drive short-bus school-buses that could easily be used as a camper were not.
Eventually the bus will be painted but the only things we had time to do before leaving Idaho was to remove some of the seats, install the bed for sleeping, and get the oil changed.......................
 The first morning we were in Cody LC and I ate a quick breakfast and then immediately took our puppy out onto BLM land so she could run.
She has spent almost the entire day prior in the school bus while we made our way from Idaho to Wyoming.
We needed to give her some time to do what she loved to do.
Kory ran for a short while but then happily spent the remainder of her BLM trip chewing on a deer spine and two hind legs.
Yeah.......we were back in Wyoming..............
 The plan was to camp.
The next question was where to camp.
Although some were closed, others of the "in town" campgrounds were still open for another few weeks.
But they were expensive and we both hated the idea of them.
Far too civilized for our taste.
The next idea was the state-run campground out by Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
It was away from the declining (but still hectic) craziness of tourist-driven Cody, and the quiet appealed to both of us.
Driving out to Wapiti we pulled into the almost empty campground, read the sign and looked at each other frankly stunned.
I don't remember the cost exactly, but fees were charged by the vehicle and not the sites
We had two vehicles and figured that for ten days the cost for us to camp there would have been well over $300.
No.
Just...........no...............
 We drove our small convoy of vehicles 10 miles further up the highway, remembering an isolated facility whose sign by the highway stated they rented by the month through the winter.
As I wandered with Kory and snapped pictures LC walked into the office and then  quickly came back outside.
The owner would be out in just a minute to talk to him.................
 While LC waited by the door I continued to wander with Kory, inattentively letting her take the lead.
While wandering I noticed the For Sale sign by the road.
A few minutes later the woman poked her head out of the door but did not come all the way out.
$1600 a month.
That was the off-season rate.
She did have some cottages available that were used during the summer by staff.
They were $700 a month.
"Is that your dog?"
"Yes it is"
"Well we don't accept dogs so that takes care of THAT problem".
It wasn't what she said.
It was the way that she said it.
It was an owner who asked a prospective customer to wait outside.
It was an owner who couldn't even be bothered to step all the way outside to speak to a prospective customer.
It was the condescending tone, and the superior attitude, and the dismissive stare and the insult about my dog.
I could understand why her business was for sale.
I couldn't understand insulting prospective customers when summer was almost over and when prospective customers were quickly going to become a thing of the past.
At least for the next six months.
I didn't say it but I thought it.
Fuck You Very Much.................
 Next stop was the Forestry Service.
$3 a night for the next two nights, and then camping at national forest camp grounds was free through the winter............

As we walked out of the FS building LC and I looked at each.
OK.
Cheap was good and free was great.
The closest Forest Service campgrounds were all in the North Fork.
They were all beautiful - filled with endless pine trees, bordering the Shoshone River, surrounded by mountains.
Beautiful places.
Also filled with grizzly bears and wolves.
We had plenty of firearms and ammunition with us - enough to take out whatever came our way and enough for both of us to carry.
But we would have to keep Kory on leash all the time, be extremely careful in terms of food preparation, disposal and storage, and we would always have to be watchful.
We could do that.
All of that was easy enough.
While LC and I thought for a few more minutes I looked up at him and said "let's go camp out on BLM land"
Where the wild horses lived.
Kory could be off leash and run freely.  
We still had to pay attention to what was around us, but not in the same way we would have to in the North Fork.
After a quick stop at the BLM office in Cody we were good-to-go.
BLM it was........................
For the first two days we didn't leave BLM land.
We simply ate, slept, walked, slept some more.
All three of us really were tired.
The second morning LC woke me up to point out the antelope that were grazing right outside the school bus.
Days were surprisingly warm.
Nights were predictably cold.
We had a comfortable bed and good sleeping bags and slept fine each night.
 The third day out on BLM land we went to see a home that was for sale in Basin WY.
 The house looked much nicer in pictures than it was in real life and a good part of the land was useless.
No.
Overpriced for what it was and no.
We wasted a good part of the day and far too much energy on that house - driving to Basin, driving around town, talking to locals while eating lunch at a local restaurant, waiting for a tardy real estate agent who pushed back our appointment twice.
We had only sold our house a week before.
Once we got back to the area where we were camping I looked at LC and told him that we needed to stop doing that.
We needed to rest.
Physical rest.
Head rest.
We just needed to..........stop.  
Or at least slow down..................

A few days later I checked the weather forecast and realized that the bottom was going to fall out very soon.
Blue skies and temps in the 70s were going to change to rain and temps in the 40s.
On a whim LC suggested that we take a drive to Meeteetse.
Meeteetse (of Butch Cassidy fame) is a little cowboy town located 30 miles south of Cody.
I remembered the little town (population around 300) as being pretty, quaint, historic, quiet - and we both remembered the large series of cottages and a motel that were close to the Greybull River that ran through the middle of town.
We were quickly heading towards the end of tourist season.
Maybe we could rent a cottage or motel room for a reasonable price.
We had been camping for about a week, were ready for a shower, and it was going to get colder in a few days.
If we had to camp we would camp, but if this place had a room for us at a reasonable price until the cottage in Cody opened up, we'd take it.
They did and we took it.
The weather was going to bottom out a couple of days later.
We camped some more and then settled into a small hotel room with a kitchenette.
It would be our home away from home for the next week.
Pictures taken during our brief time in Meeteetse before we booked our room and headed back to our favorite BLM camp site.
I would take many more over the next week................
 I didn't realize it until we moved into the cottage in Cody.
I took pictures while going through the parks, in Cody, on BLM land, in Meeteetse, everywhere we went.
For a few weeks I snapped pictures non-stop until we FINALLY got settled for the winter in Cody.
 I downloaded all my pictures onto my computer and saw that the zoom on my computer had broken.
A slew of the useless and unusable.
All my zoomed-in pictures were fuzzy.
I had bought the camera new only six months before.
A lot of pictures turned out fine, but the ones (especially) out on BLM land were a write-off.
All my antelope and wild horse pictures.
Stupid camera and stupid Wal-mart..................
 One of my favorite pictures..............

I walked slowly to enjoy this freedom, and when I came out of the mountains, I saw the sky over the prairie, and I thought that if heaven was real, I hoped it was a place I never had to go, for this earth was greater than any paradise...............Daniel J Rice, The Unpeopled Season:  Journal From A North Country Wilderness