Long Live the Wild West!

State 16: Wyoming - September 28, 2017

“There is a little bit of cowboy and cowgirl in nearly everyone”

Jane & Michael Stern

Nate

We woke in the parking lot of the Yellowstone Lake Inn. We had successfully stealth parked for the past 5 nights during our visit to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We prefer not to stealth park, but unfortunately we had no other options. Sleeping overnight in your vehicle is not permitted in Yellowstone, because they want you to pay between $379.00 and $579.00 a night at their lodges. While we could have afforded to stay in the park’s lodges, it wasn’t a matter of cost, it was a matter of principle! On our cross country trip, we have come across many municipalities who have passed local ordinances making sleeping in your vehicle illegal! Let’s take a few moments to clarify a few facts! Humans sleep in their home! I own my van! My van is my home! Thus, I sleep in my van! What right does the government have to make it illegal for me to sleep in the very home I own, and pay taxes on! Furthermore, I don’t deserve to be discriminated against because my living arrangements are either misunderstood, or are considered unconventional by societies standards. I certainly don’t deserve to be lumped in the categories with riff raff, simply because I choose to live in my van. It was Thomas Jefferson who said “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so”. If you require further proof, Martin Luther King said,” One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws". I respect the order of law, but I refuse to conform to unjust laws! I will continue to sleep in my van, which is my home, regardless of local ordinances, until the day comes when such unjust laws are inevitably repelled!

After departing the Yellowstone Lake Inn parking lot, we drove to our last stop: Yellowstone Lake Visitor Center. While at the visitor center, we came across a taxidermy bald eagle which had a very interesting story. In July 1987, scientists captured a bald eagle in Yellowstone park, and named him 923. A radio collar was placed on 923’s foot to track the migration pattern of the bald eagle. For 3 years, scientists tracked 923 as he traveled through Idaho and Northern California, but every year 923 always returned to Yellowstone Park. The study ended in 1990, and the tracking of the eagle ceased. In 1994, bald eagle 923 was found dead of unknown causes near the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and his radio collar on his foot was still intact. The study 923 partook in helped scientists understand the behavior, migration, and special habitat requirements of Bald Eagles to ensure their preservation and safety. To commemorate Bald Eagles 923 contributions into the study of his species, He was taxidermied, placed in a display case, and brought back to Yellowstone a place where he had returned each year throughout his life. Please see the pictures below.

With a heavy heart, a phone full of pictures, and enough memories to last a lifetime, we departed Yellowstone! We exited the park via the East exit, and drove 118 miles to Cody, WY. Upon exiting Yellowstone, we entered Buffalo Bill State Park, and were treated to a 2-hour drive through the breathtaking beauty of the Wyoming Mountains. After going through 3 bare wall rock tunnels, and over a dam, we finally arrived at the site of the Cross Country Couple's “Famous Person” for Wyoming; Buffalo Bill Cody!

William Frederick, more commonly known as "Buffalo Bill" Cody, was a guide, scout, frontiersman, bison hunter, showman, actor, entrepreneur, Indian fighter, town founder, author and icon of the Old American West. Cody grew up on the frontier, and loved his way of life. After his father’s death, he started working at the age of eleven, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the Civil War, he served the Union Army as a scout, and later served as a civilian scout during the Indian Wars. In 1872, Cody was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The story of how Cody came to be known as Buffalo Bill is quite interesting. One day while hunting buffalo for pay to feed railroad workers, Cody shot and killed 11 out of 12 buffalo, and with full bellies, the railroad worker's hailed him as Buffalo Bill Cody! In spite of all of Cody’s accomplishments, he will always be immortalized as the creator of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. His motivation to produce the show was to preserve the western way of life he loved, and to prevent it from fading into obscurity! In 1883, Cody launched Buffalo Bill’s Wild West's first show in Omaha, NE. With Western icons such as Annie Oakley, and Sitting Bull, Cody took his show on the road throughout the United States, Great Britain, and Europe! By the turn of the 20th century, he would come to be known as “the greatest showman on the earth”. The aforementioned is the story everyone knows about Buffalo Bill. I wanted to separate fact from fiction. I wanted a real understanding about who Cody was and what he stood for. To discover the truth about this western legend, we drove across town to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Tracing it's roots to 1917, and opening it's doors to the public in 1927, the Buffalo Bill Museum’s focus is on the life and times of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. In addition, the museum is the premiere authority on the interpretive history of the American cowboy, dude ranching, Western conservation, frontier entrepreneurship, and source of our concepts about the enduring spirit of the old American West.

Lori and I have been looking forward to this museum for years! Upon our arrival, we were surprised to learn the museum was not only celebrating their centennial, but in addition was commemorating the 100th anniversary Buffalo Bill Cody’s death! We also discovered The Buffalo Bill Museum of the West is actually 5 museums within one: The Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indian Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, and the Cody Firearm Museum. One could clearly spend days seeing all the museums offered. Since we were only interested in visiting the Buffalo Bill portion of the museum, we were given a reduced admission price of $10. With our tickets paid, enthusiastically we walked hand in hand into the museum.

One thing you must know about me is I scare extremely easily! Therefore, I avoid horror movies, and I hate when people sneak up on me! As soon as we entered the museum, a hologram of Buffalo Bill's ghost suddenly appeared directly in front of me. It scared the bageezess out of me, and I let out this loud piercing scream that sounded like a little girl was getting attacked! The whole museum instantly went silent, and I felt everyone's eyes on me! I normally don’t embarrass easily, but this was quite the spectacle I created. Lori walked away from me as fast as she could, and started cracking up laughing across the hall. Even the security guard came up to ask me if I was ok. Eventually, everyone went back to what they were previously doing, but clearly this was not my finest moment.

The first noteworthy exhibit we came across was our Rosie’s Great Great Grandmother: the sheep wagon. The sheep wagon displayed featured a canvas covered horse drawn carriage equipped with a bed, wood burning stove, oil lantern, cabinets, cooking equipment, and more. If I installed a solar panel, I would be perfectly comfortable living in there! Maybe after our cross country trip is over I should take up sheep herding! Please see the pictures below.

Next, we came across a small stage, with a single row of seats in front. On the stage was a projector screen, which scrolled through scenes from Buffalo Bill's Wild West shows. Even 100 years after Cody’s death, his shows were still entertaining to watch. Next we came across a saddle which belonged to Buffalo Bill Cody. Please see the pictures below.

Below are additional items belonging to Buffalo Bill which include: wallet, guns, vest, buffalo hide coat, medal of honor and other personal effects. Please see the pictures below.

The story of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show would not be complete without sharing the stories of the show's famous performers. Once rivals, but now friends, legendary Lakota Chief Sitting Bull was part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Sitting Bull's, cuffs, pouch, ring and a portrait of him and Cody are pictured below.

Annie Oakley, began shooting at a very young age, and captivated audiences around the world ever since with her incredible marksmanship. She joined The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in 1885, and was second only to Cody as the star of the show! Sitting Bull was so impressed with her shooting abilities, he named her “Watanya Cecillia” which translates to Little Sure Shot. Oakley performed with the show until 1901, when she was injured in a train wreck! Below are pictures on Oakley’s dress, trunk, saddle, and guns.

Other relics of interest on display include: a saddle belonging to our 26th President; Teddy Roosevelt, the pen President Harry Truman used to sign the bill establishing the Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir, and even a shirt belonging to John Wayne! Please see the pictures below.

Buffalo Bill was a man ahead of his time. Although, Cody lived in an era prior to mass media, he was a master of self-promotion, and during his time became the most famous showman in world! While most people of his era viewed Indians as enemies, Cody supported equal rights for Indians, and some of his best friends throughout his life were Native Americans. Cody was married twice to the same woman, and was a father to three 3 girls. Since he was surrounded by women, Cody was against the gender pay gap, and paid the men and women at his show the same salary for the same work performed. Despite his legendary status as a buffalo hunter, Cody was a supporter of animal rights! Cody only killed buffalo for food, and was against the killing of buffalo solely for sport. Although, we left the museum with a better understanding of Buffalo Bill, the displays were extremely scattered leaving the visitor with the challenging task of piecing together the story of Buffalo Bill on their own. On the other hand, by sharing the story of Buffalo Bill, the museum also told the story of other old West Iconic figures such as Sitting Bull, and Annie Oakley just to highlight a few. All things considered, visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum was a fun and interesting way to waste away a Wyoming afternoon, and is certainly worth a stop for anyone interested in the American West!

Lori

After leaving the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Museum, we drove across town to partake in the Cross Country Couple's “Famous Food for the State of Wyoming “Chokecherries”. The chokecherry is mostly ignored today, because most avoid eating any plant with the word "choke" in it's name. In addition, many falsely believe chokecherries are poisonous, and others consider them second class citizens to their more popular cousin the black cherry. This is a shame, because this delicious fruit deserves much more attention than it receives. I am proud to be the one who helps set the record straight!

The chokecherry is an ancient berry, and it's remains have been found at more archeological sites than any other wild plant! For thousands of years, the chokecherry was the most important fruit in the diet of the Native American tribes of the Northern Rockies. The Indian’s even used the bark of chokecherry root to treat colds, fever and stomach discomfort. The chokecherry fruit can be used to make a jam, juice, jelly, syrup, and is even used to make wine out West. Probably the most popular use of chokecherries today is jelly. I was very excited to finally indulge in this ignored ancient bountiful berry! We visited Pete’s Bakery and Café in downtown Cody, WY for made from scratch chokecherry turnovers! The pastry was soft, flaky, and expertly baked. The chokecherry filling tasted like a combination of cherries and cranberries, with a hint of rhubarb, and I love love love cherries, cranberries and rhubarb! It was one of the best pastries, and unique and delicious fillings I had ever ate. I will absolutely be on the lookout for additional opportunities to eat chokecherries throughout the rest of my cross country trip.

I didn’t realize I had arrived in the “West” until I arrived in Cody, WY. As I walked through the Walmart in Cody, we were surrounded by people wearing large leather belts, behemoth belt buckles, stone washed blue jeans, plaid flannel shirts, Stetson hats, and most had a gun holstered on their hip. Apparently, open carry is legal in Wyoming! YEE HAW!!! It was quite a culture shock compared to what I am used to in Connecticut. Unlike Connecticut, everyone in Cody was considerate, polite, and friendly. In all honesty, I actually felt safer with everyone blatantly brandishing their gun. Not to mention, I got more than a few “Howdy Maam’s”. Note to self; Buy Nate a cowboy hat and boots!

Immersing ourselves in the culture of whatever town we happen to be visiting on any given day is what our Cross Country Trip is all about. However, doing so requires us to become comfortable outside our comfort zone. This has always been very challenging for me, because I, like most, find comfort in the familiarity of daily routine. However, as I progress on this amazing cross country journey, I am coming to the realization the comfort I derived from the familiarity of my daily routine was actually robbing me of my life. For years, I was not living. I was merely existing! I actually feel I've lived more in the past 4 months on my cross country trip than I have in my previous 51 years! I am no different from anyone else! I am not rich! I am not famous! I am not smarter than others! I just dreamed a dream, and didn’t let anything or anyone, including myself, stand in my way! Ask yourself; what is your dream? Maybe you want to get a college degree, start a business, or lose weight. Maybe your dreams are larger, and you want to become an astronaut, or climb Mount Everest! Hell, if you are going to dream than you might as well dream BIG! This blog it not meant to encourage everyone to find their Rosie and ride off into the sunset. Our greatest hope is that by sharing the experiences of us following our dream with the world, we will hopefully inspire others to fulfill theirs!

We will spend the next 2 days off from our travels in Cody, WY for some much needed relaxation after our 5 day Yellowstone marathon. We will see you in Montana!