French Wyoming

Storms near Casper, WY

   A stretched out diner car tucked itself behind the last gas pump on the west side of town. It was likely the last real meal I'd get before reaching DuBois ("DEW-BOYCE!!" the waitress scolds when I pronounce it with a French inflection.) Here I order two eggs with onion, an english muffin, and a cup of hot Darjeeling. Here I realize how lucky I am not to have slept out  last night.

   I'd scouted a few construction yards and empty lots at the edge of town, but nothing has seemed stealth enough. I realized I'd never get to sleep there, more likely laying with ears pricked upwards and eyes wide all night. I relented and drove to the motels near the highway.

   The VC Motel was shoddy and dark, which seemed to be a good indicator of cheap rates. I walked up to what I thought was the office, being the only open door in the whole place. It was not an office. A scrawny old woman lay on a sheetless mattress. She looked half-drowned and drug-torn, barely raising her head when I approached. It was obvious she'd been living in the room a very long time.

   I went quickly to the Motel 6. Luck was with me, and the clerk gave me an unused handicapped room for half-price. Apparently, the bars in the shower had been scaring off business. The sun had really done it to me and I was exhausted. I flipped through an old paperback and fell into a deep 10-hour sleep.

   Now, here at the Kopper Kettle, I drink my fancy tea listening to the conversations flying around the breakfast counter. A group of construction men talk about meth addicts and murder. About bums turning up dead in alleys and construction yards. About mean dogs and meaner cops.

   "I mean, Casper ain't a town to f*ck around in," one says, shrugging nonchalantly, as if stating the obvious, "you think that fella woulda realized."

   The meal is greasy, but filling, the waitress helpful enough. Still, there is a strange mean streak pervading the place. Some glint of distrust and fear around all the edges. I call for the bill, glad I didn't chance a night out. Stealth camping is great in the small villages and podunk towns, but a place like Casper can fearsome at 2 a.m.

   Plus, a man who orders meatless breakfast, Darjeeling tea, and says things in French is probably already on thin ice. One more cup and I'm gone. Du-bwah or bust.

Devil's Tower, WY


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