I see the Tetons in the rear view now, white peaks contrasting against blue sky, as the highway winds downward into flatter lands formed of earth as red as Georgia clay. We drive into DuBois, a true cowboy town where the main road is dotted with a few eateries and shops and an old sign that says “Homestead.” We poke our heads into an antique shop filled with old spurs, bits and colorized photographs. We eat burgers at the Cowboy Cafe. They are big enough to fill the belly of any hungry ranch hand.
We keep driving, not knowing where we will sleep tonight. Through the Wind River Reservation, past cows and even elk, and into Lander, where a mean wind whips through a main street that feels empty. This is an old mining town. It was the westward terminus of the “Cowboy Line” of the Chicago and North Western Railway. This is “where rails end and trails begin.”
I close my eyes and try to imagine this place as it was a century ago.
There are plenty of dude ranches nearby. I am told that’s a source for tourist dollars these days.
We keep driving. Into an abyss of nothingness. Nothing we can see but sagebrush and rolling hills in the distant. There are stretches of highway where we do not see any trailers, ranches, animals. No signs of life anywhere.
It’s a strange feeling for me. I would not want to be alone here, I think.
It takes several hours to reach Rawlins. We think about staying there but keep moving. I can’t stand the melancholy of a another town past its prime hanging heavy on every corner.
We turn right onto Highway 287, which will take us back into Colorado. It is evening when we reach Fort Collins. Downtown is bustling in this college town. People are spilling out of cafes and restaurants. I hear one man discussing Jean-Paul Sartre’s brand of existentialism.
We had come from nothingness into being. Or was it the other way around?