My junior high school math teacher and a former boyfriend of my Mom’s lives in Lander, WY. John Boulette. He grew up in Lander, seems to know everyone and is very active in the community. His brother also lives there and has a veterinary practice not far from where John lives. His house is on around an acre and a half with a small stream running next to it, on the other side of the fence. Doves cooing loudly and robins flying over our heads greeted us as we pulled into his circular driveway. Aspen trees quaked gently in the breeze around his home and pine trees offered a fresh change from the diesel smell of the bus engine.
John was aware of our trailer hitch situation and had already started trying to find us a welder to help us reattach our hitch to the bus. A mechanic he knew, Brynn, was willing to look at our bus and give us his opinion. We drove up a bumpy road to Brynn’s shop. He recommended an extensive rebuild of the trailer hitch including steel beams and plates. However, Brynn, known for his mechanical aptitude, was not an expert welder and seemed reluctant to take on our task as he was leaving town the next day.
The next morning, we were visited by two welders. The first, Lee, agreed with Brynn’s solution and said he could help us but not for a couple of weeks. The second, Forrest, (Phillips, not Gump) came over a bit later. Forrest is a larger man yet adeptly crawled under the bus to check out the hitch situation. A simple “I can fix it so it won’t break again” was about all he said, then added "people like to make things more complicated" after Steve started to go over the scenario recommended by Brynn from the night before. That solution was more than necessary to Forrest. He told us to call him in the morning if we wanted him to work on it. Steve and I decided we liked Forrest’s simple approach and reinforcement with some steel plates that he had on hand and decided we would call him in the morning.
We spent the rest of the day touring Lander with John as our guide, stopping at Sinks Canyon (where the river flows under the mountain) and other beautiful sites around Lander. John seems to know everyone and everything about Lander and it was enjoyable and relaxing to be in his company.
The next morning Forrest called John and told us to be there at noon. We went to the local Farmer’s markets, drove up into the mountains, then drove the bus to Forrest’s house. We had to drive down a small alley and back the bus up close to his shop. Steve’s driving skills, especially backing up with or without a trailer, are amazing and Forrest guided Seven’s back end right where he wanted it.
It was a hot day and Forrest never waivered on his offer to help us. We left in John’s truck but went back a couple of hours later with a cold root beer for Forrest. Progress was being made, but Forrest has the “gift of gab” and was chatting with a friend taking a break from the heat when his drink was delivered. Saying he was halfway through; he called an hour later to say it was done.
We went back to pick up the bus and Forrest did a beautiful reinforcement and hitch repair for us. We sat and chatted for a bit. He is a kind and beautiful soul and we are grateful for his help and gentle spirit.
Returning to host’s home, we made our him a non-meat sloppy joe/macaroni and cheese dinner and chatted outside until the mosquitoes became too hungry. The next morning, we headed out to our next adventure toward South Dakota, gratefully taking a renewed friendship with an amazing man with us.
The kindness we have been shown so far on our journey at first glance is surprising, but upon contemplation of us and the purpose of our journeys, to change the world with love, gratitude and kindness, it really is no surprise at all. There will be challenges ahead. Living all together will not always be easy, yet the universe is taking care of us as we know she would.
Seven ready for her welding.
A nice, snug fit.
Steve, Forrest and Jennifer post welding. We are so grateful to this wonderful man for helping us with a beautiful weld job and some wonderful conversations.
The first two days
June 24, 2020
We planned on leaving Fort Collins, our temporary home for the past 6 weeks, this day. Sunny and warm, the dirt parking lot dry beneath our feet. Steve’s family always close by had spoiled us. The time we were able to spend with them had nurtured our spirits, giving us strength for our new nomadic existence. Together. Two cats and two dogs in addition to the two of us.
We learned much these past 6 weeks. It was a necessary baby step into this next adventure in our lives. Parked near Steve’s brother-in-law’s boat repair shop behind a health club we eased into living in a bus. We had projects to finish, the bus needed to be painted, and we needed time to learn how to make this work. Brent was a huge help with some fiberglass projects and his companionship and easy nature was truly a pleasant thing to experience.
However, challenges presented themselves without warning. The constant walking over animals became unbearable at times for Steve. The constant cleaning up after animals became a chore I had started to dread. Especially when “accidents” happened, which they did. It is a big adjustment for us all, humans and animals. It is not easy for any of us.
After a long talk with Steve’s Mom, Lana, our spirits were renewed and our love for each other and this life we had chosen 4 years ago deepened. Her wise words and gentle yet firm guidance helped us find the necessary tools inside us to take this step. Driving off into the world.
We had started the bus about five days earlier, just to make sure it still started. We got packed up, things put away, put the keys in, and then nothing. Our batteries had drained (our ignition appears to be tricky at times to shut off). We just sat there for a moment, not trying to read anything into what had just happened. Brent gave us a jump; we found an auto parts store nearby to have our batteries tested at and we drove off.
The batteries tested low, but appeared to be recharging, however there was mention of a ripple, not the sci-fi type, but something to do with the alternator. Since Seven the bus was running, we headed off, north to Laramie, WY, planning on stopping at a truck stop there to check our tire pressure, batteries and fluid levels.
The drive was beautiful. Sunny and surprisingly not too windy. We found a new Love’s truck stop and spent around 2 hours trying to figure how to check our tire pressure, what pressure they should be inflated to, and checking our fluid levels. We finally decided on 90PSI for the tire pressure and had them filled for us for five dollars, well worth it. Seven seemed to be enjoying her first outing and running well, so off we went.
Our first destination was Rawlins, WY, or somewhere near there to sleep for the night. I-80 with its’ usual gusty winds was a bit of an unpleasant challenge, but we made it through and found a beautiful spot just north of Rawlins in BLM land to sleep for the night. The sunset was spectacular, the hint of the crescent moon was not bright enough to dim the lights of the billions of starts, galaxies and planets we could see in the sky. The quiet around us was only occasionally interrupted by a faint noise from the highway about 2 miles back.
June 25, 2020
The sun woke us up with its’ warmth and the birds serenaded us with their songs. Two gentlemen on bicycles stopped as they passed us and asked if we had water to spare. They were biking to Rawlins, WY and planning on getting a hotel room, a pizza and some beer that evening as they had been camping out much of their trip. After filling their water bottles and a brief chat they headed out and we followed in opposite directions.
On our way toward Lander, WY to visit a friend, John Boulette, we stopped in Jeffrey City. This town used to house many of the miners that worked in the nearby uranium mines. Greeting us when we stopped were a family of antelope, guarded by a strict male who uttered cough-like grunts at us to keep us away. We leashed up the pups and headed out for a walk, keeping our distance from the antelopes. Storm clouds created an eerie backdrop for this forgotten city. Abandoned buildings surrounded us. Between small roads homes once stood; where children played, where laundry hung out to dry; now flat and empty. The field where the high school once stood, complete with an Olympic size pool, is now covered in straw to help keep dust from blowing in the Wyoming winds. Bunkhouses for the men, apartments and mobile homes appeared to be unoccupied. The mines closed in 1981 and the inhabitants left for other opportunities, they left these buildings to fend for themselves.
Our next stop was a used bookstore at Sweetwater Station. It started to rain and our bus would have been a tight fit in their small driveway so we stopped it on the highway, put the hazard lights on and headed toward the bookstore which also sold fresh eggs. We passed old, vacant cabins in various states of collapse. After braving the coming rain, we found the bookstore was not open so we scurried back up the hill to the bus. A bit wet, we shed our coats and……Seven would not start. Steve tried many times and nothing.
Not knowing what else to do, I looked up the phone number to the Mad Dog and the Pilgrim Booksellers. A kind woman answered the phone and I explained where we were and our predicament and if someone there could possibly help us and jump our bus battery. She wasn’t at the shop and her partner had just had knee surgery and wasn’t mobile yet but she suggested we look across the street and if there was a white truck there it belongs to a nice man named Joe who would help us. I looked out the window and Joe was outside; told her I saw him and we said goodbye.
Steve ran across the street, explained our situation to Joe, and Joe hopped in his white Chevy Silverado, hooked up chains to our bus (23,900 pounds without water or the trailer, both of which we now had), and pulled us off the highway into the open area in front of a couple of buildings. He said he’d help us as soon as the rain stopped and then just disappeared. We never saw which direction he went; he just wasn’t there anymore.
A voice spoke softly to Steve and told him to try turning on the bus again. He listened, turned the key, and Seven started right up as if nothing had happened. The rain eased up and we pulled the bus forward a bit out of the deeper puddles from the rain. Still no sign of Joe. Steve went out to try to see where Joe had gone and looked at the trailer hitch, which was in the process of breaking off the back of the bus, A poor welding job done long ago just wasn’t able to keep the bouncing trailer secure much longer.
Joe appeared from around a building and gave us a tour of the bar he had just purchased. The previous owner had walked away from it as business had slowed to a crawl. The roof was nonexistent in places, but the potential was there. Bar stools still held their place proudly in front of the small wooden bar with a cash register at one end. Joe, dressed in blue jeans, boots and a comfortable-looking shirt, offered us free glasses, magazines, a drink from an abandoned bottle of spirits, all of which we politely declined. We went back outside to see what we could do about the trailer situation. Joe helped us get the hitch back up to about where it was when it broke and we unhitched the trailer. He kindly offered to let us leave it there until we could get the hitch fixed in Lander. Our small trailer and our two bikes attached to it wait patiently for us to return to Sweetwater Station.
Storm clouds over Jeffrey City.
Mad Dog and the Pilgrim Booksellers
Our original weld gone bad.
Our trailer left with Joe will wait patiently for our return.