That winking cowboy sticks with me.
Road trips. I think I’m a better person on one, during one and after one too. Whether or not I’m on my bike or in the car, a long road trip makes me happy. I love the snacks and energy drinks with absolutely zero guilt. I love the open road where cell service is spotty and you’re forced to take a digital break. I love that maybe you finally get to listen to your favorite Ted Talks and soundtracks in one sitting. I love the sense of adventure, of kinda winging it, knowing that it’s really about the journey. I love finding little gems of places that take your breath away. A place that has the greatest corned beed hash, or a place that has a view that would make Ansel Adams set up his camera for a week. Some places are special on purpose, for the most obvious of reasons.
But what happens when a place becomes special for no obvious reason, on accident?
There really isn’t any reason whatsoever that a town like Wendover, Nevada should be special. But it is. There might be population of a thousand, I could google it but I don’t really want to know. You’ll find it sitting on the border with strangely out of place, huge neon lit casinos that can be seen for miles. The first stop for gambling just outside a state that still makes it difficult to buy a beer. The town that doesn’t seem like it should exist at all, it seems like it should be a ghost town in the Nevada desert. But somehow, it lives, and somehow it has become one of my favorite places.
That winking cowboy sticks with me.
The first time we went to Wendover was on a road trip headed out West. It happens to be the border town that is just far enough away to make the first leg of the trip seem like you drove long enough without the second half the next day seeming too long. A true half way point. Resting between the states with a drive out of Salt Lake that should take your breath away if you are still alive and breathing. Truly. We found a place to crash with the dog for a night, nothing spectacular, no frills needed, just a place to sleep for a night and head out in the morning. A tiny little cabin with a heater, or the AC and a bed, thats all. Simple comfort in a town nestled between the places of beauty, but not in them.
Behind a day glow lit up casino (reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode) sits the tiny little KOA that may as well be a glorified parking lot. I imagine one time a year it could be busy, during speed week at the salt flats when those of us who want to go as fast as humanly possible can actually try. Some day. Some day. This time the KOA is oddly silent, oddly vacant. It is winter after all, and only a rare few snowbirds are there, on there way to somewhere else too.
There’s no real restaurant there unless you want to brave the pressing cling, clang and smoke filled air of a casino. When you eat like a bird a buffet just isn’t a draw, three pounds of meat and buckets of strange mashed potatoes just doesn’t have the appeal it should. When combined with a strange spidey like sense that a town that shouldn’t even be could have a buffet akin to gas station sushi, some things might not be worth the risk. This first trip, dinner would be car snacks and beer, perfect. Next step, find a liquor store on the edge of the tiny little one road town where the winking cowboy lives. The liquor store on the very edge of town playing salsa music where I dance out loud in the isles. Sit down back at the one room cabin to have a few, and a few more. Playing on my phone when an impulse hits after diving down the rabbit hole of the internet…buy the tickets.
Pink Martini. Amazing what a few drinks can do to your impulse buying. I spent at the time a ridiculous amount of money to see the opening group…Pink Martini. I now had something to look forward to months down the line. Like almost a year it seems in looking back. Going to that concert, hearing some of my favorite songs of all time (you really should listen to them) I remembered where I was and what I was doing when I bought those tickets and smiled.
The winking cowboy sticks with me.
The way home from that trip we decided to trust the same place we had just a few days before. This time with the Uhaul in tow, full of nostalgia and childhood memories from my grandmothers house, a reflective winter road trip. A moving on in many ways, a road trip winding down memory lane for sure. The rocking chair. The turtle spittoon. The box full of the Time Life Old West books. The yellow mixing bowl for potato salad. Gratitude for memories that some times when we are lucky, are truly tangible.
Stay at the half way spot we had just discovered, why not. Easy and simple. Knowing that what you need would be there is in and of itself a comfort we often take for granted. Not this time. Another visit to the winking cowboy and the salsa music liquor store.
Another trip, the time to catch up on episodes of a super hero show and tequila and a parking lot covered in a murder of crows akin to a Hitchcock flick. Creepy, but the cowboy still winks.
Wendover, a town that doesn’t seem that it should be and the tiny little KOA, have now become the road trip half way spot to look forward to.
Recently on the way to the favorite half way point, looking forward to dancing in the isles and a beer after a long drive, knowing where we were going we forgot where we were. (We all tend to do that sometimes) We forgot to get gas in Salt Lake. The sun setting on the salt flats casting a lavender hue as far as the eye could see. Nothing in sight but the light and the glow of years. I see the history driving through there, I can feel simultaneously calm by nature, breathe in the colors of a desert sunset and crave the excitement of a race while staring off into to the hills on the horizon. Speed and beauty.
The fuel light came on.
A little more than forty five miles to that winking cowboy, but only 42 left in the tank. Uh oh. Knowing that winking cowboy was on the other end of town…I could just imagine that wink I know so well as a challenge to see if we could make it. Coming to terms with having to likely walk a few miles to get gas and a few to get back, anxiously hoping for a gas station miracle all we could do was drive and hope for the best. We made it, to a tiny gas station on the entry edge of town (not to my cowboy). Barely.
Gratitude for sometimes just making it.
Another time, braving the cling and clang and smoke filled casino for a buffet which actually wasn’t at all like gas station sushi. Pleasant surprise.
Another road trip. Filled with stops at gaming stores along the way for Star Wars cards. This time, only a few sips of whiskey and a night opening cards and learning a new game and looking forward to the next stop and finally getting to play.
So I guess it’s not really about the place at all. It’s knowing that your trip isn’t over and that it really doesn’t matter what direction you are going. It’s knowing there is always more to come, something to look forward to and always something to be grateful for. Its watching a sunset on salt flats that make the ground sparkle like the whole world really is covered in pixie dust and we are reminded of our own magic and dreams. It’s knowing that there will be another incredible sunrise, glorious enough to make you remember how small and blessed you are, and another. And another. It in so many ways is just knowing that we are only half way there. This unlikely place reminds me there is so much more to come and damn, we are lucky.
Yep, that’s why he’s winking.
Time for a road trip.