Wyoming Pt. II -- High Desert

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In my last post, I wrote about getting Azia’s car stuck in the snow. Conclusion? Small cars face great peril out in Wyoming. And then I wrote, “More on that later.”

About a month into my job at the ranch, I got into a car accident.

The day started like every single other one: I woke up at 4:30 A.M., grabbed my chef coat, and hopped in my car— a Toyota Corolla, cute, blue, gas-efficient, and incredibly reliable. By 5 A.M., I was picking up speed on the highway outside my tiny Wyoming town of 1600, a few minutes in to my twenty-minute drive along a pitch-black highway to the ranch. The last building on the outskirts of town is a bar called the Whistle Pig. I passed it, accelerating to highway speeds, and then it happened.

The simultaneous clunk of flesh on metal—and the glassy eyes of a deer in my windshield.

To its credit, the Corolla took the hit and kept flying, until I pulled over on a side road and stopped. When I opened the driver’s side door, it groaned, metal grinding on damaged metal. I got out. The damage, illuminated by my phone’s flashlight didn’t seem that bad at first: bumper cracked and sagging, side panel crunched, driver’s side headlight obliterated. The deer? Nowhere to be seen, except for some chunks of thick, brown-gray fur wedged in the cracks of my damaged vehicle.

My first thought: how was I going to get to work?

Second thought: oh shit, what if it’s totaled?

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A minute later, the pastry chef I work with pulled up behind me. She drove me to the ranch, where I called the police—no service out on the highway—and started to process the accident. And started to freak out. Although still running, the car wasn’t drivable. And while I was unhurt, I really, really easily could have been.

A week or two later, I got the news: my cute little Corolla was totaled. I’d have to start looking for a new car.

The same day I hit that deer, I got a call from my dad. My grandfather, affectionately known as “Grampy Dale”, suddenly went into cardiac arrest after coming home from a camping trip with my grandma. He died a few days later.

He was young, only 71, and notably active and energetic. It was incredibly unexpected. At his memorial service a month or so later, my grandma recounted how they met and what their life together had been since their marriage—many adopted Weimaraners and Greyhounds, many long camping trips in their trailer with their dogs, and a mutual love for and fascination with the American Southwest. While they had met in Vermont, they eventually moved out to New Mexico, a perfect home base for these road trips.

A month or so into my car search, my grandma offered to sell me Grampy Dale’s Toyota Tundra—a massive, rugged four-wheel drive half ton truck, bigger than anything I’d ever driven before. After Azia’s car got stuck in the snow and I totaled mine, Wyoming seemed intent on proving itself to be harsher and wilder than any place I’d lived in before.

Whenever I drove to work in the dark (at that point in a rented Ford Edge), images of deer jumping out in front of my car kept me anxious and cautious until I reached the ranch safely. I was determined to find something to drive that felt safer than my Corolla—something higher up, bigger, and better equipped to handle Wyoming or anything else thrown its way.  

And so I said yes.

I drove 500 miles each way to pick up the truck from my grandma in New Mexico. The first week back in Wyoming, I drove it up a high desert two track road that would’ve damaged my old Corolla within the first hundred feet. Up on that hill, out in the wind, I walked around in the sagebrush and found some bones, bleached and scattered. I stood outside until the wind got too cold. Then I clambered back inside my new machine and watched the sun set over the cliffs and plains below. In the low light, the sand-colored truck blended into the Wyoming landscape.

I never thought I’d be a truck person—much less a half ton, V8 engine truck person. But here I am. And who knows where I’ll end up?  

(More on that thought later.)

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Mana GaleComment