“The next time I choose a route, we’ll go that way.”
“I know,” I said contritely.
“I don’t want you to interfere.”
”You can’t leave anything alone.”
“I expect the other way was shorter as well.”
“I can’t turn around now. The engine is overheating. I can’t even stop on this steep grade. I’m afraid we’ll never get going again. I don’t even know if we’ll make it to the top. What will we do then? I can’t reverse down the mountain. You had to . . . .”
“Awright! Awright! Awright!” Any little inkling of contrition I had felt was seeping away with this barrage, despite it being (possibly) justified. Jimmy’s estimated “easy” 140 mile leg of our journey towing our travel trailer to Garryowen had turned into a mountain climbing expedition. Our V8 engine was happily slurping gas as it whined uphill in first gear at 10 miles per hour towing 7,500 pounds behind us.
I had simply looked at the map before we set out from Cody, Wyoming and saw what I thought was a more direct route than Jimmy had chosen to Garryowen, neglecting to notice the tiny symbols denoting the Bighorn Mountains. They bisected our route with the road peaking at a summit of 9,430 feet while skirting Bald Mountain at 10,042 feet and Hunt Mountain at 10,162 feet. Also, the Closed in Winter designation should have been a hint that it was going to be a tricky road, but I had only judged the distance with a quick glance. A flashing yellow sign warned “Steep Grades Ahead!” some time after we had set off but I kept schtum hoping himself hadn’t seen it. We were already committed.
A little background to these little known western towns. Cody is named for William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, apparently the most famous American at the turn of the 20th century. He was by all accounts a splendid chap – handsome, smart, a family man (though is rumored to have had an affair with Queen Victoria), enterprising, heroic – and used his superior shooting and horse riding skills to produce “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show” which toured Europe and America for 30 years. Appearing in his show over the years were Annie Oakley, of sharp-shooting fame, Calamity Jane, an illiterate alcoholic and part-time prostitute (did Doris Day know?) and Wild Bill Hickok, a gunfighter whose early demise while playing poker makes me uncomfortable sitting near the door of a restaurant even now. Not that Bill frequented restaurants, but if he’d sat with his back to the wall at the saloon in Deadwood I wouldn’t have this hang-up.
Garry Owen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m7RPjQxjmA) was Custer’s favorite marching song and now is the name of the only town within the battlefield of The Battle of the Little Bighorn or Custer’s Last Stand. It is little known that George Armstrong Custer was the George W. Bush of his day – a lousy student at uni and a questionable military strategist. George C. graduated bottom of his class at the United States Military Academy. George B. was an average student at uni and was accepted into the Texas Air National Guard with the lowest possible passing grade on his written aptitude test. George C. arrogantly (can be interchanged with overconfidently, patriotically or zealously depending on your point of view) attacked an encampment of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians under the overall command of Chief Sitting Bull. Instead of waiting for reinforcements, George C. was wiped out along with over 200 of his men by 2,500 Indian warriors. George B. . . well you know that sorry tale.
We will return to our badly planned mountain climbing expedition in the next exciting instalment!
For my followers: We’re back in the USA, but I’m sure you noticed that.