Today’s photo: this one is from Jonmikel, who managed to capture this beauty from the comfort of our backyard in Lander, Wyoming, right after a fall squall.
Big skies mean big fields, big spaces, big storms, and big rainbows.
Wyoming is known neither for its stand-up stand-up comedy nor its unique culinary traditions (steak!).
But every once in a while, in one of the quirky towns that dot the wind-blown landscape, the restless locals pull together an event — usually spawned by the long winter isolation and weeks of below-freezing (if not below zero) temps — that rivals anything you can find in the Big City. Good food, good drink, good laughs.
On this chilly September evening, as the nights grew longer and the days colder, all of us who appreciated good (crude) comedy headed down to The Middle Fork, a boutique, chef-owned restaurant in the heart of historic downtown Lander, to enjoy the acidic and surprisingly nostalgic humor of young Vince Tropea, an up-and-coming stand-up comedian working his way through the Western contingent.
During his two sets, Vince kept the audiences rolling with laughter, and he kept a good handful of jokes for us Ohio natives and Ohio University alum. His incredible eye for detail captures the absurdity of real life, and his twisted sense of humor leaves no inappropriate subject untouched.
In between sets, Vince sifted through the crowd, flirting and schmoozing with his adoring audience.
His show was accompanied by what has quickly become one of the staples of Lander life: food and drink from The Middle Fork. This breakfast and lunch place, tucked into a quiet venue next to Gannet Peak Sports on Main Street, is a relatively new addition to this small town, but an indispensable one. Everything is made in-house, including pastas, sausage gravy, handcut fries, and corned beef. They have a unique take on eggs Benedict that is worth the 2-hour drive up from I-80 (the nearest interstate), their French press coffee is strong and smooth, and their other seasonally-changing menu items are some of the best in the state and beyond. Not bad for a town of 7,000 people. Service can be a bit slow, but it allows for time to sit down, relax, sip your coffee, and enjoy some people watching from the sidewalk bistro tables or the gurgling flow of the stream that runs through their outside patio.
Inside, The Middle Fork takes full advantage of the historical details that dot every corner of the building: classic crown molding, restored wood floors, and a distinctive 1920s flair. It’s the perfect venue for any event, especially a stand-up comedy night full of gratuitous insults and acerbic wit.
If you ever get the chance to see Vince Tropea, sometime in YOUR town, don’t miss it. The guy is young and ballsy and terrific and puts on one helluva show. And if you’re ever in Lander, Wyoming, don’t forget to stop in for lunch or breakfast or brunch at The Middle Fork for one of the only gourmet, non-steak (and certainly one of the best) meals you’ll find in Wyoming.
The days are long and hot and dry, and summer stretches on into October.
We go for a drive on the country roads of rural Wyoming, trying to find a bit of cool.
What do you do as the last days of summer vacation come to a close? Find a field of corn and flowers?
Or find a backyard and a tire swing and a sunset and spin and spin until you can’t even stand anymore?
When we agreed to go with Brewmaster Ted to the Wyoming State Microbrewing Competition, we had no idea we would have so much fun.
We packed up the van…
…and set up the tent…
…and stole the Snake River Brewing Company’s cornhole set…
We spent the day schmoozing with brewers from around the state…
…and with the cowboys and Indians…
…and even with the press! Here’s Ted talking with a chic from NPR.
And when it was all over, and we were still pouring our famous Half-Talked Hefeweizen…
…and some random guys had to come up and say, “Dudes, you guys won!”
We hardly knew what to say.
But we knew how to celebrate… by drinking whiskey from the chalice!
Ted won the most prestigious award for brews in Wyoming!
In a competition featuring standard amber beers, the Lander RyeBock, with it’s subtle hops and citrus finish, swept them all! Next time you’re in Lander, stop by the Coalter Block to try one of Ted’s famous, award-winning beers!
We pulled to the side of the road and jumped out, stepping into the woods to a place we had never been. After only a short jaunt, the trees opened up into this:
With not another human being in sight, we played in the waters and ate cherries on the shore.
The only signs that others had ever been here was an old campsite, abandoned long ago.
After hiking around the lake, we continued on, venturing further into the mountains and up a small hill. The trees soon fell away and revealed the Winds’ hidden secrets: views like this one, only footsteps off of the road. Views that so few people take the time to find.
You never know what you will see when you step off the road in the Wind River Mountains.
In the high deserts of the West, there is always that one rain in early summer, and you can smell it coming.
The whole air changes, and instead of the scents of dust and livestock, you smell a heavy musk, a brooding moisture spilling from the peaks of the mountains.
The winds pick up, and the rustle of the cottonwoods alerts you to the coming torrents.
And you can see it coming. It stampedes down the valleys, the shards of rain creating an opaque fog that consumed the mountains, the homes, the road.
You make it to the threshold of your home just in time, as the fat drops of waters begin their assault on the parched ground.
And it’s a copious flood, tumbling down from the bruised sky and quickly saturating the shallow soil and beginning to build up as a flowing river from the driveway into the thirsty grasses beyond.
You can see your snow peas and your peppers and your sunflowers perk up in anticipation of the waters, and as the puddles turn to ponds, you revel in the cool, damp air.
And you know, just know, that this will be the last rain of the summer.
Music provided by Steam Powered Airplane. All photos taken by Jonmikel.
That must have been some kind of joy ride.
The car, red iron crust flaking away at the edges and around the bullet holes that littered the metal frame, lay half buried in a mound of rusty earth and entangled sagebrush.
The trunk had long-since eroded away, leaving the gaping mouth of the car and its innards beyond laying slack.
Abandoned. Lost. Forgotten.
How it got almost half a mile from the road, up a narrow, slick rock canyon several miles outside of Lander, Wyoming, we had no idea.
Of course, we couldn’t resist the temptation of rusty metal injuries and tetanus…
… before moving on down the trail.
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