When I looked at my route, I realized I was going to be traveling fairly close to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park on my way home, so–even though it meant I had to do it without him, which meant it wasn’t going to be nearly as much fun–I told my husband that there was just no way I was going to miss them … not when I was going to already be that close. And I knew from the directions my GPS gave me that I had about 175 miles of non-interstate highway to drive in order to get from I-80 up to Jackson, WY … which was where I planned to spend the night before I entered the two parks.
I just didn’t know that stretch of road was going to be quite an adventure
Right about dusk–six p.m. or so–I turned off I-80 at exit 104, near a town called Rock Springs … and headed north on Highway 191. It’s your typical 2- and 4-lane state highway, one that runs pretty much the entire length of the country, running north and south. It’s fairly flat in that area, so I could see the sun setting off on the western horizon for a lot of miles, slowly shrinking as the rest of the light around me slowly turned to black … leaving very little light on the road except my car … and the occasional traveler I happened across. Apparently, I was one of the few people who decided they needed to be on that road that evening. I encountered very few cars along the way, most of them in the occasional little town I ran through. And the further I drove, the more obvious it became that I was the only one really moving north on that road that night.
I encountered more and more road construction as I traveled north, too. They’re doing a LOT of resurfacing in that area, as well as some major dam and bridge construction in several areas of the state of Wyoming–your economic stimulus dollars at work, as the sign said–so I basically traveled in and out of construction zones all along the way … as it got darker … and darker … and more and more desolate and isolated.
My elevation was also rising as I moved further north. It was getting so dark that I couldn’t really see the terrain around me that clearly anymore, but I was beginning to feel that distinctive tickle in my ears, the one that tells you that–if you keep doing this–your ears are going to pop eventually. Plus, there was a distinctive mist beginning to drift in around me as the world cooled. I talked to my husband at one point on the phone, and told him that I really hated that I was missing what was probably glorious scenery as Highway 191 climbed into the Tetons. As I hung up from him, I let the quiet and blackness surrounded me once more, with only my own headlights to guide me light-wise.
I hit yet another construction site, the signs loudly proclaiming “Speeding Fines Doubled in Work Zones” … when I wasn’t even driving the speed limit at that point. I wasn’t getting much over 45, despite the 55mph signs, and in areas where the speed limit dropped from there, so did my own speed. I wasn’t taking chances. I didn’t know the car I was driving all that well yet, and I didn’t know the road at all. All I knew was it was really twisty, that the night was too dark and foggy to see too far ahead of me, that I was driving in deer and elk country, so I had to watch for sudden animals jumping out in the road, and that my headlights–stuck on low beams once I discovered one of my high beam lights burned out–weren’t really doing the best of jobs right at that moment either. I also hadn’t seen another car on the road in probably 20 minutes.
I slowed a bit, regardless, and then my jaw dropped when I saw the next sign.
I slowed down even more–down to about 25mph–right as my tires dropped off the pavement … and onto gravel. At this point, I’m stunned by the realization that I’m driving down a stretch of US Highway … and it’s a dirt road?!?! I’m thinking, “Did I miss a turn someplace?“
Then I see another sign coming at me in the fog. This one says:
Six foot later, the road went to one lane.
Let me recap this for you. It’s almost 9pm. I haven’t seen a house or another car in nearly 20 minutes. It’s pitch black outside the circle of my car lights. The temperature has dropped 25-30 degrees around me in the last hour and a half. I’m all by myself in a car I just bought a couple of weeks ago, an older one that’s already broken down on me once. I’m somewhere out in the woods in Wyoming, with–as I discovered when I reached for my phone to call my husband and go “what the?”–NO SERVICE … on a one lane dirt road that’s supposedly a state highway. The ONLY thing that’s keeping me from freaking totally are the construction cones scattered around here and there.
And it goes on and on and on and on and on and on like that … for miles.
I have all the fun, don’t I
Well, I’m happy to report that I didn’t find a ski-masked madman or drop off the side of some mountain when I accidentally missed the ROAD ENDS sign! *chuckles* The rest of this story is a lot more boring than that middle section. I eventually found the pavement again … and civilization, too. The occasional car and the lights of homes eventually reappeared, almost like they were oblivious to the fact that they’d disappeared there for a while … at least in my world. I have NO IDEA why the state of Wyoming decided that it was okay to leave a highway in that kind of shape … but I made it.
It was just a little exciting there for a while