Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Vagabonds

I have never much cared for valentines day. I always felt like the only people who profit from valentines day (other than the card, choco, and jewelry companies) are ladies who have attached themselves to clods too unromantic to do anything special the rest of the year. Besides, when you are single it stinks intensely having a whole day set aside to remind you of what you're missing. My lovely wife is of another opinion, however, so I have mellowed somewhat, especially this year. Any excuse to celebrate and give gifts can't be entirely bad, and at worst today is as good as any other.

All that said, we had an almost-perfect day today. Around mid-morning we got in my trusty blue 4-wheel-drive steed to do some exploring. Before pulling out of the driveway, I presented Sarah with her valentine present: A "Lander Nordic Skiing" tshirt. We are expecting a youngster in June, and Sarah has been a bit saddened about all the things pregnancy has taken away: Things like intense outdoor activity, ability to sleep comfortably, all that sort of thing. This shirt served as a reminder of better times to come.

Then we hit the trail. We had set aside this day to explore several roads which we had been meaning to check out for a long time. After a brief trip down Hidden Valley Road (yes, there are several Ranches there, in case you're wondering), we spent most of the day exploring the west shore of Boysen Reservoir, one of the bigger lakes in Wyoming which is completely surrounded by sagebrush desert and mountain ranges. Truly fascinating country, especially in winter when the lake is frozen solid and the fellow visitors are minimal.

Once we got as far as we could go on the roads, we got down to the business of relaxation, with a couple nice walks on the frozen beach, scrambling about in the blissfully rattlesnake-free rock formations, some snuggling and a nap in the back of the truck (do not attempt this in Wyoming Winter without the proper equipment and training), and lots of staring in awe at the lake and the mountains.

Having had our fill of the lake, we headed off toward our next planned destination, a tiny ranching town nearby called Pavillion, where there was rumored to be a good burgers-and-steaks restaurant. Avoiding the easy highway route, we found ourselves barreling west down Sand Mesa Road, a dirt track through some beautiful ranching country which is swarming with wildlife--big muley bucks, antelope, and thousands upon thousands of ducks and geese. All with the Owl Creek Mountains towering on the right hand, and the Wind River Range on the left.

There are worse ways to drive to dinner.

We finally got to the chosen restaurant and were surprised to be asked if we had a reservation. It is Valentine's day, of course, but this is a town of 150 people, for crying out loud! Having been found lacking, we were nicely seated at the bar, only to find that the normal burgers and steaks menu had been replaced with a "Special Valentines Menu" of lobster tails, prime rib, and lots of stuff we couldn't pronounce. Cheapest thing on the menu was $25; most things were over $30. Well, our experience has been that usually restaurants that charge that much really shouldn't.

So, we got back on the road, and soon found ourselves at the Midvale Bar and Grill. Midvale is a town on the maps only--in real life it's a loose collection of farm houses without so much as a Mormon Church. But they do have a bar and grill, and generally these little middle-of-nowhere places really put on the chow; if they didn't, they wouldn't stay around long since they rely on local business. Here we found the menu (and the prices) more to our taste: A good ribeye, potato, beans, grilled bread, and a good salad. Since cigarette smoke really sets off asthma, the friendly patrons directed us through the bar into the non-smoking dining room, which--get this--we had all to ourselves.

Now, how many valentines days do you get to eat steak with your sweetie, in a dining room all to yourselves, without so much as making a reservation or even knowing where you are going?

You can have the fancy chocolates and flowers and all that stuff. Those things are all well and good, but if that's all there is, it wears thin pretty fast. Spending some time just enjoying the world with the person you love--that's what romance is all about in my book.

Sorry for the long post. Just couldn't decide what to leave out.
Good night--