Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Freedom of speech

Many days have offered great sightseeing. But fewer have offered great people experiences.

In the South, even strangers say hello to you on the street. And if you’re in a defined situation – say, you’re a guest in a hotel – the staff seems generally friendly.

But even at national parks and local eateries, both locals and fellow travelers often seemed self-contained and wary. On this trip, those most likely to chat have been other urbanites, like the Jacobs family (Josh; Lisa; Jennifer, 8; and Zachary, 13), whom I met in Custer State Park. Perhaps they sense a kindred soul.

Today was great in every regard: Great scenery; a cool, crisp pre-fall day – and terrific people.

Rudy Satchet and Barb Kliner were watering Collins, their sheepdog, when we first said hello, as we were taking photos of Devils Tower at an overlook. We both stopped again at another overlook and found ourselves laughing about the antics of the prairie dogs near by Devils Tower entrance.

Satchet and Kliner live and work in East Palestine, Ohio. They’d decided on a two-week roadtrip, making plans each night as they go via the Internet (a familiar process.)

His goal: To stop in towns with 300 people or less – to keep away from other tourists. She was beguiled by attractions along the way. “You see the little signs about the road, and I think, ‘I want to go there!’ ‘’ Both the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn., and the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., had rated highly.

Charles and Eunice Parker of Liverpool, England, are part of a 16-day motorcoach tour of Western U.S. national parks. We met at Devils Tower.

“You need a lot of film, don’t you?’’ Charles said as we walked the 1.3 mile path around the tower’s base. They were only a couple of days into their trip, but they’d also ready visited both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. “Crazy Horse was very emotional. It just blew me away.’’

It was in the bar of the historic Irma hotel (think bighorn sheep heads on the walls), in Cody, Wyo., that I met a trio of 20-somethings: Scott Richard, Andy Steinberg and Southgate Freeman, who goes by Sox. I overheard them talking about Scott’s new Internet business (free local classifieds) and Sox’s dream of writing a movie.

Andy and Sox are roommates, Scott and Sox are cousins, and Scott is married to the gorgeous Misty, who works the bar at the Irma. We talked about the topics that generally come up in bars when there’s no sporting event on TV: their girlfriends, politics, religion and land values.

Land values: Still pretty decent in Cody, but heading up.

Girlfriends: These guys are nice, and had nice things to say about their girlfriends – or in Scott’s case, his wife. Andy spent most of his time talking with her on his cell; Sox messaged his on his phone.

Politics: Well, let’s just say that we didn’t agree on much, but we enjoyed the friendly disagreement, and nobody left mad.

Religion: Surprisingly enough, we did agree there.

Just the ability to talk about it all without anyone getting irritable was a pleasure. A distinctly American pleasure.


Photo: Charles and Eunice Parker of Liverpool, England


sara herald said...

So happy to read your commentary. You are visiting some of my favorite places. When in Seattle also consider Mt. Ranier and the Pikes Place Market. There is also an underground tour of old Seattle (pre fire) as well as the science museum on the fairgrounds with the space needle. This is also the home of Microsoft, Nordstroms and Starbucks so there is no end to the business possibilities. If you have enough time the San Juan Islands are also a great outing. Keep having fun.

Sarah Eaton said...

Hello Jane,

You've convinced me that I need to get to Devil's Tower while I'm out west. I loved your description of this unique formation.

It's a shame that you haven't been able to talk with as many people as you'd like. If you're staying in a National Park lodge in Yellowstone, or later in Glacier, you might want to head to the lobby either before or after dinner. I've found people staying in these lodges to be some of the friendliest and most open people anywhere. I have spent some of my more memorable evenings chatting with people in most of the lodges I've visited. It's one reason I seek out National Park lodges, in addition to the history and architectural aspects.

Suzanne Kores said...

You're on an adventure I too have dreamed of. When you get to Seattle a wonderfully odd attraction is Gas Works Park, it provides a great view of the Seattle skyline, and it is a short walk to the Chihuly Studio, the best unticketed tour in the city. Enjoy!

Jane said...

Great suggestions, all! Thanks so much. I'm a bit behind reading comments but I am catching up today and enjoying them...thanks again for taking time to write and share with others

Charles & Eunice Parker said...

Hi Jane,
It was very nice to meet you by Devil's Tower and it was great to see a picture of ourselves in the Miami Herald!
We had a wonderful time visiting some of your amazing National Parks, in addition to many interesting stops.
We visited (in no paticular order)Denver, Estes Park and the Rockies, Cheyenne, Fort Laramie, Rapid City Mammoth Site, Mount Rushmore (our tour bus driver helped fold the flag in the evening flag folding ceremony and was quite moved by the experience), Crazy Horse, Devil's Tower, Sheridan,Yellowstone, Buffalo Bill Centre, Grand Tetons, Jackson, Salt Lake City, Canyonlands, Arches, Moab, Bryce canyon, Red Canyon, Zion (wow!) the Grand Canyon (including the obligatory helicopter flight) ending up in Scottsdsale.
We kept a note of all of the different US animals and birds that we saw 'en route'and my list totalled 33 new wild species for me. I can still hear the shouts "Bison 3 o'clock", Elk 9 o'clock!!!"
Our Titan tour bus, driven by Curtis Henry, a native of Phoenix and an absolutely brilliant driver, covered 3300 miles.
Back in the UK now and already making plans to revisit more of your fantastic country.
I have spent hours in front of the PC sorting and editing our photos for printing. After deleting many, many shots in the bus, we still took home nearly 3000 shots on our memory cards!!!
Hope we meet again.
Charles and Eunice Parker