My Arrival to the Wild, Wild West
So, you might ask a question when you think of the Western Traveler, a German native living in a small town that is one of the most remote places in the northern Rocky Mountains… Yes, exactly, more than 1,000 people already have asked me the same question: “How did you end up in Lander, Wyoming?!”
For a while, I was thinking of wearing a T-Shirt where my story is written on the back that everyone can read it. However, in order to answer this question it requires telling you a couple of stories that have shaped my life here out West, and if I would print every story of how I ended up here, I could fill a J.C. Penney store full of Florian’s story T-Shirts.
I remember my first day in “The West” where I learned that the West is not the West you might consider, for example the Marlboro Man lighting up a cigarette in Monument Valley or Indians living in teepees. I have learned that the West is – saying it in one word – “enormous”, and I will tell you why
Everything started when I finished my university program in southern California, and my thoughts were ready for an internship that should not only include gaining more skills in tourism but also lifelong experiences that I will never forget in my life.
Maybe some of you can understand, sometimes you are looking for a change. I finally wanted to have a change in life, away from big population areas, with crazy shopping malls, cars that are parked on freeways inside are people wearing business suits, sipping coffee and talking on the phone about business. As I am young and driven, I was rather looking for new adventures of a different kind, hungry for a new series of exciting stories I could tell my friends and family.
So, after my university program I decided to accept an internship position in tourism marketing for a very small private company, in the very small town of Lander, in the enormous state of Wyoming. Enormous? Yes, because this is the West I described when I arrived there the first time. Well I knew that the Western states were huge, however what I did not know was that there is a difference in population between California and Wyoming. So, I decided to drive on my own into my first adventure of the Rocky Mountains, sitting in my old $500 Mazda 323 that I bought from an unsafe neighborhood in California, when I was a broke student.
After two days of driving, three oil changes (the car burnt more oil than fuel), I finally arrived the borders of Wyoming, the Cowboy state welcoming me with the sign of the Cowboy on the Bucking Horse. At this time, I did not know where I was going except on an endless road just going straight that seemed to me like the end of the World.
Looking on Google Maps, I figured out that Wyoming has more rivers, creeks and reservoirs than roads so I really tried hard during the trip not to get lost, looking for populated areas, lights and cars that would define my new home in Lander. However, there weren’t any.
After driving for hours and hours, passing Utah’s capital Salt Lake City and Wyoming’s satellite towns Evanston and Rock Springs, I still had about two hours to drive until I arrived in Lander, passing a huge wide and open land of the high-desert country with countless antelope along the roads, and other unique wildlife, such as wild horses, rabbits and prairie dogs.
I was about one hour from Lander when my rumbling car needed to climb over the last mountain, called South Pass, which is attached to the pristine Mountain Region, called “Wind River Mountain Range,” where you cannot see the end of snow-covered mountain peaks.
Going downhill, I could see that my car was already tired of my road trip to Wyoming where the engine smelled like burnt oil, looking for a break. Thanks to the long downhill slope on the other side of the mountains, passing an untouched rock formation, called Red Canyon, my car (fortunately) agreed to make it the last miles to my final destination for the next five months – to a place called Lander, Wyoming.
Read more about authentic experiences in the West