Monday, January 23, 2017

Stranded in Jeffrey City

Like much else in Jeffrey City, Wyoming, this sign is no longer there... 

A busted town in a boom and bust state, about fifty people make a home here in the leavings of what used to be a uranium mining town. In good weather, it takes around an hour to get to the nearest grocery store. Because it is so remote, there is a working gas pump next to the bar/cafe where truckers gather to smoke, watch tv, and eat a greasy meal. 

A few years back, Lander's resident pot dealer and most infamous alcoholic moved out to Jeffrey City and opened Monk King Bird Pottery. His was the only business in town beyond the Split Rock Bar and Cafe until a local couple reopened the abandoned motel a few hundred yards down the highway.

Not the best place to get stranded and not the worst... 

Before the motel, when folks got stuck in Jeffrey City, they would be put up in the school (which currently has four students) or sleep on the floor of the bar. 

When Evan and I pulled into town at 11pm in a snow storm, we saw the plow driver out of his vehicle putting down the gate and turning on the lights to close the road out of town. Our hearts sank. We asked if we could continue on and he shook his head, informing us of the $1,500 fine for ignoring a road closure. And then he closed the road coming into town. 

Exposed out on the high prairie with no cellphone service and facing a night in our truck, we decided to explore our options. The cafe owner called the motel owner, who got out of bed and moved us into Room #3. The motel looked like the set of a B-rated horror film, but our hosts were kind, it was too cold for bed bugs, and the place offered warmth, a bed, and wifi. We felt blessed. 

The next morning, we began the ritual of refreshing the WYDOT road conditions map on our phones every few minutes. We grabbed breakfast at the cafe-- eggs and hashbrowns made for us by two other patrons, stranded in their camper until they could head home, around a ten minute drive down the road. The friendly couple encouraged us to make ourselves at home, pointing out the fridge stocked with sodas and the public lending library of DVDs. The owner of the cafe was out feeding her cattle.

Our benefactors made quite a pair. He was a large Southern man, in his forties with a single dread hanging down from below his chin and an open smile. She was a small Southern woman, in her twenties with an easy laugh who joked about being broke, her addiction to cigarettes, and falling for each other despite their best intentions.

Time passed and we waited...

Evan helped shovel snow at the motel. We canceled our appointments for the day. I watched a movie on my phone and took a bath. We refreshed the WYDOT map. 

Then, at 4pm, the roads opened. Lucky by some measures and unlucky by others, we tucked a brief and unanticipated stay in Jeffrey City under our belts. 

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