The Saratoga Sun -

Driving Carbon County

 


I commute 40 miles one way every day I work at the Saratoga Sun. My job before had me going back and forth from Laramie. That means I have been exposed to a fair amount of driving in Wyoming, most of it in Carbon County, just going to work

There are elements of being on the road in Wyoming I find so much better than any place I have ever lived and other facets that scare the hell of out me when I am driving.

The Wildlife

Might as well start off with my biggest fear being on the road in this state.

Hitting animals.

I have valid reasoning. The year I had my restaurant in Laramie, I totaled three vehicles to deer deciding it was good to jump out in front of what I was driving.

Several friends overseas have jokingly nicknamed me “The Deer Hunter”.

The truck that was totaled I only had two weeks. It was New Years Eve and I was coming home around midnight. It was snowing off and on and definitely icy, so as I traveled on US 30, I wasn’t going fast.

Right outside Medicine Bow, heading towards Hanna, visibility wasn’t great, snow was getting stronger, so I was going about 35 mph when all of a sudden, not just one deer, but an entire herd came out of nowhere. I did my best to avoid hitting any of these cervine beasts, but the road was slick and before I knew it, bam, thud, bam, bam and my truck was on the side of the road stuck in a drift. No cell service, so a blanket and coat were used to help me limp home.

US 30 has been the place I have had four collisions with deer, so after that night on New Years Eve, I avoid driving that road after dark as best as I can. WY 130 has treated me better. I have missed the deer, antelope and elk, but I am still very aware my luck could change any day I drive it.

WY 72 is the road I hit the strangest critter. This is the route between Elk Mountain and Hanna. It was late and I was coming from Laramie and I just wanted to get home. I have seen plenty of deer on this road and hit more bunnies than I care to count, so I am careful on this route. Anyway, I was coming over a hill and this large lumbering blob was in the middle of the road appeared and...

Thud.

I wasn’t happy because I could tell some damage was going to be seen when I got up the morning to inspect my car. Given I was driving in the area that was mostly canyon land, I thought the animal struck was likely a badger although the blob seemed a bit larger.

When I inspected the plastic bumper on my car the next morning, I found quills. I couldn’t believe it, because I had hit this woodland creature an easy dozen miles from the nearest tree. My bumper was ruined and I have new respect for these creatures’ quills after pulling them from the bumper. Those quills were sharp!

When I speak of Wyoming to people, I often say it is a place where nature still wins. Definitely the state’s fauna puts up a good fight when facing down vehicles.

The Weather

Another fear nature throws into the mix far as driving in this state is weather. Hail storms in the spring, summer and fall can make it treacherous, but wind and snow during winter is just perilous. I have learned to respect road conditions and don’t push it. I have noticed weather in the north of Carbon County can be really different than the Valley. During winter, WYDOT’s web page is constantly on my computer. It has helped me countless times.

I believe anyone who drives in the wintertime here in Carbon County knows exactly why I am respectful of what mother nature’s weather force can do to the roads. I don’t have to go into my fear of driving in winter with any detail.

The Big Fish Syndrome

Until I started working for the Sun and driving to Saratoga, I had not realized how often large trucks using WY 130 didn’t stop when coming to stop signs. I have seen these monster trucks just slow down and go through stop signs on many occassions.

When I lived in Asia, I saw this all the time. In fact, it is called “Big Fish” theory by Westerners living there. The larger the vehicle, the more it broke laws and would take over roads. So if you were on bike, scooter or motorcycle, you knew you were the minnow in the world of traffic. You learn to even stop when coming to a green light because there is always some bus or large truck running through the red light, because the driver knows his vehicle is bigger. It is really bad, but law enforcement seldom goes after an offender unless the big fish takes out a bike… not exactly comforting if you are laying on the side of the road all broken and bloody.

I never worried about the big fish theory much in the U.S. with the exception of interstates, but even then, law enforcement is pretty good about keeping truck drivers honest about their driving. So it is a bit shocking to see the Big Fish theory alive and well on WY 130.

Inconsiderate Out of State Drivers

The last thing I have noticed, I had not been cognizant of until recently, is how cars pull out on WY 130 at Walcott Junction exit on I-80 heading to Saratoga or coming up to the junction by the entrance of the gas station. My speed is 65 mph and I am astonished at how often a vehicle will pull out as I am coming down the road making me at the very least slow down to 30 or 40 mph, yet there is no car behind me. Twice I had to swerve to the other lane to miss the car. The common denominator I see, these vehicles are out of state. Coming from the east coast, I understand you have to grab a break in traffic to enter a highway, knowing a car will have to slow down so you can enter. But come on, no car is behind me and waiting a few seconds so I can pass is just driving etiquette. Yet, I see it time after time. I keep my temper by remembering I have seen worse driving situations and getting mad is not going to stop this from happening. I just take a look at the scenery around me and it calms me down almost immediately.

Living in Carbon County makes it all worth it.

I will face the wildlife, big trucks and inconsiderate out of state drivers versus having to drive in big cities, here in the U.S. or overseas. I hate when it takes two hours to go 40 miles because of sitting in stop and go traffic.

Not good for my car or soul.

Plus, when I am driving in the daylight and the weather is good, I marvel at the beauty of my commute and realize how lucky I am.

Driving in Carbon County has it’s challenges, but totally worth it compared to any place else I have lived.

Australia might have been the exception, but damn if they don’t drive on the wrong side of the road and the kangaroos are worse than deer. I’ve been in a truck that hit one and they do damage comparable to hitting an elk out here—not that I have hit an elk—yet.

So as winter approaches, I may have my moments of hating road conditions, bad drivers and suicidal wildlife, but I know I live in one of the best places and whatever I face driving, it is all worth it.

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