2010 USA Roadtrip Rawlins, WY to Thermopolis, WY

We left Rawlins, WY at about 10:15 a.m. after buying gas. The price was $2.80 a gallon for unleaded premium, down from what we paid in Vail. The drive was on good roads with little sign of wildlife. There were fences on both sides of the 2-lane road. Sometimes there were stretches of wind-stopping fences in the fields beyond. The first part of the trip on Rt. 287/789 was through a flat part of WY that looked like the great plains, with the Seminoe Mountains to the east. As we passed through Jeffery City and up into Riverton, the terrain got more interesting as we started seeing the Green Mountains and the Wind River Range on the west and the Deer Creek Range to the east. We turned north on Rt. 135 to Rt. 26 and from Shoshoni to Thermopolis we were dazzled by the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway (on Rt. 20/789). The canyon walls reach 2500’. The sphinx like shapes of rocks a thousand feet above the river bed where formed 200 million years ago.

It was cool to be on part of the Oregon Trail; Audre had done a paper on it in school about 50 years ago and had read “O Pioneers” by Willa Cather.

The Owl Creek Mountains are to the west of town and besideThermopolis is the Big Horn River. The altitude (4500’) is greater than the population (3200) and it's renowned for having what it says is the World’s Largest Mineral Hot Spring. The more than 150 hot springs are throughout Hot Springs County. Our friend Claire Walter who is a travel writer had given us a link to her article on Thermopolis (click here to read it) and the dinosaurs and we were excited to check out the hot springs.

We stopped at about 5 hotels (but none of the motels on Rt. 20). At the Best Western Plaza Hotel we saw a suite and a regular room--both were over-priced and under-valued and the building was hideous. The Days Inn (across the street) was old and awful.

We decided to stay at the Hot Springs Super 8, Lane 5, Hwy. 20 South, in Thermopolis (tel. 307-864-5515, tel. 800-800-8000, e-mail: super8info@thermop-super8.com, web: http://www.thermopolissuper8.com/) in room 137. We were given a rate (with tax) of $77.36 (their best senior/AAA rate). Continental breakfast and wi-fi were included. The room was good-sized and equipped with a refrigerator and microwave. The room was big enough for one comfortable chair and a table with 2 good chairs (comfortable enough with padded seats and backs). Unfortunately the place is not being maintained well. The faucet in the sink needed a new something so that it didn't spray instead of flow. We asked the man (who we thought was the owner) at the front desk to fix it and he said it wasn't possible. His attitude was awful. (There was a hardware store next to the hotel.) The sink and tub looked older than they should and the place generally looked poorly maintained. There was an electric coffee maker in the room that didn't work. The night receptionist was accommodating and gave me another one.

In Thermopolis (Greek for “hot city”) the scalding water comes from the Big Spring which is located in Hot Springs State Park. From this spring, the water used to flow into the cooling ponds at a temperature of 127 degrees. A boardwalk leads you over what are now dry terraces (and not too attractive) made chiefly of lime and gypsum. The State BathHouse is free (towels $1 each) and we enjoyed it. We met some people from Washington State who were also staying at the Super 8. They gave us lots of information about traveling across Washington.

After the State BathHouse, we drove through the Hot Springs State Park where we saw some bison/buffalo at a distance within the 10 acre park.

There wasn't much choice for dinner in Thermopolis. Audre had a hankering for baby back pork ribs and we decided to go to the Fountian Diner, located at the Fountain of Youth Inn, tel. 307-864-2321 There was a blackboard on the corner where the only traffic light on the main street is located advertising their ribs. We spent $20 for a half rack of ribs and 2 extra sides (of fries and onion rings) along with the balsamic cole slaw and a salad that came with the dinner. It was good and satisfied Audre's hankering.  There were 4 homemade bbq sauces, each of which was delicious. Our favorite was the one labeled sweet, but it wasn't too sweet.  (We brought a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that we had bought for $7.95 at the local bar/bottle shop to go with the ribs.) The owner of the Fountain Diner is also the cook and he entertained us with the details of his cooking techniques (which were interesting).

We didn’t go to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center or the Hot Spring County Museum and we decided that one night was sufficient for Thermopolis and left on Thursday. Thermopolis was disappointing for us.