Sniffin, Bill (2020)

Confused Asians, crazy drunken van drivers, monstrous RVs, nervous semi drivers and thousands (perhaps millions) of tourists were among the highlights of a recent trip to Jackson and Pinedale.

We were headed north on Highway 287 to Jackson to attend the open house for the new home of the Hughes Charitable Foundation.

But a lot happened before we got there.

For starters, we groaned as a flagman stopped us just as a huge line of cars ahead of us headed off in the distance behind a pilot car. This was barely 8 miles from home. Was this a harbinger of the kind of trip we would endure?

The nice flagger was Russell Warren of Riverton, who was glad to get a construction job close to home. He told us about a van full of drunks who had almost run him down an hour earlier. They drove right past him, cursed him and flipped him off. A close call.

While we were talking, a late-model car also zipped right by him.

The car stopped about a quarter mile up the road and sat there. Finally, a young boy jumped out and came running toward Russell. Was this a kidnapped kid?

Russell went off to meet with the people in the car and then had an animated chat with the little boy.

“Well, that’s a first,” Russell told us.

He said it was an Asian family whose members could not read the traffic signs and could not speak English. The little boy was the only one who could barely speak English, so the family sent him back to the flagger to find out what was up.

A few minutes after that, an old van went flying by us on the right in the borrow pit, driving fast and honking.

“Oh no,” Russell said. “There goes that carload of drunks again.”

He had turned in their license plate, so our assumption was they would soon be off the road.

And then the pilot car showed up. We said our good-byes to Russell, and I turned to Nancy and speculated, “Wow, what kind of trip is this going to be if this all happened now at the beginning?”

Despite a couple more construction areas, the trip to Jackson was eventful only because of its beauty. That is one of the most scenic drives in America. We love going over Togwotee Pass.

Entering Jackson, the traffic was busy, but not as bad as I expected.

We spent time walking on the Jackson Town Square and got our fix at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Chatted with some folks from Wisconsin who just loved Yellowstone.

The open house at the Hughes Foundation was fun. These folks have donated over $4 million to Wyoming projects. Wayne and Molly Hughes have had a home in Jackson for some time, but recently moved their entire operation to Wyoming.

It was fun to reconnect with two former Jackson mayors, Mark Barron and Sara Flitner, at the event. Bill Scarlett, who I remember as a young boy, was there all grown up. Radio man Scott Anderson and attorney Jim Coleman offered some great conversation. Sadek Darwiche also was there. His family owns the Hotel Jackson, which is fantastic. The Hughes event was a nice affair.

Fremont County Native Americans Scott Ratliff and Allison Sage were there with an outstanding drum group. The Hughes Foundation was a major funder of a new Indian Veterans Memorial on Highway 287 at the south entrance to Fort Washakie. The memorial is very impressive.

Afterward, we headed back to the square and ran into Jim Waldrop at the venerable Wort Hotel and its famous Silver Dollar Bar.

Also, while in Jackson, we rode the gondola up the mountain at Jackson Hole Resort and enjoyed an amazing view of the valley and various paragliders sailing off into the abyss. Although I was a private plane pilot for 30 years, not sure I could ever do that.

We decided to go back to Lander by way of Pinedale, where we joined Dave and Peggy Bell for lunch at the Wind River Brewery. Nice place, with great food (and drink).

Dave is a wonderful photographer, and his first coffee table book is coming out very soon. We talked books a bit and then headed up to their cabin on Fremont Lake. We rode Sea-Doos all over the lake. It was a calm day, and it was terrific fun. Hope to do that again some time.

One of my favorite places is South Pass, on the way back home to Lander. It was at its best on this day, and we got home with lots of memories and some new experiences about driving in Wyoming.

Bill Sniffin is a longtime journalist from Lander and publisher of Cowboy State Daily. Email: bsniffin@wyoming.com.

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