By Tom “Bomb” Christian
After leaving the Deadwood 3 Wheeler Rally in South Dakota I had an opportunity to ride through Wyoming’s Carbon County to experience a taste of the Old West. It all started in Rawlins, Wyoming at the KOA Journey Family Kampground where I was staying and enjoying the rider friendly atmosphere. Getting an early start was part of my big plan to cover this ride of about 300 miles.
Riding out to Medicine Bow was the first big stop on my list but there were a few places to check out on the way there, crossing the badlands of Wyoming. I made sure I had plenty of fuel because not all those little towns have gas stations that are working. Being the old ghost-towner that I am, I had to just stop and take pictures of the ruins left from the Old West. It’s hard to imagine as you ride across the badlands what the winters were like back in the old days.
Rolling into Medicine Bow will take you back in time. This might look like a little stop but once you get off your bike there is a whole lot of history in this little town. There is a train station turned into a museum, along with a log cabin that was moved from Jackson Hole, Wyoming and reassembled here for the folks to enjoy. This was author Owen Wister’s hunting cabin from Jackson Hole, where he wrote the novel The Virginian. The museum and cabin are a must see for all generations, so bring your grandkids and watch them as they learn how the Old West survived and built this great country so we can enjoy what we have today. Across the street is the Virginian Hotel with a quaint café and rooms to rent which makes it a perfect stop even if you want to spend the night there. The hotel was rich with history and all the charm from the Old West.
When rolling across the badlands, you always have to be mindful of where the next fuel stop is going to be; it was at Laramie where you take the 130 up to Snowy Range Pass that has a lot of breathtaking landscape to enjoy. Centennial is a super place to take in some of that Old West feeling with the old stores and gift shops. One of the coolest was Old Corral Hotel and Steakhouse, how can you beat that? With a population of 270 at an elevation of 8,076 feet you can feel the mountain air as you ride into the little town. You can spend the night here while enjoying great food and don’t forget to go for a walk to check out all the history that this old town has to offer.
Riding on the 130 towards Snowy Range Pass you can still see all the snow on the caps of the mountains. The smell of very clean mountain air just made it the perfect ride. The elevation at Snowy Range Pass is 10,847 feet where there is a Medicine Bow National Forest observation point at Libby Flats. This is a must stop to see and take pictures on the observation platform, where there is a 360° view that looks into Colorado and has a view of over 100 miles. There was still lots of snow on the ground with lots of standing water that keeps the mountains plush. The next stop was a very beautiful setting at Lake Marie where you can set up a picnic along with just enjoying a little stop. Or if one had a fishing pole (and a Wyoming Fish and Game fishing license), drop a line in and spend some time enjoying this beautiful place. On this journey up to Lake Marie there were so many places to stop and soak in all the beauty that this mountain range has to offer.
Heading towards Saratoga, Wyoming, the beauty of this ride never stopped with so many different types of landscape to enjoy. Being quite surprised as I rolled into Saratoga not knowing what to expect, the charm of the Old West came back to life. Stopping at a natural hot springs, there was a public swimming pool, and behind that the community built a swimming-pool-like area where the natural hot springs come up out of the ground with three different heat ranges for everyone to enjoy. I’ve never seen anything quite like this; they even built new lockers and showers for folks to use. Everyone there was so friendly and enjoyable to be around. If you come by, make sure you have your swimming trunks or bathing suit and a towel so you can enjoy these natural hot springs while staying in Saratoga.
One can stay at the historic Hotel Wolf in Saratoga where history runs very deep. It is a sight to see so go visit it as you enjoy a cold drink in the Old West-style Saloon or have dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. The real charm of the Old West will give you goosebumps while you’re looking at all the pictures on the wall waiting for your dinner to be served.
After I wet my whistle there was one other place that I wanted to stop at to grab a bite to eat while in Saratoga. FireWater is a public house where families can come to enjoy the festivities at all the events that are on the weekends while enjoying great food. They have all kinds of bands with lots of grass area for folks to enjoy the music and play games. I lost count of how many different types of whiskey and other adult beverages they keep on hand. This place is extremely clean, very well maintained, and taking care of that makes it a very comfortable atmosphere for the whole family along with great food and super good service.
The sun was going down and it would be nice to be back in Rawlins where my little cabin was waiting for me at the KOA Journey Family Kampground. It was time to hit that big road to the little town of Rawlins, Wyoming before the sun went down on me. This ride was very entertaining, and I was wishing I had more days to spare just to enjoy all the stops and spend the night enjoying the night life of the Old West.