I left Hobart at 6.30am on the 14th June 2018 and got into Washington DC at 6.30pm the 14th June. I was met by IFYE member Jan and taken to our hotel where I met the U.S.A. outbound IFYE’s going to all different countries like Norway, Thailand, India and Taiwan to name a few.
On Sunday we arrived in Washington DC, to Capitol Hill. We did a day of walking and sightseeing starting at The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Korea War Memorial and got to pick one of 7 of there Smithsonian Museums to visit which are free! (Think of the movie ‘Night at the Museum’ where that was filmed). I headed to the Air and Space Museum, it was huge with so much interesting stuff!
On Monday the 18th I flew into Laramie with Anette from Norway. We were greeted by Kim, the IFYE Program Coordinator for Wyoming and were dropped off at Cath’s, who was nice enough to put us up for 2 nights and took us riding! We also went on a tour of the Wyoming College, it was beautiful, just like you see in the movies!
On Wednesday the 28th Kim picked us up and we both were then dropped off at our separate families, I headed to Melissa and Jason Cantu in Wright, Wyoming.
We went to an Indian reserve to watch a rodeo and re-enactment of the Battle of Little Bighorn but due to the weather all was cancelled however, we did have a great sunny day for Wright Day on the Saturday. We started with a 5km run at the golf course, a parade through town where they decorate floats throw candy, have free fairy floss all day, mud trucks, mud volleyball and a rodeo spread across the town which is free to watch and join in!
While I was with the Cantu’s we also went to Mt Rushmore, which I was really excited for! It was a great day out and so glad I got to see it. It was huge and to think how it was made in its time was amazing!
Melissa’s dad is a blaster at one of the many coal mines in Wyoming and gave us a tour, very interesting and all the machines are huge! Wyoming produces the most coal for the USA and has the largest coal mine, Black Thunder which is a few miles out of Wright.
We went camping in the Bighorn Mountains for 5 days. They had a huge camper with bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen and we also took up the quad bikes and kayaks. We had a reading day the first day due to the weather but the other 4 days were great. We went on a days quad bike ride, fishing, kayaking on the lake, cooking smores and popcorn on the campfire, whilst having deer grazing just a few feet away, squirrels all around us and I even got to see a moose family with a calf in tow!
On the 4th of July the whole town of Wright was lit up from 6pm till 11pm with a colourful sky and the popping of fireworks and crackers!
With my two weeks being up on the 6th July I met back up with Kim and Anette and headed to the other side of Wyoming. Again we dropped Anette to her family and then met up half way with my second family Tess and Tim.
It has been very busy here, we have been quad bike riding, collecting firewood, attending church, hiking, practicing my roping, paddle boarding, kayaking, white water rafting and horse riding. I was also lucky enough to be around for Rendezvous Parade weekend. Tess was asking to be a flag bearer at the rodeo which was on for three nights. So Thursday and Friday nights were spent at the rodeo and Saturday was the Rendezvous Parade in town. They have a very similar rodeo program to us but they also have mini bronc riding for the kids (they were great riders) and did bull poker and ring of fear. In a nutshell people volunteer to go in the ring with a bull and the last one standing wins some prize money.
Sunday was the Rendezvous re-enactment it is the story between the Indians, the mountain men and fur trappers; how they all got on, traded goods and ‘had a huge party’ for the weekend, so hence the whole weekend is to remember how this town was started.
On Monday we were up early and went to Yellowstone National Park for the day! When we got in to the park there was a bear cub that was hiding in the grass. We did also get to see buffalo, deer and elk fairly close. As well as Old Faithful Geyser and the Old Faithful Inn, which is still the original wood Inn built in 1904, all wood and no elevators to date.
Thursday, we crossed the border to Idaho to shop in the city and pick up their camper van. As the kids are members of the 4H program they get to work for the year to get ready for the fair, with all different things - animals, leather work, fashion, wood work etc. We spent the day packing for the local fair. As they live out of town it is easier to camp there than travel every day, as the fair runs for 3 days.
That night we got to go to the famous Bar J Wrangler chuck wagon dinner and cowboy show. You reserve your ticket but for seating it is a first in best seat so we waited in line almost 2 hours before the show! They have around 100 people or more, every night for dinner and the show goes for the 3 months of summer, 7 days a week. They feed you a traditional chuck wagon dinner of beans, meat, sweets and lemonade. Once you eat the cowboys come and sing traditional songs and tell jokes. The sons are now running it but we were lucky to get dad, the man that started it all, that night to come on stage to sing.
Sadly the next day was a long traveling day when Tess and Liberty took me to meet Kim. We drove West to East across the state, so after 5 hours of driving we met Shannon and Kevin Zimmerman, my 3rd host family. Then another hour drive to their home in Hillsdale.
I was lucky enough to be in Hillsdale while the Cheyenne Frontier days were going on, 10 days of rodeo’s and concerts! The program is huge and a city of 30,000 easily doubles for the 10 days. We were lucky to get free tickets to a rodeo for two days. Most of the events are the same as what we have - bulls, broncs, lie down roping, team roping but they do some crazy ones too, such as the wild horse race. Teams of 3 get given a brumby and have to keep hold of it, saddle it, hop on and get once around the track to win..they had stretchers and paramedics on standby as it does not have a great history, but luckily no one was hurt this year. They also have an Indian village, vintage machines, carnival, arts and craft all going on to. The weather put on a good show for us too. We left the rodeo due to the weather but we had an Eric Church concert that night. Driving back in I thought there was snow but it was hail left from the storm all over the road side, it broke car windscreens and dented the cars, houses were damaged as well. I never thought I would be happy to wear gum boots to a concert but it was the best decision! We were down on the track and it was a mud sludge (like Agfest on a bad year) and seeing people in flip flops and white sneakers was pretty funny.
We were lucky to get free tickets to a Toby Keith concert too, and we also got to see the Thunderbird air show, after a 2 hour delay due to the weather (seeing a trend yet, lol). The show was great and the sound of the jets was amazing!
A tradition they do is the pancake breakfast, 3 mornings during the Frontier Days they put on a free pancake breakfast from 7am until they run out and they mix the batter in a concrete truck! We got there at 6.15am to line up and I can stay it was worth it, 3 huge pancakes and a drink was very yummy!
On Saturday I was asked to help out and be in the Frontier Day Parade in town as someone was unable to attend. We got to dress up in old fashioned dresses and go in an original Yellowstone National Park horse drawn carriage.
Shannon and daughter Mikayla help with 4H and this year they helped with the fashion section. During the morning the kids came and entered their clothes that they had made or redesigned, and then they had to sit down and talk to the judge about it and some people model. Then that night we came back for a fashion parade open to the public and they award the winners. Shannon is also the goat chief so we spent a few days at the fair grounds to check the stalls and move Brad’s (son) goats in. As part of her job she has to be there to check all is well with other people, that they have found their stalls, and check their animals had been vet checked.
Mikayla took me to Douglas the next day to meet Bobbie and Kevin Geis, my next family. They live in Gillette, one of the bigger cities in the state. About half hour out of town they have a 7000 acre Angus and Hereford beef ranch and have just started with some sheep about a year ago. Being summer holidays Mile and Wyatt (children) are at home on college break, Dagen and Mariah (children) are in high school in Gillette.
Whilst at the ranch we moved cows and sheep - they use bikes and quads, moved them to greener pastures and also moved the heifers into the yard as the vet was coming to preg test them. They were not happy about this year’s rate and neither was the vet, but they marked them according to days pregnant and sex of foetus. This was something I had not seen before and I bugged them with questions, and they answered all my annoying questions!
The Geis’ also took me to Devils Tower monument; it was declared the USA’s first national monument in 1906. It is a large laccolithic butte made up of igneous rock that stands out across the flat plains on the area.
It was really busy that day due to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, an event about an hour away, that gets over 500 000 thousand bikers to the event each year from all over the world (I did find some Australian flags on bikes). It is a 10 day event with rallies, races and concerts, so much like Cheyenne Frontier Days is for rodeo fans, this is the bikers equivalent.
Mariah won at her local fair so she was off to the State Fair in Douglas to compete with her sheep. We took 9 sheep, 12 fleeces and the camper to State Fair and camped there for the week. This year was the first time the State Fair was a four day event as it normally went for 8 days.
All people that had placed first at their local fair went to State Fair to show their animals and homemade products.
In the evenings they have rodeos, concerts and demolition derbies and at one of the rodeos we got to see the crowning of the 2019 Miss Wyoming Rodeo who goes on to compete for Miss Rodeo America next year.
On Monday Gwen (grandmother) was cooking wedding cakes and over 130 muffins for an upcoming wedding so we went to her house to help bake, and then that night pack because on Tuesday Miles and Bobbie took me to Laramie, where I met the Codallos Family, my last family in Wyoming.
Arriving in Wyoming I was greeted with a welcome sign from my new family, Kim, partner & their two children..
Kym (mother) is a social worker as well as a teacher in social work at the college.
Onthe first day the kids took me to the college and showed me around, we went to the dinosaur museum. The University of Wyoming (UW) was established in 1886, with some of the original stone buildings still in use. The campus is really beautiful with stone buildings that are set in a circle with huge grass lawns in the middle. The college is quite active with their sports programs and has many fields, tracks and faculties to accommodate it.
Saturday in Wyoming we went to Medicine Bow National forest to watch the rock dancers. It is thought the UW dance program, a group of students and teaches dance and perform on rock faces, rock and lines hanging between to rocks, while they are attached to rock climbing ropes. It was something I had never seen before! After the dancing we went to a 150th anniversary lunch at the local park with a free lunch and kids activities/That evening we went to watch a college volleyball game. It was a well attended match that had a small marching band and cheerleaders too! UW won and the kids got to go down and meet the players and get a signed poster!
Sunday we jumped the border and drove 2 hours to Denver, Colorado to watch a professional baseball game, the Colorado Rockies vs St Louis Cardinals. So glad to get the chance to go, it was on my wish list!
On Monday all the kids went back to work/school for the year, it was funny they start their school year in September but they get summer break like we do. I now had my days free during the week and decided to fill it in with walking, going to the REC centre and would catch up with Kym for lunch a couple of times and meet up with Miles and Mikayla, my hosts from before. Laramie is a college town, so most people study, and work or have a business associated with the college.
The following weekend was a big one for the town, first home football game of the season! It started with the kick off concert, Brothers Osbourne playing, which was a great night, so good live. Then Saturday morning I got ready in my UW colours and went to a tailgate party! From there we went to the game which started at 1.30pm. The stadium was close to full with 20,000 people; almost all the crowd was in yellow, bar a very small section in red.
We drove back to Denver, Colorado to go the Denver Botanical Gardens. It was a lovely place almost in the heart of the city, with some beautiful buildings, flowers, different areas such as a Japanese garden and ‘The Corpse Flower’! It only blooms every few years and when they bloom it’s been quoted they smell ‘like a corpse’ which opened the day before I was there but not sure if I glad or sad I missed it!
My time in beautiful Wyoming was almost over; I was sad to be leaving but I spent up on M&M’s which I managed to fit in my luggage.
- I got to stay with 5 lovely families that made me feel like part of their family.
- Visited 6 of the 52 States; Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, Montana & Hawaii
- Traveling between host families I did 1,610miles (2,591 km)