I have known Sideon via blogging since August or September of last year. He's been an avid reader of mine, and a good friend, since I began. When he told me he'd be in my neck of the woods (relatively), I jumped on the chance to meet him in real life.
Am I ever glad I did!
I got to turn the meeting into a trip by myself, something I haven't done since I was 18 and headed to Austria for my year as an exchange student. Driving down the highway alone with my map on the seat beside me and the radio cranked loud was such a great feeling ~ not better or worse than traveling with my family, just different. It's been a long time since I felt independent and, well, young. I admit I felt young and carefree driving like that, something I hadn't expected.
I didn't arrive until 10:00 p.m., so I contacted him and we met in my hotel lobby and decided to have a drink in the lounge. It was wonderful, like reuniting with an old friend. Conversation with him was easy, enjoyable, and entertaining. Sideon (as you may have already guessed by his comments and by his great blog) is a great guy. We talked about many different things including his family, my family, our jobs, the people at the bar, our parents, our lives. The great thing about him is that he's a very interesting person, and he's damn fun to be around, and I felt like I could have stayed up all night talking with him. I'm certain we'd have never run out of things to discuss. He's someone who is comfortable in his own skin, and that makes being around him a joy, and made me feel like I could just be me. This is a rare gift, and part of what makes him so great.
We decided to call it a night after a couple of very interesting people from the bar approached our table and introduced themselves one after the other: Cat, who showed us her many tattoos of cats (leopards, jaguars, tigers...even a homemade tat from prison), and whom I'd have been afraid to follow into the bathroom alone; and Justin, whom in five minutes of conversation shared that he worked the oil fields ("Where else can you work six weeks and make over 100 grand?"), had driven his custom made motorcycle to the bar, had been up for three days straight already, and whom had once held a man's head and let him talk while his body (which had been severed just below the chest) slowly died. While Justin was talking to us, Cat came back over and told us that she used to live with Justin but "He don't want me no more, do you, Honey?" We left shortly after talking to them, as soon as a window of opportunity presented itself.
The next morning, we ate breakfast together, and talked all the way, while enjoying text messages to Christy, then we posted a blog post quickly on his blog before we had to leave to meet up with his aunt and uncle at their house.
Rusty and Penny (names changed to protect the innocent) were the nicest people you could wish to meet. They showed us their home, filled with original pieces of art and crafts. It was very fun to sit and get to know them, then she had to get back to work, and Rusty took us out to lunch and then gave us a tour of the Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis.
It was great to have someone who grew up in Thermopolis taking us through the State Park and explaining what he knows of the hot springs and sharing memories of childhood and life. He was very interesting and fun to talk with. Apparently, it's the "World's Largest Mineral Hot Springs." They aren't sure how deep the hot springs is, and the boiling hot mineral water flows out of the ground into the pool, where it flows down in a stream into big pools that run off into the Bighorn River. The water leaves mineral deposits over time that create the unique look of what you see in my photos.
One of the funnest parts was walking the pathway around the springs and over the swinging bridge. Yes, Sideon AND his uncle had fun shaking the bridge as if they were little boys again, and I had to try to keep my balance. I should retaliate by posting a photo of them doing so, but I will resist (unless Sid gives me permission to add it anyway)...
Here is the hot springs source pool. It's beautiful.
This is the spot where Rusty said that he and his friends would dive into the Bighorn River below when they were kids, to impress the tourists. Holy crap! I could never do that. The picture doesn't do justice to how far down they would fall before hitting water. Yikes.
I'd have loved to see someone diving it, though, so I could share pictures of it with you now.
This is the free bathhouse and outdoor pool that is open to the public. Apparently the Indians gifted this hot springs to the government on the condition that it always remain free for all to use and benefit by. This is the reason you find a state park here with no entrance fee.
We didn't partake of the "healing waters" but I will next time I go to Thermopolis.
After we walked the pathway and took lots of pictures of the scenery, we drove the scenic drive where they have a herd of maybe 8 buffalo, and an old junkyard half buried by a hillside, full of old rusty cars. It was fun to make Sid stop the car so I could take photos of the junk heap. He probably thought I was insane, but he was sweet enough to stop anyway. I laugh when I think about that now.
After that short drive, we took Rusty home and then Sideon dropped me off at my car, and I set off for home, and he returned to Casper to visit other relatives. It was so damn fun to meet him! I consider myself very, very lucky to count him as my friend. What an amazing man.
My friend Janet was able to meet up with Sideon in Washington D.C. recently, and she said it best: "If you ever get the chance to meet Sideon in real life, RUN, don't walk." He's a great guy, and I can't wait until the next time he comes to Thermopolis so I can take my family and hang out with him (and hopefully Rusty and Penny) again.