Big Fire, Heavy Snow, Ice, Wind, Cheers, Jeers During Brief Trip

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Bill Sniffin
Bill Sniffin

A mid-winter trip from Dallas, Texas, to Lander, Wyoming should be routine. Almost boring.

Well, not so fast.

Nancy and I had been enjoying some warm weather in our old motorhome (called FollowMyNose) at an RV Park in Melissa, Texas. The night before my flight to Denver, we were awakened by a ruckus. In typical wifely fashion, my main squeeze demanded: “Go check it out. I hear something.”

After struggling awake and opening the blinds, the sight in front of me was scary and breathtaking. It was a wall of flame. An RV three spaces away was a huge bonfire. The two spaces between them and us were empty so it seemed like the flames filled up our entire window.

Luckily, the owners got out okay but my night was ruined.

It was a sleepy traveler who climbed aboard a Frontier flight the next morning for the Denver trip. Round-trip was just $82. A ridiculous price.

Flight attendants are misnamed. They should be called baggage handlers. Watching these gals heft 40-pound suitcases over their heads into compartments was unseemly.

My plan was to spend the night at my mom’s in Lafayette north of Denver. But she was suffering from a bad cold and encouraged my drive north in a car stored at my brother Pat’s place.

The trip on I-80 was quick and the road was dry. Needed a good audio book about the Civil War to keep me awake. Got home at 8:30 p.m., which was also amazing. So far so good

Nine of our 10 pet ducks greeted me heartily. A big one named Paint, for her colorful feathers, was gone. She had fallen victim to a fox or an owl.

It felt good to spend a few days in Lander. The Fox News All-Stars coffee group groaned after hearing about the Texas 70-degree temperatures. Also got to spend some quality time with the Johnson grandsons.

Snow was predicted Saturday and it came down beautifully. But it piled up to 20 inches deep. That Sunday involved a drive to Cheyenne for the Governor’s Tourism Conference.

Bad news. Snow had buried the car. Good Samarians came along and managed to get me to another car where I took off for Cheyenne, by way of Casper.

High winds and black ice made for a scary trip.

Four vehicles were off the road in front of me between Douglas and Cheyenne. One threw up a rooster tail of snow as it soared into the median. Farther on, a late model SUV had gone off the road and burst into flame. Firemen seemed to have the situation under control.

Made it in time to attend a reception at the new Wyoming Welcome Center, which is an amazing place. For decades the visitors’ center was on the west side of the highway, which discouraged tourists from stopping. Glad to finally see it now on the correct side of the road for folks coming into Wyoming.

We had a booth at the conference promoting our new book. We spent most of the time lining up retail outlets across the state where we can sell the book to tourists during the summer of 2013.

Also was able to visit many government officials and legislators and catch up on the Cindy Hill fiasco that had occupied a lot of time. What a mess. We owe our legislators and Gov. Matt Mead a huge debt of gratitude for dealing with this runaway train gone amuck.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau talked about some other crazy things happening at the session, which is great fodder for a future column.

Saw tourism pioneers like Clarene Law, Gene Bryan, Manuel Lopez, Kari Cooper, Dave Hanks, Mark Anselmi, Claudia Wade and many others too numerous to mention. Also congrats to Diane Shober for being named Director of the year for the entire USA. Congrats to Chuck Coon for receiving the Big WYO award for his contributions to the state’s second largest industry and largest employer.

The wind was blowing hard in Cheyenne on departure day (surprise, surprise). Two semi-trailers had already blown over in the 65-mile per hour gusts on I-25 within the first 10 miles of my trip south.

Had a nice lunch with my 88-year mother who was feeling better and then went to the airport.

My wife had earlier abandoned me to go to Las Vegas with our three daughters. I was not invited and was told upon seeing her that what happens in Vegas . . . well, you know the rest.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns and blogs at He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at

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