When you travel alone, you’re prone to meet more people, see more unusual things, find more adventure. At least, I am.
Case in point: Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Some years ago, I was driving across country, taking my time and seeing things, meandering my way west after living in the East for years, on my way back home. It was summer and I was going anywhere my map, money and little Renault would take me.
After a long, hot day of driving (no A/C in the old Renault), I pulled into Cheyenne and discovered, to my annoyance, that it was Pioneer Weekend or Frontier Days, or whatever they call their annual celebration of cowboying. The town was overfilled with loud and, by all appearances, drunk men dressed identically – new big hats, new plaid shirts, new tight jeans, big belt buckles, boots, etc.
I’m no cowboy myself, but even I can recognize the look of phonies. These weren’t real cowboys but guys dressed up to go to a cowboy party weekend, and I didn’t want any part of it. I was hot and tired and not used to the altitude and in a crappy mood. So, I decided to roll right through town and keep on going.
Before long, I saw this old hotel on the town’s outskirts. Seemed nice enough and like a place to explore a little. I checked in, had a nap and a shower. Feeling much more human.
Found the hotel’s bar and, to my happy surprise, there were a lot of people, some dancing to a live band, a solid vibe. And the band was even pretty good, biting into some danceable jazz/blues. It was a place I could hang out, I thought, so I took a stool at the bar and ordered a drink.
Within a very few minutes, I was talking with a couple of guys from the nearby Air Force base and another few locals. Everybody was from around Cheyenne and nobody was wearing brand new, department-store cowboy outfits; good signs.
This Cheyenne isn’t so bad, I thought to myself, once I found the real people.
After an hour or so, I got into a conversation with an older guy that went something like this:
Guy: So, you from around here?
Me: No, San Francisco. On my way back there right now. You?
Guy: Yup, I’ve lived in Cheyenne all my life. 55 years. Was married for 19 years before my wife left me. That’s when I had my first homosexual relationship.
It was at that exact moment I felt a veil had been lifted from my eyes. I looked around this bar I’d been enjoying. How’d I missed it? The couples dancing to that pretty good band were all men. The people sitting at tables and in booths were all men. The guys I’d been drinking with at the bar? Men.
Somehow, I’d found a gay bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming. What are the odds? And, further, having found it, what are the odds I wouldn’t have even noticed?
Well, I wasn’t about to bolt out of the place, which would have been weird and rude, so I stayed for a couple more drinks. I even got invited to the symphony by a guy I was told was one of Cheyenne’s top lawyers. (He called it a “firm function.”) I was flattered, of course, but I had to get back on the road home the next day.
See what you expect to see; perspective is a funny thing, alright.