Wild Wyoming

When Katie took off for a long weekend at camp, the Locavaux crew was delighted to welcome Ellie Schmidt to the bus in style, with a trip to the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana. Chase, Pat and I were lucky enough to have visited this past winter, and our good friend Will Daniel and his family invited us (and the bus!) back. After hiding the bus at a service entrance, the four of us joined the Daniel family at Warren Miller Lodge for some more local beers-- Madison Brewing Co’s Salmon Fly Honey Rye being a group favorite. We indulged in games of horseshoes and volleyball in the yard before heading up to the Daniel’s newly-built and gloriously woodsy home for stone fired pizza and fresh fruit. What a relaxing day! Yellowstone National Park was our next destination, and after one moose sighting at the Yellowstone Club, we were eager for more wild animal sightings. Our hopes were finally fulfilled on the last stretch of scenic byway before we exited the park, when the bus was stopped abruptly by a heard of bison, munching grass at the side of the road and lumbering across. Moving in slow motion, their strategic road-crossing pattern didn’t allow for a large enough gap to let a bus pass between, and kept us trapped and looking on in awe. Pat snapped some selfies with the beasts, too! Yellowstone awed us with more than just wildlife (we also saw some elk and big horn sheep, and Chase spotted a black bear!). A hike around the geysers and hot springs transported us with an other-worldly aura. Mars? The Moon? The only thing recognizable was a very potent, sulfuric scent that permeated the air with every hiss of steam from the crusty holes in in the ground. We learned that these geothermal features are called “fumaroles” and are the hottest in the park--up to 280 degrees Fahrenheit! Rainbow hued rock and opaque, neon blue pools were scattered between the fumaroles, and we gazed out at this expanse, which was so utterly different from the lush looming pines and red rock we’d traversed in the park so far. Returning to the bus with sulfur lingering in our hair, we soon spotted something exciting at the side of the road--hitchhikers! Our ongoing bucket list included a hitchhiker pickup, but we had been cautious to pick a worthy soul. These two, a girl and boy our age from Israel who had been working at a JCC Camp in Colorado, simply wanted a lift back to their car. Harmless and friendly--the best kind of hitchhikers!

We popped out of Yellowstone into Cooke City, stopping in a 100 year-old general store before heading to our destination in the Sunlight Basin. 7D Ranch, where great friend and fellow Colgate-alum Ross Mower had been sharing his wealth of fly-fishing knowledge with lucky guests all summer, was situated on the Sunlight River in northern Wyoming. We entered the Shoshone National Forest on a 9-mile dirt road (nice and bumpy on the bus!) and as our cell phones went from “Searching…” to “No Service” we relished in the idea of being in the middle of nowhere. We lay on the rooftop deck that night, snuggled in blankets and wool socks. Above us, stars coated the deep black sky, bright and close together. That night was the peak of the Persied meteor shower, and we sleepily counted fireballs shooting overhead before crawling off the rooftop deck and into bed. (Ross braved the cold and christened the deck as an overnight crash pad.)

The next day was an adventure, to say the least. We headed out with Ross to explore a segment of the Sunlight Creek - trekking through rapids and rocks and ducking under mossy walls of water. Standing atop a smooth white boulder, Ross flung his fly fishing line over the river, the thin thread glinting in the sunlight. A peak into his box of flies amazed Ellie and me, who knew little about the sport, and Ross delineated some basic tactics: “Match the hatch!” The prickly, bright bug-like bundles of thread and rubber imitated whichever current fish-food was buzzing near the water. (note: Ellie caught her first EVER fish!) A few hours into our adventure the weather flip-turned on us; grey clouds rolled in with a light but steady drizzle. We munched on the sandwiches we’d packed over a small wood fire Chase had created on a cleared ledge, looking down on the rocky rushing river below.

Rise and shine! The next day we took off at the crack of dawn. Our first sunrise drive of the trip was, fittingly, our exit out of Sunlight Basin. The sun’s warm glow illuminated white birch trees and red clay crevices as we headed up numerous switchbacks to Dead Indian Pass. We arrived mid-day to a campground in the Big Horn Mountains, where we would stay that night. An afternoon of hammock reading, wildflower picking, moose watching and enjoying the last hours of cell-phone free life culminated with a weather phenomenon turned classy. Pea-sized hail ricocheted off the metal roof and we donned dresses and collared shirts to celebrate in style. Our propane stove emitted plenty of heat to warm the bus, and Chase braved the weather to collect snow and properly chill some wine.

Unfortunately, the bus didn’t appear to enjoy the temperature drop and refused to start the next morning. Uh, oh. Visions of thousand dollar tow-truck expeditions to the nearest town (not near) and other trip-ending scenarios played through our minds, as Chase tried to trouble-shoot sans internet or phone connection. We decided to wait around ‘til afternoon and give the engine a chance to warm up, even though Katie’s plane had already landed 250 miles away that morning. She got really familiar with the Rapid City airport, while we hung out with the moose, intermittently dumping boiling water on the engine and lighting the grill underneath. In a stroke of luck, a campground host appeared and let us use his landline--Chase kept his bubbling anxiety to himself and handled the situation smoothly. The first good news of the day came in the form of a local mechanic, the second was watching good ‘ole Georgia come around a bend to pick Ellie and me up from a nearby dining lodge! What a relief. We headed out of the Big Horn Mountains about 12 hours later than planned and drove through the night to Rapid City where Katie was waiting in a Motel, Manhattan in hand. We spent our first and only night in a Walmart parking lot (highway honking and hot asphalt didn’t hold a candle to the mountains sounds we’d spent the last week waking to), rescued Katie and headed east for the final leg of the trip!

Big Sky Territory: Missoula and Bozeman, MT

Coincidence is generally defined as a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent casual connection, but for the Locavaux Crew, coincidence is just part of our daily routine.  After leaving Seattle, camping out in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and jumping into the cool waters of the beautiful Coeur D’Alene Lake, we made our way into Montana towards the valley city of Missoula.  Having been given a few tips on places to check out in search of local music by a friend who studies in Missoula at the University of Montana, we walked towards Main Street in the late afternoon to take a look at The Top Hat Lounge, a music venue, bar and tapas joint.  We walked in, immediately liking the selection of local brews on tap (try the Blackfoot IPA!  Seriously!) and got talking to our friendly waitress.  Coincidence 1:  The waitress’ husband is in a Montana-wide famous jam band, Miller Creek!  Coincidence 2:  Just that evening he happened to be recording in a Missoula studio with his band!  We were elated at the opportunity to film during a studio session, as it’s something we don’t often have the chance or timing to do, and so we called our friendly waitress’ husband, Tom, and scheduled to meet him that evening at Club Shmed Studios in Missoula.  With the rest of the evening ahead of us, we decided to come back to The Top Hat Lounge later that evening to catch a bit of the night’s featured local band, Kung Fu Kongress. We explored a bit more of downtown Missoula, abused the free baskets of chips and salsa at a local Mexican restaurant, and made a hearty dinner of beans and tuna in a nearby park.  We returned to The Top Hat Lounge and walked up to the stage to introduce ourselves to Kung Fu Kongress when it happened again.  Coincidence 3:  As I was speaking to the trumpet player, I felt a tap on my shoulder—hello Lauren Depaul, long time high school friend!  Lauren, a student at University of Montana, happened to also be dating the very trumpet player in Kung Fu Kongress that I was speaking with.  We enjoyed a few drinks with Lauren while listening to the funky, jazz-inspired music of Kung Fu Kongress (who was performing their very last concert before all heading their separate ways across the country!).  We then made a beeline in the bus over to Club Shmed to hear Miller Creek in the studio.  Coincidence 4:  The studio is owned by Miller Creek keyboardist and ex-Weezer band member, Shmed.  No big deal.  We listened to the band play some recordings as back up to an up-and-coming Missoula rap artist and later interviewed Shmed on his experience running a studio in Missoula and his days during the 1990s rock scene in Los Angeles.  We then joined the members of Miller Creek in returning to The Top Hat Lounge, enjoyed a few drinks with friends new and old, and called it a night at closing.

We made our way to another Montana favorite the next day:  Bozeman!  Coincidence 5:  Without any prior planning, we arrived to Bozeman to find that it was the weekly event Music on Main, where three blocks of Bozeman’s Main Street close down and feature a local band on stage, local food truck vendors, and no open container laws!  Score.  We wandered around Main Street that evening, filming the local band 10 Feet Tall and 80 Proof, interviewing entertained audience members, and enjoying a few PBR deals at the local bars.  We spent the evening out on the town, making new friends and playing extended games of darts at the bars.  The next morning, we woke up just a bit bleary eyed and the Crew dropped me off at the Bozeman airport—just a quick four day hiatus from the bus to visit camp friends at my camp’s 80th reunion! Chase, Hallie, and Pat took it easy and checked out Gallatin County Regional Park before hitting up Dave's for local brews and sushi. Ellie Schmidt, longtime friend and Colgate alum, hopped on the bus the next day, bringing the bus crew back to 4.  No coincidence there, we had been urging Ellie to join us since we started in early June.  Thanks for the good times, Montana-- we’re pretty fond of your mountain towns and sounds!

Park City, Utah

You’ve done it again, Park City, Utah.  Having already visited Park City and Hallie’s friend, Ryan Gerstner, for a junior year spring break (it was an epic time, we’ll keep it at that), Hallie and I were excited to return and see what musical treats the small, mountain town had in store for the Locavaux Crew.  The drive in through Wyoming and the northern region of Utah was breathtaking:  vast pastures, rolling horizons of mountains, and dusty canyons.  We stopped at a pull-of in Wyoming for a delicious rooftop dinner and were elated at the amount of honks and friendly waves we received from passersby.  So much love for Georgia, the bus!  We got into Park City later that evening and were greeted by Ryan and crew, who had graciously arranged a mid-trip soiree at their house for the Locavaux Crew.  We met plenty of Park City locals, had a few drinks, and promptly passed out. The next day we took the gondola up the mountain to see two of Ryan’s friends, Paul and Mike, play guitar to the people at the top of the mountain.  Both skilled acoustic guitar players, these two had passing crowds of tourists and locals singing along to country favorites.   We then made our way back towards Ryan’s house to take a drive to some scenic points of Park City and explore an abandoned mine shaft up the mountain.  Hunger struck soon after, and so we walked downtown to explore Main Street and its host of shops, restaurants, and bars for the remainder of the afternoon—so many sushi restaurants, so little time!  Ryan, in an attempt to get us in touch with the most local music talents in the area, decided to turn us onto the Park City DJ scene; he was able to arrange a meeting with Chris Shields, part of a local DJ set, Cosmos and Cameos, at his studio space in an Arts Collective building up the street from Ryan’s house.  We got to interview Chris and watch him work on new material with his computer and turntable.  It was unreal to witness a real DJ at work.  Never again will I look at electronic the same—that is some complicated stuff!  After standing in awe of Chris’ DJ skills (and goofing around in the recording studio with all of the fancy equipment) we made our way back to Ryan’s place for a BBQ with the Crew and Ryan’s neighbors.  The night ended with a visit to town to see some local bars (if you’re ever in Park City, make sure to go to No Name and O’Shuck’s) and subsequently learn about the strange liquor laws in Utah—no drink specials at bars?  Say what?

Our final morning in Park City was spent working on the rooftop porch (almost finished!) and interviewing Mountain Town Sound events manager, Brian Richards.  Brian coordinates free, outdoor concerts around Park City that feature a host of local musicians--check out the wonderfully diverse lineup they're providing this summer here!  The manager of Starbar, a music venue in town that hosts a wide array of local DJs from Park City, heard about the Locavaux Project and offered to show us the bar and have Chris perform a mini-set especially for the Locavaux Crew.  I won’t lie—it was awesome.  I don’t think I’ll ever be offered a private DJ party at a sick club at 4:30 pm in the afternoon on a Wednesday (with champagne!) ever again in my life.  Chris proved once again that he’s someone to watch out for in the future at music festivals across the country as he provided some sick beats to our audience of ten.  We then interviewed Koby, the manager, and learned about his role as promoter of local electronic talent in the town.


We walked back out into the afternoon light of Main Street, grabbed a quick bite of sushi (it was an opportunity we couldn’t’ afford to miss) and said our goodbyes to Ryan and company.  Thanks for a ridiculously good time, PC.  You were the most entertaining stop we could have asked for before the most unanticipated portion of the trip:  the vast nothingness that is the desert of Nevada.


Reunions are a great thing, wouldn’t you agree?  The Locavaux Crew had reunions left and right during our time in Colorado this past weekend.  Not a bad place to be reunited with friends, eh?  It all began when we arrived to fellow Colgate graduate and beloved friend, Haley Mirr’s, house outside of Denver:  “Guys, I’m gonna cry!  This is awesome!” she exclaimed while fiddling with the locked door that separated us.  Once reunited with Haley, it was only about thirty minutes until the next wave of long-awaited get-togethers with the arrival of Tim Connor, another fellow Colgate graduate and Boulder, Colorado native, and Pat Connolly, the Locavaux Crew’s newest and most anticipated member.  Welcome to the Crew, Pat!  Pat will be hanging out on the bus and helping us out as we continue to travel the country with Locavaux Project.  After much-needed catch-up time, showers, and a delicious dinner at View House (thank you, Mirr family, for treating us!) the Locavaux Crew plus entourage ventured over to Cervantes Other Side to catch West Water Outlaws perform.  West Water Outlaws, a local Boulder group of high-energy rock musicians, drew a huge, enthusiastic crowd.  Their classic rock and blues hybrid style had the whole audience moving and grooving—these seriously talented musicians knew how to make people have a seriously good time.  More reunions ensued as Katie’s cousin Mason, who works at Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Denver, came to give West Water Outlaws a listen and as Chase’s best friend from high school and Colorado University student, Ben (also coincidentally the guitarist in West Water Outlaw’s cousin) joined in on the fun.  We closed the evening with an alleyway interview with the four members of West Water Outlaws and headed home to Haley’s house to crash for the night. The next morning we took our time venturing up to Boulder to spend the day with Tim’s family at his house in Gunbarrel.  The Locavaux Crew enjoyed a delicious dinner and great conversation with the Connor family while taking in the incredible (and much anticipated) views of the mountains.  On Sunday, the boys took advantage of the sun to play a few holes of golf (Chase got a hole in one!) while Hallie and I updated the blog, edited photos, and planned the coming weeks of the roadtrip.  Tim was kind enough to lend us his car to venture into Boulder and explore Pearl Street Mall.  Unfortunately (and I swear it wasn’t my fault!) we got into a tad-bit of a fender bender in a Boulder parking garage.  As if my chances of driving the bus weren’t slim enough, I’m pretty sure there’s absolutely no chance now that Chase will let me touch the wheel of the bus.  Womp womp.  After some retail therapy to ease the pain of a half-hour wasted exchanging insurance information, Hallie and I met back up with the Locavaux Crew and made our way back in the bus to Boulder.  Time for more reunions!  Meegan Smith, fellow Colgate graduate and guide for the Locavaux Crew while in Ocean City, Maryland, joined up with the bus.  Meegan will be helping out with the Locavaux Project for the next week and a half, so get ready to see a lot more of our favorite sort-of ginger!

After a quick drive up Chautauqua Park to take in some scenic views of Boulder, we made our way back to Pearl Street Mall to interview a local Boulder DJ, Ehren Wright, a.k.a. So Down, and got to know a little bit more about the electronic scene in Boulder.  Ehren gave us insight on his experience as a DJ and producer in the area while also enlightening us on his own aspirations to fund a mobile-DJ stand through Kickstarter!  It was a crowd for dinner that night as the Locavaux Crew was joined by Haley, Ehren and friends, and also my longtime camp pal, Breda Anderson, at Rio Grande for Mexican food!  Quite the lively bunch.  We moved the party to the bus and had a relaxing evening chilling in the bus and on the rooftop porch.  There was even a massive sleepover on the bus!  The next morning, it was then time for the not-so-great part of reunions—the eventual goodbye.  And so, with a few more hugs and signatures in the Locavaux guest book, the Crew (now up to family-band size with five members!) set off towards Park City, Utah.  Despite leaving a few friends behind, the sight of the mountains ahead of us was all we needed to get excited to get back on the road and see what the West had in store for the Locavaux Project.