While the hot springs were fabulous, as was the Dinosaur Museum (which will get a post of its own), finding real food, and a decent drink, posed a challenge and was the big downside to my Fabulous Birthday Adventure.
The Safari Club at the Day’s Inn is pretty much the only place in town, and while the display of taxidermy is, depending on your view of such things, stupendous and/or horrifying, the food and drink possibilities are problematic. We started out at the Safari Club for a drink before trying to figure out where to go for dinner, and it didn’t seem a good sign when the bartender insisted in trying to sell me girly drinks made with “cake-flavored” vodka.
What?! Really? Ick!
I had a beer, as did Himself, and we looked at the bar menu, which was straight off the Sysco truck. Fried things. Burgers. Wings. There is a restaurant at the Day’s Inn, where they were serving more pre-prepped food including a Saturday night special involving a steak and some breaded shrimp. There was a Prime Rib special. There was a salmon. And all of it screamed pre-prepped and shipped frozen. It reminded me of my childhood in the Midwest, when the local hotel often had the only “going out” food in town.
After our beers we walked into town in search of a local restaurant, someplace were actual people were cooking actual food from ingredients, not heating up prepared stuff off a truck. There was an empty Mexican restaurant with a terrifying sidewalk display of inflatable Christmas decorations. And there was another restaurant that looked promising from the outside that claimed it had steaks and such. When we walked in, the place was decorated with angels and those little decorative signs bearing exhortations of faith. The music was … well … “inspirational.” By the time I came back from using the ladies room, Himself was looking crestfallen, and so it was up to me to ask the nice older lady waiting on us to confirm that no, she was sorry, they didn’t have a liquor license.
And so, it was back to the Day’s Inn, where we had another drink, and settled on the burgers. The people at the bar were exceedingly nice, but the food, the food it was not so good. Burgers one was glad were overcooked because who knows how many cows had gone into their pre-packaged contents, and those weird battered fries that Sysco sells. But there was a glass of wine, and a nice sulfury hot tub awaiting us, so despite our disappointment that there wasn’t anyplace in that small town where you could get a meal cooked by actual people and a drink, we made do. (Next time, taking a cooler with us…).
But the real kicker was breakfast. Now, Himself hasn’t had to travel for work so he was unfamiliar with the standard free breakfast that most hotels now offer. Ours didn’t have a real kitchen, so we were greeted in the morning by a chafing dish filled with pre-scrambled eggs that had been heated up in the microwave (yum, rubbery), soggy sausage patties (also microwaved) and the make-your-own-waffle whose batter seems to be comprised entirely of sugar. There was also a case filled with sugary muffins, poofy-yet-stale bagels, and a dispiriting array of individually-wrapped slices of white bread. There was some fruit — apples and oranges, and some yogurt (the sweet kind). Cereal, again, sugary … and there was coffee. Not great coffee, but at least freshly-brewed coffee. It all looked like food, and yet, none of it really was, well, food.
Now, I was not as shocked or dismayed by all of this as Himself was, but then again, not only did I live in “normal” suburban California for quite a while, but I’ve also travelled for work. Himself, he was appalled. He kept asking why you couldn’t get a decent burger in Wyoming, of all places — after all, we’d passed plenty of steers on our way down there. They grow a lot of potatoes in Wyoming and Montana too — as for the breakfast, he coudn’t understand why even if they didn’t have a real kitchen, they didn’t just have someone making real eggs? You can do that in an electric skillet. What really upset him was that no one else was upset, that everyone seemed to think the food situation was perfectly fine. That people were happily eating what Michael Pollan has so aptly named “food-like” products.
And so, the downside of Thermopolis — food, or the lack therof. Next trip, we’re taking a cooler with some real food — perhaps a couple of hard boiled eggs, some sandwich supplies, or my mother’s old standby for picnics — a nice cold roasted chicken. Some fruit. Decent bread. And our own stash of coffee to put in the in-room coffeemaker. Also, a second cooler with some beer for him and a decent bottle of wine for me. We’ll travel like my great-grandparents did, with our own supplies (although I don’t think I’ll need to pack all my own sheets and bedding like they did on their cross-country auto trip in the early 1920s).