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The drive through the rest of Nebraska was swell – When I crossed into Wyoming, however, the highway narrowed to 2 lanes and the speed limit increased to 75 mph. The traffic around me (including the big rigs) was going at least 80. The terrain is absolutely gorgeous, though I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it all as I was busy digesting the heart that I inadvertently swallowed. The winds were terrific and nearly swept me off my feet when I got out at a pull-off to check everything and take a breather. My truck, with Taco in tow, struggles to do 40 on inclines – good thing she’s cute.

I arrived in Laramie late in the day. I gained an hour with the changing time zone, but I was exhausted and hit the hay soon after I pulled into yet another Walmart parking lot.



Laramie is internationally known for the murder of gay student, Matthew Shepard, back in 1998. I usually get a handful of messages from members of the LGBT community as I pass through each location. I didn’t get a single one in Laramie.

I awoke before dawn hoping to get an early start on the next leg of my journey. There was a severe weather alert for later that afternoon – winds at 55 mph and flooding of the Laramie River.

I went to start my truck and got chugging instead of revving – Good grief. I called AAA again. Within 30 minutes, I got a tow to a garage. Again, my rescuer was super nice and friendly, even though I roused him out of bed. I always expect people to admonish me for my tiny truck with livelihood in tow. Instead, most people are respectful and even show some admiration. My rescuer related that he lived in his truck 2 years before moving in with his new lady friend. Everyone has a story.

I waited for the prognosis. Bad news… Rich Avery, the manager at Laramie GM Auto Center, called and regretfully informed me that another part had to be ordered for my truck. A part that would take 2 days to arrive! What in the world was I going to do?! I was stuck at the Walmart parking lot for two more days!

Rich asked if there was anything he could do to make life easier for me, sounding more dismayed than I was at that point! They have a shuttle that runs all over from the shop. Rich’s wife, Cindy, drives the shuttle a few days a week in addition to running her business, Piper Green Valley Ranch (100 head of cattle). I asked if they wouldn’t mind charging my power inverter. I was using power faster than my solar panel could provide. Without my car battery as backup (I charge as I drive) my phone battery was dying and that was causing me to panic a little.

Cindy pulled up in the shuttle, took one look at me and said, “I’ll be back with my truck in a few hours. I’ll hitch you up and you’ll stay at my place. Tomorrow, we play.”

I had dinner with the family that night. Daughters, Kendahl and Christa, are home for the summer. After dinner, I retired to my camper.

The next day was AMAZING! I accompanied Cindy to the vet with the 3 dogs. Two of them needed minor surgery. We came back to the house and did a few chores.




Then the real fun began! Cindy and Kendahl saddled up two horses – Rebel and Mickey. We loaded an off-road, 4 wheeler with tools and fencing equipment, and I drove behind those two on horseback, into the pastures. Cindy restretched wire fencing in places and worked on a gate while Kendahl and I stapled and secured the wire to the posts. When we were done with the fence, it was my turn to ride Mickey and try my hand at cattle herding. It was fantastic!







That night, we had some delicious sirloin steaks from one of the herd, “Ribeye”.

The next morning, Cindy was getting calls that some of the cows escaped. We scouted the area and found them where they were supposed to be – false alarm! While we were out, Cindy noticed an electric fence that needed fixing, or the cows soon would be roaming. Fence repair became our first task of the day.



Next task was to straighten out some of the irrigation lines that Cindy had installed across the land, fix some parts, and make sure that the watering holes were filling properly for the cattle.


After that was fixed, Cindy gave me a lesson in how to break a horse. “Freedom”, a new mare, needed breaking in so she may eventually be saddled and ridden.



You have to be the boss while simultaneously earning their trust. Cindy handed boss duties over to me while she started cleaning the corral. I think I need a little more breaking in!



Then I got to ride “Handsome”. He’s already been broken.


Then, my turn to clean the corral.



By this time, my truck was just about ready. I think we were all hoping they would find something else wrong with it! They had me stay for dinner again and I would set out early the next morning.

Things I got from this experience:

– a terrible tan/wind burn line across my forehead where my bandana was.

– debunking of the myth of “cow tipping”. Can’t happen. Anyone who says they’ve done it is a big old liar.

– the desire to come back for a visit every year for a little “Ranch Therapy”, visit my new friends, and start my career in the rodeo 😉

Rich, Cindy and the girls were the best adoptive family a Walmart orphan could hope for and I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and generosity, for the adventure, and for the opportunity to further restore my faith in humanity.

You guys are the best!


Thank you, thank you, thank you!

On the morn of my departure, Cindy knocked on my camper door with breakfast, food for the road, suckers for the road, and her pocket knife. I nearly cried.

Salt Lake City, Utah next? Unless I can high-tail it to Boise, Idaho.



  1. Awesome story Marla!!!!

  2. I love when I see your posts pop up on facebook! You may (or may not) remember me from hanging out with you all in the “old neighborhood” and when I ever started following your diary- I have been hooked. Love what you are doing and certainly even learning a lot from you and your adventure! And I have a feeling Alice may have taught you a thing or two about horses ; ) Until the next post……. I eagerly await! – Melissa Ryan- Easton MA

  3. So Enjoying reading all of this!!! Cool you got a little exercise in in Omaha!(yes, 10 miles bike ride is a long way for a water!). Sorry everywhere was closed! Laramie sounds like it was a great experience!! Continued good vibes your way! :-)-B

  4. Best post yet. Thinking of you. Enjoy and be safe!!!!!

  5. I am teary-eyed about your experience. How wonderful!!–Melissa

  6. To my little MUSTANG MOOKIE, I love you, and cannot tell you how proud I am of you. Every day brings new experiences that that we can learn from. You are certainly learning alot!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • toli(leah's friend from college)
    • Posted June 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    I am enjoying your blog! That is great that you got a real Wyoming experience. Cindy and her family sounds so wonderful. Glad you are safe and having fun!

    By the way, in Montana people go crazy fast and you must pull over if there are more than four cars behind you to let them pass.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

    ps. I love how you rehabbed your camper. The craftmanship is awesome!

  7. Hi Maria. So glad you have met such wonderful people like Rich & Cindy on your travels. I envy your adventures, the pictures are fantastic. Be safe. Marge in Iowa

  8. Sorry, phone typed name wrong.

  9. looking forward to more of your story. hope everything is going well. love you uncle joel

  10. Hi Marla
    How s it going?? Miss your blog .. Everything ok???
    Be safe !!
    Love Aunty E

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