Are We There Yet?
By Lynn Harlan
We were on the 33 Mile Stockdrive in June with a band of sheep when a flatbed semi truck loaded with sacked bentonite showed up. This is on top of the southern Big Horn Mountains on the north side of the Middle Fork of the Powder River.
I stopped to visit with the driver. He was from Utah and was headed to Greybull. His boss told him to take the shortest route.
His Global Positioning System (GPS) told him to turn off Highway 20-26 at Waltman, continue to Arminto, hook up with the Big Horn Mountain Road that would turn into the 33 Mile Stockdrive, then morph into Hazelton Road and meet up with Highway 16, which runs from Buffalo to Ten Sleep. From Ten Sleep he could head north to Hyattville and onto Manderson, turn right and drive to Greybull.
Perhaps the shortest way, but not the quickest way!
I was amazed he hadn’t taken his rig down into the river. A trip of seven miles from rim to rim, complete with Volkswagen-sized boulders and a track up through timber on the north side.
It showered the afternoon before, and he had to sleep in his truck and let the road dry.
Definitely not the quickest trip for this driver.
GPS was invented by the United States Department of Defense in 1973 and was originally limited to use by the military. There are 30 or more navigation satellites circling the earth. A GPS receiver in a phone listens for the signals, and once the receiver calculates its distance from four or more satellites, it can figure out the location of the phone.
Civilian use of GPS was allowed in the 1980s, following an executive order by President Ronald Reagan. The U.S. Government maintains the system and makes it freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.
GPS receivers released in 2018 have a high accuracy and are able to pinpoint to about 12 inches. A highly useful tool in many applications, but maybe not so much in the mountains of Wyoming.
Years ago, when we were hosting a dog trial up near the Bar C corrals, again on top of the southern Big Horn Mountains, a distraught gal from Laramie stopped for directions. She was a wedding planner and had a meeting with a couple at Meadowlark Lake on Highway 16.
Her GPS skirted her west of Casper to the 33 Mile Stockdrive turnoff west of the airport. Bob looked over her tires, gave her some gas, told her to head north and not to turn until she hit the pavement at Highway 16.
We’ve had a car full of Japanese tourists on the mountain lost, looking for Mount Rushmore. The Slip Road, west of Kaycee at Mayoworth, has had its fair share of semis get up the gravel road and have to back down. One would think when the pavement turned to gravel, the driver might be concerned, but they’re willing to trust their little device and GPS.
GPS is brilliant. I’ve used it to traverse large cities and find obscure addresses. It’s lifesaving when we’re pulling a big rig through a big town.
But, maybe it needs to come with a disclaimer – perhaps, “Are you sure you wish to take this road? Many hazards ahead.”
Last week in upper Barnum, a life-long bachelor rancher opened his door to a young lady asking for help. He choked and shut the door. She walked back to her car where her companion waited. They were from Texas and headed to Spokane, Wash.
Their GPS had sent them up the Barnum road for a gas station. They had a flat tire, so they then dialed 911.
Our local sheriff arrived on the scene. This perturbed the young lady, and she asked why the sheriff was there.
“Because you dialed 911,” he answered.
Having no jack to change the tire on their BMW, the sheriff called the local tire guy to come up. While they were waiting, the young lady persisted in engaging the sheriff in current events.
Finally, the sheriff answered, “Lady, I don’t watch the network news, and here in Wyoming when you say ‘BLM’ I assume you’re talking about the Bureau of Land Management!”