I’m a friendly person and so is my husband. We meet new people easily. And we often think about those we have met in far away places who we may never see or hear from again. But once contact has been made, we have a notch in the space they occupied, even for a moment.

On our recent road trip we met many such people. Often they introduced themselves to us upon seeing our North Carolina license plates. With hurricane Irene dominating the news, it was an easy conversation starter. But sometimes it was about wine, or hunting, shopping, elk spotting, or just an offer to take a picture for a group or solo traveler.

I’d like to share a few of the most interesting contacts.

We met Jeanette Himmelsbach and Jean Bean in the Heritage wine Cheese and Jelly Haus in Amana Colonies. They served a wine tasting to us as suited us, then upon discovering where we were from and our knowledge of muscadines, asked us to sample a few of their selections. We sipped and chatted and began to discover interesting things about each other. They recommended a few sites to visit in South Dakota and Wyoming. And who wouldn’t like a woman with the name ‘Jean Bean’?

Jess Clay introduced himself to us in the parking lot of Cabella’s in Billings, Montana upon noticing our license tag. He was straight cowboy and a friendly soul from the top of his hat to the large belt buckle to the tips of his boots. He referred to himself as a small rancher – only 1800 acres! Although he has traded in horse wrangling for four wheelers, he otherwise lives a quiet American lifestyle, adding that he doesn’t get into the city much. A fellow hunter, he and Tony got along spectacularly.

In Cooke City we met Scott from Cody, Wyoming by way of Pennsylvania. He shared his delicious smoked elk jerky while we gathered information about the camp and cabins available at Stillwater Outfitters Lodge and Guide Service. He was super friendly and considered us a ‘neighbor’ as we were all fellow Easterners.

In Yellowstone we met two couples from Oklahoma at our hotel. They were full of questions about our lifestyle and shared blogs with me. We met over the stuffed Grizzly bear in the dining room. I was measuring the length of his claws. They told us a few scary moments they had survived and recommended places inside of Yellowstone that they found interesting.

At the Corral Drive-In, home to the West’s best burger, we met a young lady from Bulgaria. I won’t try to spell her name, but she was adorable and came out to talk to me while our order cooked. It was late and she needed a break. She was an exchange student, mostly working for the summer for college money and a chance to practice speaking English. I learned about her family and her dreams for the future. It was so encouraging to know that there are other countries who still look to America as the beacon of hope.

At Hayden Valley we met Dan and Jan, farmers from Minnesota. We got a whole new insight on how they contract their crops and although they don’t receive the large amount per bushel we recently heard about on the news, they will suffer with higher lease payments due to that sudden increase in corn pricing. We could commiserate. The great conversation we had with them while we watched an elk herd was one of the things that delayed us from the south rim of the canyon and our potentially bad run-in with the rogue grizzly they had tracked to that area.

At Flagg Ranch we met the Ehnley’s – volunteers at the park who are our neighbors from South Carolina when they aren’t volunteering. A retired couple, they travel around spending summers in unique and beautiful settings. They gave us some great ideas and a map with all of the things we should not miss in the Tetons.

Along Lake Jackson we saw an elderly lady pulling over. It was a spectacular spot for snapping pictures and she volunteered to take ours. Then I took hers and we began to talk. Her name was Lana and she was from California. She knew all about the Tetons, having traveled with her husband. This time though, she was alone. She had suffered a stroke and still had a slight limp, causing her sister to be concerned about her traveling alone. But she said she wasn’t going to sit at home and wait to die. No one would come with her so she drove herself. I love her spunk and spirit and could imagine that I would be
saying similar things.

While we talked a young man pulled up. He was from the United Kingdom, but was working in Nevada. His name was Martin Pearce and after a few minutes of conversation we were able to discern that he worked for the same industry as Tony’s cousin. What a small world! We texted his cousin with a picture of the young man as a means of introduction. He was so pleasant – British accent and all – and told us how much he admired America. He was blown away by the sights and parks and beauty, the wide open plains and wildlife. I never considered that other countries didn’t have similar places, but hearing it from him made me even more appreciative for all that we do have.

There were others, too many to name, but these people made a lasting impression and I hope we did for them as well.

Jeanette Himmelbach and Jean Bean @ Heritage Wine Cheese Jelly Haus

Jeanette Himmelbach and Jean Bean @ Heritage Wine Cheese Jelly Haus

Jess Clay and Tony

Jess Clay and Tony

Martin Pearce from England

Martin Pearce from England

Tony with stuffed grizzly bear

Tony with stuffed grizzly bear

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