August 2017 – Our favorite places to travel are small towns tucked into rural areas across America, and during our RV trip through eastern Wyoming this summer we found some real charmers. These small rural towns were not only really scenic, but each one had a different flair.
In all our years of traveling full-time we have been enchanted by many small towns. From Joseph, Oregon, to Eastport, Maine, to McCall and Sun Valley, Idaho, to Sedona and Oak Creek Village, Arizona, to our all time favorite, Maysville, Kentucky, we have loved getting to know what life in small town America is like.
Whenever we look at the map to choose our RV travel itinerary to get from one place to another, we always opt to drive the back roads and stop in the many small towns along the way.
This year we chose a back roads route through eastern Wyoming that took us through several towns and villages (there’s a map in the reference section at the end of this post).
The first town, Chugwater, Wyoming, turned out to be a thriving metropolis that is home to all of 212 people! And its name is no accident. Recently, Chugwater was voted to have the best tasting water in all of Wyoming. So, in February 2018 the town will compete for that honor nationwide!
We were so busy tasting the various gourmet offerings at the Chugwater Chili tasting room, however, that we forgot to taste test the water in town. Next time!
Chugwater Chili is absolutely delicious, and we stocked up and have made several batches since we left. They also have a sweet chili pepper jelly that is divine with cream cheese and crackers, and a yummy chili pepper sour cream dip too. Oh my!!
Another fun stop in Chugwater was at the Chugwater Soda Fountain which has a true 1950s style soda fountain inside where we got an ice cream soda (Mark) and a root beer float (me)!
But what we love in villages like Chugwater is simply to walk the streets, because you just never know what you’ll find. When we rounded a bend, Mark suddenly said, “Look, it’s a serpent — or a dragon!” Sure enough, there was the undulating and scaly back of a serpent going through the grass!
By late afternoon we figured we’d seen all there was to see in Chugwater when we suddenly heard music coming from a tiny covered stage in the town park. We hurried over and soon became spectators numbers 24 and 25 sitting in the grass and listening to a wonderful musical performance by the duo Davis and Mavrick.
They were playing pop hits from the 1950s to the 1990s, and the whole audience (including us) sang along with gusto. They invited a few people to join them up on stage for each song to play percussion, and before we knew it, Davis was pointing at us and inviting us to come up. Oh no!!
Then a trio of boys who had been riding their bikes in and around the park got stopped in their tracks and invited up too. One of the kids was a real ham bone, and we all just loved his antics.
Lots of towns have an artistic theme of some kind, and they often decorate their public space with sculptures highlighting their mascot. In Sarasota, Florida, we found the Tube Dude, and in Custer, South Dakota, we got a kick out of the life-size buffalo sculptures.
Douglas, Wyoming, is into the Jackalope, an unusual animal that is part desert jack rabbit and part pronghorn antelope. Westerners love to tease easterners on their first visit out west by asking if they’ve seen a jackalope yet in their travels and describing what it looks like.
Jackalopes are fictitious, of course, but that doesn’t stop folks from trying to trip up their friends with a good natured jest.
Small towns also tend to have lots of celebrations, especially in the summer months, and we always enjoy these gatherings, especially if we accidentally stumble onto them without knowing anything about them ahead of time.
In July, we just happened to be in Douglas on the day of the Knight Kruiser’s Car Show where we saw a wonderful display of antique cars from old Model A’s to woodies to muscle cars and more.
While we admired the classic cars filling the town streets, I glanced at the store fronts and the names of the shops behind them. Not far from the old fashioned movie theater there was a small sewing shop called The Prairie Stitcher. The big mall stores Joann and Michaels have their place elsewhere, but you don’t find them here on the main drag in Douglas, Wyoming!
Another town with a fun theme is Newcastle, Wyoming, where we found every street corner was adorned with an American flag made from an old wooden pallet. The designs were very creative and a lot of fun.
Rather than having conventional parking meters on the public parking spaces, Newcastle has little horse heads with loops. If you ride your horse to town, it’s easy to find a good place to tie him up!
I’ve written before that one of the best ways to get to know a town is to get a haircut at a local barber shop or hair salon because you are guaranteed a lively 20 to 30 minutes of conversation with the stylist. We often find that we learn a lot of little things about the area that we might not otherwise discover.
During our cruise in Mexico I gained some really heartwarming insight into Mexican culture while getting a haircut, and our visit to Newcastle, Wyoming, offered the same opportunity.
Besides a wonderful conversation with the barber, who had moved back to his hometown after some years away, Mark got a true straight blade shave as well. How many places offer that?
Sundance, Wyoming, also has a creative western mascot theme — the cowboy boot! We saw just two in town, but what a neat idea.
We were in Sundance during the famous nearby Sturgis Motorcycle Rally week, and the crowds of motorcycles in town were thick. There’s a Harley-Davidson dealer in Sundance, so lots of the bikers were stopping by to get repairs or souvenir gear.
One rider in particular had just gotten himself a pair of very cool motorcycle goggles.
Talking with the locals and getting to know them a bit is our favorite aspect of traveling, and finding common bonds is often very easy. Sometimes we find that our cameras help break the ice.
Shortly after our very enjoyable stay in Custer, South Dakota, Buffalo, Wyoming, stole our hearts. Buffalo is extraordinarily warm and hospitable, and we soon learned that there is something special going on there almost every weekend all summer long.
We’ll be sharing a few tales from Buffalo, Wyoming, soon, but we wanted to urge RVers to check out these special eastern Wyoming towns as you make your way to or from the Black Hills or the Big Horn Mountains, especially if you’re headed to the area to view the upcoming eclipse!
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More info about these small towns in eastern Wyoming:
- Chugwater, Wyoming – Official Website
- Davis and Mavrick – Info about this musical duo
- Chugwater Chili – Fantastic chili and dips
- Douglas, Wyoming – Official Website
- Newcastle, Wyoming – Official Website
- Sundance, Wyoming – Official Website
- Buffalo, Wyoming – Official Website
- Locations of Chugwater, Douglas, Newcastle, Sundance and Buffalo, Wyoming, and Custer, South Dakota – Google Maps
Other blog posts from our RV travels in Wyoming:
- Lakes and Light in Wyoming and Colorado
- Finding Enchantment…in Encampment, Wyoming!
- Brooks Lake, Split Rock, Adventure Travelers + Wyoming Highlights!
- Grand Teton National Park – An American Treasure!
- Summer Fun in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains
- Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana!
- Chief Joseph Scenic Byway – Mountain Majesty Near Yellowstone NP
- Wildflowers in Wyoming – Spring Showers Bring Spectacular July Flowers!!
- Beartooth Highway Scenic Drive – Dazzling All American Road – WOW!!
- 4th of July in Cody, Wyoming – The Cody Stampede Parade!
- RVing Wyoming – Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls
- Wyoming Back Roads by RV – Rugged, Remote and Wild!
- Buffalo Wyoming – RVing Basque Style in the Bighorns!
- Buffalo Wyoming – Cowboys, Cowgirls and Sheriff Walt Longmire!
- Grand Teton National Park Wyoming – Rare Sightings!
- Grand Teton National Park – 101 Ways to Enjoy The Tetons!
- Grand Teton National Park WY – Mirrored Waters
- Grand Teton National Park WY – Wild Skies
- Flaming Gorge, WY – Absolutely spectacular, colorful views and friendly big-game animals
- Pinedale, WY – A beautiful modern-day Boomtown
- Jackson, WY – The Wild West Tamed & Gentrified
- Afton, Wyoming – Cowgirl Town!
- Devil’s Tower, WY – Remember “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” ??
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – Stunning!
- Yellowstone National Park, WY – Bubbling Geysers
- Yellowstone National Park, WY – Big Game Animals
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Awesome! Small towns are so much fun!
Thanks, Sherri 🙂
We spent a summer month in Buffalo. The access to the Big Horn mountains gets you into some great hiking.
It’s a beautiful area with lots to do!!
Jackalopes are real. Aren’t they? 😉
But of course, Bob. They hang out with unicorns!!!
Wow, you guys really know how to bring out some of the best sights and scenery in rural America! Great job!
Thanks to Mark for getting the haircut, I’d been meaning to say something!
Very funny, Pete. He’d skipped getting a haircut the last few times I went, so it was very cool to find an old fashioned barber shop where he could get a proper cut and a shave…!!
My husband just remarked “It’s a small world…we are going to run into them (Mark and Emily)! We are pulling a travel trailer and are presently parked in…Buffalo, WY! We enjoyed the eclipse not too far from Hells Half Acre on Hwy 20/26. Now debating between Yellowstone and Glacier. Your thoughts, recommended RV parks or other? We have a basic rig…no generator and no solar, yet….
How neat that you have landed in Buffalo. It’s such a great town. If you stop in at Blue Gables Motel for a coffee, say “hi” to the owner, Jim, for us!
Both Glacier and Yellowstone are beautiful National Parks. If you go to Glacier, be sure to get to the east side of the park (our Glacier blog posts are here) and if you have time and passports, be sure to go to Waterton Lakes (posts here). If you go to Yellowstone, be sure to get to the Grand Teton NP, it’s stunning (our Yellowstone/Glacier posts are here)! Whichever way you go, have a blast!!
Thank you for the suggestions 🙂