As a former truck driver recruiter, I’ve heard a lot from eastern greenhorns who make their first long hauls all the way through the Wild West. Nearly every rookie fresh from passing their CDL test has a kind of culture shock after their first western run. Of course, every trucker has their own stories to tell and their own hidden treasures along the landscape. Here are a few of my discoveries that I like to call some hidden gems of the West.
1. Little America, Wyoming
When starting a business, very few would consider locating in the middle of nowhere. However, one of those very few, the late great Robert Earl Holding, made a fortune out of this desert haven. Approaching it on a road surrounded by practically nothing, you’ll find peculiar billboards again and again, all in promoting “Little America.”
Finally arriving, you’ll a fairly quaint and historic little slice of well-preserved America a la the 1950s. Besides luxurious lodging and some nostalgic dives, the location features loads of attractions for families with a spirit for exploration. Visitors can find a convenient travel center for RV lodging with a pool for relaxation. It hosts nearby routes for skiing and biking, depending on the season. They also offer whitewater rafting, prehistoric bone exploration, and all other sorts of activities. If you find yourself roaming Interstate 80 through Wyoming, you can’t miss it.
2. Calico, California
Although not much of a ghost town since its renovation in the 50s, Calico is a fascinating landmark that truly captures a moment of history. A silver mining town established more than 130 years ago, Calico was restored to preserve exactly how the buildings looked in their original state, including the numerous homes, stores, brothels, and restaurants. Given that this ghost town was once the center of California’s silver rush, it covers a huge expanse of land for those who can enjoy the Wild West as it was.
Besides sightseeing, the location draws tourists from afar with attractions such as mine tours, museums, gunfight shows, ore panning, and novelty shops. Calico can be easily recognized for the calico-hued peaks that earned the town its name. But more significantly, enormous lettering emblazons the mountainside so that anyone driving on the nearby freeway can catch it from a distance.
3. Pendleton, Oregon
Once a year in the middle of September, the small town of Pendleton, Oregon doubles – or even triples – in size with the annual Pendleton Round-Up, an authentic rodeo celebration that’s been continued for more than a century. The town becomes one of the world’s biggest rodeo attractions during this season. The town’s motto can be seen adorning everything from t-shirts to bumper stickers and signage everywhere: “Let ‘er Buck!”
The festival features authentic frontier activities for the whole family, with traditional rodeo activities and frontier showmanship. Bull riding, cattle driving and theatric amusements are an hourly occurrence once the Round-Up is in full swing. American Indians of the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla tribes attend and erect hundreds of teepees among the grounds. They perform their ancestral dances in ceremonial garb yearly, and host several pageants and beauty contests. Few events feature American Indian and cowboy traditions so closely together with such authenticity, making the Pendleton Round-Up a sight to behold.
What “hidden gems” have you found in your trips through the Wild West?
This is a contribution by Mike Curts, marketing director of Driver Solutions and co-founder of eGears.