Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 9
Sunday 14 September –Rest Day in Cody
You’re probably wondering how many rest days there are going to be on this so-called cycle tour! Well this is the penultimate one, and probably necessary for two reasons – firstly, Cody is an important town, having massive associations with the renowned Buffalo Bill Cody and there’s a lot to see here; secondly, tomorrow will be the hardest day’s ride on the whole tour and getting a rest won’t do any harm.
As I looked out of the window I realised that what I had previously thought was an odd-looking structure on top of the adjoining roof was actually an advert for a gun shop. Nothing is understated here.
At the breakfast buffet in the Irma Hotel I spotted whiskey sauce. Whiskey sauce? I decided to have some
sorry, that’s OATMEAL here in America – and thought the addition of a little
whiskey sauce would be an excellent idea.
They’re not kidding – it’s not just flavoured with whiskey, it tastes
almost neat! I may have overdone the
lashings a bit there!
Several of us decided to go on a bus tour of the town. The ticket also got us into the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West which, the lady was at pains to point out, was really five museums in one. But the tour didn’t start until 11.00 so there was lots of time to have a wander around the high street, look in a few shops – including an excellent outdoor shop where we talked to the owner about tomorrow’s ride to Cooke City and the lack of refreshments en route. The sides of the staircase and the upper floor balustrade were made of sheets of metal blanks for crampons and ice axe heads – very effective, and I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture. Perhaps I was too shocked by the sight of a real Snowmobile on the first floor!
Once again the weather was fine and sunny, so seeking to prevent sunstroke or at least mild sunburn to the top of my head (a protecting layer of thick hair now being a thing of the past) I looked for a baseball cap, found them to be overpriced and settled for a peaked cap strongly reminiscent of what the late ‘Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf used to wear in the first Gulf War. Camouflage and all.
The bus – trolley-bus – tour was much better than expected, mainly down to the personality and enthusiasm of our tour guide, Jessika, ably assisted by Chuck, the laid-back, laconic, moustachioed, bespectacled and cowboy-hatted driver. Jessika was SO enthusiastic! She just LOVES Wyoming in general and Cody in particular. We drove around all the sights (and sites) in town, past the golf course (Chuck: “D’ya know why golfers always carry a spare pair of socks? In case they get a hole in one!”) We were regaled with the story of how the town was founded, tales of Buffalo Bill and especially the strange circumstances of his burial. We even drove out to the reservoir where we’d been yesterday afternoon – turned around in the Visitor Centre car park and headed straight back into town again.
Also around town Chuck pointed out the County Hall with its clock, saying “D’y’all remember ‘Back To The Future? – the clock tower in the town square? Yup? Well... this ain’t it, but it looks a bit like it.” You had to be there, it was funnier than you might think.
Not a DeLorean in sight...
The exuberant Jessika and her bus
We were dropped off at the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West, and spent much of the afternoon there. It really is exceptional, especially the Natural History section, which seems to go on forever but is so compulsive – you have to keep going to see what’s in the bit around the next corner! Having said that, there were a couple of clangers in there - mis-labelling of geological faults and Elk, but I couldn't be bothered to inform the authorities that they'd got stuff wrong! The Plains Indian section was also fascinating, whilst the museum dedicated to Buffalo Bill gave a really comprehensive overview of his life. It’s amazing to see how many towns and cities he visited in Britain with his Wild West Show (and Annie Oakley). I don’t think I’ve ever spent so long in a museum before (perhaps with the exception of the London Natural History Museum) and I didn’t bother with either the Art or the Firearms.
Welcoming hologram of Buffalo Bill - projected on dry ice
Bobcat (with Chipmunk in its mouth)
Tiled floor, photographed from the floor above
As you'll all know, this is a Normal Fault, not a Slip Fault. Tut, tut.
Plains Indian Section
For our evening meal we went to a nearby Italian Restaurant. The sound of English accents at the next table prompted me to introduce myself (I'm so shy, really!) and found that our neighbouring group was over for a family wedding in Las Vegas, and they were taking in some sightseeing whilst in the States. Naturally they thought we were all mad. Beforehand we'd visited the hotel's Wild West bar and on the way out were studying a motorised bicycle when the owner appeared - from the bar and a little worse for wear. He said he'd just had a couple of drinks but Tony said his bike hadn't moved since lunchtime. After a slurred attempt to answer questions about the bike and an even funnier crack at donning his crash helmet, he set off, only to reappear 30 seconds later travelling in the opposite direction!
Man with motorizhed bishycle
And finally, the mystery of the Buffalo Bill Burial Controversy? Take a deep breath – this is from the blog of Corrie N Cody (www.yellowstonecountry.org/)....
As the folks down in Denver know, there is a huge museum visitor area near Buffalo Bill’s alleged grave site on Lookout Mountain. I say “alleged” because there are some people who believe that the only person buried under 20 tons of concrete at the Denver site is a one-time Cody ranch-hand who looked a little like Buffalo Bill and whose name has been lost to history. Many people right here in Cody believe that the real Bill is actually buried on Cedar Mountain overlooking the town of Cody.
While visiting relatives in Denver in the spring of 1917, Buffalo Bill became ill and died. Soon after, his wife Louisa arrived to claim his body and settle his affairs. While in Denver, Louisa was approached by representatives from theDenver Post newspaper and the city of Denver who offered her $10,000 each to bury Cody in the area where they felt his grave would be a tourist attraction.
Although Bill Cody was at one time regarded as the best-known person in the world and his Wild West Show incredibly popular and profitable, he was also prone to bad investments and was incredibly generous. As a result, he and his wife were broke when he died, and Louisa understandably accepted this offer.
When Louisa returned to Wyoming and the town of Cody, its residents turned out to greet her with the expectation that she was bringing the town’s founder home to be buried. The townsfolk were shocked and more than a little upset when Louisa informed them that she had sold Cody’s body and that he was to be buried in Denver.
Among those who were unhappy were the town’s undertaker and two of Buffalo Bill’s old friends, Fred Richard and Ned Frost. These three hatched a plan to travel to Denver to switch bodies and bury Cody on Cedar Mountain where he had often said he wanted as his final resting place. When a local ranch hand died and his body went unclaimed, the three put their plan in motion. After trimming the unfortunate ranch hand’s beard in the Buffalo Bill style, the three loaded the body in the undertaker’s vehicle and drove for two and a half days to Denver.
At the mortuary Frost and Richard presented themselves as old friends of Cody and asked if they could view his body. After their request was granted, the three returned later that night, switched bodies and left for Wyoming. Back in Cody, they privately buried him on Cedar Mountain.
And here’s the really fun part. Once they had completed their job, they proceeded to make the rounds to all 13 of Cody’s saloons where they riled up the townsfolk and convinced them they should all go to Denver to bring Buffalo Bill back to be buried where he belonged. A caravan of 100 cars filled with Buffalo Bill’s friends left for Denver. In Denver, meanwhile, the locals heard about the plan to retrieve Cody’s body, and they hurriedly and unsuspectingly buried the ranch hand’s body on Lookout Mountain even though permission to do so at the site had not been granted. For good measure, 20 tons of concrete was poured on top of the casket.
The final resting place of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is a closely guarded secret. A few people know where it is and share the location with just a select few people they know and trust. They will say that it is on private property on Cedar Mountain, but as with any good legend, there are always a few details that must be left up to the imagination.
Like I said…it’s a good story. I believe it; do you?
Tomorrow we set off for Cooke City on the toughest day of the Tour. So it’s an early night, breakfast will be at 6.00 am!