How do you do your research on a town in the middle of nowhere?
Some time back, I wrote a post about a research trip I took for a novel I was writing to Thermopolis, Wyoming, in the Northern USA. I talked about how, wandering around the town on foot, I – to a certain extent – became the character from my novel, getting strange looks and even offers of food from the locals. But that wasn’t all the craziness of that particular trip.
What I didn’t mention in that post was the whole story of how I actually got to Thermopolis. I had picked the tiny town of Thermopolis, Wyoming as the real-life counterpart to my fictional town of Thebes. Halfway through the novel, I decided I really wanted to go there to get the feel of the place for myself. So, I had a trip to New York planned and decided to make a detour to Wyoming for a couple of days. Not quite as easy as it sounds though.
This is Thermopolis. Note the absence of … anything!
I did some checking on the internet and found out that the nearest airport was in the neighbouring town of Worland which had a small, regional airport. And Worland had a bus service that ran to Thermopolis. Perfect! Just one hitch. The airport was a few miles outside of Worland and there were no buses, no public transportation of any kind – not even a taxi.
And walking wasn’t really an option.
The only thing you could do was hire a car – but I didn’t drive. At this point, under any other circumstances, I probably would have jacked in the whole idea but I was determined to see Thermopolis for myself. So, I did the next natural thing…I called the Worland Chamber of Commerce. A lovely lady on the phone there told me that, yes, indeed; there were no buses or any other types of transportation from the airport. I asked her if there was some kind of a mini-bus in town that could be hired. She said the only mini-bus in town belonged to the Worland Senior Citizens Centre.
You see where this going now.
So, a few minutes later, I placed a call to the Worland Senior Citizens Centre. Another lovely lady answered the phone. I told her that I was writing a book on Wyoming and that I really needed to get to Thermopolis and that I didn’t drive and was there any way they could pick me up from the airport. The lovely lady on the other end of the line told me that – yes – if I gave a donation to the Worland Senior Citizens Centre, they could certainly pick me up from the airport. And drop me back!
And so it was that – a few weeks later – I found myself being picked up from Worland airport by a pleasant middle-aged woman driving the Worland Senior Citizens Centre mini-bus. We chatted amiably on the short drive into Worland (she seemed completely nonplussed at the notion of picking up this Irish stranger/author). And three days later, I was dropped back to the airport in the same fashion!
So, all in all, while I can’t say for certain, I do think my trip to Thermopolis (and Worland) may have been one of the most unorthodox research trips undertaken by an author!