When venturing into cowboy country, it’s helpful, I’ve learned, to bring your own an interpreter. Like, say, a quick-witted 60-something Central Oregon cowboy with a taste for good beef (and beer), an impatience for all things impractical, and a fondness for the phrase, “This will be funny someday.” When you’re covering nearly a thousand miles in about three days, that all comes in handy. Fortunately, my father is just such a character. Also, he drives a brand-new SUV, a more reliable vehicle than my six-year-old Hyundai Elantra, which—on our last road trip together—left us stranded halfway between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the side of I-80, with a blown engine. (Cue, “This will be funny someday.”) No such catastrophes befell us on this journey, but there was still plenty of good storytelling fodder.

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