After you get cabin fever, who doesn’t want to bust out and go for a ride somewhere? Anywhere? You’re eager to head off onto one of those back roads that leads–who knows where …
You might want to do that yourself. But if you live at Warm Valley Lodge, the assisted living facility in Dubois, you wait for Marcy Leseberg to invite you to come along – which she does every chance she gets, as Activities Aide. Besides the scheduled twice-weekly “scenic rides” on the calendar of events, Leseberg loves to offer to offer her friends at the Lodge a spur-of-the-moment drive into the back and beyond. It’s a much better option than just looking at the mountains through the windows.
As a born-and-bred resident of the Upper Wind River Valley, she knows exactly where to go. “East Fork is a rough road,” she said recently, musing about her next drive. “It’s beautiful, but I don’t know how the roads are, after all this rain. Maybe we’ll just go to the Crowheart Store and get an ice cream bar.”
“This started in April 2020, when I was in housekeeping,” Leseberg says. “We were locked down. We needed something to do, so I just got in the car and started driving. We couldn’t stop or go in anywhere. We just drove around.”
Born in Crowheart, Leseberg knows the back roads and has the personal history for a narrative to match the itinerary, after a childhood of Saturday night visits to neighbors when her Dad would fiddle or play the guitar. During the recent pandemic, always with a few residents in tow, “we went to Morton Lake, Ocean Lake, we toured the big town of Pavilion,” she says. “We drove by the farm I was raised on. I took them past the church where my sister and I got locked in the outhouse during a church meeting. Stuff like that you don’t forget, and the residents love those kinds of stories.”
On a memorable 8-hour drive during the worst of those long months, she drove one resident and her oxygen equipment to Fort Washakie, Arapahoe, and all the way to Red Canyon beyond Lander. “We ate Kentucky Fried Chicken in the car, because we weren’t allowed to go out anywhere,” she recalls.
Leseberg hasn’t hosted a 4-hour or 7-hour excursion since COVID has waned, because now her passengers can do things like travel up to Union Pass and eat at the Crooked Creek Restaurant or go dancing to Packin’ the Mail during Music at the Museum in town. At last, they can get out of the vehicle and interact with people.
Watching the Native American Eagle Spirit Dancers, one resident said, she loved the music, the dancing, and the performers themselves. “I’m from Oklahoma, and I’ve been to a lot of dances with the Five Tribes,” she recalls, “and I’m just fascinated with Native Americans, so I just walked up and talked to them.”
“After 3 years of doing this, it’s great to see people get out and socialize,” says Leseberg. “Everyone in the town knows their names. It makes them feel like they belong.”
Horizons are even wider now, after a region-wide appeal generated funds to buy “Miss Daisy” – the new van. It can transport up to 8 residents, along with their necessary equipment. The old Rav4 could only accommodate 3 passengers and a driver. Leaving the Rav4 free for local errands and doctor visits, the van allows the road-trip crew a much longer range. On the list is the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson, the Wild Horse Refuge near Fort Washakie, and picnics in the mountains next summer.
Leseberg says the van’s increased capacity encourages more lively conversations during the trips. One of the regular passengers brought up different advantages.
“The van is higher. You can see more animals, more countryside. And I love waving at people I know, when we drive by.”