For my eighth birthday, my parents took me to the local Wal-Mart and told me that I could pick out one thing of choice that would serve as my big ticket birthday present for that year. Instead of reaching for Barbie’s swanky dreamhouse, or a Nintendo 64, I chose a cassette tape of The Doors' first album. I still have it to this day. I used to listen to it religiously, completely missing the sex and drugs undertones of the lyrics, but discovering that rock and roll was the rhythm that I wanted my heart to beat to.
The summer after I got that tape, my dad loaded up the camper, attached it to the family truck, and drove my mom and sister and I north from our Colorado home, into the flatlands of Wyoming. We drove past Fort Collins, and Laramie, until we reached the exit for Seminoe State Park, about a 4.5 hour drive from our home, where would spend the next few days sliding down the giant sand dunes, casting fishing lines into the reservoir, chasing antelope, and searching for arrowheads and fossils. I have a lot of memories from that trip, but none as clear as the day we came across a heard of bison crossing the road that led to our destination. We sat in the truck and waited until the entire herd clambered across the pavement before us. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I remember the look in my mother’s eyes when my dad got out to shoo them along. I remember the sound of the horn of the old truck as it blasted out false warnings to the bison. And I remember the song playing in the background. It was Break On Through (To The Other Side).
This morning, as I steered my 4Runner west on Interstate 80, headed towards the Flaming Gorge near Rock Springs, Wyoming, that same song came on the radio, and I was eight again. I felt every ray of sun touching my skin, the grainy bits of sand from the dunes stuck between my toes, and the touch of the summer breeze as it brushed against my face. A big gust of Seminoe wind jolted me back into the present and gave me the energy that I needed to complete the 5.5 hour drive to Rock Springs. Even though the lure of mountain biking, kayaking, and hiking drew me to area this time around, my memories of this place will always play to the timeless soundtrack of my childhood.