Today’s “Fix” for My Temptation

Studies show we just feel better out in wilderness. Lucky Dubois!

pinnaclesDriving up-mountain this morning, my husband mentioned an article he had just seen in the Wall Street Journal. Nothing about executive orders this time–unless (and I’m dreaming now) it’s an order from executives to their direct reports to get outdoors and take a walk at lunch hour.

After “good morning,” the first thing I had said today was “Can we go snowshoeing?”

I’d just looked out the window as I walked toward the kitchen. Especially on a day like this one, I simply have to get outdoors. It’s like an addiction. I’m beginning to figure it out.

I read the Wall Street Journal article after we returned home. People feel better and do better the more they spend time outdoors, it said, and ideally, outdoors somewhere in the countryside.

“Many experts agree that there seems to be a dose curve for the benefits of nature,” it read, under the headline ‘To Fight the Winter Blues, Try a Dose of Nature‘. “In general, the more time you spend in nature, the better you will do on measures of vitality, wellness and restoration.”

Pulling up at the trailhead, we found to my delight that the trail had been freshly groomed. A smooth new highway in the snow wound through the unoccupied campground, and we would be the first to travel it.

groomedtrailfallsWe ambled through a silent forest. The view ahead was a palette of four colors. The trees that waved above us were, of course, forest green. Beyond them, the sky was an uninterrupted swath of deep periwinkle–except for a contrail high above, which the wind had spun into a ribbon of lace. Each step drew us into the shadows of deep purple and the snow, which was of course pure white.

I had brought along hand-warmers and toe-warmers, but they stayed in my pocket. Eventually I shed my hat and my gloves, even though a stiff wind would blow up now and again to chase the loose snow around. It never fails to amaze me that I get warm while snowshoeing, even on the coldest days.

After a while, we heard voices and a motor. It was the volunteers from DART (Dubois Association for Recreation and Trails), returning from their grooming run. I stopped and kissed them both on the cheek, to thank them for coming out early to do this work. Of course, they’re getting their outdoor fix as well.

gymBack when I worked in an office in Manhattan, it was my habit to spend lunch hour at the gym whenever I could. I’m a firm believer in the many benefits of regular exercise (and it helped that I kept reading about them in my job as a medical editor).

The benefits of just being outdoors took longer to dawn on me. After I while, I began taking long random walks at lunch hour instead. I thought I was just enjoying the bustle of the city and the diversity of its people. But it always seemed I would head for a pocket park or for a wide view across one of the rivers.

Being outside in the city is better for your well-being than staying indoors, said the article, but country or the wilderness is best. Many city people may avoid going outdoors, it added, “because a chronic disconnection from nature causes them to underestimate its hedonic benefits—that is, how much it will contribute to their happiness.”

When I telecommuted from Dubois, I used to work from 7:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon, during the office hours of my coworkers back East. This gave me the delightful prospect of a hike in the woods each day after work. I’m afraid I used to gloat about it.

I’ve heard friends say that they just feel happier here in Dubois, although they’re not sure why. For myself, I know that I’m happier when I’m able to hike outdoors every day, even — and maybe especially — in the dead of winter.

snow2The benefits of exercise and exposure to nature aren’t the whole story. Numerous studies have shown that sunshine itself acts as an antidepressant. The duration and intensity of sunlight have a direct effect on the rate of production of serotonin, the chemical messenger in the brain that causes depression if it’s in short supply.

Is it any wonder I get blue around Christmas time, when there’s so little sunshine? Or that I’m so happy here in the summer, when the days are so long, the skies so clear, and the sun so bright?

“Regional and national parks, wild coasts and wilderness areas are the places where we can best reflect and recover from the stress of work and the news,” the article concluded. (Perhaps our distance from the East Coast is not only the factor that shields us from the post-election stress of 2017.)

It ended with a quote from the great nature writer John Muir: “Come to the woods, for here is rest.”

© Lois Wingerson, 2017
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Remote Shopping: Spending (and Saving) in Dubois

How do we get what we need or can’t resist? Count the ways …

We had to deliver some boxes of documents to a friend in Oklahoma, which gave me the chance to revisit a guilty pleasure: Wasting time in big box stores.

Back when I worked in Manhattan, I used to spend my lunch hours on stressful days wandering the aisles of Bed, Bath, and Beyond and being tempted by things I didn’t need. “Get back to work,” I’d whisper to myself after about an hour.

Can’t do that any more. But the trip to Tulsa did give me a chance to roam the aisles of Target and Lowes, and to find exactly the right iron-black knobs and handles  to replace the  shiny faux brass vanity hardware that looked so out of place in a bathroom in our log house.

Now, what to do with the old ones? I could just donate them to the Op Shop, but it did cross my mind to put them up for sale on that wonderful new marketplace, the Dubois, WY Classifieds group on Facebook.

duboisareaclassifieds

It’s fun to wander these virtual “aisles,” just to see what’s on offer, from trailer hitches to horses and hiking boots to curling irons. The site is also a sort of community central where people can post ISO (in search of) items, seeking babysitters, strong guys to do repair jobs, and even lost cats and dogs.

Not long ago, some children in Crowheart were reunited with their lost puppy when some friend of a member saw a post from travelers en route to Jackson who had picked up a young dog trotting along Highway 26. They were happy to wait in Jackson if someone would drive over and retrieve it. The last I saw, local people heading that way (for shopping?) were offering to help.

roundupThe time-honored place to announce items for sale, along with tag sales and events such as wine tastings and art shows, is the Roundup (aka the “poop sheet”), put out weekly by the VFW and delivered to shops around town. We always pick up the Roundup on Wednesday or Thursday, and scan it eagerly.

The serendipity is just as enjoyable as my previous forays into Ikea, but generally much less costly. It’s far easier to put the Roundup down on the kitchen counter than to return all that stuff you have already put into your shopping cart. But our garage also contains evidence that sometimes we have succumbed.

Of course, I could easily have found my new drawer pulls and knobs on the Internet. If you really need it soon, and you can’t get it from one of the hardware stores here or from Family Dollar, you can order it online and UPS or Fedex will drop it at your door. There’s one important difference from Internet shopping in Brooklyn: I haven’t heard that anybody here follows the truck around and nicks the box before you can get to the door to retrieve it.

And if you don’t really need it soon, maybe you don’t need it anyway. This is yet another reason we save money by living in Dubois.

There are plenty of large retail outlets about an hour away, in Riverton, Lander, or Jackson. People going “down county” or over the pass often ask whether neighbors need something from over there. I’ve also heard that Walmart in Riverton will make announcements on the PA system asking if anyone in the store at that moment could take something back to Dubois for someone who’s buying on the phone.

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On the other hand, new temptations are always turning up right here. Sandy and some of her friends have opened a charming pop-up holiday shop downtown, and the storefronts on the site of the burned-out Mercantile look like they’ll be finished, at least on the outside, by the anniversary of the Great New Year’s Fire of 2014. We don’t know who’s planning to set up shop, but the empty windows are already appealing.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016
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Dubois on Camera: Small Town, Small World

How our ISP serves the community anywhere anytime.

calebetcThe more time I spend in Dubois, the less remote it feels.

The other day I asked my friend Chris how his son Caleb is doing. Caleb is in Spain for a semester abroad.

Chris told me he heard from Caleb last Friday while he was at the high school watching the Lady Rams, the girls’ volleyball team.

“I’m looking at Mom,” Caleb texted.

“How are you looking at your mother?” Chris asked.

“I’m watching the game on the Internet,” Caleb replied. His mother, who was there as a line judge, was distantly visible on the screen.

volleyballChris passed a message to the announcer, Bill Guthrie of DTE, who was live-streaming the game up in the projection booth. Bill gave a shout-out to Caleb, and later took a closeup of Caleb’s Mom, who smiled and waved. The news about Caleb spread back through the stands.

“Right away I texted my brother in Australia about it,” Chris told me. “Just think about it. Spain, Australia and Wyoming. It’s amazing how the world has changed.”

I watched the footage for a long time, but I didn’t hear the shout-out or see Paula wave. However I did catch the screaming and foot-stamping, the leaps and the dives, and all the raw excitement of high school varsity sports.

DTE (Dubois Telephone) has been live-streaming high school games for several years, not just volleyball but also basketball and football. Caleb is hardly the first long-distance viewer, Bill told me.

Jeff was watching football games while he was serving in Iraq, he said. Someone else’s Dad has been watching from an oil rig in the Bering Sea.

webcamshot102816The service is also handy for parents supporting a visiting team if they can’t get to Dubois to catch the game, Bill said.

The games are archived and can be watched on a YouStream subchannel on Roku.

You can also watch DTE’s webcams online to see what’s happening downtown, out west at the base of Union Pass Road, or at the top of Union Pass.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

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What Home Feels Like, Reconsidered

Why do so many of us fall in love with the wide open spaces? There’s a theory.

FoulkewaysAugust01Back east visiting my aged mother, I find myself again in that verdant country in high summer.

Once long ago, growing up in the Midwest, I loved these steamy late-summer days. They spoke to me of indolent lassitude, of the seemingly endless stretch of uncommitted time. I tried not to think of the start of school, only weeks away.

One of my favorite songs paints a word picture of this pleasant torpor induced by humid heat:

It’s a lazy afternoon
And the farmer leaves his reaping.
In the meadow cows are sleeping,
And the speckled trouts stop leaping up stream
As we dream

FoulkewaysAugust02Today, I took a short hike in the woods behind that meadow. For many years, it seemed like a luxury to take a long walk under such a canopy of trees, with the crunch of dead leaves underfoot and the wisps of fragile greenery brushing at my ankles.

I texted these pictures to my daughter in Florida. “I miss forest,” she wrote back.

“I miss mountains and sagebrush,” I replied.

After spending several summers in our Wyoming house, I realized that the tree-lined New England back roads that I used to find charming had begun to close in on me and now seemed vaguely threatening. I was amused to find that another Wyoming transplant, the writer Annie Proulx, had the same reaction.

“Trees bothered me,” she wrote about Vermont in an essay after she moved  to Wyoming,  “their dense shade, their impenetrable jungles of seedlings, the claustrophobic looming that cut off all but a small piece of sky.”

WheelbarrowsA few years ago, shoving our rusty wheelbarrow across the rocky ground beside the house, I suddenly had a vision of an old picture I had seen of my grandmother. She was a Nebraska farmwife, and told me about the land of coyotes and rattlesnakes, and about leading my young mother and her brother on hikes for picnics on top of the tall bluff. I learned a few years ago (to my surprised delight) that her husband, my grandfather, grew up in Casper, in northeast Wyoming.

Is it a mere coincidence that I experienced a conversion, late in life, to a deep love for that desolate scrub-covered landscape beneath mountains and under an endless sky? Or is it written somewhere in my genes, inherited from that grandfather and grandmother?

Being a retired science writer, I couldn’t resist looking it up.

GreenGenes082815I found this review article, which I got around to reading while my husband was somewhere out there on Brooks Lake fishing with friends.

“[I]t is commonly assumed that restorative responses triggered by exposure to natural elements and settings are ultimately adaptive traits originating from our species’ long evolutionary history,” wrote Joye and van den Borg in 2011, in their analysis of the psychology of landscape preferences.

One theory, they said, is that we humans like wide-open spaces surrounded by a defined border because, harking back to our distant ancestors on the savannah, we find them non-threatening. They are not frighteningly endless; they have a boundary, and the trees have the promise of forage. But being able to see open land around us, according to the theory, gives us ample opportunity to detect threats. (Anyone who has hiked in grizzly country can appreciate this.)

This doesn’t account for my exultant sense of the transcendent as I watch a leaden bank of storm clouds move across the mountain peaks, followed by a rainbow. I wouldn’t see something like this in Connecticut.

Whatever the reason, I’d far rather be in this kind of landscape now, whatever the season. No contest.

RainbowView

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

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The Lay Minister, the Library, the Luddite, and Linux

How some lucky people in Dubois WY learned to understand computers, and got a free one in the bargain.

MaryEllen041516_1 Mary Ellen Honsaker creates beautiful paintings of wildlife. She also feeds the hungry, helps the homeless, rescues abandoned animals, and sometimes delivers sermons.

Now she can tinker with the guts of her computer as well.

“I have held my motherboard in my hand,” she told me proudly. Coming from Mary Ellen, this evokes an oddly comforting image.

Mary Ellen retired recently as secretary of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and this presented a problem. She continues to manage the food bank, the community garden, the farmers market, the backpack program that provides school lunches for needy families, and Salvation Army services in Dubois. She needs to write grant applications and homilies. Of course she needs email.

But her computer was very old and dying. Now on a fixed income, she couldn’t afford a new one.

At the risk of putting words in her mouth, she might call this the grace of God: She saw an ad in the newspaper that the local library was giving computers away for free, just for the cost of attending a few classes.

All she had to do was learn how to give her new computer a brain.

At the risk of amusing him, let’s consider John McPhail the angel who made that possible. I won’t include a picture of John, who calls himself a “closet Luddite” even though he is an IT guy with the local phone company, DTE.

cardcatalogJohn was the one who helped the Fremont County Library System with another problem: The libraries were upgrading their computers. Their IT director didn’t want to simply put the old ones in the landfill, but she couldn’t just give them away loaded with the Windows operating system, either. That would violate the license agreement.

He met the director of the Dubois branch for lunch at the Cowboy Cafe. “I said, why not give a class on how to install a new operating system, from scratch?” he recalled. (He was thinking of the open-source software Linux, which mirrors Windows but is totally free.)

Many people over the age of 50 are threatened by computers, John knew. Before sending them home with one, he suggested, he’d teach them how to “take it apart and get to know it. There’s nothing inside there but copper, steel, silicon, and plastic.”

“Cool!” she replied. “Would you do that?” He has now completed classes for all three libraries in the county, and the computers have gone home with new “brains”.

MaryEllen041516_2In the first of the two half-day classes, Mary Ellen said, John taught his students how computers work and how to care for them. They took the machines apart and put them back together. In the next class he taught them how to install the new Linux operating system, Ubuntu. She says it’s almost like the Windows she was familiar with, and works well.

One of the last things he did in class: He demonstrated how to google.

Like many of his students, John can remember the day when he went to the library to look things up in a card catalog. “Here,” he said, “the local library just sent people home with a whole set of encyclopedias, for free.”

How cool is that?

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

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Dubois K-12: A Hidden Gem

Two substitute teachers tell what they’ve found. It’s remarkable.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

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SchoolHouse
Schoolhouse cabin at the Dubois Museum

Think of a schoolhouse in Wyoming, in the middle of nowhere. Drafty logs and a sod roof, maybe? One room, full of kids who have dirty faces and scraped knees, most of them destined for a life of pitching hay? Maybe one headed for college?

I didn’t ask my teacher friends, Karen and Lori, what they expected to find when they volunteered to substitute at the Dubois school. I asked what they found. It was nothing at all like Little House on the Prairie.

They started with the basics: the stuff. Not only is the K-12 school building brand new, everything else is state of the art, said Lori, who previously taught elementary school in a “fairly affluent town” south of Boston.

100_0105
The actual K-12 school in Dubois

In Dubois, every student has a portable computer of some kind. Elementary-school students were taking Chromebooks to art class, she told me. Back in Massachusetts, “each kid there didn’t have his own computer.”

My friend Karen has taught junior-high school biology in Dubois, and she’s waiting to teach more classes. She also still has her appointment as an assistant professor of microbiology at Louisiana State University, and she teaches online courses for a Louisiana college, working from her home just outside Dubois. (See “Best Internet Anywhere” and “Consultant’s Dream Come True.”)

“The science labs [in Dubois] were incredible,” she told me. “The fume hoods were better than we had at LSU. I’ve never seen microscopes that advanced in high school.”

Not only do they have the high-tech microscopes; the students know how to use them. She found they also knew a surprising amount about the bacteria they could see through the lens.  They had learned to extract DNA from strawberries.

The equipment, of course, is only the sizzle. The meat of the issue is the class size, which in a town of 1,000 is very small.

100_0085
Lori teaching. (Why the funny hats? It was Dr. Seuss Day.)

The kids at primary level are “sweet and eager to learn,” Lori told me, but as anywhere, there are always a few “who need extra attention. With only 7 or 9 kids in a class, it’s easier to do that.”

The junior high classes are about the same size. Karen spoke about the pleasure of being able to interact with each student in the lab, to get each of them excited and motivated. “Also, I was surprised at the level of respect in the classroom,” she said. “They’re all so polite. It was amazing.”

Clearly this is an environment that takes teaching seriously, and gives it latitude.

In Massachusetts where Lori taught full-time, she told me that basically all a substitute teacher had to do was show up in the morning. To substitute here in Dubois, not only did she have to fill out an application, she had to document her certification to teach, to be fingerprinted, and to take a course on the Wyoming and US Constitutions.

100_0102
Sign in the corridor outside a classroom.

When she arrives early in the morning, a lesson plan is waiting for her. “I’m not just going in to babysit,” Lori said. “I’m teaching them.”

The full-time teachers seem happy, she told me, not overloaded or stressed. “You get to think up the curriculum design and plan your own courses,” she added. “It’s amazing. Wonderful.”

Another advantage occurred to me recently: For a high school student with good grades in this remote little town in the least densely populated state in the lower 48, getting into college outside Wyoming must be a slam-dunk, because all colleges want to optimize their “mix.” A good applicant from Dubois must be unusually interesting and attractive compared to one from Boston or New York City. (What’s more, I’ve heard that there are more college scholarships available around here than applicants to receive them.)

I mentioned the college-admissions benefit to a good friend whose high school-aged son went to Oxford, England, for a summer program last year. “I know,” he said with a smile.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

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Dubois WY: Consultant’s Dream Come True

Is the ability to work from Dubois a stroke of genius, or just a stroke of incredible good luck?

As the owner of Recreational Resources LLC of Dubois, Rick Collignon putters away all day on his computer, fax, and cell phone. What the folks on the other end of the line may not realize is that during a conference call he may be on horseback at an altitude of around 10,000 feet, nowhere near the rest of the office.

CollignonThis avid outdoorsman has the best of both worlds. He spends his free time fishing, hiking, and hunting in Wyoming, in the Wind River Valley, but spends some of his working hours as a consultant to the Fish and Game Department for a different state–South Dakota.

Rick is a great example of how the high-quality Internet service in Dubois allows residents here to succeed as consultants and business owners from what looks on the map like the middle of nowhere.  Like so much else about living in Dubois, this arrangement suits only a specific kind of personality.

“Telecommuting requires a certain type of person to be successful,” says Rick. “A tremendous amount of self-discipline and drive, good organizational skills, and the ability to work alone a vast majority of the time.”

As with any job, he adds, you must make your work time accommodate your clients’ hours. So you can find yourself talking to DC in the early AM and the West Coast late into the evening. It’s also about your creativity, he adds: The ability to not only think outside the box but also to create a marketable product—yourself. What can you offer that beats the next guy?

Another important key factor is to maintain your network of business relationships, to assure that you’re in the right place at the right time to win the deal, even if that place is one of the most remote in the lower 48 states.

And place is important to the mix. Another key to successful telecommuting is to locate yourself in an area–be it city or country, mountains or beach—that will put you in the most productive frame of mind, whatever that means for you. If you can’t maintain the focus of your thoughts in the city, then perhaps solitude is the key.

It certainly has been for Rick. After months of hard work (predominantly over the phone or email), he successfully negotiated the Missouri River Land Transfer for the State of South Dakota. His success enabled Rick and his wife to purchase the KOA campground in Dubois and revamp the facility–something they are both enjoying.

cid_836“Dubois is one of those places,” as he put it, “where a consultant has all the quality access and communication links to the world through the Web needed to successfully compete in today’s markets, while providing an outstanding life space which stimulates those invaluable creative talents needed to excel in this line of work.”

I also telecommuted from Dubois for 8 years before I retired last June, and obviously I continue to take advantage of the great Internet here. Everything Rick says rings true, and he and I are hardly the only people around here who are taking advantage of the opportunity.

The cost of living is low, the quality of life high. Just a few weeks ago, the financial website bankrate.com designated Wyoming the best state to retire for the second year in a row. The factors it cited (low taxes and prices, low crime rates, beautiful environment) are just as important to self-employed individuals who work on the Internet as they are for retirees. And the Internet here, as I keep saying, is second to none.

For people whose hearts sing at the thought of mountain peaks, open skies, and true solitude and serenity right out the back door, is the ability to work from Dubois a stroke of genius or just a stroke of incredible good luck?

I don’t know how Rick would answer. As for me, I put it down to the grace of God, and give thanks every morning when I look out the window.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

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Remotely and Wildly True: Of Dubois and Distance

Did National Geographic really call Dubois WY the most remote town in the lower 48? How remote is it, actually?

HighwayGoogle “Dubois WY” and you’ll soon encounter a statement that it has been designated the most remote town (or sometimes the second remotest town) in the lower 48 states. Often this distinction is attributed to National Geographic.

When we moved to Dubois, my husband and I quickly took up calling it one of the most remote towns in the lower 48 when we described it to friends. We even trotted out some criteria, whose origin I no longer recall: Farthest from the nearest Interstate, fewest traffic lights (none), fewest number of highways that run through it (one), distance to the nearest large town (about 70 miles), or proportion of land within a 360-degree radius that is publicly owned (who knows, but lots).

But is this distinction actually deserved? How remote is Dubois, and compared to what and by which criteria? Last summer I began to study the question, with interesting results.

First, I couldn’t find any such statement about Dubois in the archives of National Geographic. And many other towns lay claim to the distinction of being most remote.

I turned to local sources, Dubois town hall and the library. Sandy Hurst at town hall offered up text from a 2011 press release about Dubois:

“A place considered by National Geographic as the most remote town in the lower 48 states…  it perches on the edge of several wilderness areas and is surrounded by national forests.”

This traced back to a strategic plan for Dubois by the Foundation for Urban & Neighborhood Development of Denver, Colorado, dated 1986. The report said that Dubois had been “recently identified in national news media coverage” as the most remote location in the lower 48–the same unconfirmed designation that I was already seeing, albeit even older.

Anna Moscicki at the library turned up a wonderful quote from the memoir of Ethel Waxham, mother of the geologist David Love who defined the geological history of the Yellowstone region. Waxham wrote about her arrival in Wyoming by stagecoach in 1905:

“The other passenger beside myself was a woman of fifty or sixty, white-haired, face weather worn, bright brown eyes, Mrs. Welty. She was post mistress at Dubois, the post office farthest from the railroad of any in the U.S.”

Delightful, written when the railroads were still expanding, and perhaps an insight into the town’s perception of isolation. But not that relevant today.

In the course of promoting Living Dubois on Twitter, I was fortunate to gain the interest of Marilyn Terrell, chief researcher for National Geographic, who has also been unable to find any source for that attribution of Dubois’ remoteness by her publication (so we ought to stop using it). But she did point me to an article in Smithsonian magazine describing what truly may be the most remote settlement in the lower 48: the community of Supai, Arizona, located at the base of the Grand Canyon. At the bottom of that 3,000-foot crevasse, it is reachable only by mule train, which is how they get their mail.

But Supai isn’t really a town: It’s designated by the US Census Bureau as a “census-designated place,” which is the Bureau’s term for a populated place that is not an incorporated village and has no municipal government. So does Dubois still qualify?

Overlook7Author Henry Grabar on the website citylab.com looked into which towns were most remote by the criterion of being farthest from the nearest Interstate highway, honoring Key West, Florida, as being farthest as the crow flies, and Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor, Michigan, (251 and 238 driving miles from the nearest Interstate), with an honorable mention to Paisley, Oregon (209 miles) due to the sheer difficulty of driving to the big highway.

Dubois is “only” about 173 miles from the nearest Interstate, at Idaho Falls, and is interestingly equidistant from Interstates at Rawlins, Casper, and Livingston MT (200, 199, and 199 miles, respectively). But considering only towns that are completely surrounded by Interstates (rather than having a national border or large body of water on at least one side), I do wonder whether Dubois might qualify as having the largest average distance to the Interstate in all 4 directions (193 miles).

If you aren’t familiar with Dubois, please be assured that you can buy plenty of groceries and hardware supplies in town, and it’s even easy to find a cafe latte. And by that other criterion of remoteness, Internet access, Dubois is marvellously well-connected. You feel the remoteness mostly by your proximity to all that wilderness.

Speaking of which, there is one remoteness criterion Dubois can legitimately claim without dispute: It is TwoOceanPasscloser than any other town in the United States to the spot in the lower 48 that is most remote from any road, and therefore reachable only on foot or by horseback. This is Two Ocean Plateau in the southeastern corner of Yellowstone Park.

This spot has been designated by the United States Geological Service as the location in the “coterminous” United States that is most distant from any road (the trailhead is at Moran, an unincorporated community). Dubois is 44.1 miles from Two Ocean Pass as the crow flies, and the plateau is farther north. Jackson is 48.8 miles away.

There is one criterion for remoteness by which Dubois fails miserably. The residents are hardly remote in their behavior toward other people. It’s one of the friendliest places I’ve ever encountered, which is one reason we go all that way to get there.

@ Lois Wingerson, 2016

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Why the Best Doctor for Dubois is a Geek

Often, people find Dubois to be exactly the right place. Less often, exactly the right people find Dubois.

Tracy Baum
Tracy Baum, nurse practitioner

Often, people find Dubois to be exactly the right place. Less often, exactly the right people find Dubois.

The person at left is my primary care doctor, Tracy Baum. She’s not your typical doctor. Okay, in fact she’s not actually a doctor at all. But at least for me, and evidently for many of us in Dubois, she’s an even better option than the alternatives.

Tracy and her husband Marty (below, right) came to Dubois recently from a part of Alaska that’s even more remote than we are. As a board-certified nurse practitioner, Tracy was the family “doctor” out there, providing all kinds of primary care for people who live in places where there aren’t any highways at all. (At least Dubois has one.)

Marty has a plane and flies it, so the lifestyle worked.

MartyBaum
Marty Baum

Tracy and Marty loved Alaska, but they wanted to live closer to their children and grandchildren in the lower 48. So, like many others who eventually end up in Dubois, they embarked on a careful research project to find the right location for a couple with their particular life requirements to settle permanently. Lucky us.

Marty, who is a furniture builder by trade, has spent the past year converting a former bait and tackle shop to the Mountain Sage Holistic Clinic. Tracy took a part-time job at the Dubois Medical Clinic, while privately in her clinic offering her skills in integrative medicine, which her website describes as “looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease.”

TracyWaitingRoom
Mountain Sage Holistic Clinic waiting room.

There’s the waiting room, at left. Maybe you can see how proficient Marty is at his own line of business, which had to take a break during the renovation process.

“Integrative medicine” may sound a bit flaky, but it began to make sense to me. This is something you simply can’t offer in an ordinary medical clinic.

Growing toward retirement age, I began to see different kinds of traditional doctors and physical therapists for my minor and ordinary health problems. All of them had different advice, and it was often conflicting and contradictory.

My first consultation with Tracy, which lasted about an hour, may have dug deeper into my pocket more than the hasty chats I can get for a cheap copay. But as a retired medical editor well familiar with reading clinical studies, I recognized quickly that Tracy knows a lot about a lot.

TracyDunoirRoom
Mountain Sage Holistic Clinic examination room

Putting all the pieces together carefully with her considerable knowledge on many medical fronts, she was able to create a picture that made a great deal of sense to me.

One day last spring I heard that that, in a shift of ownership at the main medical clinic, Tracy had been laid off. I quickly sent a text of condolence.

“I couldn’t be happier!” she texted back. “Now I can open full-time.”

TracyNewRoom
Future telemedicine center

And so she has. The clinic now accepts most kinds of medical insurance, offers a wide range of clinical testing and some medications (but not narcotics) as well as all kinds of basic primary care.

In a pinch, if a problem arises with plan #1, she can even deliver a baby.

“As a family nurse practitioner, my training does not include deliveries,” she told me. “But I spent considerable time with a family practice doctor who was aware of my plan to practice in remote areas. Her philosophy was, if you’re out in the boonies, at some point you will need to know how to catch a baby. And she was right – it has happened.”

That’s encouraging, yes. But what clearly excites Tracy is that she can now begin to lay the plans for telemedicine, online consultations with experts elsewhere in the country.

Of course!   In our small town, distant from major medical centers, with our incomparably good Internet service, our very smart and forward-thinking family “doctor” should be able consult with some of the best specialists in the country via teleconference and interactive online image sharing.

TracyStoreRoomMedicare has just changed the rules to encourage this innovative kind of medical practice for people with chronic conditions, and where the government goes private insurers often follow. Dubois is just the kind of rural area the new rules were created to serve, and yes, nurse practitioners do qualify.

Just beyond the back door at the clinic is Marty’s large workshop (shown at right). Alas, the woodworking business has continued to languish while he had to step in as business manager and temporary receptionist at Tracy’s end of this remarkable Mom and Pop shop.

Which will come first at the back end of the building: The sound of saws and hammers (beyond the door, at last), or the chirp and whirr of new electronic equipment on the clinic side?

© Lois Wingerson, 2015

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Dubois Love Letter #3: Best Internet Anywhere?

Only one highway runs through Dubois WY, and slowly. But another one, invisible, is very speedy. Accidents are exceedingly rare.

Living in one of the most remote towns in the United States has many advantages. One of them, incredible as it may seem, is virtually flawless Internet service. Here’s why.Dubois broadband

The picture at right shows Michael Kenney’s whimsical clothesline, made from really old telephone poles and transformers. It’s funny because Michael, who is the head of our local telephone company (DTE, for Dubois Telephone Exchange), is one of the most forward-thinking and progressive people I’ve ever met. In charge of a rural phone company, he long ago began to see beyond telephones.

Michael has been a prime mover in the national effort to bring broadband to rural areas. The golden thread I’m using to transmit these words right now is a shining example of his success.

The Internet service here is fast and reliable. We watch movies on Netflix all the time, virtually without interruption. I can’t remember when I last lost service while working on a website.

Before my retirement last June, I telecommuted from Dubois and from my home in New York City for 8 years. Working in the city was a nightmare, even though we used one of the largest Internet service providers, Time Warner Cable. Service would wink out unpredictably, and customer service reps (who obviously didn’t know Brooklyn from the Bronx from Bangalore) would apologize incessantly and ineffectively. They hadn’t a clue. I became a regular at the library and at Starbucks.

Dubois broadbandHere in Dubois, one Friday evening several years ago I ran into Michael at happy hour at the Rustic Pine Tavern. I mentioned to him that my Internet service had stopped at about 3:30 (no problem, because I worked on Eastern time and that was the end of the work week back in Norwalk).

“A backhoe ran over a cable in Cody,” Michael said. “It will be fixed in 3 hours.”

Michael’s minions spent last summer laying fiber optic cable over the pass, working right past our house. Now there are multiple redundancies, Michael told me recently. If our line fails, another one will kick in. These days, the Internet never kicks out.

By the way, DTE has been running a webcam for many years at the spot in the middle of Dubois where the highway hangs a right-angle turn. This is an easy way to get a quick feel for the other kind of traffic that passes through here (much more slowly). You can watch it at http://webcam.rangefamily.net/~dubois/ .

 

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© Lois Wingerson 2015