It was finally time to leave on Friday morning. Dawn broke clear with bright blue skies, the scent of pine in the air and 48 degrees. We will miss the temperatures. We packed up. As we were leaving, we had a perfect photo op—our departure with the moon setting over the high peaks of the Snowy Range.
Then it was 40 miles down to Laramie and the Wyoming Territorial Prison.
Built in 1872, the Wyoming Territorial Prison was restored and renovated in the 1990s by the efforts of the citizens of Laramie. There were 12 women housed here and more than 1,000 men, the most famous of which was Robert LeRoy Parker, “Butch Cassidy”.
The restored prison building, Warden’s house, and Prison Industries building interpret this colorful and dramatic portion of the site’s history. Following the removal of prisoners to a new facility in Rawlins (1903), the University of Wyoming acquired the prison property and adapted the buildings and grounds for use as an agricultural experiment station for the College of Ag. The College of Agriculture utilized the site until 1989, when restoration work began and the site was recognized as a valuable historic property. The 2012 opening of the ”Science on the Range” exhibit explores the breeding projects and research efforts of students and staff on the “Stock Farm”. It has been beautifully restored and almost looks like a nice place to “do your time.” We’re sure it wasn’t.
We shopped in the historic portion of downtown Laramie. It has been so windy we bought a couple of kites for the camper. We have yet to try them out.
Known as the Vedauwoo Rocks, they are granite boulder piles interspersed throughout the wooded hills. Climbers come from all over to do their thing on the various formations. Melinda loves her rocks (but not to climb).
We also passed another wind farm, more common every trip.
We found a place to park the truck and camper right in downtown Cheyenne. At one time they were selling lots in Cheyenne for $150 apiece. No takers. Then the Union Pacific announced they were coming through Cheyenne; the same lots started going for $1,000-$1,500. The UP built a huge railroad station.
When we were through here several years ago they had just started to refurbish it. Now it houses a restaurant, a visitor center and a museum. The museum has a huge train set in it. The floor of the old station has a mosaic showing the entire length of the UP Railroad, telling when each segment was completed. Quite interesting.
After lunch, connecting with I-80 we drove on to Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska. The nice thing about being retired is that we don’t have to hurry home. Especially with 95+ degree temperatures awaiting us at home. Cabela’s is a giant outdoor store like Gander Mountain or Pro Bass Shop. Interestingly, there is a campground next to the store. We’ve wanted to stay here or in the one in Kansas City, but it has always been too hot with our old popup camper (no AC). This year the weather was quite nice. We’re sure lots of people walk over to the store while they are staying there. We were no exception. The campground was well organized, with full hookups, clean, neat and reasonably priced.
Saturday, we resumed our trek east, stopping in North Platte to take in a couple of attractions. The first was Buffalo Bill Cody’s ranch, Scout’s Rest.
It was built in 1886 and included over 4,000 acres at the time, for a cost of $3,900. Having a home in town, he envisioned this ranch to be where he would retire, as well as a place of respite while he was winding down his show. At the time, his Wild West Show was a very profitable venture and so no expense was spared in its construction and furnishings. Regrettably, he ended up selling the place in the early 1900s as he had run out of money. He ended up working the show until just a few weeks before his death in 1917, on account of lack of funds. There were lots of exhibits in the house that explained his life and family. For various reasons, three of his children predeceased him and they are all buried in Rochester, New York. We don’t know what the connection is.
Next to the house is a huge barn where he kept horses. Row upon row of stables with a giant hay loft above. It must have been some operation in its day. The State now owns the property and has restored both the house and the barn. There is even a camping area, but we weren’t ready to stay overnight.
After the Cody house we drove over to the Golden Spike Tower which is an observation point for the Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard, the world’s largest train yard.
The yard covers 2,850 acres, the equivalent of 2,800 football fields. Every day 10,000 railroad cars move through the yard utilizing 315 miles of track. There are two “humps” that are used to sort the cars by gravity. Trains are usually 130 cars long. They also have a huge engine repair facility. From the tower you can take in the entire yard and all of the comings and goings. It’s an interesting place, if you happen to be a train person.
They fly the flags of every state that has Union Pacific tracks running through it (23). At the base of each flagpole is an engraved stone giving the basic facts about the particular state, as well as how many miles of track the state has.
We stopped at the Great Platte River Road Archway, built right over the interstate highway in 2000.
From 1843 to 1869, nearly half a million men, women and children rode and walked the trails to the West Coast. The distance was vast, the prairie endless, the sky overwhelming and the mountains and wildlife were unlike anything they had ever seen. These pioneers persevered through a strong will and determination, carrying their cherished belongings in wagons or strapped to burros; and pushed or floated handcarts over mountains, rivers and valleys. Nobody who took the trip and lived to tell about it, failed to be changed by it. These early pioneers were shaped by what they saw and experienced, and they have provided America with a heritage that is a living spirit that molds our nation’s character today. The design and engineering challenge was determining how to erect a 1,500 ton structure that would cross 308 feet of the heavily traveled I-80, without impeding on traffic flow. It was concluded that the structure had to be built beside the Interstate 80 and lifted into position. Since the Archway is to emulate a covered bridge, two towers were erected–one on each side of the road–that served as anchors for the archway bridge to rest. The concrete abutment walls are 60 feet long, 25 feet tall, and 2 feet thick. There are numerous exhibits inside and in some of the outbuildings, as well as lots of people dressed in period costumes. A very interesting place to take a “leg stretcher.”
After the Arch, we headed east and landed in a very nice RV campground in Nebraska City, right on the border with Iowa. We were next to some follow Airstream people who had also been camping in the Cabela’s campground just the night before, Bob and Diane from Pennsylvania. They were coming home from Oregon, which is on our schedule for next year’s travels, so we pumped them for information. They had purchased their camper from the same place as we purchased ours. Nice people.
Sunday we simply packed up early and headed back to Terre Haute. The day was capped off by discovering a leak under the house and a flooded crawl space. Fortunately, we had our camper to fall back on when Chris had to turn off the water to the house.
All in all, it was a great trip with lots of hiking, visiting with friends, fishing and just enjoying this great country of ours. So much to see and do. We’re doing our best to See More, Do More and Live More,
Until September and the North Shore of Lake Superior,
From the hot and dry Midwest,
Chris and Melinda