On September 10, we traveled north from where we stayed in a hotel somewhere south of Denver, headed for Cheyenne, Wyoming
Since the direct route would have only taken two hours, we decided to stop at the North American Dinosaur Trail to take a tour and see some dinosaur tracks at a place called Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, about half an hour southwest of Denver.
It was an interesting stop, and we did indeed see some real dinosaur tracks. We were told that the tracks were made in some mud, which was then filled in with a different consistency of mud, and both of those layers eventually petrified, and later the softer, upper layer eroded away, leaving only the fossilized tracks.
Many of the tracks were on a sharply inclined hillside. It was obvious that geologic forces lifted up the hillside after the tracks were made.
We took the bus tour, which was interesting because the bus driver/tour guide told us a lot of information about the area and the tracks.
After we left Dinosaur Ridge, we followed the GPS into Denver, cruising slowly on quite a few residential streets.
Our daughter Shelley and her husband Daniel have visited Daniel’s Brother John and his family in Denver several times, and they told us that if we saw a roadside stand selling Palisades Peaches, we should stop and get some, because they were the best we’d ever have.
Guess what we saw as we cruised through residential Denver? That’s right. A roadside stand selling Palisades peaches. Of course, we had no choice but to stop and buy some, so we did.
The peaches were in deed good, even delicious. However, they were not the best I’d ever had. That honor goes to some peaches I bought at a roadside stand in south central Georgia in 1980. Those peaches were the size of softballs, and when I took a bite of one, the juice from it ran down my chin. It was so good I wanted to turn around, go back, and buy a crate of them. If those Georgia peaches rated a ten, I would say the Palisades peaches rated a seven.
Yes, that’s just my opinion, but I’ll stand by it for now.
In the midafternoon, we arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was a humbling and gratifying feeling to know we were now in another town that played such a big role in the settlement of the American West.
We found a Hampton Inn, which my wife likes because they usually have an exercise center, and checked in. We relaxed for a bit, then started looking for a place to have dinner.
We found a restaurant that purported to be the best steak house in Montana and Wyoming, the Rib and Chop House. Hmm, sounded expensive. But hey, we justified that this was vacation, and we ought to at least sample this very best place, right?
The literature suggested reservations, so I called them up and asked for one. Sorry, they said. The earliest we can seat you tonight is at 9:15. Oops. Of course, it was Saturday night, and I speculated that people from dozens of miles away would come in to Cheyenne on a Saturday night to eat at this place.
So we wound up going to the greasy spoon restaurant attached to a gas station near the hotel. At least it was dinner.
All in all, I was quite dissatisfied with the Hampton Inn there, for two reasons. First, they were about $30 to $40 more expensive than I thought they should be. And second, while every other hotel on our trip offered free high speed internet, the Hampton Inn only gave us “internet.” If we wanted high-speed, which we would need to watch Netflix on my computer, we would have to pay extra. Man, how chintzy can a hotel chain get?
I immediately began looking around for different hotels where we could spend our second night in Cheyenne, and realized – Cheyenne has an Air Force Base! Most AF Bases have Visiting Officers’ Quarters (VOQs), so I decided to call them.
It turns out that indeed they did have a space in their “Air Force Inns” quarters, and the charge would be about HALF of what we were paying at the Hampton.
Boom. Done. I booked the reservation for the next night.
The next morning, we checked out of the Hampton Inn and drove around some of downtown Cheyenne. There were some interesting historical sights there, and we wound up at the old train station tour depot in time to buy tour trolley tickets for the first tour of the day.
The tour was nearly two hours long, because it was Sunday. Tours on other days are only one hour, but we got the good deal because it was Sunday. The tour itself consisted of about 45 minutes of driving around town while the driver/guide told us about the various places, then we stopped at the Cheyenne Museum of History for half an hour, then we got back on the trolley for about 20 more minutes of the driver/guide pointing out to us the rest of Cheyenne.
The museum was mildly interesting, with old clothes and old weapons and old vehicles and several dioramas and many, many plaques telling us all about each exhibit.
The most amusement I got from the tour, however, was not something the tourism office would think to promote. It was the tour driver/guide. About ten minutes into the first leg of the tour, I noticed that his most favorite word in the world was “actually.” He actually used it in every sentence, sometimes actually several times per sentence.
When we got back on the trolley after the museum stop, I began to count how many times the tour guide used the word.
Yep, he said the word “actually” a total of 63 times in that twenty minute portion of the ride. He actually did.
Other than that major distraction, he was actually quite knowledgeable, actually articulate, and actually rather friendly. Actually.
F. E Warren AFB
We did a bit more driving around after the trolley tour, locating the local Wal-Mart, which is a good place to go walking to get some steps for exercise, simply because it’s air conditioned in hot weather, heated in cool weather, dry in rainy weather, and has a ton of interesting things to look at that reinforce exactly how much junk there is in the world that we just don’t need.
When it got to be check-in time, we went to Francis E. Warren Air Force base and found our way to the Air Force Inns (the current military base version of a hotel for traveling military and retirees like me).
We checked in and drove about a quarter of a mile to our unit, which was a one-bedroom apartment in a building that housed maybe twelve of these units. Our unit was upstairs, of course. And being as how this was a military base, there were no elevators.
Now before you begin thinking about the regulations imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, remember that first, these units were probably built in the 1940s or 1950s, that the only people expected to be housed in them at the time were military, that they would not allow anyone with a disability into the military, and they had to build them within a certain budget.
For all that, especially given the price, the unit was wonderful. It was very spacious, it had a full (small) kitchen, it had TVs in the living area and the bedroom, and it had — HIGH SPEED INTERNET!
I don’t know about you, but for me, a hotel is primarily a place to sleep. It needs a decent bed, a decent bathroom, and good internet. Bonus extras might include a comfy chair that doesn’t sit right in front of the A/C outlet, electric outlets and a table beside each side of the bed, maybe a mini-fridge, and some flat surfaces where I can put my stuff. Anything more than that is overkill, and not needed. It torques my jaw when hotels charge well into three figures for a room, just because they can. Okay, end of this rant. For now.
Francis E. Warren AFB was huge. We drove around for a while and found the Base Exchange – like a military Wal-Mart on a smaller scale, the Commissary (a grocery store), the gas station, and several other interesting standard AFB amenities.
The most interesting thing we saw, however was pronghorn antelope. Yep, there were pronghorn antelope just wandering around the base.
I texted that picture (above) to my friend Mike, and he texted back, “I guess we could get in trouble if we shot one of them.”
It was amazing to me that these wild animals, which I have heard are the fastest land animals in North America, would wander around human habitation and seem relaxed about it.
I guess they knew they were fast and could get away if they needed to.
Westward, Ho! Then North
On Monday morning, we headed out again. As I checked out of the AF Inns, the desk clerk told me of a more scenic route to take westward for the first 30 miles or so. He said it only added about 10 minutes to the trip between Cheyenne and Laramie. So we took Happy Jack Road west from Cheyenne, and went through Curt Gowdy State Park an another National Forest area on the way to rejoin Interstate 80.
It indeed was interesting scenery, and even though there were plenty of trees, there was also plenty of open land, much of which was just plain rock.
There was a rest area where Happy Jack Road met I-80, and we stopped there and read all about how Happy Jack Road was part of the route for the Lincoln Highway, the very first road all the way across America. There is an entire association dedicated to memorializing this highway. You can see their website here. At the rest area, there was a sort of mini-museum there with a lot of information about the Lincoln Highway, and a statue of Lincoln himself, for whom the highway was named, of course.
From there, we got onto i-80, where I was somewhat startled to see the interstate speed limit in Wyoming:
We finally reached Rock Springs, Wyoming, where we turned north to continue the 6 1/2 hour trip to Jackson Hole.
Much of this road was, well, desolate, as you can see in the picture above. Along this route, we passed a marker commemorating Sand Springs, Wyoming as a stop along the Oregon Trail.
Click on the image above to see a larger view of the sign.
Here’s a view of the actual Oregon Trail beyond the sign:
We finished the trip into Jackson Hole and Wilson, Wyoming, but our arrival there is a story for the next episode.