On the road again
I can't wait to get on the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again
We set off from Denver this morning, my Hero having picked up our rental car - a white Dodge with 5000 miles or so on the clock and minimal chips in the paintwork to photograph! We took up our usual places, I got the knitting out and off we went - the start of the 2019 Road Trip!
Unusually for us, we were retracing steps at this stage of our journey. We’d finished last year’s trip in Denver and though we didn’t go into the city this time, everything here looked familiar.
It doesn’t take long to get back in the groove, looking out over the wide open landscape and spotting small signs to places of interest. We’d not been driving long before the first one appeared and my Hero made a hasty right turn into a layby where a large board offered a background to the railway which we’d been driving alongside for several miles.
Soon, those grasslands we’d been driving through became dotted with rocky outcrops. They are a really distinctive feature of this part of Colorado and I couldn’t resist putting down my knitting to take a few photos.
Even though I had my camera in hand though, I wasn’t quick enough to snap the “Welcome to Wyoming” sign, which was surprisingly small in this huge landscape. Never mind - leaving Colorado behind, we entered the Cowboy state; the second most sparsely populated state in the USA.
No sooner had we crossed the border, we could see our first goal shining in the sunshine. The newly regilded dome of the Wyoming State Capitol was clearly visible on the Cheyenne skyline as we crossed the bridge over the railroad. The conversation switched to “do you remember..?” as we recalled the tattooed lady flossing her teeth in the cafe and the friendly chap in the information office (all in the blog from last year, link above!)
Cheyenne is not a large city and the grid road layout made it easy to reach our destination. We hadn’t been able to visit the Capitol last year as the renovations had overrun and it was still all hidden behind screens. We’ve been monitoring progress though, and were delighted when, in July, we read of the reopening and knowing we’d be passing through the city, it was one of the first things on our list of must-sees.
It was looking beautiful and the renovations had clearly been hugely successful in maintaining the structure’s appearance whilst not making it look brand new. This was going to be interesting.
Inside, it’s quite compact, with the conventional layout of Senate and House chambers together with a few, broadly ceremonial offices, such as that of the Governor. The real work gets done in other more practical buildings nearby, I suspect. The style and format of the chambers were more or less unchanged then, but new carpets, renovated furnishings and clean, sparkling windows were immedately apparent.
The major changes had been made behind the scenes: improved accessibility, fire prevention measures, technology for heating and communication together with updated bathrooms and state of the art security had been the motivation behind this $300 million project and over the four or five years that the state’s business has been taking place in temporary locations, the budget must have been a huge concern.
I couldn’t help but think of our own Westminster parliament buildings, in dire need of similar restoration but requiring a budget rather greater than $300 million… How brave these people were to take the decision and just get on with it! (Time for us to do the same, perhaps, or risk losing that history forever)
The small details in the decor were admirable, with a fresh, contemporary approach to traditional decor. So all the wall borders and friezes had been handpainted to original designs. Beautiful.
This blue and gold border framed the room in which women in Wyoming were given the vote - the first in the world, we heard.
Not forgetting to look up, to admire the stained glass skylights and the sparkling clean chandeliers!
We could wander around independently, having free access to any room with clear glass in the door - probably about half of the rooms in the building. There was plenty of background information on hand to explain what we were seeing, too. In places, workmen were still doing some fixings and staff appeared to be working on temporary tables, out of boxes and clearly still settling in. Still, it was a privilege to be able to see it all for ourselves.
As in any Capitol building here, there’s a dome to gaze up into as well.
Though the portraits of the Governors were already hanging in one of the corridors, there’s more art still to hang and this is still a work in progress. We nearly missed one rather lovely feature though - the vault doors, where someone discovered some beautiful hand painted decoration on each one.
It would have been irritating to have missed those. We might have had to come to Cheyenne a third time!
As it was, we were on our way to Laramie but seeing the weird and roundabout route our satnav wanted to take us, we wished we’d had a map on hand to see if there was something we were missing. We remembered there was the tourist office down in the old Railroad Depot and drove down to it to gather a few resources.
As you can see, it’s not very far! (And again, we were remembering last time - all in that same blog post)
We picked up a few ideas, had one of those strange conversations with the woman on the desk as she made various suggestions, all of which we’d done already! (Sorry…it must have been irritating for her to wax lyrical about the Ames monument and the scenic drive there, only for us to say “been there, done that”!)
Nevertheless, we took the scenic route along Missile Drive and Happy Jack Road out towards the freeway junction, through the Curt Gowdy State Park and the Medicine Bow National Forest as she suggested. We’d only driven this route once before and yet we remembered landmarks such as these rock formations so clearly.
We were going to drive to Laramie along the freeway - unusually for us, for our satnav is set to avoid these fast roads in favour of meandering through the countryside. However, there wasn’t really a practical alternative on this occasion, as we’d see on the map earlier.
And besides, there was a bit of a landmark by this freeway junction.
Not only was it a marker for the old, Lincoln Highway - an historic road we’d driven along from time to time last year, but there was a large monument of the man himself, built high above the I-80 which we hadn’t seen before.
What a fascinating construction!
Together with the Ames Monument, just one junction south from here, it must be a real landmark on the long journey most drivers are making along here.
It wasn’t actually that far to Laramie, where we’d booked our overnight stop. We’d picked up a couple of maps and understood there to be a walkable historic centre and arriving in the late afternoon, it gave us just enough time to stretch our legs a bit.
I wonder if you can guess which shop I visited? Answer here! Even though she was rushing to the UPS depot and had the “closed” sign on the door, the charming owner Laurie opened up for me and pointed out the local sock yarns which might have potential for pair # 33 (pair #32 being on the needles now) the “National Park” series of yarn by Knitted Wit seemed like an excellent choice and in terms of both colour and inspiration, the Grand Teton skein jumped out at me.
So I guess we know what that pair will be called!
I think we’re off to a great start, don’t you?
(A slightly surreal end to the day though, as 10pm here meant the booking slots for the excursions on our next cruise opened and it was time to make decisions. How weird it was then, to be sitting on my bed in the Hampton Inn, Laramie, Wyoming booking places on a tour of Jerusalem!)