From Centennial, Colorado to Buffalo, Wyoming – 445 miles from morning limited visibility to sun still high in the western sky at 8p.m.
Stops along the way:
Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center, I-25 exit 4
The Wyoming Rib & Chop House in Gillette, Wyoming
Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, Buffalo, Wyoming
Sightings of antelope with plenty of room to roam, brown cows, black cows and some really ugly spotted cows, horses, hawks, coal mines, long trains of empty coal cars headed north, trains of filled coal cars headed south, working oil fields, Crazy Woman Creek and miles of green green grasses.
In eastern-most Wyoming US85 nearly parallels the historic Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Route. At Mule Creek Junction we find a roadside rest stop miles from other facilities. It’s time to flex the legs so we pull into the rest area.
We discover a modern, well-maintained facility – not only with restrooms but landscaped grounds, a designated pet area, picnic tables and children’s playground. Although this is the crossroads for two US highways, traffic is far less than one finds along Interstates where one would expect such facilities. We’re surprised of the quality we find here.
While not a manned information center the building is well supplied with state maps and travel literature. We spend 20 minutes ambling around the area and reading the exterior signs relating stories of Wyoming wildlife, Native Americans, agriculture and that famed Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Route.
After a slightly frantic getaway we spend the first 90 minutes crawling north on I-25 which reminds us of all the reasons we like to exit the Interstates and travel back roads when the opportunity arises. Looking for routes we’ve never traveled we catch US85 north of Greeley heading for the border. We are soon greeted with “Road Work Ahead” and spend time waiting in line and inching forward.
Across the Wyoming line we’re intrigued by acres of sunflowers. Are they destined for roasted seeds, oil or some use unknown to us? Even in the late afternoon light every plant is facing east to greet tomorrow morning’s sun.
When checking into the Holiday Inn Express we learn they host an evening reception – free beer, wine and munchies. After our afternoon clean-out-the-refrigerator lunch we’re not interested in sitting down to a full dinner. Veggies and dip, cheese and crackers all we need for an evening snack plus an adult beverage to ease the day’s pace; plus, a fresh baked cookie for bedtime. A perfect welcome to Torrington, Wyoming.
I spend the evening planning our itinerary and making reservations for the next few nights. Above all we’re thrilled to be on the road again.
Can’t believe we’re two weeks into our driving trip to the Pacific Northwest, the first days seem so long ago – so much spectacular country between here and home. Taking a moment to reflect on the 14 days reminds us of all we’ve seen and experienced.
3,050 miles traveled
5 States – Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana,
3 Canadian National Parks – Waterton, Banff, Yoho
2 Canadian Providences – Alberta, British Columbia
2 US National Parks – Grand Teton and Glacier
1 Cousin Visit – Thanks Kay
We won’t soon forget seeing two American Bald Eagles while on the Waterton Lake Cruise, a grizzly ambling through a grassy field in Glacier Nt. Park, and a mother brown bear and two cubs chowing down in the same field two days in a row. Never before had we seen a rainbow and its reflection like the one at Emerald Lake.
Alternating between hotels, Nt. Park lodges, bed and breakfasts and the hospitality of family we’ve been fortunate to have no horror stories of places you would never catch us in again. It had been years since we’d stayed in a Ramada Inn and the memories aren’t great. When we needed lodging in Pincher Creek, Alberta a Ramada looked like the best choice; and I’m sure it was. The room was large, very clean, bed and linens of good quality, front desk staff friendly and efficient. Left this hotel with a new attitude towards the brand.
Definitely would return to the three B&Bs we’ve visited – Blue Heron Inn in Rigby, Idaho, Bad Rock B&B in Columbia Falls, Montana and Cromier B&B in Penticton, British Columbia. Each were unique with gracious hosts and gave a more personal experience to their area.
No big cities until we arrived in Vancouver today. Listed as the worst travel congestion and most traffic delays in all of Canada we’re quickly reminded of the realities of city life.
We’ve eaten in a variety of restaurants from neighborhood bistros to formal dining rooms (the worst service). I even have to admit to one stop at a McDonalds.We like to focus on local food whenever possible – huckleberries in Montana, saskatoon berries in Alberta, fresh from the orchard plums, pears, apples, artisan cheese and boutique wines in BC’s Okanagan Valley and fresh seafood in Vancouver.
Dinosaur digs, jagged mountain peaks, aqua blue glacier-fed rivers, acres of trees heavy with ripening apples, black angus grazing in seemingly endless grasslands, dense forest of towering western red cedar, new mown hay awaiting baling, golden aspen in their fall glory, hillsides covered in rows of vineyards, and rushing rivers, foggy mornings, clouds lying low in mountain valleys, vivid sunrises, a day without a single cloud in the sky, sheets of driving rain – visions captured in photographs and the mind. Memories.
Along Teton Park Road in Grand Teton National Park
We drove by this clump of trees yesterday afternoon about 4:30pm. There was a hint of autumn color change, but only a hint. Early morning temps dropped to around 23 degrees. Viola! The intense change was a shock as we neared this spectacular sight around 2pm today.
As I was taking pictures another lady hopped out of her car and said, “They weren’t like this yesterday.” No, but fall is a comin’.
Two railroad relics rest in Cheyenne parks commemorating the importance railroads have played since Cheyenne’s founding. The massive Big Boy steam engine #4004 proudly stands in Holliday Park. The coal-fired Big Boy was designed to pull a 3600-ton train over the steep Union Pacific grads between Cheyenne and Ogden, Utah. Ranked as the world’s largest steam locomotive, Engine #4004 ran from 1941 – 1958 and is one of only eight remaining Big Boys on display in the United States.
Wyoming’s oldest locomotive is retired to Lions Park on the north end of Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Nicknamed “Ol’ Sadie” by Union Pacific crews, #1242 was built in 1890 in New Jersey. The coal/steam powdered engine ran the Walcott-Saratoga-Encampment spur line until 1954.
While visiting “Ol’ Sadie” note the unique fence created by Floyd Young, the last engineer to operate the locomotive. In retirement Young collected Western and railroad relics, forming them into a fence around his home. After his death the family donated the fence to the Botanic Gardens to enclose Young’s beloved #1242.
Eight-foot-tall cowboy boots dot the Cheyenne landscape. Created as a fundraiser for the Cheyenne Depot Museum Foundation in 2004, 19 boots were painted and decorated by local artists. Sponsorships and auction made nearly $100,000 for the museum. The boots are displayed throughout the community – parks, businesses, and public spaces to the local community college.
The project’s theme was “If this book could talk, what story would it tell?” Governors of Wyoming and Where the Deer and the Antelope Play appear fairly obvious. A free audio tour relates the story of each book in the artists’ own words. Simple to use, the tour is accessed by calling 307-316-0067 followed by an assigned boot number and the pound key. While the tour is free individual cell plan charges may apply.
Of the boots we visited my favorite was Licensed to Boot installed outside of the Wyoming State Museum. The top part of the boot is painted with scenes from past Wyoming state license plates. The toe of the boot is cover with a mosaic of pieces cut from actual license plates donated to the project. Upon investigation I discovered Licensed to Boot was an after school project of the Carey Junior High Art Club. A shout out to the students for their creative and accomplished Big Boot!