Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We left southeastern Wyoming and headed north, then west toward Casper, Wyoming, the second largest city in the State. Cheyenne being the largest. In order to see as much of each state as possible, we usually set our next destination about three hours away. It takes about 3-4 days to see and visit the area before we continue on. We wanted to see the middle of the state, so we set our sights on Riverton, then on to Cody. The Wind River Casino is in Riverton and we selected the Wind River RV Park hoping it would be similar to the Jackson Rancheria in California or the Seven Feathers Casino in Oregon.


We left southeastern Wyoming and headed north on I-25 toward Casper. Gentle rolling hills greeted us after coming out of Denver and the Rocky Mountains. These would soon give way to huge prairies.

One of our first "large" cities was Douglas, Home of the Jackalope, which is rumored to be a Jackrabbit with antlers similar to an antelope. Does such an animal truly exist? Well, it depends on who is telling the story.  Some say it's a mythical creature and others say its real, caused by a viral infection in rabbits. Regardless, they are mentioned as far back as the 16th Century.

We spied what appeared to be a Jackalope perched on this hillside, but then realized it was just another statue similar to others we had seen throughout the State of Wyoming. The City of Douglas is proud of it's claim to fame as the Jackalope Capitol of the World.

Click here: Jackalopes-Myth or Real

After passing through Casper, we turned west on US20, a very nice two lane highway. The middle of Wyoming is mostly prairie land with a few hills here and there. We were surprised at how sparsely populated the State is. It was mostly ranchland, with a few scattered farms and small businesses thrown in.

With mostly flatland and sage brush, the area was perfect for the Pronghorn. While not truly an antelope, in North America, it continues to be known as such. We saw many Pronghorns along the highway, some in groups and many simply by themselves. These animals are larger than deer but smaller than elk. In Wyoming, they outnumber people.

Another one of Wyoming's hillside dwellers. This fellow was pointing the way to Thermopolis, Wyoming with it's hot springs and the Wyoming Dinosaur Museum.

Once we passed through towns like Moneta and Shoshoni, we encountered Boysen State Park. Usually a beautiful setting with blue water, recent rains and wind had stirred up the water and the silt on the bottom so the water was brown and uninviting. This is just east of Riverton.

Just north and east of Riverton there is a campground and day use area. With a name like "Poison Creek", it was not appealing to us. As it turns out, there's not much there. Only redemption is it's right on the water. There are no hookups and really nothing more than a wide spot on the Boysen Reservoir. Nothing appealing at all, but the name is interesting.

We finally arrive in Riverton, population 10,615. There are four rivers that converge nearby, giving the City its' name. It is also know as The Rendezvous City, as it has, for centuries, been a meeting place, first by Native Americans and later by settlers, homesteaders and prospectors. It is surrounded by the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The Wind River RV Park is near the center of town and is not affiliated with the Indian Casino of the same name. In fact, they still had their old name on the sign out front. It was a dated campground, with few amenities, but it was clean. Since we make lemonade out of lemons, we still enjoyed the park, walks around the area and visited the casino about 5 miles away.
That's it for today. Next up...we head through Thermopolis and on to Cody, Wyoming and the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park.....

Friday, November 23, 2012

We spent some time in South Eastern Wyoming. One of the highlights was visiting many of the small communities that folks call home. We wanted to see Fort Laramie and the town of the same name. Fort Laramie was an important stop on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. It was also a staging area for military excursions in the area.

We left  I-25 and headed east on US26, a well paved and scenic drive towards the town of Fort Laramie. This enjoyable drive follows the Platt River and the Burlington Northern Railway through towns like Guernsey, Fort Laramie and Torrington.

Just outside the town of Guernsey we found this State Historic Site. Since this area was a hub for the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails, many travelers stopped in this area to take advantage of the safety of nearby Fort Laramie, abundant water for their livestock and grassy plains. Register Cliff was one of the key checkpoints for travelers on the Trails as it allowed them to ensure they were on the correct path west.

These sandstone cliffs were created by the Platt River. While sandstone is relatively soft, these cliffs have withstood the perils of Mother Nature and stand as a tribute to the hardy travelers who passed through this area. It was custom to carve your name in the cliffs. The earliest located name was inscribed in 1829.

They have identified 375 names and locations of families that had passed through this area and inscribed their names on the cliff face walls. The W. R. Foster family passed here in 1852. They were from Vernon, Iowa. Their destination was unknown.  Of interest, is that while this is a State Historic Site, you are encouraged to continue the tradition and carve your initials in the sandstone, but asked to respect those whose names are already inscribed.

After inscribing our names, we left Registry Cliff and continued toward Fort Laramie. The clear blue skies began to give way to some puffy white clouds and some ominous looking clouds in the distance. It looked like we might be in for some showers later in the day.

We arrived in Fort Laramie, pop.230, as one of the Burlington Northern trains made its' way westward toward their large switching yard just west of the city. Fort Laramie was a Pony Express stop in 1860. A sign in town proclaims it is "Home to 250 Good People and 6 Soreheads". We were left to discover for ourselves which was which.

Turning Left in the town of Fort Laramie takes you across the railroad tracks and the Platte River. The Platte River was important to the Fort itself as it provided needed water and a natural barrier to attacks on the Fort. Since it was at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers, it also provided much of the animals the fur traders of the time needed for their trade. It was originally constructed by these fur traders and later instituted as a Fort for the US Army.

Wagons, such as this one, were called "Prairie Schooners". They were designed to haul about 2500 lbs of "stuff" although one that heavily loaded would be very slow. These pioneers often walked the entire trail and slept under the wagons at night. Most pioneers averaged about 10-15 miles per day with the entire trip west taking in excess of six months. In 1846, the ill fated Donner Party stayed at Fort Laramie. This actual wagon was meticulously restored.

Fort Laramie began as a fur traders' trading post in the early 1830's and was purchased by the United States Army in 1849 for $4,000. Barracks and Officer's quarters were built along with mess quarters and stock pens and barns. This is the mess hall set up for the men's dinner. Note the large wood burning stove/heater in the middle of the room.

Along with the mess hall above, the men had dorm style sleeping quarters. Besides these dorms, set up for the single men, there was a hotel type setting for the married couples and a very formal and elegant building for the officer's. Note the same heating facility in the middle of the room. Adjacent to this facility was a leather room, a barber shop, a bath house and a recreation room with a bar.

Interesting to us was the use of these large metal structures on top of various hills all around Wyoming. I was unable to find out any information as to their significance, who constructed them, who maintains them or why they are there. We saw images of Bison, Cowboys, Horses and this Covered Wagon. Note also the deteriorating weather in the form of threatening clouds. It was to get worse very quickly.

Ever wonder what a storm brewing over Wyoming looks like? We were headed back to the coach when this huge storm rose up in front of us. While it certainly got our attention, it was a slow moving, yet massive weather front so we easily outmaneuvered it and arrived back at our coach safe and sound.
Even though we were safely inside our coach when the storm arrived, it brought with it rain, wind, lightning and thunder. Jasmine hated it, Debi wished it would go away, and I went outside and snapped some pictures of the lightning was pretty spectacular....

Monday, November 19, 2012

We enjoyed our visit to the Denver area. Visited with some friends and relatives, then it was time to hit the road again. So, we headed north on I-25 with the threat of rain following us. We saw rain in the distance but it was behind us a bit so we weren't too concerned. The area north of Denver consists of open range and a combination of farm houses and small towns. After crossing into Wyoming, the landscape changes little but becomes more ranch style than farming communities...

This was our campsite at Chatfield State Park. In addition to full hookups, they had showers, restrooms and laundry facilities throughout the park. They also had a 70 leash free dog park with two lakes. Jasmine didn't want to leave this area.

While Denver/Golden is known for Coors Beer, just north of the City is the Budweiser Brewery where they offer free tours daily....

Even though we saw rain in the distance, and cloudy skies overhead, traffic was light to none and the weather was cool. Debi and I had some times when we had trouble breathing due to the altitude. Local lore says, Coke and a candy bar will help deal with the altitude.

You can see some rain falling off in the distance. These farmers welcome the rain and clean, cool and crisp air it brings. 

Approaching the Wyoming State line we were greeted with a huge steel statue of a Bison overlooking the highway from a mountain top perch.

Welcome to Wyoming....the nation's 44th State..admitted July 10,1890. Known as the "Cowboy State", Wyoming is the most extensive, yet ranked 50th in the US in population and 49th in density.  Lots of room to roam...
Cheyenne is Wyoming's largest and most populated city. If you're passing through on the Interstate, take the time to use the Business Routes as you pass by some of these larger cities. You'll be surprised, usually it's a pleasant one, at what you will see. Interstates allow us to get from point A to point B quickly but much of the true "America" is lost when we are in too big a hurry.

It is home to Frontier Park, the Fairgrounds and the Old West Museum.

These "snow fences" attest to the harsher weather this area experiences in the winter months. They are designed to keep the snow and ice from forming on the roadways. Because of the very long and spacious flat lands, the winds are greater along this section of the roadway.

Where once only large ranches featuring range cattle once stood, today small farms and large ranches coexist.  Driving along this section of roadway was peaceful and harks back to a time when life was slower and more laid back.

Small two lane roadways once traversed this open land connecting many of the small towns with names like Torrington, Douglas and Chugwater. Today the Interstate bypasses these towns and to reach them requires getting off and seeking them out. Your reward is small towns with good food.

Ribbons of concrete connect Cheyenne with the town of Casper. Our destination was the town of Glendo and the Glendo State Park along the Platt River.

We climbed a bit off the plains of central Wyoming into some smaller rocky hills. The rain stayed down on the plains and we were treated to blue skies with some puffy clouds.

Finally arriving at our destination, Glendo, Wyoming. Not exactly as big as Los Angeles nor as busy as Las Vegas, but we will be calling it home for the next few days........

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

We spent Memorial Day in Rifle Gap and then headed for Denver. I was a little apprehensive about this stage of our adventure as I had never taken our coach up and over the Rockies with its' high elevations. My concerns disappeared after the first real climb as the coach performed flawlessly and with the two stage engine brake, coming down was actually pleasurable. Here's some pictures between Rifle, Colorado and Denver....

The State Park is situated a few miles north of I-70 and surrounds a reservoir. The road to the Park crosses the dam and is a narrow two lane road. Upon crossing the dam, we encountered several cowboys that were herding these cows down this road at high noon! What were they thinking? We stopped to allow them to pass but they parted the herd so we could proceed. There were about 50 vehicles stopped waiting to go the other way. I did get some cow snot on the rig while we were stopped talking to the cowboys!

Once past the cattle drive, we headed south and then east on I-70. We had a few puffy clouds but no wind! This is interesting country as the elevation of Rifle is 5,380 feet, about the same as Denver, and I-70 begins its' ascent into the Rockies from here. The road passes through relative flatlands surrounded by small hills.

Heading east on I-70, the road starts to climb into Glenwood Springs, an enjoyable town with many small shops, hotels and a large hot springs hotel/swimming hole. Amtrak also has a station there. The road follows the Colorado River and was an engineering feat when it was completed.  I-70 originally was designed to stop at Denver as it was felt the road through Glenwood Canyon was too narrow and winding for an Interstate. In fact, I-70 is the only road that varies from the norm for Interstate travel, relating to curvature and grades.

In order to build the Interstate through Glenwood Canyon several tunnels and bridges had to be constructed. Of interest is the shape and construction of the tunnel for the roadway compared to the chiseled features of the railway tunnel depicted in the previous picture. 

There are signs posted along this portion of the highway alerting motorists the roadway does not meet Interstate standards.

Here, eastbound traffic is cantilevered above the Colorado River while westbound traffic is suspended on a viaduct above the canyon floor.

After passing through the 12 mile stretch of Glenwood Canyon, we left the sheer cliffs behind and discovered beautiful rolling hills and wonderful villages nestled in the valleys. Towns like Eagle, Edwards and Avon. Most of these towns were the result of gold and silver being found in these mountains back in the 1800s. They are thriving today because of Colorado's "White Gold"...we call it snow....

Continuing east the road begins to climb again. Two large sharp curves await ahead before starting the big ascent over the Rockies. Here, we are arriving just west of the city of Vail, Colorado.

The highest point of I-70 is the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnel. The westbound tunnel is named Eisenhower, after the president, completed in 1973 and the eastbound is named Johnson, after the governor of Colorado who lobbied for it's construction, completed in 1979. Elevation is  just over 11,000 feet. The tunnels are 1.6 miles long and are sloped at almost a 2% grade. The tunnels pass underneath the Continental Divide.

After exiting the tunnel, there is a pull out to view the expanse of the Rocky Mountains. It is also a place to check your rig in preparation for the 7-8% downgrades and sharp curves that await ahead. The Loveland Ski area is just below us here. We stretched our legs, gave Jasmine a bit of a walk and ate lunch before continuing.

Coming off the summit, we passed towns like Georgetown, seen here, Clear Creek and Alvarado before dropping down to Denver. As picturesque as this area is, make no mistake, the road is long and steep with many sharp curves. Our coach handled well and all my worries were for nothing. With the engine brake on low, I was able to maintain a steady 50mph speed.

Along this stretch of I-70 there are over 40 tunnels and bridges. Several of the tunnels are built along this long downgrade. Notice the sign here that warns truckers of "Sharp Curves 2000 ft. ahead"...

The interesting thing about this long and tedious downgrade is that Denver can be seen in the distance which gives the impression that you are done with the steep grades and sharp curves. These signs are testimonials that driver's were not prepared for the curves that were still to come.

A final warning that more curves and steep grades lie ahead.

Finally, after passing over the highest points of the Rockies, we dropped down into Denver. Of course, with the "big" city, we also encountered traffic.

Like most big cities, Denver has it's share of high rises, apartment buildings and office towers. Denver is the largest city within the State of Colorado and is home to more than 600,000 people.

It is also the State Capitol of Colorado. It encompasses 155 square miles, is the second largest city in the Southwest, (behind Phoenix, Arizona), and is exactly 5,280 above sea level, which gives it the nickname "Mile High City".

It is also the home of the US Mint. The Denver Mint is the single largest producer of coins in the world. The mint struck its first coins in 1906 and each coin bears the letter "D" mint mark. Its first year of production produced 167 million coins, including the $20 Gold "Double Eagle", $10 Gold "Eagle" and the $5 Gold "Half Eagle".

The Mint offers free tours of the facility every hour 8am-2pm M-F.    Sorry, no FREE SAMPLES...!!