After a few “rocky days” of COVID for both Captain Bill and Admiral Jann – and those days being in the hot, dry plains of Kansas and eastern Colorado, the joy of feeling good again coincided with our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains as we headed west from Limon, CO and then turned north to Cheyenne, WY.
We had spent two days in Limon in the absolute perfect spot for recovery. There is absolutely nothing to do in Limon, so there was no temptation to be out and about. Our campground, Trailing Edge RV Park, was an exceptionally clean and well-maintained facility owned by a husband and wife (Randy/Cindy) and their son, Colton. In 2017, Randy was working for the company building the then largest wind turbine field in the country just outside Limon. The company was having great difficult finding sufficient “housing” for their transient workers, who primarily live from construction site to construction site in their fifth-wheel campers. Randy and Cindy were approached by the company to build an extended stay camping facility and the company would guarantee to keep them full for two years. Cindy’s aunt had property ideally suited for the project, the city agreed to the plan, Randy/Cindy/Colton went to work and built the campground and the rest was history! Two and a half-years later, the build was done but the need for extended stay facilities continues on as they are consistently >90% occupied. An adjacent property became available; they tore down the house and added five extra long pull-thru transient sites – and Contessa fit nicely into Site #1.
Randy was able to salvage the top third of one of the wind turbines that had been struck by lightning and had to be replaced. Bringing the turbine to the site, adding a flag-hoisting pulley system and light were all probably easier than creating the gorgeous mural which was painted by three young ladies from Limon.
“The place to go” in Limon is Scoops – the locally owned ice cream shop that was less than a 2 block walk from our campsite. You know things weren’t very pretty when we were there for two full days and neither of us felt like going!
Fortunately, Sunday, June 19 dawned a new day with the crew healthy, the weather perfect and the traffic light. Off we headed west and just before Denver turned north to Cheyenne, Wyoming. After a quick run through a Blue Beacon Truck Wash (yes, there are truck washes big enough to hold semi-trucks and Class A motorhomes WITH their toad attached), we cruised into Cheyenne at noon all shiny and clean.
A quick lunch and we were off to explore the capitol of Wyoming. With limited time and a wide variety of museum opportunities, we settled on the Cheyenne Depot Museum. The Union Pacific Railroad Depot, built in 1886, is the last remaining grand railroad station on the transcontinental route. Nothing but a small group of ranchers populated what is now Cheyenne in 1867, until the Union Pacific Railroad decided to make Cheyenne the hub for their construction of the transcontinental railroad. Between August 1867 and January 1868, the town grew from 400 to over 4000.
Cheyenne and Wyoming have blazed many trails throughout its history, including on December 10, 1869, granting women the right to vote and hold office.
A large part of the museum is dedicated to an HOn3 gauge model railroad of the Union Central and Northern Railroad that ran into and through the majestic Rocky Mountains from 1872-1941. This meticulous artwork was the result of 30 years of research and dedication by Harry Brunk. The cars are HO gauge, but the track is the narrower n3 gauge to more closely represent the construction of the actual railroad it represents.
Mr. Brunk built the majority of this massive display is 65’x12′ mobile trailer beside his home in rural Nebraska. When the trailer began to deteriorate and Harry’s ability to maintain and expand the display became a reality, he gave the artwork to a friend, who in turn donated it to the Cheyenne Historical Society.
The amazing detail and life-like representations of the terrain and mountains, along with the reality presentations of towns and ways-of-life were captivating.
The bridge on the right shows from an “aerial view” the challenges facing the construction of these railroads across huge ravines and dramatic elevation changes.
The picture on the left shows the size of the train and track relative to a man’s finger. The picture on the right has that train moving down the track towards its next destination.
The museum also housed a wealth of information on the expansion of this beautiful country through the eyes and timeline of the growth of the railroad. The Pony Express, which delivered mail and messages utilizing a relay of horse-mounted riders from Missouri to California, reduced message travel between the east and west coast to about 10 days. While romantic and a major part of the western lore, the Pony Express only operated for 18 months from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1861, when the first transcontinental telegraph was established.
The gold rush and the never-ending need of the American drive to seek new and untamed worlds drove the amazing push for a transcontinental railway. First powered by steam locomotives, these behemoths brought news, goods, tools and women to the Wild, Wild West. Steam engines gave way to diesel-electric engines and for almost 100 years was the primary transportation for east to west travel.
Now the home of the Cheyenne Visitor’s Center, the ground still shakes as a train goes rumbled by immediately behind the depot. If I closed my eyes, I would almost imagine the feel of excitement and wonder of those long-ago passengers. The depot was gifted to the City of Cheyenne by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1992 and underwent extensive renovation to bring it back to its glorious state.
We took a self-guided tour of town and found a clean, pleasant environment. At the “other end” of Capitol Street (one end being the Depot), was the Wyoming State Capital Building and along the way was the Wyoming State Supreme Court.
Monday began early, as it often does! We have a real system on “move days” and things just seem to click as we ready both ourselves and Contessa for departure. We reconnected the toad and were on our way well before 8:00a MST – due west on I80 for 270 miles to Rock Springs, Wyoming. The topology certainly changed today as we climbed and climbed and climbed and then descended then climbed some more.
We crossed the Western Continental Divide between Laramie and Cheyenne at an altitude of 8,640′. We left Cheyenne at 6,063′ and finished the day at 6,388′ in Rock Springs. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking with wide open ranges and miles upon miles of scrub brush.
The Wick-Beumee Wildlife Management area was established in the early 1960s primarily to provide a winter range for elk that summer in the adjacent Medicine Bow Mountains. The area now totals 22,060 acres
Signage warning no humans from Dec 1-May 15 to avoid disturbing wildlife
The clouds, so close you felt you could reach out and touch them, added an additional dimension of shadows to the rolling meadows.
Elk Mountain, a part of the Medicine Bow Mountains, has a summit of 11, 156′
As we continued our journey west, the skies darkened and the winds continued to increase. There had been warnings of potential 60 mph crosswinds for all day today, which is another reason we try to travel early – both before the winds build and while we are freshest. Alas, the rains came during the last 45 minutes of our travel. With the intense winds primarily on nose, the driver side windshield wiper sprung off the windshield. Fortunately, it did not rip from the coach but was held tight against the rearview mirror. Again, another blessing, we were less than 1/4 mile from an exit, where Bill was able to pull off and repair the wiper – and the rain stopped during that time!
Back on the highway, the rain returned as we made our way to the campground at 1:00p. Not only did the dark clouds bring the wind and rain – it brought the cold. It was 47 degrees at 1:oop! When we checked in, the sweet lady said “it never rains like this during this time of year – and we’ve had three days of it” and three days ago it was 90 degrees.
Tomorrow we leave the interstate system and head north to Swan Valley ID and the Grand Tetons! The wind and the rain is gone and the forecast is for a high of 73 and sunny – PERFECT! We’ve traveled 1,950 coach miles, so we are closing in a third of our projected mileage.
One thought on “To the Rockies We Go!”
Love your historical diary! Glad you are better. This latest strain has been hard on even those in their 50s.