Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Third Sunday Drive, Day Six: Rocky Mountain High

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land
 --John Denver
 To hear John Denver sing Rocky Mountain High, click on the link.  The verse above seems particularly apt given the devastation that the rain and floods caused just five days after we passed through Larimer County.

Also, remember that clicking on photos or links will open a new window.  In the case of my photos, you will be able to see them full screen once you've clicked on the images below.

After checking out of our motel in Limon, we headed across the parking lot for some good, carb rich breakfast food at IHOP.  At 8:45 a.m., we were back on the road heading west on I-70, with the next planned stop somewhere north of Denver where we'd fill the Saab's tank.  Instead, we exited the Interstate at Exit 336, where by (Elbert) County Road 178 we found an abandoned farm.  I believe it's for sale, if anyone wants to take on a project, and what a project it would be. 

Colorado Fixer Upper
Exit 336, I-70

By a quarter after ten, we were on I-25 north of Denver heading toward Cheyenne.  The Saab's tank was full, and I felt we were making good time.  Nancy and Dick (my onboard navigation systems) wanted me to continue north on 25 then west on 80, but I had a different route in mind.  Turning off the Interstate at Fort Collins, we wound our way through the backside of that city following signs to US 287.  287 is a good highway that climbs through the foothills, crossing into Wyoming south of Laramie.  Once out of the metropolitan area, we made two stops, first at Livermore, which seemed to be nothing more than a convenience store/restaurant/bar.  While John used the facilities, I wandered around the parking lot and found that the road taking off behind me was Jackass Road.  (I have a picture of the sign, in case you don't believe me.)  Livermore may not be much to look at, but it does have a Wikipedia entry and a zip code.    A few miles further and we climbed through a cut in the rock which seemed most photogenic.  Hey, I'm driving, I get to say where we stop and shoot, right?  I didn't think much about the sky at the time, but looking at the pictures now, those clouds do seem to be foretelling the torrential rains that devastated this part of Colorado just a few days later.  The picture below was taken on September 4.  The flooding began on the 9th.

Threatening clouds northwest of Fort Collins
Mile 386 on Colorado's US 287

Passing the sign that promised "Forever West," we entered Wyoming with the thought of having lunch in Laramie.  After stopping to add the Albany County Courthouse to my photo albums, we relied on Yelp to find lunch, and that app directed us to a small restaurant facing the railroad tracks in the midst of several second hand stores.  Who know that here in the heart of beef country, we'd find a Vegan restaurant as good as Sweet Melissa's.  The food was inspired and our waiter was cute and very attentive.  Hmm.   By 2 p.m., we were back on the road, this time on I-80, heading west toward Rawlins.

Located almost dead center as you drive across Wyoming east to west, Rawlins is a tidy small city of just under 10,000 residents.  It is the seat of Carbon County, and the home of the original Wyoming State Penitentiary.  Lots of beautiful buildings caught my attention (and my camera's eye) downtown, including St. Joseph's Catholic Church, the Carbon County Courthouse, the Masonic Temple--a lovely sandstone structure, and, of course, the old prison.  I certainly wouldn't mind staying at the Ferris Mansion Bed & Breakfast, either.

The Ferris Mansion Bed & Breakfast
Rawlins, Wyoming

The highway signs leading us out of Rawlins were confusing to say the least, but we soon found ourselves back on US 287 heading toward Lander.  Along the way, we stopped in Jeffrey City, which I remembered from my old days when I was involved in Methodist Church stuff.  Jeffrey City was the southern most parish in the Yellowstone Conference back in the 1970s.  Today, the town is largely a twentieth century ghost town, with several cheaply built apartment buildings waiting to fall down in the wind, and most businesses closed and shuttered.  The town started out in the 1930s as Home on the Range, Wyoming, but was renamed Jeffrey City in 1957 when the Western Nuclear Corporation opened a uranium mine in the area--a venture funded by a Rawlins physician named, what else, Dr. C.W. Jeffrey.  Thousands of people moved to the area, and Western Nuclear built a company town to house them.  The 2010 census counted 58 people still living there, and I looked in vain for a Methodist Church to shoot.  There was a large country church on a hillside just east of town, but when I got there, I found it was Southern Baptist.  One block really caught my eye.  Just a block off the highway, I counted a half-dozen old Mack trucks parked, and one Ford COE (cab over engine) tow truck.  I don't know that it's the tow truck seen in this youtube video, but it could be that truck's brother.

1951 Ford F6 COE Tow Truck
Jeffrey City, Wyoming
Jeffrey City notwithstanding, there's a lot of empty land between Rawlins and Lander, a highway distance of 125 miles.  Beautiful scenery, if you like that sort of thing, but don't count on finding food or gas along the way.  While we arrived in Lander at 6 p.m., it wasn't until 7 that we found ourselves at El Sol de Mexico, again thanks to Yelp.  It wasn't hard getting a table, but once we were seated, I think the wait staff completely forgot we were there.  The restaurant was a popular place, and people just kept on coming, pausing once inside to greet their friends, then on to their tables where, I swear, they were served before the waiter even remembered we were there.  And since I'm bitching about the service, I have to admit that John really enjoyed his dinner.  I found mine mediocre at best.  I guess the reason I'm still so upset about the service is that I trust Yelp.  Nearly every Yelp review of El Sol mentioned the speedy service.  My mileage definitely varied.  While we're still in Lander, I must say that I love the city's website and their slogan "Real. Western. Spirit."  Yep, three words, three periods. 

Central Wyoming Landscape
Along US 287, Fremont County, Wyoming

I didn't want to risk getting to Moran in Grand Teton National Park only to find that our only option for sleeping was going to set us back a couple of hundred bucks, so we stopped at the next best thing, Dubois.  Roughly half way between Lander and the Park, Dubois bills itself as a real western town, or to quote the town's website, "Where real cowboys work and play."  Now that's saying something in a state that calls itself "The Cowboy State."  I guess all the rest of them cowpokes are just amateurs.  The Dubois Super 8 was one of the more expensive Super 8s I've visited, but the beds were comfortable and we were glad to call it a night.

Miles driven:  518 across Colorado and Wyoming.  Photos taken:  57.

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