(Account of 4/19, posted a day late!)
No Wi-Fi! No Wi-Fi! The iPad is picking it up, and the phones are too, but not the laptop. And I ain’t typing this whole daggone thing on the iPad. So I’m sorry it’s late, but it’s beyond my control. I can’t get Javier the Construction Dude off the lobby computer. He’s not responding to the thousand-yard stare AT ALL. Jerk.
So today was Colorado, Wyoming, Wyoming, more Wyoming, and Utah. Did I mention Wyoming? My GOD Wyoming is big. And we didn’t even come into it from the eastern border. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We woke up and Dad decided we could take some time to look around Boulder a bit before hitting the road. So we piled into the Acura and headed out, following our noses around town. We followed a Buff Bus to the Colorado University Campus (home of the Buff(alo)s. It was a really, really pretty campus…red brick buildings in a rough-hewn style with angled rooftops that mirrored the Flatiron Mountains behind it…and the whole campus looked relatively new. All in the same architectural style. Very different from JMU, which had a Bluestone area, a Village area, a brand-new ISAT area…CU looked like it had all sprung up at one time. The stadium looked cool, and had a Buffalo statue out front with his horns all golden…clearly rubbed for luck, like the Wall Street Bull’s nose.
The area surrounding the campus looked a bit cluttered, but we think it was mostly student-rented housing…plus, it’s only April and they’ve just had a rough winter, as Dad pointed out…it’s a bit early in the year to expect perfectly manicured grounds in the neighborhoods. The houses were small and close together, but each was unique…they had plenty of character. A bit farther from campus, we found the Historic District of Boulder, which suddenly sported very nice, much larger, vine-covered houses that had some beautiful lawns. No garages…how the heck do they plow the streets with so many cars parked on both sides??
Dad was trying to get to the mountains to see if we could get up high and see a view of the town. BOY, COULD we. The road picked up quick as we headed through a park area…and suddenly the rundown-houses-becoming-Historic-houses became Holy-Crap-These-People-Are-Loaded houses up on the mountainside. Amazing architecture, amazing-er views. We could see. For. Miles. And miles and miles and miles. Way past Denver off in the distance. Way past the Flatirons, way past I mean EVERYTHING. It was spectacular. There were picnic tables up on the vista where we parked. The crags of the Flatirons rose behind us, and gnarled trees with no spring buds yet framed our view of the city.
Boulder is just a perfect size. It’s not too big, it’s not too small. The university doesn’t seem to TOTALLY dominate the town…but it’s clear it’s a big part of it. There are students everywhere. We stopped in at a Starbucks (one of a MILLION coffee shops of all kinds throughout the city) and everyone in there was a twentysomething pecking away on a Mac laptop. No joke. All Macs. All students. Lots of bikes out front. Very granola.
I could get used to that place. It was really cool. And as we drove away, we went through several other little outlying hamlets that looked just as cozy. The gridded, wooded streets gave way to wide open spaces and farmhouses with long white fences…I even saw a huge jumping arena that stretched along the road for at least a quarter of a mile…there must have been 40 different kinds of jumps scattered throughout. I didn’t see many horses, though…which in retrospect seems a bit strange.
Can I just rewind about 15 years and go back and attend Colorado University instead? Be a rodeo groupie and marry some outdoorsy cowboy-type guy and live the rest of my life healthy and strong in some rugged mountain landscape? How different would my life be…?
The cats are learning the routine. Pilling is less dramatic (I did Marbles in record time, though she was no more affected by it today than she was yesterday) and they’re sick of the crates, but doing fine overall. We got out onto the road around 9:30. Headed north towards Cheyenne, across the Wyoming line. There we were going to pick up I-80 and head West till we hit the Sierras.
Wyoming was, by turns, gorgeous and barren. It was gorgeous first. Craggy rocks jutting up out of giant earthen mounds…from blue in Boulder, the sky went white along with the ground, gradually showing a dusting and then a deepening of snow on the grassy plains and the trees dotting the landscape between the rock formations. I made the folks stop at another Point of Interest (unspecified) and found myself looking at Tree Rock…a landscape that has commanded the detour of highways and railroads for 150 years. I think it’s an Ansel Adams photo…am I right? (I’d check, but no internet!)
The higher we got, the snowier and colder it got, the prettier it got. Wyoming was just hypnotizing for those first hundred miles or so. We hit some kind of welcome center at what felt like an elevation summit, and saw an awesome stone sculpture of Lincoln up there, but didn’t stop, and after that, it was a lot of downhill and the snow started to fade again.
We came into Laramie, and all I could think about was Matthew Shepard…and what it must have been like for him to be tied all night to that fenceline in the freezing cold, never-ending wind of Wyoming. What a shame that that’s the only thing people like me know about Laramie. Never even caught a glimpse of the University of Wyoming.
We stopped in Rawlins for gas and lunch and booze (because the folks were out of gin and didn’t expect to find much in Salt Lake tonight). To get to Rawlins, we had to drive past the Sinclair oil refinery and the cruddy little cluster of trailers huddled next to its endless, belching, grimy acres of twisted machinery. It even claimed to be its own proper town…Sinclair, Wyoming. What on EARTH would possess someone to want to live there?? I even asked the gas station attendant how she ended up in Rawlins, and she told me she and her husband both lost their jobs elsewhere and moved here to live with her dad. They came TO Rawlins for work. You’ll miss Rawlins if you blink. The downtown main street hasn’t been touched since the 20s. Yet the most visible church in town looks almost Byzantine. Very strange.
After Rawlins, we hit the Continental Divide (a few times…someone explain THAT to me), and entered the sprawling, empty wastelands of southern Wyoming. Nuh. Thing. There. Dad says ranch men rate land by cows-per-acre. This was ONE cow per 200 acres…the worst land there is. We ran over bona fide tumbleweeds. We saw triple-tractor-trailers. Oversized loads nearly ran us off the road on the downslopes. We’d top a bend in the road and see the highway stretching out before us like a ribbon, all the way to the horizon. Enormous white propeller blades on towering stalks farmed the wind that never stops blowing over the sagebrush. And the road went on and on and on and on and on.
We entered Wyoming at 11:00 am. We didn’t get out of it till 5:30 pm. And like I said, we entered from the south at Cheyenne, not even from the east from Nebraska. 356 miles of Wyoming. The snowbanks returned, as did the rocks, but it wasn’t pretty anymore like it was at first.
We started to see black cows dot the landscape…sometimes in small clusters, sometimes sparse. We saw one black-and-white magpie and two antelope and a peppering of trailers, pipeyards, and broken-down old sheds seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Exits off the highway would lead to one lone, scrappy, solitary building. The interstate overpasses would pass over unpaved road after unpaved road. Once in a while there would be a hotel with an adult store nearby. There was a penitentiary…’cause, what better place to have one? Where would anyone escape to? They’d die on those plains.
Mom and I both commented on the thought of what it would be like to cross this terrain at oxen-and-steel-rimmed-wooden-wheel speed, rather than at 70. We couldn’t even cruise at 75, the speed limit, and our gas mileage was terrible at this elevation (Wyoming has the second highest average elevation after Colorado, I learned today)…thankfully, gas was right around $3.50 all day.
It was, like I said, early evening when we finally hit Utah and headed through the Wasatch valley (I got that info off a postcard at the hotel desk!). As SOON as we crossed the Utah line, suddenly there were trees. It was like trees had been outlawed in Wyoming, and therefore grew right up to the state line and dared go no further. They began to dot the mountainsides…and gradually the landscape turned green. There was a little town called Echo that stretched along the banks of a beautiful river. It was really quite picturesque. I commented to Mom that if I’d been in a wagon, I’d’ve been happy to stop here. We got an up-close of Echo when we had to make a rather urgent fuel stop and then got turned around trying getting back on the highway. One of us knew where we were going, one of us went the wrong way, and one of us was simply following. I won’t tell you which was whom. ;)
Into Salt Lake City we came…between the amazingly steep and snowy Wasatches…I guess we’re close to Park City, which by the snow board in the lobby is still wide open for ski business! The hotel is nice (except for the Wi-Fi problem) and the cats are happy to be out of the car. We even caught Dancing With the Stars: the Results Show, which was kind of a bummer after missing the competition last night.
We have less than 24 hours left in the trip. Tomorrow we’ll be out on the road early, cross the salt flats (shudder) and some endless Nevada, and find the new house. We’ll drop the cats and the houseplants and head up to Truckee to stay the night at Donner Lake. The household goods should arrive the following day. It’s gonna be fun, I think. At least more fun than 10-hour days in the car….