Wyoming 2016:
Day 5 - Casper, WY


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Wyoming 2016: [Day 1 - Moline, IL] [Day 2 - Mitchell, SD] [Day 3 - Keystone, SD] [Day 4 - Gillette, WY] [Day 5 - Casper, WY] [Day 6 - Laramie, WY] [Day 7 - Cheyenne, WY] [Day 8 - Lincoln, NE] [Day 9 - Pella, IA]

Tuesday, November 22, 2016: Mileage: 1538; departure time: 7:15 AM.
After a tasty hotel breakfast of eggs, bacon, and waffles, we were headed to Casper, Wyoming.
We passed oil wells along the way.
This Sinclair dinosaur had a saddle on him. Very appropriate for the West, wouldn't you say?
Cows? No, these are buffalo.
There was a little snow here, either leftover from several days ago or the night before.
'Murica!
As we got closer to Casper, there was more snow from the snowfall the night before.
Cool rocks. Literally.
The snow was getting thicker by now, but the roads were fine and it wasn't actively snowing, so we got all of the benefit of beautiful scenery with none of the disadvantages of snow.
We arrived in Casper and made a beeline for our first stop, ...
... the UPS store.
We had two large boxes to ship for Debbie's nephew's birthday, and it was $40 cheaper to ship them from here than from Indiana. Plus, they'd arrive closer to his birthday this way.
Next, we headed to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.
The sculpture outside looked beautiful with fresh snow on it.
The Center is on a hill overlooking Casper and Casper Mountain, ...
... so we stood for a few minutes to take in the beauty and get some photos.
We headed inside and were surprised to learn that there was no admission fee.
While we waited for the main welcome presentation to start, we visited a temporary gallery of Oregon Trail graves. There were photographs of gravesites and stories about the people buried there. It was really quite fascinating.
The orientation presentation is shown in multi-media form with video display above, and lighting changes that incorporate the scenes below.
We toured the facility and learned quite a lot about the Oregon Trail. We also learned about the Pony Express, including the surprising fact that it only was in operation for nineteen months before it was replaced by telegraph services.
We headed to Plow's Diner, housed in a very tiny building that you could easily miss when driving by.
As with all of the restaurants we visited, Debbie had researched them in advance to find the ones worth visiting.
The reviews for this place were absolutely correct, because the food was delicious.
We headed to Casper Mountain for a view of the city.
Thanks to Google Maps Street View, Debbie had found this overlook on the road to the top of the mountain.
The views were amazing. Here's the view to the left, ...
... straight ahead overlooking the city of Casper, ...
... and off to the right. (Hover over the picture to see how it looked later in the day.)
We descended the mountain most of the way, then turned off to visit Rotary Park.
All of the freshly fallen snow from the night before turned the park into a winter wonderland, and we do not use that term lightly.
We followed the trail of deep snow up the hill.
The snow on this bridge was relatively undisturbed, but we definitely weren't the first people to have enjoyed the park this morning.
We were the only ones here now though, so we had this beautiful waterfall to ourselves.
Tom threw a snowball at it and was disappointed that he missed the falls by a couple of yards.
So he tried again and this time, he hit the mark.
Here's the view looking back from our vantage point at the falls.
OK, enough of that. We have other places to see.
Such as the Tate Geological Museum.
This fantastic sculpture is titled "Essence of Rex," and was created in 2014. It features the full T. Rex on one side, ...
... and only the skeleton on the other side.
Hey, there's a Ninkasi Brewery sticker! We were just there in April.
The Tate is located on the grounds of Casper College, so it is in a building shared with college classrooms and college kids.
The focal point of the one-room museum is Dee the Mammoth, who was discovered during an oil drilling expedition nearby in 2006. A large display all around her chronicles her discovery, escavation, restoration, and donation to the museum.
This display showed the many different properties of rocks. A volunteer showed us a display right next to it that showed examples of fluorescence in rocks by turning on different wavelengths of light.
This display was great fun to look at. It contained examples of many different types of rocks. Below are a few highlights from the case.
Of course, it's named crocoite, because it is from Australia. Check out those tiny pink formations.
This is stibnite from Bolivia, made up of delicate rock strands.
Oooh, marcasite. So pretty and elegant.
This is cristobalite in obsidian.
This flattened fossil was a borealosuchus, or an Eocene Crocodile.
Here's Stan, a tyrannosaurus rex.
We did a little shopping before we left. We didn't buy these SoapRocks since we've owned them before (and even given them out as Christmas gifts), but that didn't stop us from wanting them.
We were happy to see this field guide from Rite in the Rain, a company currently helmed by Debbie's cousin. We ended up buying a do-rag for Tom, a spiral crystal for Debbie, and a toy set of magnifying glasses for our little future geologists.
Next up: the Werner Wildlife Museum, also a part of Casper College. We were the only visitors there during our entire visit.
This museum is a little larger, spanning two floors. One of the first animals to greet us ws this albino mule deer named Snowflake who was easily recognized in the wild while she was alive.
Here's a not-so-scary grizzly bear.
From left to right: golden eagle, adult bald eagle, and juvenile bald eagle.
Awww, look how cute this black bear is.
This Rocky Mountain Goat head just wants to be your friend.
This photo shows the distinctive horn shape that gives the pronghorn its name.
The explanation for this display finally gave us the best way to differentiate mule deer from white tail deer: "White-tailed deer antlers have a main branch that curves forward from which other smaller branches or tines grow upward. Mule deer, however, have antlers that are bifurcated (split in two) and at each branch the main antler splits in two again."
We do love the mooses so very much. We didn't see any live ones on this trip which is why we will continue to associate moose with Sweden.
Hey, there, buffalo. What's up?
The second room on the first floor focused on animals from around the world. This whole section featured animals we had seen in Botswana and Tanzania two years earlier.
This polar bear was extremely large. This picture can't do him justice, but consider that the wooden line behind him at neck height is at the height of the door frame. Yeah, he's big.
We headed downstairs next and spotted a turkey on the way.
This room was filled with animals that had all been killed by one guy. Creepy and sad, really, especially the ones that were noted as being record holders for size.
The fish display was bright and interesting.
So many birds; mostly hawks and owls.
Here's a black-billed magpie. We had seen several of these over the past few days, but hadn't gotten a photo of one. They're easier to photograph when they're dead.
This hilarious fellow is a sage grouse.
We checked into the Hilton Garden Inn, then headed back out again.
We were going to go to Sanford's Grub and Pub for dinner, but decided to just do afternoon appetizers instead so we could go to a movie at 4:00.
Sanford's is quite the brightly decorated place. Neon, statues, and signs fill every wall and ceiling.
We had selected this place for one reason only: to try the Rocky Mountain Oysters (on the right). We also ordered delicious fried okra so we'd be guaranteed something worth eating. The Rocky Mountain Oysters were really disgusting, but we can now say we've tried them and we can go the rest of our lives without ever eating them again. Fortunately, they came with a brown gravy that was absolute heaven when eaten with the accompanying fries.
The sun was now out so we ditched our movie plans and headed back up to Casper Mountain.
It was worth the drive back up. The sun was starting to set in the west.
It was easy to tell where the snowline stopped -- pretty much right at the edge of town where the mountain stopped shading the land.
This photo was a twin to the one we took earlier. It's amazing what a little sunlight will do to a photo. (Hover over the picture to see how it looked earlier in the day.)
Off in the distance, we noticed windmills that we hadn't seen on our earlier visit.
We zoomed in for a closer shot of our hotel and the interpretive center we visited when we first arrived.
We headed back through town past this vintage movie theater.
For second dinner, we got tacos, Mexican donut bites, and a churro from Taco John's, then we headed back to the hotel to watch "Starship Troopers," filmed in the Badlands and at Hell's Half-Acre nearby.

Day 6 >


Wyoming 2016: [Day 1 - Moline, IL] [Day 2 - Mitchell, SD] [Day 3 - Keystone, SD] [Day 4 - Gillette, WY] [Day 5 - Casper, WY] [Day 6 - Laramie, WY] [Day 7 - Cheyenne, WY] [Day 8 - Lincoln, NE] [Day 9 - Pella, IA]

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