Wyoming 2016:
Day 6 - Laramie, 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]

Wednesday, November 23, 2016: Mileage: 1724; departure time: 7:25 AM.
While we were in the land of Taco John's, we decided to take advantage of it by having breakfast there too. Don't judge. Those tiny round tater tots are addicting.
It was another sunny day, starting out near freezing and warming up to mid-40s, as nearly every day of our trip turned out.
This may not be the actual UPS truck that was carrying our nephew's birthday presents to him, but we like believing that it was.
Instead of driving south to Laramie, we headed southwest to do some sightseeing first.
The snow on the rocks made this red outcropping look like peppermint.
We had one last Netflix DVD to return so we found the post office in tiny Alcova, Wyoming.
Here's some affordable lakeside living in rural Wyoming if you're fine with living on a dirt road. Tom rejects this notion.
So here's some very cool scenery. Here's a mountain range topped with a long horizontal blanket of clouds.
Our first stop was Independence Rock. If we were glad to see if after less than an hour of driving in our warm car, imagine how happy pioneers on the Oregon Trail were to see it when they were averaging 15 miles per day.
Independence Rock was named for the timing of its location. Arriving here by July 4th meant that you had a good chance of making it over the upcoming mountains before snow set in.
The path from the rest area to the rock is paved, with informational markers along the way.
As we approached the rock, we started to notice rabbits hopping up its side.
The more we looked, the more rabbits we saw.
We looked for vintage writings on the rock but found nothing until we walked around to the front, where a series of plaques had been affixed. This area was protected by a fence to keep people from defacing what remained of the signatures left by settlers as they passed through this area on their way west.
Cool ice formations.
This sculpture dates back to 1924.
More driving and more looking at that blanket of clouds on the mountains to the south of us.
Here's a closer look.
We got out at a wayside at Devil's Gate, shown here just to the left of center. Settlers crossed the ridge to the right in this photo on their way west.
The wayside featured a loop walk with informational signs along the way. It took a couple of signs before we realized that they weren't fogged over - they were frosted over, and we had the power in our very hands to scrape off that frost and read what was underneath the glass.
Here's a map of the Oregon Trail. Nearly every settler came through this area before splitting off into different directions for the coast.
Just downhill from this area was the Mormon Handcart Historic Site but we passed on visiting it.
After a short while, we had rounded the edge of the moutain range we had been following, and started heading east toward Rawlins and Laramie.
Here's the blanket of clouds as seen from the back of the mountain range.
We arrived at the Wyoming State Penitentiary shortly before 10:30. The doors were locked and people were waiting on the steps outside.
By the time we parked and got a photo, people were being let inside and we discovered that a visit to the penitentiary required a timed tour, and the morning's tour was leaving right this minute. Great accidental timing on our part!
Our guide started out with a demonstration of the original system of hanging that involved a water bucket and a trap door.
This facility was used as the set for the 1987 horror movie "Prison" starring Viggo Mortensen. The building was abandoned then and had not yet opened for tours, so the film's producers left the building uncleaned when they were done and fake blood is visible on many of the walls.
We entered the Turnkey Room, where new inmates first came to be processed.
This wall contained the photos of the few women inmates housed at the prison prior to discontinuing that practice after a few years.
This is the visitation area. Note the fake blood on the back wall.
We encountered the first of four pronghorn deer statues that were part of the 2006 and 2007 Pronghorn Pride Initiative Project.
We entered Cell Block A. It was not heated then and it wasn't heated when we visited. Hooray for bringing fleeces and gloves with us.
We peeked into some of the cells, all painted different colors because inmates were allowed to paint their own cells if they wanted. These were only 5' x 7' in size and held two inmates.
This one featured a self-portrait.
Here are some larger cells, originally designed for three people until common sense won out and they were changed to two.
Luxury!
Yeah, that's all fake blood on the walls. We're not sure we want to see a movie that requires that much fake blood.
Here is the brightly lit library area. This area had been spared the fake blood since it didn't really work for a horror movie.
There were still some reference books and National Geographics on the second floor of the library.
Our guide explained the unpleasant story behind why prisoners were no longer allowed to go to the recreation area on the second floor through the stairs behind her.
Here's the shower area. Groups of 10 could shower at a time.
We passed by another pronghorn deer statue on our way to Cell Block B.
This part of the prison was heated ...
... so warm solitary confinement for someone from freezing Cell Block A didn't look like such a bad option.
Here's the inside of the solitary confinement cell. It got really dark with the door closed. Note the fake blood.
Here's one of the cells in Cell Block B. Plumbing has been upgraded to porcelain and beds no longer have legs on them. Overhead lights have been replaced with lights set into the wall behind glass.
This is the kitchen area.
Original equipment remains from when the prison closed in 1981, including a churros warmer.
Here's the dining room with tables and benches bolted to the floor.
Paintings line the walls of the dining room, including this one, featuring big horn sheep whose eyes watch you wherever you are in the room.
There's a guard lookout in the corner of the room, ...
... with a pronghorn deer statue underneath it.
Back to Cell Block A, we visited the other side of the block, ...
... and heard a story about the rope noose hanging from the fourth floor.
We passed the last pronghorn deer statue on our way ...
... out to the yard.
From here, we climbed the stairs to Death Row, ironically located upstairs from the medical center.
These cells are so locked down that they only were allowed 30 minutes outside of their cell, and it was in the space shown here.
This was their shower option.
This is the gas chamber. It had five observation windows. Our guide explained all the details about how it worked.
This board displayed the names, photos, and stats of all of the prisoners who were executed here, including ...
... Yee Geow, who was so light that they had to hang him twice in 1921, ...
... and Andrew Pixley, the youngest prisoner to be executed, who was gassed in 1965 for heinous crimes.
Cell Block C was newer than the rest and it featured newer security features, ...
... including metal grates in addition to bars, ...
... metal plumbing, and recessed lighting behind metal grates.
Finally, we saw where the old solitary confinement rooms had been replaced with classrooms in 1965.
Our tour was over, so we headed to the warm visitors center.
The gift shop offered both apparel ...
... and entertainment, but we left empty-handed.
We went to Rose's Lariat for lunch.
It's a tiny place with counter seating plus one table for two. The owners are friendly and people came and went regularly.
Debbie had a shrimp enchilada with green sauce, ...
... and Tom had a beef burrito with green sauce. We treated ourselves to a delicious Mexican hot chocolate too.
Another Sinclair, another dinosaur. Look closely.
From Rawlins, it's a short drive to Laramie past beautiful scenery.
The windmills matched the snowy hills.
We arrived in Laramie around 2:00, and parked in the downtown area to do some shopping and wandering.
We started out in Cowgirl Yarn. Neither of us knit or crochet, but Debbie's assistant has her own yarn business and our daughter crocheted. We were a little out of our element though, so we just admired the pretty things and moved on.
We spent way too much time in a Hallmark/gift shop on this street. Didn't purchase anything but we seriously regretted not buying that fir-scented candle.
Laramie has a series of murals around town, but this is not one of them.
This is.
We went to the visitor center to pick up a map of the murals, ...
... then set off to find most of them, like this one just around the corner.
Here's one.
This is not one but it is a sculpture of a moose head, which is nice.
There was a pedestrian bridge over the traintracks on the edge of downtown, so we climbed the stairs to the top to get a nice view of some more murals.
Here's one.
This was our favorite, and it's actually multiple murals in one. On a unified background, different artists each painted their version of a fish. Look at the larger version of this photo to enjoy it better.
Rainbows!
The bike racks in town were very creative.
The Johnson's Hotel building marked the street where we started walking, ...
... and there's Cowgirl Yarn and our minivan.
We stopped by the University of Wyoming on our way to our hotel. Here's Memorial Stadium, ...
... and here's a great sculpture called "Breakin' Through." It honors the early female rodeo pioneers.
We checked into the Quality Inn and relaxed for a while, ...
... then headed back into town.
We had dinner at the Crowbar and Grill.
We started with poutine, because you should never, ever pass up an opportunity to eat poutine.
Then we each ordered burgers, plus one side of pad thai fries, which were the real reason we were here. Topped with pad thai sauce, peanuts, lime juice, and cilantro, they were delicious. Speaking of delicious, Debbie had the peanut butter/banana/bacon burger, ...
... and Tom had a barbecue/onion ring cheeseburger.
We ended our evening with a showing of "Doctor Strange," ...

... enjoyed in very comfortable recliners.

Day 7 >


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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