After leaving Scotts Bluff, Nebraska on Monday afternoon, we crossed into the flat plains and farmland of Wyoming. Around us were fields of sunflowers, grassland and dried up corn. Rectangular hay bales squatted neatly in stacks and tumbledown places were scattered around and about.
We entered La Grange, population 448, with 4,587 in elevation. Silos and small ranches dotted the countryside. The Frontier School of the Bible called out, but we continued on, crossing Horse Creek. Cattle grazed on grassland that lay at the foot of buttes to the north. Later we passed cattle yards.
Wyoming is the least populous state in the U.S., with a population of 577,737 in 2018. We drove through short dry grassland in Laramie County. Cheyenne, the state capital, was still 48 miles away. We had a long wait at some roadwork on 85; we had to wait for a car to lead us through the construction.
We arrived in Cheyenne (population 59,466) close to 4:00 and went straight to the Wyoming State Capitol. It is the seat of two of Wyoming’s three branches of government. Over the past four years, it had the first comprehensive restoration in its 130-year history.
The Capitol was built in 1888 and expanded in 1890 and 1917. Over the decades, elevators; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); plumbing; and other systems were added, but many systems had begun to fail. The last major work done from 1974-1980 concealed the character of the historic rooms and failed to rectify infrastructure issues.
In 2014, the Legislature authorized the Capitol Square Project which meant to: add or update life safety systems, replace failing building systems, and increase public access in the Capitol.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the State Capitol now boasts marble floors, fine woodwork, stained glass, historic photographs, and a wildlife display.
On the grounds of the Wyoming State Capitol, we found some true Western sculptures.
We checked in at The Plains Hotel. Finished in 1911 as a truly modern facility, the Plains was the first hotel in America to have a telephone in every room. Many famous people have stayed here: presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan as well as Wallace Berry, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, and many more.
Rooms in the hotel are furnished in an “Old West” style complete with original artwork and photography by the state’s artists.
We wandered a bit around the town. We found a few of the twenty-five hand-painted 8-foot-tall cowboy boots. “These Boots are made for Talking” started as a joint project of the Cheyenne Depot Museum Foundation and the Downtown Development Authority. The nearly $100,000 raised when businesses sponsored the boots went to the Cheyenne Depot Museum Endowment Fund to benefit the museum.
Each boot was painted by one or more of the area’s talented artists. The project theme was “if this boot could talk, what story would it tell?” The two shown below are “Downtown Cheyenne” painted by various artists and bought by the Downtown Development Authority , and “Don’t Feed the Animals” by Jill Pope and bought by Pony X-Press Printing.
We had dinner at Sanford’s Grub & Pub, which used to be an auto repair garage.
An elevator once used to take cars to an underground garage, and now takes customers to an underground bar. The place was jam packed with Americana: signs, gas pumps, the Blues Brothers, hot dogs, and any other kind of junk imaginable.
I had Jimmy’s Jammin’ Jambalaya and a margarita, and Mike had Cajun Cobb Salad with a Modelo’s.
After dinner we wandered around the town and stopped into the Wrangler Western Store where I bought a Western motif cream leather bag (for Christmas) and Mike bought a plaid flannel shirt.
We would have the whole next day to explore more of Cheyenne.
*Steps: 9,014, or 3.82 miles*
*Monday, September 23, 2019*