Temporarily leaving the Lincoln Highway behind
03.05.2016 - 03.05.2016
Room 424, Hampton Inn, Green River, WY
16.35 Thursday 5th May
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Wherever we've been on this trip since we left Omaha, we've followed the Union Pacific Railroad and the North Platte River. I can understand that the railroad will have various lines in different directions but I have to admit to being a bit confused about the North Platte River. We go north, and we are on it. We have come back south again, and it's still there. I need to find a map of its course before I go potty!
Before I begin, here is today's handy hint. (No there have not been any before and there may not be any more, but this is today's). Those showercaps they give you in bathrooms in hotels etc. We found a use for them! As bowl tops for the fridge or microwave. Bob makes a big fruit salad each week and we keep it in the fridge to dip into. A shower cap on top of the bowl is ideal!
Now, we left Ogallala on Tuesday morning, early, and drove north west, following the course of the railroad and the North Platte river, of course, on Highway 26. The main destination was another "Fort of the Northwest", this time Fort Laramie.
Almost immediately we realise that we have been doing the state of Nebraska a disservice. There ARE hills here, albeit in the "panhandle" between South Dakota and Colorado. Arguably, these hills could well have been located in either of those states! And we encounter the first snow of this trip which fell the week before when there were horrendous storms.
Almost without fail the villages and towns we passed through were established as the UPR (aka Union Pacific Railroad) worked its way northwards.
On the way to Fort Laramie, we visited two significant and, to the American Indians, holy, geological features. To the emigrants, they were important landmarks on their trek westwards. The Oregon and California Trails followed the south bank of the North Platte River, (henceforth known as NPR) and the Mormon trail followed the North Bank, the Mormons not wishing to mix with the "Gentiles" apparently.
Arthur, for some reason, has to keep reminding Stan of the original name of Chimney Rock. Native Americans named the rock "Elk Penis" after the penis of the adult male elk. This made more sense to those who had lived for centuries on the plains than comparing the rock to a feature from a white man's building. Prim and proper usage among Anglo-Americans, though, overwhelmingly preferred the more delicate name "chimney." Boo!
This feature is protected as a National Historic Site and maintained and the visitor centre operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society. A brilliant exhibit provided us with yet more insight into the Emigrant journey west and the effect and relationship with the local Native Americans,
On we moved to the next feature which was Scotts Bluff. Here we tried to buy a National Parks pass which would work out cheaper than paying entrance fees to each park we visit. However, the elderly "ranger" had not been on the "issuing a parks pass course" and the woman who did that "had just gone to lunch and would be back later". We gave up and got away without paying. We will buy a pass as soon as we can so that's fair enough.
North of Scotts Bluff, we crossed the border into Wyoming, ("Forever West") and hit the town of Torrington. John's Dad was born in Torrington, North Devon so we had to visit its namesake. Of course, not quite North Devon but quite a nice little town with what was a thriving sugar beet processing factory. However we later learned that this is being closed down so we fear for the prosperity of this town. We also took the opportunity to fill with gas, which, on average, is costing us around $2 per US gallon.
Finally to Fort Laramie (which is nowhere near the town of Laramie, by the way). An impressive collection of buildings and yet another exhibit to keep us informed. It was all stunning and even quite moving at times. We felt a bit closer to how it must have been like to have been a cavalryman, and Indian or an emigrant. We are sure we would not have coped well with any of it!
These forts were set up as trading posts and stopping off points as well as military stations to provide protection to locals and the emigrants. Also to try and bring some law and order to the frontier.
Our drive down to Cheyenne was across country on what turned out to be the "Can-Am" highway which must have been the main route here to/from Canada before I-25 was built. This trip has been full of unexpected delights and this was one of them. Climbing onto the high plains where there was open range, the road ran straight for many miles. It was GREAT!
One feature on this trip, and it has continued up to today, is that we have been on our own at most of these sites. We seem to be almost the only tourists in the area at the moment. Which certainly suits us. There were was one other family at Scotts Bluff and a party of well-behaved school children at Fort Laramie where they were being marched in formation by a ranger dressed as a cavalryman. Newly learned fact. (And on reflection he may have been dressed as an infantryman as......) he told the little mites that the US army does not (or did not?) swing their arms when marching, unlike in the British army and the reason, they have longer distances to cover than the British! Arthur hoped they were being marched straight to the stockade, or guard room!
Next up, wonderful, wonderful Cheyenne, where we arrived, tired but very happy after a truly wonderful day and 305 miles (the day before we did 360 miles from Omaha to Ogallala). We found ourselves in a commercial area with lots of hotels, LOTS of hotels, but a tiny choice of places to eat. We plumped for the "Down Home Diner" which should perhaps have been called the "Down Homeless Diner" or even "Down and out Diner". It seemed the down and outs in Cheyenne were sufficiently well off to afford a hot meal at this basic diner. We had a good "home cooked" meal and we were pleased to see how nicely the staff dealt with their somewhat tatty customers (your humble Bloggers included).
Now off to Penny's Diner in Green River Wyoming where we are spending the night at the Hampton Inn.