Our next destination was actually in Wyoming. Neither Traci nor I had ever visited the state. The reason we were going there was so that Traci, who enjoys distance running as her hobby, could get closer to her goal of running a half marathon (13.1 miles) in all 50 states. She had already checked off Colorado back in 2019 but now was an opportunity to check off her 21st state - Wyoming. When planning our road trip, I searched the internet to find out if there would be any nearby running events happening. I came across the Med Bow Rail Trail Marathon & Half Marathon that would occur August 14th near the small Wyoming town of Albany. Traci registered online for the race about 2 weeks before our trip. The closest hotel we could find to the race site was an hour away in the city of Laramie, Wyoming.
The drive to Laramie from Breckenridge was about 3.5 hours on 2-lane roads. I knew gas stations would be few and far between, so I filled the tank before leaving Breckenridge. Speaking of gas, it was ridiculously expensive in Colorado. It was over $4/gallon at the time as compared to under $3/gallon at home in Virginia. In and around Breckenridge, I could not find it for anything less than $4.30/gallon! I would often get faked out by what looked like cheap gas being advertised when riding around Colorado, but I would soon realize that the cheaper price was for 85-octane gas. The user's manual for our rental car warned against using any fuel less than 87-octane or risk engine failure. Knowing we would be riding on desolate roads, I sucked it up and paid for the 87-octane. Ouch!
The drive up to Laramie was through wide, open spaces always with majestic mountains in the distance. I could not get enough of this beautiful scenery. The speed limit was 75 mph but would drop down to as low as 25 mph on the rare occasion that we passed through a town. These tiny towns were few and far between. In fact, Wyoming has the lowest population of all the states in the U.S. When we passed through these towns, I would always wonder what the people who live there do for a living or even for groceries. They were not close to anything as far as I could see.
a lonely road through Wyoming's wide, open spaces
This leg of our road trip was the first and only time we encountered rain. We rode in and out of scattered downpours. They were so scattered that the sun continued to shine brightly during these pockets of rain. The car would dry almost instantly after coming out of them.
After 3 hours of driving on a lonely road through the wide, open countryside, we finally approached the city of Laramie, Wyoming where we found ourselves traveling on a multi-lane interstate with a gazillion tractor trailers. We only needed to go two exits before we reached our hotel - Fairfield Inn & Suites Laramie. The hotel was located on the outskirts of the city near a truck stop. Our room seemed a little older than the rooms in which we had stayed thus far on the trip, but we had no complaints.
We did not have much time to linger at the hotel. It was already after 6 PM and we needed to find our way to downtown Laramie so that Traci could pick up her race packet before 7 PM. There was no fancy runners' expo or anything for the packet pickup. We just needed to make our way to a pavilion in a city park where the friendly race volunteers were handing out the required material. Traci was surprised to see that the race would rely on a chip attached to your shoe for your official time instead of the bib technology she is used to. She said she hadn't used a shoe chip in over 10 years.
With the packet pickup out of the way, it was time to find something to eat. As usual, we had not eaten since breakfast. We decided to try a restaurant called Ribs & Chop House. Our ride there gave us a chance to see a little bit of Laramie. Laramie is a city of 30,000 people. The main draw here is the University of Wyoming. There are no skyscrapers but there are plenty of familiar chain restaurants, chain stores, hotels, and did I mention trucks? I was surprised to see that some of the neighborhoods containing nice houses actually still have dirt roads. As for our dinner at Ribs & Chop House, the service was great, but the food was only so-so despite the delicious-sounding name.
On our way back to the hotel, we came across a Walmart but once again, Traci had no luck returning her merchandise. There was no one to work the customer service desk.
I enjoyed the nice complimentary breakfast at the hotel the next morning. I could smell the bacon as soon as I opened the door to our hotel room. By 7:30 AM, we were on our way to the race site. This turned out to be quite an adventure. I knew that it would be an hour-long drive to the starting line. We were warned that using GPS would get us lost. Chances are we would not even get any signal in this remote area. Instead, we were told we could use GPS to get us as far as the small town of Albany but then we would need to follow the printed directions that came with the race packet. Well, in Albany the road turns into 5 miles of dirt and gravel through a forest. The directions warned that some of the turns onto the forest roads are not well marked. I had Traci read out how far I needed to drive before I made each turn while I kept my eyes glued to the odometer. I don't know how I used to drive unfamiliar roads without Waze or Google Maps back in the day. This experience without the technology was totally nerve-racking. The only comfort I had was the caravan of vehicles I saw following me in my rear-view mirror. At least we were not alone in this forest. On the other hand, there was pressure because I felt like the people behind me trusted that I knew where I was going. In my mind I kept questioning if we were going the right way while Traci was questioning out loud. I was never so relieved to look up and finally see a team of volunteers directing us to a grassy field for parking.
5-mile drive on dirt roads through the forest to get to the race start
Surprisingly, there were quite a few interesting things at the race site despite the rugged road we traveled to get to this remote place. There was the tranquil Lake Owen that had a covered fishing pier. Not far from there was a rusty caboose car left over from the railroad that used to go through the area. There were signs explaining the history of the region. There was even a restroom building. A recent wildfire left some of the trees in the area charred. However, I was most intrigued by a noisy insect that looked like a flying grasshopper. When it flew, it made a rapid clicking sound almost like fast castanets.
The half marathon began at 9 AM and included two trips around Lake Owen. It was a cool almost chilly morning until the sun made it over the trees. Then it became hot. This was the inaugural year for the Med Bow Rail Trail Marathon & Half Marathon. The purpose of the event was to raise money for the upkeep of the trails in the Lake Owen region. Being an inaugural event, the number of participants was relatively small when compared to the races Traci normally runs. There were 55 people running the full marathon (26.2 miles) and 161 people running the half marathon (13.1 miles). While Traci ran, I had good conversations with the friendly volunteers. They were floored when I told them that Traci and I were from Virginia.
Traci said the race was tough because of the heat and because of the altitude (approximately 9,000 feet). Nonetheless, she finished, made a new running friend (shout-out to Heather), and increased her half marathon state count to 21. Way to go, Traci!
Traci is ready to run.
and they're off
two times around Lake Owen
Traci got her second-wind
Yay, Traci! State #21 done!
After we returned to the hotel so that Traci could get cleaned up, it was time to pack up and move out. The kind hotel staff allowed us to have a very late check-out time of 2:30 PM. We would be leaving Wyoming and returning to Colorado but first, we would get in a little Wyoming sightseeing. Laramie is just a 50-minute drive from Wyoming's capital city Cheyenne (pronounced Shy-ann). In route, we made a stop at the Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center. We barely made it there before its closing time. This rest stop is an excellent museum of the history of Wyoming from prehistoric times right up to the present. The building even contains a gigantic mastadon skeleton. Wyoming is known as the 'Equality State' because it was the first U.S. state to grant women the right to vote.
From the welcome center, we drove to downtown Cheyenne. We did not have great expectations for the city thanks to our waitress from the previous evening in Laramie who told us she was born and raised in Cheyenne. When we asked her about the 'must-sees' in Cheyenne, she told us that there is absolutely nothing to see or do there. That wasn't what I had hoped to hear. Nevertheless, we decided to check out the few places I had researched online before our trip. Our first and only stop was the Cheyenne Depot Plaza. It is an interesting square containing large, decorated cowboy boots. We had hoped to visit some of the nearby museums or take the sightseeing trolley, but they were all closed for the day by the time we got there. Therefore, we relaxed in the shade at the Depot Plaza where a trio was practicing for a revival that would be happening there that evening. The trio sounded fantastic as they sang a set of modern gospel songs.
We chatted with some of the locals at the plaza. Just like in Colorado, everyone we met in Wyoming seems so friendly and kind. One of the kindest moments I remembered during our time in Cheyenne was when we were driving around the city and got stopped by a flashing railroad crossing signal. I could see a huge freight train stopped just a few yards from the crossing. It had four engines so I knew it must be pulling several hundred cars. I happened to make eye contact with the engineer in the window of the lead engine. He held up his finger as to say 'Give me a minute'. I then heard the hiss of the brakes being released and then felt the ground rumble as he started the engines. The next thing I knew, the engineer backed the entire freight train up far enough to deactivate the crossing signal and let us cross! I waved 'thank you' to him and he waved back.
We did not get to do as much as we'd planned in Cheyenne but still managed to have a nice visit. You do not always have to bounce from attraction to attraction to have good travel experiences. Sometimes the most memorable experiences are the interactions with the people you meet along the way.
We looked for a place to eat. One of the main recommendations we got was a place called Sanford's Grub and Pub but the wait to be seated was longer than we wanted to wait. The other recommendation was the Ribs & Chop House. I had no idea the place was a chain restaurant. We were not too impressed with the one in Laramie, so we decided not to try the one in Cheyenne. We decided we would get something to eat near our hotel when we got to our new overnight destination - Loveland, Colorado.
We were sure to fill up the gas tank in Wyoming before hitting the highway. Gas was 55 cents cheaper per gallon there than in Colorado. As we were on the interstate leaving Wyoming, I suddenly wanted to kick myself. I realized I had forgotten to buy a Wyoming refrigerator magnet to add to my collection! Doh! I decided I would just buy one online later since we were nowhere near anything touristy at that point. Continue...