Here we are, sprawled out in a motel on the outskirts of the city I’m adopting for the next year — and I’m already in love with it.
The last leg of the drive, Omaha to Cheyenne, bisected Nebraska, another state I’d never laid eyes on before. We made pretty decent time, but elected to stop a couple of times — and how could you not, with signs like “Buffalo Bill’s Ranch,” “Pioneer Trail” and “Pony Express Stop” cropping up every few exits? We drove all the way into Gothensburg, NE to see the latter, and it was worth it both for the opportunity to stretch our legs and for the building itself, which was small and packed with maps, saddles and bags, and souvenirs. Picking up a map, we realized that we were pretty much driving the Oregon Trail, although it passed north of Cheyenne itself. But for all of you MECC enthusiasts: I drove through Kearney and by Ft. Kearney and I live just a half hour south of Ft. Laramie.
Anyway, the drive itself was a lot of fun, and not just because of the Petro Stop with the large, handwritten “JAMES WOODS STOPPED HERE” sign, accompanied by an 8.5 x 11 computer printout James Woods headshot and a scrap of paper with what I assume is James Woods’s autograph. I really got to see the transition into big sky — just gorgeous — and by the time we had gotten used to that (and the occasional appearance of stock lots and oil derricks), we started to get into buttes and hills. The landscape changed again almost immediately at the Wyoming border, getting a little more rugged and stands of pine trees cropping up.
From there it wasn’t far to Cheyenne — and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Cheyenne is the cowboy-iest place I’ve ever been….there’s a giant Western wear store called “THE WRANGLER,” (with a bucking cowboy on the front), a big depot, VERY cool buildings, motel signs that haven’t been updated since the ’50s which are tremendously cool, and daily gunfight reenactments within walking distance of my apartment.
I’ll say that again. Daily. Gunfights. Mere blocks from where I sleep. And not in the Baltimore sense.
Oh, and free horsecart rides around town.
In short: I’m enamored, and I love the look of this place — especially that I can see the mountains from here. Can’t wait until Frontier Days starts.
Actually, I can’t wait to get settled for real. To that end, I’m going to sign off for the moment, since I’m pretty beat from the last few days (and, mom points out, the altitude — we’re over 6000 feet up, higher than Denver and nearly as high as my tent was in Karatu, Tanzania).
From a brand new time zone in the wild, wild west — goodnight.