Our Summer 2010 Trip...Headed West This Time travel blog

Lincoln monument at intersection of I-80 and highway 210

Buckhorn Bar and Parlor in downtown Laramie, WY

inside the bar

another view of the bar area

a turn of the century building in downtown Laramie

WY Territorial Prison - I couldn't fit the stockade in my photo...

one side of the stockade at the prison

the other side of the stockade from the back of the prison

side view of the prison

there were three levels of cells on each side of the prison...

close up of some of the cells

but guard, you know I am really innocent!

the broom factory is where some of the prisoners worked

inside the broom factory

some of the buildings moved to the park - all are authentic...

I liked the old log cabins and barns

this is a shepherd's wagon

a country church had been moved to the park - still used...

Although the fastest route from Cheyenne to Laramie is a straight shot on Interstate 80, Fred found a much more scenic route on state highway 210, so when we left the bison ranch we were happy to see some ranches at first and then some very interesting rock outcroppings as we climbed higher in elevation. There is a spot called Vedauwoo in between the interstate and the road we were on that is noted for its hoodoos and rock climbing; we’d considered going there, but it is on a gravel road so not possible with the RV. The giant rocks we saw were enough for us – they were some type of granite and in very unusual shapes. We didn’t stop to take any photos of the rocks though since there was no good spot to pull over – the internet has some good photos I found later. At 8,640 feet, at the summit of the Laramie range in the scenic Pole Mountain area, highway 210 rejoined I-80. Here there was a very nice service area with a small museum inside the visitor’s center. Outside was a huge monument of Abe Lincoln’s head ( the stone base is 35 feet tall; the bust is 13.5 feet tall and made of bronze), constructed in 1958 to commemorate the Lincoln Highway, the first intercontinental highway in the US, which was started in 1912. It was built alongside the first transcontinental RR route, and was later renamed US Highway 30.

After arriving in Laramie, we set up camp at the KOA RV Park right outside of town, and then drove right to the main reason I had placed Laramie on our itinerary: the historic Wyoming Territorial Prison, home to over 1000 male prisoners and 12 female prisoners from 1872 – 1903, including one of the most famous outlaws of the area: Butch Cassidy. The prison is now a state historical park; we did a self guided tour and learned a lot of new information. There were excellent displays and interactive exhibits on frontier law and justice as well as biographical information about some of the most famous prisoners. One interesting fact: only two prisoners died at the prison during the seventy years it was open; if a prisoner got very sick, he or she was most likely pardoned, because that way the warden was not responsible for the cost of burial or sending the body home! In addition to the prison itself, the park also has renovated and opened the broom factory used by the inmates for “rehabilitation” during their prison terms. Today volunteers make brooms to sell in the gift shop. We met two volunteers, Jay and Trish Cleveland from Leakey, TX, and they told us all about the places they have volunteered since they retired. They get free RV hookups for the summer and volunteer two days a week at the territorial prison park. We enjoy talking to volunteers at all the parks and museums we visit to see how many hours they work, what types of volunteer tasks they do, how the parks provide RV sites etc. Jay recommended we check into volunteering at a national wildlife refuge since they’ve really enjoyed that option. In addition, there also was a homestead exhibit of historic buildings from around the county that have been moved to the park. My favorite building was a little white country style Episcopal Church that is still used for services on special occasions. We also saw a horse barn that had been renovated for use as a theater, and a home used by prison employees that was built from using a railroad box car – with the additions, I could not even tell it had started out as a boxcar at all.

By now we were a little thirsty, so we headed into town to check out the historic downtown area and to find a famous old bar called the Buckhorn Bar. I was a little disappointed in Laramie’s downtown area. It was not as lively as Cheyenne's, nor as pretty. The Buckhorn, Laramie’s oldest saloon, was built in 1890 and was a interesting place, decorated with many mounted animals and birds and even boasts some bullet holes in the bar from its “rough and tumble” days. Next Fred had heard of a brew pub near the University area of town, so off we went exploring again. The prettiest building I saw in town was St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral, home of the state’s bishop; it is a gorgeous Gothic Revival limestone structure built in 1896 and enlarged in 1916. The residential parts of town were prettier than the downtown area: homes included several styles of architecture: Victorian, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and even a few Cape Cod style homes. I especially liked the areas around the university. The brew pub, called The Library, was right across from some dorms, and the bartenders wore T shirts that declared: “Don’t lie to your parents. Tell them you were at The Library!” Fred really enjoyed the Rattlesnake Rye IPA beer!

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