So, not long after we filled our tank at that small independent gas station in Dix, Nebraska, we drove under Interstate 80 and were now zipping along on the old Route 30 as it traveled just south of the big highway. 30 had been quietly transformed into a sort of a high quality access road, but we had it all to ourselves again. And Bob said, “Pull over, Jarrett, this is great!” Because the highways were so close together, it made for an interesting shot. “This is a frame I was hoping for.”
We pulled off the road, and when I got out and looked behind us, there was a highway sign for Pine Bluffs, Exit 1 Mile, heading back east.
“We’re in Wyoming,” I said.
Bob and Jarrett were skeptical. We hadn’t seen a WELCOME TO WYOMING sign.
“Well, Pine Bluffs is behind us, and Pine Bluffs is the first town in Wyoming. We were out of Nebraska, standing still beside the road. We got some shots of the contrasting side-by-side highways and were soon talking about eating lunch in Cheyenne.
In GREETINGS FROM THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY, Butko quotes from many of the people who traveled the road in the early years, including Emily Post, and there are some cool old pictures, including ones where the travelers were preserved in photographs beside their vehicles. I decided we should do the same. So, before we got back on the road, there, beside 30 just one mile west of Pine Bluffs, I used the timer on my camera to take our picture with the gaudily decorated Dodge Caravan that we’ve called home for almost a week. It’s covered with logo stickers, like a race car, but those stickers identify us as being from WQED’s classical music radio station in Johnston, PA. So we’re a bit incognito, and I think people see the van and say, Where’s Johnstown? So it’s a trusty vehicle in a gaudy dress, and it doesn’t say exactly what we’re doing. Unfortunately, even though form still follows function in most circles, there’s a big Q decal blocking the left side window, so we stack equipment there. The right side window is free of branding clutter, so whoever is sitting in the back seat can look out that side. We’ve traveled a lot with no air-conditioning, just the windows open, and, a note to Dodge Motors: we all wish that rear side window opened too.
We traveled 30 the access road from Pine Bluffs into Cheyenne, arriving a little after 3 pm. It was gray and drizzly. All the restaurants seem to stop serving lunch at 2. The woman at the desk in the Plains Hotel suggested we try the Shadows Brew Pub in the old train station. We weren’t impressed. In fact, Bob hated the pulled pork barbecue, but I thought it was just ho-hum. Jarrett always eats healthiest, and he had salmon.
We allowed ourselves a half hour to check out some of the shops downtown. There’s a big Western wear store called The Wrangler, and I picked up a cowboy shirt made of the American flag. Bob said he would have been happy to talk me out of it. We were all looking for souvenirs and presents for folks back home.
After Cheyenne, even Butko says it might be smart to get on the interstate for a while, make some miles, and we did. I-80 basically follows the old Lincoln route with a few possible detours into towns for those who want to be fantatic about following the original route (and we wish we had time to be such fanatics.)
There’s a big statue of Lincoln right beside 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, and we exited the interstate to check it out. It used to be beside 30 when it ran along the top of a nearby hill. This is the highest point on Interstate 80, and the original location of the statue was at the highest point on the Lincoln Highway. It’s not a young and happy Lincoln. He’s old and wrinkled and looks slightly troubled. Perhaps he’s troubled because the statue is so weird. It is his head and shoulders sticking out of a column of stone slabs that look like really stale ladyfingers. It’s a statue of Lincoln as a weakened super hero who was encased in some weird trap.
There’s a good Lincoln quote on the brass memorial plaque near the bottom of the stone pastry: “We must think anew and act anew.” Lincoln’s words and deeds and political wisdom in trying times earned him all these memorials and the enduring love of so many Americans. His name effectively brands this highway as an important and wonderful thing.
If this troubled Lincoln looked straight down and to the right, he’d see a really beautiful stone memorial to Henry Bourne Joy, the first president of the Lincoln Highway Association and one of the men who made sure this First Improved Coast To Coast Highway became a reality. It’s a good monument with a good bas relief of various modes of travel and a big stone Lincoln Highway L in the middle. The monument is surrounded by a fence with four concrete Lincoln Highway markers at the corners. There’s a Joyful quote carved in the top of the stone: “THAT THERE SHOULD BE A LINCOLN HIGHWAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY IS THE IMPORTANT THING.” Amen. We left a Lincoln penny at the base of the Henry B. Joy monument, as obviously many other travelers had done before us.
This may be my favorite rest area of all time. Of all highways. I talked briefly with a couple who were obviously sort of baffled by the Joy monument. They said they were truck drivers and they’d passed this point hundreds of times but this was the first time they’d stopped. It’s worth the pause.
But we have to keep moving. And still we turned off 80 in Laramie (a handsome looking town that we all wished we could stop in for a while, but we didn’t) in order to get back on the old route of Lincoln Highway that takes a northern arc through this part of Wyoming. We again had the two-lanes to ourselves. The day had been overcast, but the sun starting coming below the clouds about 7 o’clock. Bob said this could be a great sunset.
It was. We pulled off the road at the start of some rancher’s long driveway, and Bob shot Hi-Def video with the big camera, Jarrett shot with his mini-DV video camera and I shot stills. It was a stunning sunset that made us feel even more like we were far from home in the exotic American West. It was so quiet too. Nearby cattle occasionally mooed, and once in while a lone pick-up truck or other car would whoosh by, but the world here was amazingly silent. Jarrett said it was so quiet his ears hurt.
We took too many pictures, stayed too long, got back on the old road to Medicine Bow.
In Medicine Bow we checked out the legendary Wild West rooms in the Virginian Hotel (Owen Wister wrote the Virginian while living there in Medicine Bow) but Bob was too tall for the beds and the beds were way too soft for Bob (who tried 4), and Jarrett and I knew we wouldn’t get any wireless web access, so we decided to drive on in the dark toward Rawlins.
We broke the speed limit getting to Rawlins, and we were turned away from the Best Western. “Completely sold out,” the hard edged blonde behind the counter told me. “Check the Super 8 just up the road.” We did and there were rooms here.
The night was fast. But the morning looks clear and bright and the road continues.