March
14th 2011
Wyoming: a Not-So-Happy Meal but a cowgirl’s dream

Posted under: American history, fluff, happy endings

Wyoming is a big, freaking, windy state.  490 miles in 8 hours and 10 minutes:  how’s that for a cattle drive?  Yee-haw!  Man, am I saddle sore!  Since I don’t have any relations in nearby states, I’m no longer accustomed to long car trips or crossing state lines in anything smaller than a DC-9.  Now that we have friends back in Salt Lake City, I imagine I’ll be saddling up and riding out to visit the Double G Ranch again before too long.  (Thanks, friends!)

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as you might imagine, there are not a lot of culinary options while traveling I-80.  I bought a McDonald’s “Happy Meal,” because I figured that less bad food was better than an adult-sized portion of bad food.  My traveling companion. who also had a Happy Meal, wanly regarded a Chicken McNugget and announced, “I’m not loving this food.”  We agreed that they should be called “Miserable Meals,” although the Littlest Pet Shop toy inside provided some entertainment.

Fratguy and I joke about having four children and naming them after the major towns of Wyoming.  Can’t you just picture it?  “Cody, Casper, Cheyenne, Jackson–get in the truck!” 

Cowgirl's Little Helper

I don’t want you to think this post is just a rip on poor, old, dogforsaken Wyoming, though:  there are some great things about the state, like the Territorial Prison historical site, and Little America, a rest stop out of the 1940s that offers everything from food and lodging to a mechanic on duty.  It’s super-friendly and freakishly clean, too–so who’s complaining?  And Wyoming bothers to tax energy companies for all of their extractions–which makes the University of Wyoming Cowboys the best-off public uni in the whole country, as far as I can tell.  (At least, their library always has the latest of the latest books I’m looking for–and fortunately, they loan them out generously across state lines!)

21 Comments »

21 Responses to “Wyoming: a Not-So-Happy Meal but a cowgirl’s dream”

  1. truffula on 14 Mar 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    I know that stretch of lonesome trail all too well. Being of vegan sensibilities, my options are far fewer than yours, friend. Self-catering is the only way. And Little America freaks me right on out, mostly for the harkening back to the good ol’ days of yesteryear but also because they were named for Antarctic military (“research”) bases by an oil guy. I mean, really?

    There are windmills out there though and I do like seeing them; red eyes flickering across the horizon at night. Mideaval and post-apocalyptic all at once.

  2. Historiann on 14 Mar 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Wow, truffula–that’s quite a haul overland for a vegan! But my bet is that you eat a lot better than most, for all of the hassle of carrying your own.

    The freakishness is what I love about Little America and other sui generis travel stops–with the penguin on the roof, the stuffed penguin in the lobby, and the dinosaur grazing on the lawn. Its foundations were apparently in the fever dream of a shepherd stranded there one lonely winter in the late 19th century, and then something about a polar expedition and then a truck stop. . . ? Whatever! 50 cent ice cream cones! (Didn’t see if they’re available in soy or tofu versions.)

  3. truffula on 14 Mar 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Well there might be soy filler in some menu items.

  4. Leslie on 14 Mar 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    The thing about Wyoming is that while it may have Little America (which I don’t recall seeing on my few jaunts into the state, though it must be said my trip on I-80 across to Salt Lake City was by Greyhound, so I wasn’t paying attention), so many other stretches of interstate have exactly….nothing (open)….particularly late at night. I’m remembering in particular a road trip a friend of mine made 20 years ago. We travelled from the Sandhills of Western Nebraska back to Estes Park in one, really-we-should-have-started-earlier shot. Everything on I-25 was shut down until we got to Cheyenne; and then we hit dense fog in the Big Thompson Canyon…..

    Of course, I want to go back. Mostly to the NE bit, where I spent a lovely summer hiking around the mesas and canyons while working for the Girl Scouts.

  5. adamhenne on 14 Mar 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    If the college students are an indication, parents here in Wyoming do in fact name their kids after the cities pretty often. I don’t know any Caspers, but I’ve taught Codys and Jacksons and lots of Cheyennes.

  6. Notorious Ph.D. on 14 Mar 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    If you crossed into the teensiest little corner of Nebraska from Wyoming, you could see this:

    http://www.carhenge.com/

    I made a special trip there at one point. Totally worth it, in my book.

  7. Perpetua on 15 Mar 2011 at 5:56 am #

    And in the list of Great Things about Wyoming, don’t forget two gems: 1) Many of Perpetua’s nearest and dearest relatives and 2) They don’t just use their energy taxes to fund the uni – they use the money to PAY THEIR TEACHERS (elementary and secondary). Yes, indeed, when I started my t-t at a flagship state u in a poorish state, my relatives just starting out teaching in Wy were making just a teeny bit under me. (Ten years younger and minus any kind of advanced degree.) Go, Casper! (Kind of makes up for the town’s most chilling site: the Dick Cheney building.)

    I feel you on the I-80 food. But there are good eats in Cheyenne.

  8. Helm Hammerhand on 15 Mar 2011 at 7:32 am #

    Thanks for this! I’m a Western native now living in a region that is noticeably lacking in mountains, sagebrush, and antelope, so this brings back lots of nice memories of making that same trek across Wyoming.

  9. GayProf on 15 Mar 2011 at 8:27 am #

    Wyoming always made me uncomfortable. I can’t really explain why.

  10. quixote on 15 Mar 2011 at 10:05 am #

    GayProf, same here. I’m guessing it’s the too much of nothing, but it’s hard to put your finger on something like that.

  11. Perpetua on 15 Mar 2011 at 10:57 am #

    It’s not easy to be outnumber by antelope. They have those glittering black eyes, staring at you balefully from the sage brush.

  12. Perpetua on 15 Mar 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Of course, I always have my rifle with me, so that solves that problem!

  13. Indyanna on 15 Mar 2011 at 11:22 am #

    I crossed that same stretch of Wyoming on Amtrak years ago, before that outfit worked up the nerve to challenge the Rockies via the Colorado route, and I was pretty disappointed, visually. Of course, I was expecting it to be all connifer forests, with the evergreen lower branches swooshing the roof of the cars as we whisked by. Some kind of a John Gunther Inside USA fantasy, I guess. It was so long ago that only the eastern drinkotopians had even heard of “Coors,” which was only a regional brand. When we hit Denver they put some cases on the train, and there was a near civil commotion as these guys tried to get at it. But other than that, all I can remember is a reddish shale from Green River to Evanston, after which it got dark.

    My own idea of what motorists in the 1930s were experiencing roadside is the Red Apple Rest, on the doorstep to the Catskills. I wouldn’t really know.

  14. Notorious Ph.D. on 15 Mar 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    We should have a “dullest stretch of highway” competition. I nominate Nebraska’s I-136. The far west of that state has some lovely stone bluffs, but after the first hour, it’s pretty much 6 hours of sand hills. Nearly ran myself off the road a couple of times because there was just nothing to focus on.

  15. koshem Bos on 15 Mar 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    Wyoming and Arizona will stay Republican even after the second coming; so say the experts. (As if Jews care.) Jackson Hole, where the ultra rich have homes, voted 62% for Obama. May the experts are wrong.

  16. Leslie on 15 Mar 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    “We should have a “dullest stretch of highway” competition. I nominate Nebraska’s I-136. The far west of that state has some lovely stone bluffs, but after the first hour, it’s pretty much 6 hours of sand hills. Nearly ran myself off the road a couple of times because there was just nothing to focus on.”

    I’ve ridden Amtrak through that part of Nebraska…. fortunately, it’s usually dark.

    I had the good fortune of going through the Sandhills quite a bit further north, on US 20. Fantastic fields of sunflowers. Unbelievably gorgeous.

  17. Indyanna on 15 Mar 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    I took the Oregon Trail through that area many years ago (before they made it an online game) without ever leaving Brooklyn. Got buried at Chimney Rock by an 8-year old with the tombstone epitaph “shouldn’t have let Indyanna drive the train…” My U.S. history survey kids think this is the funniest story I have to tell, every year, hands down, and in truth it probably is.

    Too many bullets, not enough bacon, something like that. Forgot to pack the extra wagon tongue.

  18. Perpetua on 16 Mar 2011 at 5:53 am #

    Coniferous splendor it is not, but I find the area around Green River (and most of southern Wy – central WY not so much)to be visually stunning. But I’m a rolling treeless prairie kinda gal.

  19. Historiann on 16 Mar 2011 at 7:16 am #

    In the summer of 2009, we had to drive to SLC twice and had an opportunity to see Wyoming’s stretch of I-80 in June and in early August, when it was lovely and green. On the June drive, thunderstorms were crossing the area, and they were a beautiful sight as they rolled across and through the wide open valley of the Red Desert.

  20. NTBW on 16 Mar 2011 at 8:29 am #

    You actually made me miss Wyoming a little bit, which is something I never thought I would say, having driven all the freaking way across it something like 6 times in the 4 years I lived out west. And we even spent the night at Little American one time. Our hotel room had the most amazing 1960s furnishings–not copies, but real, vintage stuff. I SO wanted to steal a lamp, but I refrained.

  21. gina c in al on 23 Mar 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Many Many years ago on one of those mind-numbing cross-country mid-60s two-week vacation trips from Cincinnati to Disneyland Anaheim (long before D-world FL), my family and I stayed at the Little America property in Salt Lake City. I can still remember the furniture was made from real wood, not laminate, and the decor was primarily shades of powder blue. Your post brought that memory back from the depths. And more thanks to the Net, I found that the Little America is still in business in SLC. Must revisit one day, but not in the back of a 1961 Bonneville! (the two week trip was a staple then, now I’m doing good to get 5 days arranged around a holiday weekend).

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