Friday, August 12, 2011

Southern Wyoming--Passing Through?

We left Fort Collins (CO) and headed for Lyman, WY, with an overnight stay in Rawlins, WY. Following a short drive north on I-25, we picked up I-80 in Cheyenne and began our drive across southern Wyoming.

"I-80 runs the length of southern Wyoming along the same path followed by the first transcon- tinental railroad: straight, fast, convenient, but not often scenic. To the curious eye, though, there are interesting sights along the way.

"Geology buffs will be interested in the road cuts made by the interstate--eons of geologic history are revealed. Historians will appreciate the remnants left more than a century ago.

"Here along the interstate you'll also see Wyoming's latest contribution to the nation's energy pool: a wind farm of spinning propellers lining the ridges like an infantry on stilts" (

Well, I don't know if we have Frommer's "curious eye" or we're wannabe "geology buffs," but we thought there were several scenic points along the way.

Fodor's description seemed more in line with what we found: "A journey across southern Wyoming takes you through a wonderfully diverse land-scape, from the wheat fields of the southeast to the mountains of the Snowy Range to the stark and sometimes hauntingly beautiful Red Desert, where wild horses still roam freely.

"Cheyenne, the largest city in Wyoming and the state capital, is the cornerstone community at the eastern edge of the state. Evanston, a town settled by railroad workers in 1869, anchors the western edge of the state. In between are the cities of Laramie, Rock Springs, and Green River, all of which owe their origin to the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad" (

Reading the "Evolu-tion of Roads Across Southern Wyoming" by Kris A. White, one gets the impression that the trails, railroads, and highways through Wyoming served to move people through the state rather than bringing them to the state."

White noted that beginning with Indian trails and followed by the Oregon Trail over South Pass (the "first transcon-tinental highway in Wyoming"), the United States Army's military roads, the overland stage, the Pony Ex­press, and, finally, the telegraph all served to open the West to people, products, and informa-tion.

"The construction of roads was politically justified in the name of national defense, but the roads served to create access to the frontier for settlers.

But, as Charles Kuralt, noted in On the Road with Charles Kuralt,
'Wyoming was a place of passage, a kind of alkali hell to be got through. You can still read the signs of the getting through, all these years later.... All you left in Wyoming was your name.'"

The American Automobile Association suggested a transcon-tinental highway in 1902, but a coast to coast route of paved highways was seen as a huge undertaking when there was not a mile of paved rural road.

At least as important to improving the quality the road was the need to map them properly. Auto en­thusiasts pooled their efforts to develop the route across southern Wyoming. Payson W. Spaulding, who owned the first auto­mobile in Evanston,, WY, drove from Evanston to Cheyenne and back in 1906 to show the route was possible.

Jumping forward to 1956, the Interstate Highway Act, signed by President Eisenhower, led to the construction of the nation's interstate highway system.

But a significant concern continues to this day for Wyoming. A Wyoming study in 1960 showed that of out-of-state travelers, "only 29.1 percent considered some part of Wyoming to be a major destination for their trip."

And a 1969 study showed that just 18 percent of I-80 travelers had a Wyoming destination.

"The roads no longer drive down main street (nor do) bill­boards invite you to support the local cafe" (Kris A. White).

But we, in one of the 13,000 vehicles that travel I-80 each day, had Wyoming destinations on our schedule.

Passing through? Certainly not.

1 comment:

Mel said...

I don't think anyone is allowed to just pass through - when I tried to in March 2011, high winds shut down I-80 and I was forced to spend the night in Rawlins. I stumbled on your blog tonight b/c I just looked up their road conditions for another trip - googled to see if anyone talks about the frequency of high winds in that area.