Never have I loved and hated a place so much at the same time.
I was sent to Laramie, WY for nearly 2 weeks for work, in order to better understand our construction processes, and learn more in detail what we do at my new job. With an all-male crew of 20, I spent brutal 12-hour days outside in 25 degrees and snow, and then days later, 70 degrees and unforgiving sun and harsh winds.
The wind and dust were relentless, drying my skin and face to the point of bright red cracked and chapped cheeks. Sunscreen and Chapstick were useless, giving the dust something to cling to, creating an “attractive” muddied look on my face, and worsening the pain. But oh, the scenery!
Laramie is a college town – in fact the only (4 year) college town in WY – with a beautiful western-style downtown, full of shops and a large train depot. The people were, for the most part, wonderful, outgoing and friendly. My kind of people, hardy-shorts-and-tee-shirts-in-30-degrees-weather kind of people. There was bingo in the bars at lunchtime, and the town streets were lined with a variety of Queen Anne, Tudor, Foursquare and WWII small homes. My Wisconsin bones felt at home here with the temps and the people.
My one bad experience being at the local Ace Hardware where a well-manicured, barbie-doll-mother-daughter-team recoiled and sneered at me in disgust, in my dusty construction gear and chapped face. Ahh honey, let’s see how far that Liberal Arts degree gets your daughter, I thought to myself. Locals? I doubted it.
The town itself is located at an elevation of 7200 ft, which amusingly caused any bagged food products to puff up, and also caused my medical conditions a bit of grief. Still, I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to be outside surrounded by mountains stunningly capped in white. Cattle and antelope grazed everywhere on the grassy plains. Eagles soared lazily overhead and ravens bold, examined me curiously.
Union Pacific trains went by hourly and sometimes I counted the cars, giving up after I hit one hundred. When I heard I was going to Laramie, I was SO excited because a train I had been following the restoration of, for the past year, Big Boy 4014 – a 600-ton behemoth – was scheduled to go through the town! Sadly, I missed it by two days. I had visited the one in Green Bay, WI a few times, but really wanted to see this one up and running on the tracks.
After work, I wandered around the train yard alone at night, envisioning the days of the old Wild West and the fanfare I missed a few days prior.
In the short span of 3 months, for my new job I have traveled to Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and now Wyoming. Of them all, the stunning plains and mountain magnificence of Wyoming will stick with me for some time.
A few days at home and then I’m off on my next adventure for the next few weeks. I can’t wait to see, and share more of “America, the Beautiful.”