My alarm rings at 4:30. I turn it off; I’m wide awake.
AAAAAACK! It’s 4:54!!!! Jay, who’s driving me to the bus station, will be here at 5:00. Thankfully, I’m mostly packed, so I quickly brush my teeth, throw my cosmetic bag into my backpack – more like playing an impromptu game of Speedy Tetrus – and do a quick check through my little room. I’ve got everything; if I don’t have it, I don’t need it.
We make it through the bus station doors just as the bus is loading. Jay and I hug goodbye, and Jenny and I nearly fly to the bus. It’s so early that no one is chatting to anyone else; I wonder if, like me, they haven’t had coffee yet.
The bus travels into Wyoming, and there’s either no time to stop for coffee, or no coffee to be had. Even when we change buses at Buffalo, WY, my body is screaming for coffee. The drivers of the Jefferson Lines bus and the Express Arrow bus are having some kind of personality conflict involving the transition of bags from one bus to another. I’m interested, but a rancher in the seat behind me engages me in conversation (which, now that I think of it, is probably a more gratifying use of mental energy). The rancher behind me is Neil, and he tasks himself as my “helper” on this journey; in Casper, he insists on running across the street to the Starbucks for coffees. I’ll take that kind of help any day!
The coffee doesn’t last long, but we reach a meal break stop in Wheatland. Arby’s isn’t my preferred fast-food place, but they have wraps, curly fries, and passable coffee. Once we board the bus, it’s just a straight shot to Cheyenne. Another passenger is heading to Salt Lake City, and their connection is more pressing than mine; we’re the only two getting off the bus, so I wait for them before Jenny and I take off.
Right by the bus station, there’s a Loaf ‘N Jug convenience store, and I pop inside to confirm the location of the city bus. Turns out, it’s right around the corner! After nearly nine hours of travel, I see the light at the end of the tunnel… I hope!
The city bus pulls up a couple minutes late. I pay my fare and settle in to a nearly empty bus. The bus announces the stops! I do a little happy dance at the clear, easy-to-hear voice. When I tell the driver how glad I am of this, he seems surprised that I’m so happy about it. I tell him briefly about what I’ve experienced in Montana, and he makes a joke about Montana being behind the times. Just a few minutes after hopping on, the driver pulls up to the side of the street with sidewalks to guide me. After a brief, rather circuitous route, I make it to my AirBNB, where one of my hosts hauls my backpack down the stairs, shows me around, and leaves me to get settled.
I am TIRED. But my time here is so brief that I have to make the most of it. Browsing Facebook, I find a Hops and Henna event at a local brewery, and I decide to go. I hop the bus to the transfer centre, swing by a local Chinese restaurant where I grab beef and veggie fried rice to go, then walk to the crowded brewery.
The doors open, and immediately my ears are assaulted by sound. Caitlin, an employee, helps me sign up for the henna tattoo an gets me settled at the bar. Over the next hour, I eat my fried rice, and encounter several patrons. Most notably of these is Mike, a sweet, harmless, and a little creepy retired Air Force man. Callie, the henna artist, decides to play “wing man” and rescue me from Mike. She draws a whimsical, intricate design on my right shoulder, and we talk about work and creativity and travel. When she’s done, she hands me a token, and I order a beer.
Other patrons have witnessed my interaction with Mike. He’s pretty well-known, apparently, and it seems their general impression matches my own – he’s nice enough, but doesn’t quite pick up on social cues, but overall he’s pretty harmless. I’m having a wonderful conversation with another regular, and I would love to stay, but I am exhausted and need to get back to my AirBNB. It’s raining lightly as I step outside and order an Uber, which arrives in less than 30 seconds. My driver says that Jenny is his first service dog; I think he’s got a great first one! He drops me off, and I meet my other host at the back door. After a brief chat, I call it a night, having already fallen in love with Cheyenne and its people.
I wake up early, having had a great sleep. Just for fun, I drink far too much coffee before figuring out a game plan for today. At 8:30, I leave in plenty of time for the bus to take me back to the Transfer Station. Twenty minutes later, I’m back in the historic district, and off in search of breakfast. Lots of people have told me about the Paramount Cafe. It’s only two blocks from the Depot Museum, where I will catch my trolley tour. Jenny flawlessly “finds coffee”, and we enter, order a black bean burrito and a honey raspberry green tea that I am told is addictive. It is So good… I wish I could take some home with me!
At the Depot, I pick up my trolley ticket, board, and get jenny situated. A few minutes later, our guide, Val, hops on board and is cracking jokes about everyone’s home towns, and starts talking about Cheyenne’s early days. We hear that Cheyenne was the first territory to give women the right to vote, and the right to hold public office, and had the first woman female governor. History came alive over the next 90 minutes as we toured through the historic district, stopping at various points that I’d like to see later. Unfortunately, we can’t stop by the Capitol Building because it’s been closed for renovations and won’t reopen until sometime next year.
After a thoroughly enjoyable ride through the Wild West, I pop in to the Depot museum itself. The main floor has all kinds of audio displays, showing how the switches worked, and the gear the rail dispatchers used. Up a flight of stairs is a model train set, a fully-operational scale replica of 55 miles of Colorado train track from the 1930s. A couple of folks from my trolley have come up, and they live in the area and are absolutely blown away over how accurate the setup is. As more guests arrive, I head back downstairs, check out a couple more displays, and head outside.
Over the next half hour, I pop in to a couple of small museums. The Cowgirls of the West museum has movies playing about the early women who participated in rodeos, some of whom could be considered early feminists for their desire to earn the same wages as the cowboys on the same rodeo circuit; others weren’t bothered by unequal pay and thought that’s just the way it was. After the movie snippet, I walk down to the Nelson Museum of the West. When I ask if someone can show me around, I’m directed to a chair “out of the way” and am given the phone number for the audio tour. While audio tours are nice, I don’t feel particularly welcome. So I listen to the audio tour – which is being offered to everyone who enters the museum – and then get up and leave.
The Historic Governor’s Mansion was a stop on our trolley tour, and I look forward to exploring it – since many of their tours are self-guided, I wonder if I will need to use AiRa, or if there are other ways to experience the home as it was in 1905. It’s a few blocks’ walk, and there’s construction on House and W 20 Street, but the construction crew helps me out by stopping their work and making sure I get on to the sidewalk safely. When I reach the Governor’s Mansion, Jenny takes me up a long ramp to a door… that’s locked! I’m about to head back down the ramp – oh, no, is this someone’s house? – when the door opens, and Christina introduces herself and welcomes me inside. She asks if I’d like to explore on my own, or if I’d like a tour guide. If someone’s available,, a tour guide would be excellent! We’ve made our way to the front foyer, where I wait for James, who’s super excited to show me around.
Over the next hour, I receive a completely described tour of what each of the rooms look like. You can only physically enter a handful of rooms, but in those I am able to feel the original furniture from 1905 – much of which was sold at auction in the ’30s – and play at the concert piano. With the latter, I am shy, but you don’t get an opportunity to play these every day, so I take them when I can. The rooms behind barricades are described extremely well, and James and I play word games to try and figure out what to call “that big black suitcase that you’d use to haul around your stuff.” There are beautiful, well-appointed rooms, and there are “hideous” rooms – like the gaudy 60s-themed room complete with Beatles records and beads. The laundry room is bigger than my house, with all kinds of machines that would have been used as time and technology progressed. Right by that is the fallout shelter that was mandated everyone build in the 1950s, including the types of canned goods, games, and things that would have been used at the time. More than an hour after I enter, Jenny and I step out into the sunshine. James thanks us for coming and “making him work” to describe things. I thank him for his descriptions and his obvious enthusiasm; he’s a natural.
Jenny and i meander over to the Wyoming State Museum. It’s an interesting place to spend some time, with some tactile displays, but not a lot to explore on my own. I consider using AiRa, but my phone battery is low, and it uses a lot of battery power. Instead, I pick up a couple mall Wyoming themed gifts at the gift shop and ask for recommendations for somewhere to eat.
Lots of people have mentioned Two Doors Down, so I head over there. Somehow I end up talking with a tourist from Colorado who offers me a ride there. It’s only a couple blocks from here, and I’m not quite up for company, so I choose to walk it on my own. When I enter, one of the waitresses reads me the whole menu with the patience of a saint. I love the burger I order, but I’m really REALLY starting to miss home-cooking!
It’s been a long day, and its time for Jenny and I to relax. We walk to the transfer station, where all of the buses are lined up in a row so that passengers can make their connections; all buses start and end here, only doing one loop and not providing quick service if you have to go to the previous stop (you have to do the WHOLE loop again); this is about the only thing I don’t like about the transit system here. We find our AirBNB, run some laundry, make plans for our next destination and just lay low. Jenny is so tired after her long day that she curls up into a tiny ball and tries to get as close to me as possible.
I don’t sleep well, but I’m too restless to stay put. My host has given me the OK to leave my backpack and pick it up on my way to the bus. But I think about it; my backpack is manageable, if clunky, and I decide to take it with me and walk back toward where we were exploring yesterday. I plug a gift shop’s address into my GPS, take a windy route to stay on the main roads… and the door to the gift shop is locked.
It’s EXPLORATION time! This is an exercise I sometimes enjoy, where I pop into businesses along a particular street. Immediately, this pays off, and I find myself enjoying a breakfast sandwich and a coffee for an hour, chatting with locals and tourists and the business owner himself!
The next half hour is less productive. I’m not near anything super interesting… Jenny decides it’s a great idea to hang out and rest near the Depot Museum, where we were yesterday. I’ve got some time to kill, so I meander over to the Crooked Cup. On my way there, I end up at Electric Sabbath Tattoo, where yesterday I asked directions to the Nelson Museum. I’m starting to wonder if I was meant to stop in there… maybe I’ll get a tattoo next time I’m in town. Jason, who gave me directions yesterday, asks how the Nelson Museum was. When I tell him about my experience, he is frustrated and disappointed on my behalf. Apparently, it’s a really interesting museum!!
We have a wonderful chat about tattoo culture in Cheyenne, which is thriving (unlike similar towns of this size). I ask for a Crooked Cup smoothie recommendation and I’m on my way. I order something else – pineapple and coconut – and I am enjoying it when my host calls me. Apparently I left a few things at the AirBNB. Thankfully, she’s close by, and is able to drop them off for me at the cafe. I stuff the bag into my backpack, sling it over my shoulders, and wave a fond and wistful goodbye to the city that has unexpectedly stolen my heart.
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