On the Road Again – Part 5

After leaving Salt Lake City, we launched into Wyoming and ended the night at a motel in Rock Springs. We stayed next door to what was possibly the trashiest white trash family I’ve ever encountered in a motel. You know how I know they were trashy? The grandma was an equal opportunity yeller, evenly distributing her barking toward her husband, her son, her grandkids, and her dog. If I were that dog, I would have just run off into the night and taken my chances with a new family.

We hit the road and soon became part of an interstate tradition…

…the dreaded construction zone. I’d complain more, but seriously, Wyoming is even more beautiful at five miles an hour.
Another bonus of being stuck in traffic is that we spotted this artwork on the back of a semi.
As we hit Cheyenne in southeastern Wyoming, we discovered the city has a ginormous locomotive on display, one of eight Big Boys remaining across the country. Known as the largest steam engine in the world, this mammoth is 132 feet long and weighs 1.2 million pounds.
You know you’re back in the Midwest when you start seeing more and more wind turbines.
Continuing our railroad-themed day, we trained our attention on the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska.
From the seventh floor observation deck, you get a panoramic view of the world’s largest railyard. Every boy loves trains, and trust me, that feeling is still there even when you’re in your 40s.
After the Golden Spike Tower, we ventured across town to the Fort Cody Trading Post, which is very touristy, and quite frankly right up our alley. If there’s a bison statue, I’m practically required by law to have my picture taken with it.
The trading post had its fair share of creepy-looking dudes, like this dude who seems to be sleeping with his eyes open in the middle of a game of checkers.
Or how about this guy?
You can stand by Buffalo Bill and then later on, he’ll chase you in your nightmares.
If the mannequins weren’t creepy enough for you, how about this two-headed calf? He/they only lived for two days in the mid-1900s.
We spent the next night in Kearney before hopping back out on Interstate 80. The sight of the Archway reminded us that home was just a hop, skip, and a jump away.
In an effort to stretch our legs, we stopped at the Platte Valley Antique Mall in Greenwood, Nebraska. I love to go deal hunting, and although I didn’t find anything at this antique mall, my wife did. Unbeknownst to us, the mall has a pub inside (aptly named the Plattepus Cafe & Bar), so while I scoured the aisles, she helped herself to a Bloody Mary.

We rolled into our home base on a Friday afternoon and exhaled with relief as I put the car in park. Even though we saw a host of phenomenal sites, it still felt comforting to be back home. I love living in Iowa because you can take off in any direction to see this wonderful land of ours. And it’s not just the landscape that makes this a stunning country to explore; it’s also the people. Here are some of the individuals we crossed paths with on our trip. They made our journey unforgettable.

In a Delta, Colorado gas station, a man kept looking at my Upper Iowa shirt and finally asked what part of the state I was from. It turns out he has relatives in Springbrook, Iowa, a small town of less than 150 people near Maquoketa.

In the Vernal, Utah Walgreens, I lent my pen to a woman who happened to be a former writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.

As mentioned in a previous post, Leona and Robert at Bedrock Depot in Dinosaur, Colorado were extremely friendly and helpful.

Also in Dinosaur, Colorado, I struck up a brief conversation with a Texas biker headed home from Montana.

On the way to Flaming Gorge, my wife and I met Marvin & Carlene from Vernal, Utah when they rolled down their truck window and offered to take a photo of us at Windy Point Overlook. Marvin recalled visiting Iowa once and seeing the largest pig imaginable. So naturally, I had to tell him about my great-grandma’s 840-pound pig that was raised by sucking on a goat.

At Flaming Gorge, we had some laughs with security officer John Laursen, a former sheriff’s deputy. John is originally from Missouri, so we inevitably compared the differences between Utah and the Midwest.

At the Promised Land Resort near Fruitland, Utah, we met resort owner Jill, who was also from the Midwest. She’s originally from Mankato, Minnesota.

And finally, at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, we met Amy Jo & Keith Sawyer, who were on vacation from (yep, you guessed it) the Midwest. Hailing from O’Fallon, Illinois, Amy Jo is an extremely talented musician and Keith is a retired Air Force vet. They’re Mormons and were glad to provide us with background info about Temple Square and the ongoing renovations to the temple. And to think, we struck up a conversation with them simply because I offered to take their picture, much like Marvin & Carlene did for us the day before.

Yes, America has so much to see. But in the end, it’s our fellow Americans who make every road trip a memorable one. Amid all the arguments over politics and the pandemic, we all still share citizenship in the greatest country in the world. We are blessed to enjoy the scenery of this remarkable land and the camaraderie of our fellow travelers who stand beside us as we collectively stare in wonder at the sights before us.

Thumbs up to the wonders of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. You gave us an extraordinary experience. As my wife and I travel, my heart becomes more and more crowded because I need to keep making room for new states, new scenery, and new people that captivate me.

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