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Wyoming

I have not written anything in this blog for almost a month now, but things have been very busy at work and there are lot of projects and plans in the works. I’ll have to write more on that on another date, but for now, let’s just say that I am looking at some significant changes in the near future. For those interested in the Slashdot Moment In Time Project, I am working on putting everything together as we speak and will have it posted in the near future with html and pdf versions.

On to updates. H and I drove to Laramie, Wyoming last weekend to visit my brother-in-law, the mycologist, C and his partner, C. We travelled from Salt Lake City to Laramie, Wyoming along I-80 with a momentary stop in Rawlings, Wyoming where we saw more drive up liquor stores and bars per capita than I have ever before seen. Rawlings appeared to be an amazingly depressed economy with at least one and perhaps two drive up liquor stores per block along with pawn shops that buy your “TVs, Guns, Cars and Jewelry” and folks hanging out at convenience stores looking for all the world like meth junkies looking to score. It was unbelievably depressing and more than a little creepy.

Of course meth-amphetamine use throughout the west has become an epidemic for cities large and small, good economy or not. However, smaller economically depressed communities have been hurt the most. For an interesting read on just one example of how this epidemic has affected one such community, read this article in the New West.

Despite our disturbing little detour, there were some interesting developments along the highway that I had not seen since my last trip along I-80 through Wyoming. Notably, there were a number of wind-farms that were built on the Foote Creek Rim. We were also delighted to see pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) along the highway, but unfortunately no buffalo (Bison bison) on this trip. What worries me is that while the high plains where these animals live are a part of the country that is is starkly beautiful, this country is under pressure with loss of that big, open wilderness that has made Wyoming so important to large prairie animals. There were far more gas wells than I expected to see along with all of the other accouterments of an energy industry explosion. It seemed that parts of the drive in between Rock Springs and Rawlins were bounded by a patchwork mosaic of wells that dramatically altered the landscape. It is true, that they were painted to match the countryside, but anybody who says that this sort of thing can be done without harming the countryside is lying if they think a little paint is cutting it. This is a bit of a reminder of what happened with the Texas countryside under the Bush governorship.

Laramie is the home of the University of Wyoming and a number of trade schools that were evident around town including Wyotech which might explain the absurdly high number of customized cars driving around in various states of repair and finish. We spent a day walking around downtown Laramie, attending the farmers market, buying mushrooms, salsa and corn. Stopped by the Coal Creek Coffee Company for a tasty refreshment and conversation. I think they are also a Wi-Fi hotspot as well, so check em out.

We also did some shopping at 2nd Story Books on 105 Ivinson Ave. The bookstore is a former whorehouse complete with whoring rooms now filled with themes such as science or politics or culinary books. Dinner was had at a tasty restaurant (with vegetarian fare for those that are interested) called Jeffrey’s Bistro on 123 E. Ivinson Ave. I had the Savory Chicken Pot Pie along with some local microbrew and it was truly outstanding. Perhaps not as tasty as the meat pies I ate with abandon from Shakespeare’s in New Zealand and Australia, but Jeffrey’s pies were much better for you and certainly more sophisticated.

Image courtesy of Ann Torrence.

On another day, we got away for some hiking at Vedauwoo which is a place popular for climbing and bouldering. The geology is interesting as many of the rock formations consist of granite that is about 1.4 billion years old. The area was first explored by the white man from the Union Pacific Railroad as they built the rails across the Sherman Mountain in 1867. Before that of course, it was known to the Arapaho Indians and was a sacred place named for “earthborn spirits”.

We had a great time on the hike. H and C got to spend time talking while I took photos. The afternoon was finished by a drive over to a local monument to two of the areas historical railroad barons. This monument was built in 1882 at the astonishing cost of $65,000 which is equivalent in purchasing power to $1,162,939.84 today. The monument is 60 feet high and was built by the Union Pacific Railroad Company as a memorial to the Ames brothers, Oakes (1804-1873) and Oliver (1807-1877). Interestingly, the monument was designed by the architect, Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886) with bas-relief carvings completed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907).


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The next day was a trip down to Ft. Collins for a trip to the community botanical gardens followed by a tour of Colorado State University to see what we thought of the place as there is a possibility that we may be moving there in the future. The campus is beautiful and obviously an Ag centric school which may or may not help with respect to some of the possibilities of where I would like to take metabolomics in the future. We’ll have to see what happens. There is also the possibility of taking the science private through venture capital investment, but that is another one of many projects that are ongoing.

Finally, on the drive back home, I was surprised to see a convoy of semi’s carrying radioactive materials, most with low level waste in containers, but one truck carrying high level products judging from the two large heavy duty casks. They were likely headed to the Nevada Test Site, but ideally, I would like to see those materials carried by the railroad. Even if it is to be transported on highways, there should be a speed limit as these guys were flying along at 80 MPH with one truck making quite dramatic lane changes. I’ll tell you, as a car sharing the road, this was a bit disconcerting. They were possibly from the Fernald facility judging from the license plates on two of the trucks, but who knows.


Categories: Travel.

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2 Responses

  1. Obviously, you surfaced viewed Rawlins and in your mind’s eye, you falsely concluded every block contained two drive-in liquor stores and pawn shops frequented by meth-addicted people. If there were microbreweries every block, you may have had a different perspective…yup…yup. Like your images, it’s a click of the shutter, without going into depth. However, I do see a potential from your images to see the beauty within from what others would consider as ugly. My advice would be to get off the main route as to what is dictated as desirable and “look” beyond to capture the beautiful fabric of life, even with the stray threads.

    Pearl WestDecember 15, 2011 @ 5:16 pmReply
    • Hey Pearl,

      Thanks for the comment. You are absolutely correct that our sample size was small, but that is what we saw on our foray through town. It was admittedly a small sample size and had I more time, it would have been interesting to explore more of town.

      I find all sorts of things interesting and beautiful, even that which might be considered ugly. What I found depressing was the human cost associated with transient populations based upon local boom/bust cycles. Its not good for people or societies.

      That said, its all interesting to document photographically.



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