Road Trippin’: Day 5, Omaha to Cheyenne pt. 2

Wyoming is far more beautiful than I’d anticipated. The mountains are just breath-taking to behold in many parts of the drive along I-80.  After leaving Omaha, we stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the night, the state’s capital city with a population of just 60,000.

 A serious downfall to driving with the trailer hitched to the car is that it not only makes driving very difficult, but it also means that as a result, we are limited when it comes to where we can stay — the closer to the highway the better, and driving on populated city streets is pretty much a no-go. This means that most nights, we’re relegated to cheap hotels right off the highway. Since we’re both currently without a steady salary, we’re also trying to do this on the cheap, so we’ve ended up in some pretty classy places, as you might imagine.

In the case of Cheyenne, there seemed to be even less choice than in some other municipalities we’d stopped in, so we wound up in what could perhaps best be described as a compound made up of several hotels and motels, a Home Depot, a gas station, and what appeared to be the town’s few restaurants, the Outback Steakhouse, which was packed. I was oddly happy about this -figuring that if we were to be stuck eating at a chain restaurant, at least it was one with a gluten-free menu.

After we’d walked Ruby, cleaned up a bit and settled into our room at the Express Inn, we grabbed spots at the bar at Outback Steakhouse as the restaurant was jam-packed. Besides, sitting at the bar is a great way to meet people and/or observe some local color. Before long, a long-haul truck driver from Omaha sat down at the bar to our left and struck up a conversation.

Grilled pork chop, garlic mashed potatoes and steamed veggies.

BK asked him if he had any recommendations of where we should stop en route to our next destination, and we told him about visiting Carhenge earlier in the day. This caused our new companion to start excitedly discussing Stonehenge and how the statues apparently predicted the coming of the new world order and the concept of one world government, a development that he believes is, well, imminent. I wasn’t quite sure what exactly he was referring to with this one, but I decided it might be better to keep my mouth shut for once.

“I don’t know what you kids think about politics or the idea of one world government, but it’s going to happen,” he told us, before asking us where we were from.  After telling him we were from New York, this led to a lively conversation about the Sept. 11 attacks, which our new friend feels certain was at least in part an inside job. He asked us if we’d ever heard of the “9-11 truth movement,” and then explained the justification for us. Neither BK nor I wanted to go into such a conversation in any great depth so we tried to change the subject, asking him about his job as a long-haul truck driver.

He told us he’d been doing it for over 30 years, although in 1986 he lost his 8-year-old daughter and was, in his words, “was just so bummed out about that,” so he took a break for awhile. This was one of those statements that’s delivered so dead-pan and so unexpectedly that it leaves even a verbose talker like myself with absolutely no clue how to respond. I offered him my condolences, to which he responded that at least he knew where his daughter was and that she was with the lord, unlike the many parents whose children are abducted or otherwise go missing and are never to be found again. He then launched into a spiel about human trafficking, especially what he described as a burgeoning human trafficking industry in the U.S.  We were given numerous admonitions to be careful while driving and to avoid parking in dimly lit, isolated areas where we’d be putting ourselves at great risk of being kidnapped and sold into slavery. None of this was delivered with even the hint of sarcasm or really, anything other than complete earnestness. He also warned us about talking to strangers, and then acknowledging that he himself was in fact a stranger with whom we were speaking, assured us that he was perfectly safe.

I hesitate to downplay the problems of human trafficking. I’m well aware of what an underestimated and growing problem it truly is, and I’ve read many, many stories of the real horrors going on in places that don’t always fit the image of America’s seedy underbelly. Still, I’m skeptical that two twenty-something adults moving to California with a dog and a jam-packed trailer are the primary targets those involved with the human trafficking trade are looking for. Nevertheless, I was oddly touched by his concern.

Between telling him we were from New York and headed to the San Francisco area, and the fact that we aren’t married, I felt fairly confident that our new trucker friend was probably going to pray for our Satan-worshipping souls. After paying his bill and giving us his best wishes for our journey, he pulled out two tiny booklets from his shirt’s front pocket and handed them to us, and told us we might find the information contained within helpful as we continue on with our journey and our subsequent lives. I was pretty sure I saw where this conversation could be headed and decided it was most prudent to just smile and say thank you, and say nothing about BK being Jewish or my atheist childhood.

Here’s what he gave us:

Our conversation with the trucker had sparked the interest of the younger couple sitting to our right, as we discovered once the trucker had said goodbye and left the restaurant. They asked if we could see the small books he’d handed us, which they thumbed through with increasing amusement. The two, who told us they were “unfortunately” born and raised in Wyoming, told us that the state is home to just one four-year college, a fact that absolutely fascinated and astounded us. One? Really?

The college is located in Laramie, which the two suggested might be a cool place for us to explore. I stupidly made the mistake of sticking my foot in my mouth, telling them that I was very interested in seeing Laramie because the town had nothing but a bad reputation on the east coast owing to the case of Matthew Shepard and the Laramie Project. Wrong thing to bring up. This prompted the girl to get annoyed, exclaiming how no one who wasn’t there really knows what happened and there’s so much that never came out in the case, including some major issues involving drugs.

I was not sure how to respond to this, but luckily before I could open my mouth, the girl continued on, complaining how Elton John came to the campus to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death and how she’d been really excited to see him perform but instead, she said, he just lectured the students about “being gay.”

“I mean, come on, I don’t lecture you on being straight,” she said, shaking her head in a mix of annoyance and possibly disgust. Our conversation basically ground to a halt after this and BK and I went back to take Ruby for another walk and then settle in for the night. Along our walk, we passed a group of Mormon teenagers in which all the males wore massive belt buckles, and then we saw two men sitting inside a hotel restaurant wearing the most epic of ten-gallon hats. Oh Cheyenne, what a strange place.

Here are some of the things I’ve noticed about the American West:

  • The bigger the belt buckle, the better (say that three times fast)
  • There’s a proclivity toward naming businesses “XX n’ YY,” as in “Pump n’ Pantry,” “Loaf n’ Jug,” and “Kurl n’ Whirl.” I have no idea why this is. 
  • American-made cars are best, and American-made pick-up trucks are even better.
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