Today is a day of catch up. Over the last week I’ve been in the blurry mental fog of a sinus infection, but the meds have started working at last and now I can string more than two sentences together. Yipee! So, without further ado, Day 9: Inspire Yourself.
The road before you seems endless, weaving through hills and past fields vacant except for the random cow here and there. It feels as if you are as far from civilization as you can possibly be and the end of the world must surely be near. Slowly, you begin to climb, approaching the summit. A reststop clings to a ledge overlooking the highway. You whiz by and start your descent into the canyon. As you round a corner you catch your first glimpse of The Gem City of the Plains and the mountains beyond. Not the end of the world, it seems. In the summer, the city is a green oasis in a sea of golden plains. In the winter, it is all but invisible, the lives of 30,000 people moving quietly through routine. Welcome to Laramie.
Sandwiched between two mountain ranges, Laramie is a mini mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, biking, running, alpine skiing, nordic
skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing: Laramie has it all within reach.
You enter the city limits and pass by the typical outskirts: fast food restaurants, hotels, chain restaurants. In summer, wind rushes to greet you through your open window. In winter, wind batters the window, whistling through any cracks. Not far in the distance, two buildings catch your eye. They tower above the rest of the town. These are the tallest buildings in Wyoming at twelve stories. Nine months of the year, students inhabit these dorms and others as they attend the University of Wyoming. You continue down the street, which you’ve just noticed is named Grand Avenue. Groups of students cross, walking to campus. During summer, sunlight flits through the trees lining the streets, warming the bare legs and arms of pedestrians. In winter, ice covers the road and wind blows snow drifts into sculpted dunes. Everyone you see looks bundled from head to toe.
You continue on and realized that the road abruptly ends at railroad tracks. Old brick buildings sit in neat rows along the street. Some have seen better days, some have been remodeled. A freight train carrying coal roars past, honking at people paused on the pedestrian bridge. Despite knowing that Wyoming is the cowboy state, you notice a variety of restaurants as you meander past: vegetarian cafe, Mexican, bistro, Thai. A co-op sits on one corner, a chocolate store down the street. In between is a small shop that catches your eye. Upon further investigation you discover a perfect combination of loves: used books and coffee. This is Night Heron, a favorite hang-out for long-timers and the fluid student population alike. On weekends, the tables are full of students cramming away and plowing through homework. On weekdays, it’s quieter.
Another train screams by, rattling the glass in the windows. You sip your latte and breathe in the smell of coffee, ink, old paper and the steaming cup of homemade soup in front of you. Alone on the second floor, you take in your surroundings. The two floors of the shop are wide, open rooms with nooks created by bookshelves, but you know this wasn’t always the layout. According to the Old West Tour sign you read outside, this store, along with its neighbors, was previously a brothel, frequented by the railroad men who founded the town.
You can almost feel the history in the walls as you peruse the shelves then settle in for a good read. Despite the grueling, wind-blown drive with no cell reception and choppy radio playing country music, you can see why people stay, why so many people call Laramie home no matter where they are in the world. There is something about the wind, the clear blue skies and mountainous horizon that calls people back. You watch the sun begin to sink behind the Snowies and know that you will be one of them.