State 16: Wyoming - September 19, 2017
"Are you ready boots? Start Walking!"
After a relaxing week and a half of camping at the foot of the Northern Colorado Rockies, we were excited to continue on our journey. We exited Colorado at it's Northeastern border, and entered the 16th State on our cross country journey to discover America, and find a new state to call home Wyoming: Forever West. Wow! What A powerful state slogan! It’s not touristy, and it’s not cutesy! It is a motto that strikes to very heart of the state, and let’s all know Wyoming was, is, and will always be the West! I have been looking forward to visiting Wyoming for a very long time, and can’t believe I am actually here! There is so much to like about Wyoming such as: no state income tax, first state granting women the right to vote, the lowest population of all 50 states, and 6 National Parks, including one park you may or may not have heard of called Yellowstone! This is going to be an amazing 2 weeks!
After crossing the state border, we drove 10 miles North to the capitol city of Cheyenne. Traditionally, state's capitols are geographically located in the center of a state. While this may be ideal for the state legislators who must regularly travel to the capitol city, it's extremely inconvenient for the Cross Country Couple. The reason we tour each state's capitol and state's museum is to learn the most about a state in the shortest period of time. There is nothing more infuriating than discovering something you want to visit, which ends up being 200 miles back from where you just came from. It was extremely refreshing to start our exploration of Wyoming with the capitol city of Cheyenne.
We decided to begin our day by touring the Wyoming State Capitol, and I was very excited to do so. The Wyoming State Capitol building is one of only a handful that has been designated a National Historic Landmark, because of what occurred there on December 10, 1869. It was on the aforementioned date Wyoming Governor; John Allen Campbell signed a law making Wyoming the first state in the US granting women the right to vote. In addition, Wyoming was the first state in the US to have: women serve on juries, the first female Court Bailiff, the first female Justice of the Peace, and the first state to elect a female Governor! I could not wait to see this capitol, which championed women’s rights! As we approached the capitol building, we got very bad news! The Wyoming Capitol was closed due to extensive renovations, which would not be complete until 2019. Damn! This is the first state capitol building on our cross country trip we would be unable to visit, and it was a good one too. I snapped a picture of the outside of the building, and I guess that will just have to suffice. The Wyoming Capitol Building will forever be remembered as the one that got away.
We walked across the street towards our next stop; the Wyoming State Museum. Just as we were about to enter the museum, we stumbled across the Cross Country Couple's “Road Side Attraction” for the state of Wyoming, “Cheyenne Big Boots”. In 2004 and 2005, The Cheyenne Depot Museum Foundation embarked on fundraising projects called “These Boots Are Made for Talking”. Boots measuring 8 feet tall and 8 feet from heel to toe, were carefully cast in plaster then hand painted by local artists to show Wyoming's and Cheyenne's history. The cost of constructing the boots was covered by the sponsorship of local businesses. Next, each boot was auctioned off to determine where each boot was to be placed throughout Cheyenne. The auction generated 100k, and proceeds from the project went to Cheyenne Depot Museum Endowment Fund. Even to this very day, “Cheyenne’s Big Boots” continue to generate great enthusiasm, and visits to each of their locations throughout the Cheyenne area.
At the time of our visit to Cheyenne, there were 24 boots scattered throughout the city, and I had the feeling we were about to be led on a scavenger hunt in search of additional 8-foot-tall hand painted cowboy boots. Challenge Accepted! I swear I could not make this stuff up even if I tried! LOL! The boot that stood outside of the Wyoming State Museum was the “Licensed to Boot”, and named as such for obvious reasons. Ok, one cowboy boot down, and 23 more to find! Are you ready? On your mark! Get set! Go!
We acquired a map in the state's museum revealing the location of each of the boots throughout the city. We noticed a cluster of 6 boots surrounding the Cheyenne Train Depot, and decided to begin our hunt there. Upon our arrival, we found the following boots: “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play”, “Don’t Feed the Animals”, “Governors of Wyoming”, “Downtown Cheyenne”, and “Milestones: Chamber 100th Anniversary”. The boots are pictured below in the order they were described.
But wait, that was only 5 boots, and there was supposed to be 6 boots at the Train Depot. We wandered around for over 30 minutes looking for the missing boot to no avail. Where in the world was that last boot? We decided to go into the train depot to recruit the help of the locals. Upon entering, we saw a young man behind the information desk, who pointed us out a nearby door. There was our missing boot perched right next to the train tracks “Memories of the Old West”! We would have never found that boot if we did not ask for help. 7 boots down and 17 more to go!
Next, we drove 200 feet down the road from the train depot, and found the “32 Ford B” boot. A block away, we found the “Saga of Tom Horn” boot outside of the courthouse, and the “8 Second Step to the Big Time” boot near a bank. A block North, we found the “Book Boot” outside of the library, and a block over to the right we found the “Religion is a Kick” boot outside of a Catholic Church. This boot was very cool because it had metal crucifixes on the spurs. 12 boots down, 12 left! We are halfway there! The boots are pictured below in the order they were described.
Things were going so smoothly, and then we hit a road block. We could not find the “Happy Birthday Cheyenne” boot, which was supposed to be outside of the City Hall. We went inside and spoke with a receptionist who told us the boot was being repaired, and would be back on display later in the week! Darn! We would not be here later in the week, and would miss this boot! Nevertheless, we continued on undeterred! Next, we headed a few blocks West to the power company to find the “Our Legacy, Improving Life with Energy” Boot. We continued West to the industrial part of town to a Walmart Distribution center. We have visited hundreds on Walmart’s during our trip, but this was the first time we have been to one of their distribution centers. Outside of the visitor's entrance we found the “Walmart” boot. Across the street we found the “Atmospheric Research” boot outside of NCAR Wyoming Super Computing. I liked this boot because it had pictures of hurricanes all over it. 16 down and 8 more to go! The boots are pictured below in the order they were described. For the missing boot, I took the picture from the map so you could see what it looked like.
Next we drove North a few blocks and found the “Gamblers Boot” outside of the Old West Museum. Then, we headed across the street to the botanical gardens in Lions Park to find the "Journey of the Soul" boot, but we hit another snafu! The botanical gardens were currently under construction, and the boot would not be on display until the work was complete! Darn, this was the 2nd unavailable boot. Disappointed but with unwavering determination, we continued on! We headed a few blocks North, and found “Springtime in Cheyenne” boot outside of a real-estate office, and across the street was “The Dental Art” Boot outside of a cosmetic dentist office. I liked the dental boot, because it had dental tools painted all over. 20 boots down and 4 more to go! We are almost there! The boots are pictured below in the order they were described. For the missing boot, I took the picture from the map so you could see what it looked like.
Next, we headed a few blocks South to the Cheyenne Regional Airport, but could not find the boot. We parked Rosie, and headed inside the airport. Although it was a very small airport, we could not find that 8-foot-tall painted boot anywhere! We asked a Hertz customer service rep if knew the location of the airport boot, and he directed us to an upstairs restaurant. Off we went, and shortly thereafter found the “Blue Skies Over Cheyenne” boot. These boots are made of plaster, and must weigh hundreds of pounds. We have no idea how they got the boot up that flight of stairs. Albeit a small regional airport, the Cheyenne Airport is very historic. In 1929, it was one of the airports that formed the first transcontinental flights across the US.
Next, we went South to Holliday Park where we found the “Outlaws of Wyoming” boot. Then, we went clear across town to Emerald Foam Control, but could not find the boot anywhere. We decided to go in, and ask the receptionist. However, as soon as we entered the building there was the “People Places, and Things” boot right in the building's entryway! Our last stop on our journey across Cheyenne was to the Laramie County Community College which held the last 2 boots. The college campus was huge, so we went to the administration office to inquire about the boots whereabouts. The receptionist said the college had lent out the “LCCC Eagle Eye Boot”, and it got broken. I think my boot inquiry may have brought up a sore subject, because she seemed annoyed about the broken boot. Seriously, loaning out a plaster hand painted boot weighing hundreds of pounds was just a bad idea from the start. If they wanted their own boot, then they should have put up the money and bought their own! Now we are missing our 3rd boot, and I am annoyed too! The receptionist went on to say the 2nd boot on display was located across campus near the library. We headed toward the campus library, and found the last boot “LCCC 40 Years of Excellence”. This had the best ambiance of any boot we had encountered. It was surrounded by trees, flowers, a water feature, and what appeared to be an alarm system. Clearly the college treasured their last remaining boot, to the point of overcompensation. In a way, I can’t blame them for if something happens to this boot it will render them bootless! The boots are pictured below in the order they were described. I took the picture from the map of the missing boot, so you could see what it looked like.
Wow, that scavenger hunt was exhausting, but it sure was a lot of fun! We visited an airport, a Walmart distribution center, a Community College, a Dentist office, a foam factory, a Catholic Church, and much more. What a great idea to bring the community together, and to direct people to points of interest throughout a city! Not to mention, the local artist’s work was superb! Unfortunately, we could not see all 24 boots, since 3 were not currently on display during our visit.
After grabbing some lunch, we made our way back to the state's museum. We were greeted at the receptionist desk by a sweet older lady. She stated admission was free, and there were two floors to the museum. The first exhibits of the museum explained the process of the preservation of artifacts within the museum. This was extremely interesting, and we have not previously seen such a display in prior state museums. The Wyoming State Museum has no budget for purchasing relics, and only accepts donations of relics with historical significance to the state of Wyoming. They also had a very interesting display case which featured the latest donations to the museum. Also on display was a before and after picture of a rattle snake. Please see the pictures below.
The next exhibit of interest explained the major industries of Wyoming, and mining is by far the largest! The state is the largest producer of coal in the entire country, and taxes collected on coal account for 30% of the state government's operating budget. Wyoming is also the largest producer of uranium in the US. Oil, natural gas, diamonds and bentonite clay which is used in cat litter, are mined heavily throughout the state. Wyoming also experienced 2 gold rushes! The first occurred in South Pass, WY from 1860 - 1900 where over 325,000 oz of gold was discovered. Although gold prospecting has been on the decline, in 1997 a 7.5 oz gold nugget was discovered in South Pass. The second gold rush Wyoming experienced occurred in 1945, and is referred to as the green gold rush. Large quantities of quality apple and black jade was discovered throughout the state, and can still be found even to this very day. Please see the pictures below.
As we continued to walk around the state museum, I saw another display which grabbed my attention describing the murder of Matthew Shepard. On October 6, 1998, Wyoming University Student; Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured, chained to a fence and left to die near Laramie, WY, because he was a homosexual. Six days later, Shepard died from severe head injuries sustained during the attack. Perpetrators Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were arrested, charged with first degree murder, convicted, and each sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. At the time of Shepard’s Murder, crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation was not covered under the current hate crime laws. After Shepard's murder, the need to revise hate crime laws at the state and federal levels was thrusted into the national spotlight! On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act into law, which expanded the 1969 hate crime laws to include a victim’s gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. I remember hearing about the Matthew Shepard case years ago, but I didn’t know the crime occurred in Wyoming. Once again, Wyoming leads the way for equality in our county. It’s just sad the catalyst for such change was the tragic and premature end of a young man’s life. Good job Wyoming for displaying Matthew Shepard’s Story!
Next, we headed to the second floor of the museum, and were happy to see it was dedicated to the Wyoming Capitol Building. Included in the capitol building exhibit were: the chair from the first Wyoming Governor, the gavel used in the state’s first senate session, a picture of the interior stained glass rotunda, and a video tour of the interior of the capitol building. We were very pleased to view this exhibit, since the state capitol building was currently closed. Please see the pictures below.
We walked away from the Wyoming State Museum having had a bittersweet experience. The exhibits within the museum were scattered, hard to follow and the state's constitution was not on display. However, my biggest critique was how certain relics were inappropriately displayed together. For example: A Victorian wedding dress was in the same display case with an unrelated shotgun. The ivory and gold gavel used in the first State Senate session, was on display right next to an old rusty nail from the first capitol building. Finally, there was a display describing the Murder and Hate Crime of Matthew Shepard followed by the following statement, “It was not all bad news in Wyoming in the 1990’s. The triceratops was named the state dinosaur”. Albeit a tad distasteful, I am a big fan of irony, and found the aforementioned hilarious. Seriously, someone should really re-examine these exhibits! Please see the pictures below.
We greatly enjoyed our time in Wyoming’s capitol city. With 60,000 residents, Cheyenne felt more like a town than a city. They also effectively preserved the cities character, and it felt as if we were walking through an old, but well maintained western town. After departing the state museum, we found a nearby Walmart in Cheyenne, where we had a restful night sleep.