This year, our trip will take us to Washington and Oregon and all points in between. The Kings have taken family vacations together for many years. Never has it been so hard to coordinate everybody’s schedules as it has this year. For this reason, this year there are three of us (myself, Scott and KK) who will drive our two vehicles to Seattle and will join up with the rest of the family there, or at other locations along the trip. I have warmly anticipated the three-day drive to Seattle by the King Boys, and today is the day we finally hit the road.
Our plans today include about 14 hours of driving and spending the evening in Casper, Wyoming. We have never left on a trip on Independence Day. One observation is that the highway patrolman in Kansas and Colorado were out in full force on the holiday. We’d never seen so many out, and they were pulling drivers over right and left. (Unlike last year, we were not involved in any of these traffic stops.)
With a 6:20am departure, it worked out that we could have lunch in Colby, Kansas. The billboards leading up to Colby advertised the Prairie Museum, which I kept pointing out to Scott. He accused me of wanting to go. Turns out, part of the Prairie Museum complex is the largest barn in Kansas. Would have been a nice stop. Maybe next time.
We dined at Arby’s for lunch, just beating a Boy Scout Troop from Nebraska on their way to Philmont. In the parking lot afterward, we waved to a couple driving a corvette, whom we had passed back and forth several times on the highway. About that time, a gentleman came walking across the parking lot to tell us how much he disliked his one ride in a Corvette many years ago. Then he proceeded to tell us story after story about his life, and we finally had to back away and get in the car. (Note: Although I did not care for this guy, I think that people from Colby would make great friends.)
Around Burlington, Colorado, KK got in the car with me and kept me company all the way to Casper. His one job was to “take pictures of interesting things” and his track record was spotty. It started about 30 miles from the Wyoming state line when I asked him to take a picture of the Wyoming sign. “No problem, just give me some warning”, so we talked about the sign with 5 miles to go and with a couple of miles to go. All that, and he missed the sign. We had a good laugh about that. We had more good laughs every other time he missed a picture, of which there were plenty!
Just a mile or so inside Wyoming, there were 4 or 5 mega-sized fireworks stores, and all their parking lots were packed. These were not the typical firework stands, but real brick and mortar stores that would appear to be open year-round. Of course, it is the 4th of July, so likely their busiest day of the year, but we do suspect there are very lax fireworks laws in the state of Wyoming.
The big excitement of the day came as we were driving between Cheyenne and Chugwater, Wyoming. We knew there were going to be storms in Wyoming all day, and the sky was a dark blue in the distance as we made our way north on Interstate 25. Scott called us from his vehicle to say that there was a Tornado Warning in effect for this area. Given the dark sky and the warning, we immediately pulled over on the shoulder and decided to wait out the storm. We were a trendsetter, as later we probably saw a dozen or more vehicles pull over within a mile of us.
We had a great view of the storm while staying dry where we were. And sure enough, after a short time, we were able to see a tornado take its shape and keep its form for a long time.
Once the coast was clear, the tornados had dissipated and the rain was pretty well past, we got back on the highway. We made it down the road another 30 miles and got some gas in Wheatland. There were 3 or 4 vehicles at the pumps and everybody was chatting with each other about the tornado. It was as though everybody there were long-time best friends. (Or from Colby, Kansas.)
We pulled into the Quality Inn hotel in Casper about 7:30. We stayed at this very hotel last year, and struck up a quick friendship with Sherri, the desk clerk. Sherri was not working tonight, but Kathleen was, and she was every bit as enthusiastic as Sherri was last year. I asked if Sherri was still at the Quality Inn. Kathleen didn’t think so, but Kathleen said she was pretty new, so let’s just pretend Sherri was only taking the day off.
While we were driving all day, Miles and Peyton were spending the day in Albuquerque and then flying up to Seattle, where we will join them Saturday. They spent 3 hours on a “Breaking Bad” tour of Albuquerque. Sounds like my kind of afternoon.
Back in Casper, for dinner, I took Scott and KK back to J’s Pub and Grill, which is where we ate dinner last year. The food did not disappoint. What did disappoint was that we sat down on the patio, and after about 15 minutes had to ask to be moved inside. It was in the mid-60s and the strong breeze was not helping.
Tomorrow brings the promise of more touristing. We will be better prepared, and that means having our cold weather gear available and having our cameras ready for pictures even with as little as 30 miles notice.