Waiting for April Fool's Day in Laramie
"Stranded Near the Laramie River"
I drive a truck and trailer across the USA regularly and I often pass through Laramie, which is on Interstate 80. The Laramie Mountain Range between Cheyenne and the university town of Laramie to the west, has frequent snow and ice, and a 6% grade that can result in road closure. Similarly, between Laramie and the mining/oil town of Rawlins to the west, the Medicine Bow Range, a part of the Great Rocky Mountains, offers similar grades and even greater weather challenges, even as late as May. In this case though, a petroleum tanker spill in the Medicine Bow range caused a chain collision of vehicles and road damage that closed the road for two days. The subsequent oversupply and chaos of truckers overwhelmed the small town of Laramie, and the icy road conditions further east, resulted in road closure of I-80 starting at Cheyenne. Thus, truckers became stranded in Laramie, and I was one of them. However, for gritty truckers used to the usual boredom of the great plains, such was a great opportunity for adventure and an opportunity to swap tales of past such experiences.
"Union Pacific Railyard Town"
The name Laramie has its origins in the name of a French fur trapper named La Ramee, who was murdered in winter by resident Indians and then buried below the ice of the river. The name Laramie is repeatedly used to refer to a mountain range, county of Wyoming (where Cheyenne, not Laramie, is located), a frontier fort, and this town. Fort Laramie, which served in succession as fur trapper outpost, indian trading post, pioneer way station, and military fortress during the Indian war period, probably deserves the most credit for making the name of Laramie legendary within the folklore of the old American west. But, the town of Laramie, which had its start as a station of the Union Pacific Railroad along the first transcontinental rail tracks during the 1860's, deserves credit for continuing value for the name today. A lonely rail yard, a territorial prison, and eventually home to the University of Wyoming, Laramie remains a frontier town of considerable character. I learned about all this and more when I choose to hike south two miles along the river, in a bitter and dry blowing wind, from the truck stop to the historic center of town near the rail yard.
"University of Wyoming"
Wyoming has a reputation for being a bastion of conservative Republican politics, but Laramie is something of an exception due to the presence of the university. The University of Wyoming dominates the town so much that the women's basketball schedule and other university functions are prominently featured in the first few pages of the slim telephone book. Downtown are old brick buildings resident for bookstores, antique galleries, and restaurants catering to an oasis of liberalism in this great plain state. During this time of crisis, I had time to walk past the reconstruction of the territorial prison, and around the historic center of town, but could not visit the university, which is located several blocks to the east.