Cheyenne WY – Laramie WY and back
Wed Jun 22, 2022
The plan for today was to redress a travesty that had occurred during my ride out to Provo last year for the start of the Iron Butt Rally. I’d stopped for the night in Laramie, and had planned to sit down for a nice hot local breakfast. I’d found a likely spot online called J’s Prairie Rose Diner, but then had been too eager to get moving the next morning to take the time for a sit-down meal. In Provo, my friend Marty, who had a grand-daughter living in Laramie, lamented that I had missed out on a legendary breakfast burrito that they served at that establishment. I’ve been haunted with regret ever since!
After planning out this week-long work-cation in Cheyenne, I knew getting over to Laramie for breakfast was an opportunity to right past wrongs. 🌯🌯🌯 Even my townie AirBnB host had said there wasn’t much going on in Cheyenne by way of breakfast joints. So today was that day!
I woke at 04:30 for some reason (still on east coast time?) and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I had coffee and did some work for an hour or so, stopping to take in another glorious Wyoming sunrise from the stoop. I geared up and hit the road about 06:15, opting for the brief connection down I-25 (rather than the washboard gravel road) to pick up Happy Jack Road once again. I enjoyed a speedy morning cruise out across the flats and back up into the hills, past Curt Gowdy Park from yesterday and through the Pole Mountain Unit section of Medicine Bow National Forest.
The Laramie Mountains and foothills are scattered with cool rock outcroppings and hoodoos lining the nearby ridgelines, making for interesting scenery. Lots of cows behind the fences, doing cow things. Good thing the driveways all have cattle guards, because one of ’em that I passed had a big herd gathered right up next to it, considering their chances.
Many folks who have ridden I-80 through Wyoming have probably noticed the big weird sculpture of Abraham Lincoln’s head, atop an angular stone pillar close to the highway on the outskirts of Laramie. Well it turns out that Happy Jack Road terminates right at that exit, where there is a rest area and state visitor center. I pulled in for a quick minute, and had an opportunity to check out the statue up close. I’ve been on the Lincoln Highway on stretches of US 30 back east, but had never considered it coinciding with I-80 here out West. A nearby hill marks the highest point on the original LH route.
After a few miles down the interstate, I exited onto the local streets of Laramie and parked across from the Prairie Rose Cafe at around 07:15. It’s a small establishment with a pink storefront, tucked in the middle of a city block, with typical diner decor. I admit I did feel a bit like I had just ridden up to the hitching post in a old western town and was headed into the saloon to quench my appetites.
The tables and most stools were filled with locals eating their breakfast already, but I snagged an empty spot at the end of the counter, with greetings from the friendly but busy wait staff. One of them started to hand me a menu, but I forestalled it, saying “I know EXACTLY what I want, please give me the 7220! Oh and a cinnamon roll!”
She smiled with raised eyebrows and nodded, saying “You must be pretty hungry, then.”
She went on to tell me that the burrito was pretty large, so I reluctantly told her to put a hold on the roll until dessert, just in case. I’d read mouth-watering reviews online about the cinnamon rolls, so hoped I would have room for it. I also happened to spot a whiteboard listing all the homemade pies they were serving as well. Oh save me from myself!
Per the menu, J’s 7220 Burrito (no substitutions) consists of “two eggs, shredded pork, peppers, onions, black beans, and hash browns rolled in a flour tortilla and smothered in homemade green chili and cheese.” When she set the warm plate down in front of me, along with some hot sauce, I could barely contain my excitement. Oh, it was friggin’ delicious, easily the best breakfast burrito I’ve had. The green chile sauce was simply killer, and it was all I could to to keep from licking the plate clean when I’d finished eating.
I was much too full of wonderful burrito to manage a cinnamon roll now, but I decided to take a piece of their apple pie to go. To commemorate this wonderful meal, I also wanted to get a couple souvenir t-shirts, but they didn’t have my size, so I just picked one to bring home for Char. Then I settled up and headed back out into the warming morning air.
I retraced my route via Happy Jack Road back to Cheyenne, enjoying the scenery from the reverse angle through the hills of Medicine Bow, and eventually back down onto the flats.
I was back at the AirBnB by 09:00 and worked for the rest of the day, into the evening. My dinner was a hodge-podge of what I had left from my grocery run, including a toasted bagel, salted avocado, and a nuked breakfast bowl from the frozen foods section. Followed, of course, by that nice slice of apple pie, which was a solid B+ effort.
Thur Jun 23, 2022
Checkout time was 11:00 for the AirBnB, so I texted my hosts last night to let them know I’d be working right up to the last minute. I probably couldn’t check in to the rally hotel too-too early. I got a full morning’s work in, completing my obligations for the week, and finally I was free to move about the country! I packed everything up and followed the few simple directions left by the host regarding how to leave things like locked doors and dirty towels, etc. At 10:30, I was rolling out of the driveway and away from my wonderful little home-away-from-home for the past few days, headed into town.
I decided to ride through downtown again, rather than take the interstate around, since I didn’t have any particular agenda or timeline at the moment. As I was passing by the capitol area, I spotted a sign for the Wyoming State Museum, which had been on my short list of things to see if possible while I was here, not least because admission is free! I rode around the block (twice) before finding the correct entrance to the small parking lot, and headed inside to check things out.
A woman seated behind plexiglass near the front entrance greeted me warmly and noted down where I was from, for whatever government report they invented that requires that information about museum-goers. I figured it was a good deal in exchange for admission. 😉 She gave me brief directions on how the exhibits were laid out on two floors, and bid me enjoy the museum.
My second welcome was from this big guy:
I took my time walking around the whole museum, enjoying the exhibits and reading up on many interesting facts about the history, culture, geology, art, and fauna of Wyoming. It was a great way to spend a couple hours, absorbing localized facts and trivia about a different part of the country.
I’m not that much into models and such, but there was an entire room dedicated to the folk art of Earl Newell, who created hundreds of to-scale models of old western towns, vehicles, people, animals, and accoutrements. The attention to detail and amount of work that he must have put into it all is impressive. There were cool examples of furniture designed by Thomas Molesworth, who cleverly incorporated natural burls from the source wood into his uniquely Western-inspired style.
Many riders back east are familiar with the gigantic “Big Muskie” steam-shovel bucket on display as a roadside attraction in a small Ohio park. Apparently, the current king of dragliners, Ursa Major, was also manufactured by Bucyrus-Erie and is in operation at a coal mine in Wyoming. The mining section of the museum includes these chain links from that machine, which apparently are actually stretched out from use. Hmmm, maybe they need to add a chain-oiler on those things…
I took many more photos of the cool exhibits here, including antique firearms, branding irons, Native American artifacts, and modern paintings. I’ll include several of them in an overall trip photo album link in the final post of this trip report.
After I’d made a complete circuit of the museum and had my fill of learning new stuff, I dropped some cash in the donation slot and headed back out into the heat. I rode the last couple miles south to the Red Lion Hotel, just south of town, past the interstate. Spotted some bikes parked around the lot already and a few riders chin-wagging under the porte cochere over the entrance. It was great to finally be HERE. Rally hotel, rally folks – time to unwind a bit before getting wound up for the start!
I found a spot to park, said hey and shook a few hands on my way inside. There was a bit of a line queued up at the front desk already. I was hot and sweaty, even after the short ride over, and just wanted out of my gear and a shower at this point. I spotted more riders relaxing around the lobby area, but just waved from my place in line at the front desk. Seemed like things were dragging on a bit here, and I didn’t want to give up my spot!
The desk clerk was a sweetheart to me, though I could tell she was a bit stressed out. I think she was brand new employee, and they left her to the mercy of dozens of tired, smelly motorcycle riders who’d be trickling in the rest of the afternoon! When it was my turn, she did have some more trouble with their computer systems, so that it took close to 10 minutes to get checked in. For some reason, she was assuming I wanted to be on the third floor and mentioned that she could get me right in on the sixth floor. What? Sign me up, sister!
By now I have come to expect a bit of a rough passage at any hotel, due to all the staffing shortages and general mayhem resulting from the pandemic. I Just let her do her thing and eventually, everything was sorted. I headed back out to the bike to drive around back and closer to the elevator.
The room was modern and clean, and the shower felt great. I had a week’s worth of laundry to do, so I crammed all the dirty socks, LD Comforts, etc. into a stuff sack and headed downstairs to the laundry room. There were a couple coin-op washers and dryers there, and another guest was waiting on his load to finish. He tipped me off about which washer was broken, then I got my load running and headed back out front to socialize.
Marty was there hanging around waiting for the rest of Team Rufo-Cover to arrive, and I shared with him my holy experience at the Prairie Rose Café yesterday. I think there was a tear of joy in his eye. 😀
I had a long chat with Danny Dossman, who gave me a full tour of his unique rally snacking habits and frisbee farkles. He was looking mighty spry and raring to go for someone who just had knee replacement surgery a few months ago. For some reason Danny no longer rides an ST (I think he may still own one to look at), but he’s still a really nice fellow regardless. 😉 I listened attentively to his strategy on saving time for meals during rest breaks.
Paul Tong, the rallymaster himself, soon arrived with a big pickup, U-Haul trailer, and full entourage of staff, including lovely wife Tara. They set about the process of unpacking huge Home Depot plastic crates of Super Secret Rally Supplies from the U-Haul trailer and hauling it inside on luggage dollies. Paul forbade anyone except staff from touching anything, so we all just watched the entertainment, broken caster wheels and all!
Someone familiar-looking pulled in on a very striking BMW sport-tourer. Holy Lazurus! It’s Ron Messick from Missouri, thought by all to be permanently out of the endurance rally game a couple years ago, by his own choosing. Aside from the new Magnum PI moustache, Ron was now sporting a rare K1200GT motorcycle, into which he had poured an obvious amount of love and effort to farkle it up, day-glo orange wheels and all. Really nice looking bike, though Ron was here as volunteer staff and not to ride in the event.
More riders arrived and it became a regular hangout spot beneath the shade of the port cochere, which was pretty comfortable, helped by the ever-present Wyoming breezes. In between conversations, I dashed back and forth to the laundry room when appropriate to get that chore completed.
James Epley arrived mid-afternoon with his Trophy in the back of his pickup, looking cool and collected from the air conditioned ride. Not for long, as the process of getting the bike down involved several of us pitching in and sweating a bit.
Dinnertime! James offered to provide transportation to a local eatery, so I suggested the other restaurant in town that had been recommended by my AirBnB host. We piled into the truck: James, Gerry, Ken, Nelson Delgado from TX, and myself. It was a couple miles to the restaurant on traffic-heavy roads that would not have made a pleasant walking experience. Sanford’s Grub & Pub is a quirky watering hole with a slight Cajun vibe to the decor and menu. It seems to be a small regional chain.
Speaking of decor, this place had literally THE most memorabilia and, just…well, STUFF attached to every surface in the place than I’ve seen about anywhere. It may even beat out the Boatyard in Maryland for percentage of wall coverage! It was too much to take in all at once, as the hostess led us quickly back through the bar to a table near the rear. I did have to stop for a photo of the pterodactyl looming over the bar, however.
I saw catfish on the menu and immediately began to salivate, however the waiter caught my eye and said, “Have you eaten catfish before?”
“Why, yes I have, I love it.”
“Like, while in the south?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I have,” I replied, not quite sure where this was going.
“Well after having that, do you really want to have it cooked by a kid from Wyoming?” he prompted helpfully.
“Um, well, when you put it that way, I guess not. Thanks for looking out!” I said, meaning it.
I ordered a big plate of nachos to share. Then, following Nelson’s example, I opted for the Hot Ass Miss Piggy, a “1/2 pound sirloin burger, topped with our slow-smoked BBQ pulled pork and topped with ghost pepper jack cheese”. Wow. Oh Wow. Give me that rare and mooing please (it wasn’t 🙁 )! They had my favorite type of stringy onion rings too, all washed down with a nice cool Moscow Mule served in a faux copper mug.
Since the rest of us knew each other pretty well, we pressed poor Nelson with questions about his riding, life, and family and he handled it quite good-naturedly. We had a great meal sharing travel stories from the road, catching up on life, and of course speculating about the rally.
Back at the Red Lion, I spent an hour or two in the hotel bar hanging with other riders and just shooting the breeze. It was a good time, meeting new (and unremembered) folks from far-flung towns around the country while sipping down a couple Sam Adams, enjoying the new stories, relaxation and camaraderie. The company gradually dwindled until it finally seemed time to head up for bed.
Tomorrow is registration day and all the LDX entrants should be making an appearance at some point. I know the rallymaster and his staff are probably busy at this moment attending to every detail and planning dastardly challenges for all of us.