Bart Russell (Circa 195?)
We left Colorado and headed to Wyoming, looking forward to experiencing our first “Frontier Town” - Laramie. On the way we hit the 3,000 mile mark on our Tour.
Named after the French Canadian fur trapper, Jacques La Ramee, Laramie became a western hub of the Union Pacific railroad. Today, farms and ranches (that have been in families for over 100 years), rodeos, outlaws and cowboy culture combine to create the “wild west” history that runs deep in this area. Many TV shows and movies that portray the western heritage were shot in Laramie. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember shows like Laramie, and The Lawman. How about the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Laramie, among many other things, is home to some great eateries. One is named “Born in a Barn”, which was featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (https://www.borninabarn307.com). After settling into our digs, We made a beeline to this joint, and we're glad we did!
Even though it was early, the place was packed with locals. Luckily there were a couple of empty bar stools that had our names written all over them.
Rorie isn’t much for beef, but…she saw this bad boy on the menu and had to order it. It’s called The Bishop Burger (with two, 2 ounce crispy patties smashed onto a buttered roll, thinly sliced white onion, American cheese, pickle, and yellow mustard). She was sure she couldn’t finish it all, but somehow it disappeared in a nanosecond. Nope. She didn’t share.
The vibe in this place was right out of the old TV show Cheers. Like in that classic series, our server/bartender’s name was Sam. He seemed to know the names of all the folks who came in, and he had their drinks ready the minute they walked in the door.
After filling our bellies, we wandered around the “hood” and noticed/appreciated all the cool murals painted on the buildings, including the one on the wall outside this restaurant.
Murals are a low tech, cool way to make downtowns pop, even in towns that struggle economically. Downtown Laramie was clearly all in on murals.
The historic preservation of buildings can be a key to creating and maintaining vibrant downtowns. Laramie gets it, and is obviously proud of its architectural heritage. The Johnson Hotel was built in 1900 near the Union Pacific Depot to take advantage of the rail passenger traffic.
This historic building houses a cute “cupcakery” (https://www.thesugarmouse.net). Besides selling 22 flavors of amazing cupcakes, the owner raises and donates thousands of dollars to victims of sex-trafficing in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, we were in town a month too early to experience “Wyoming’s Hometown Celebration” (https://laramiejubileedays.org).
Bart wondered if Hopalong Cassidy would be there…After taking in the downtown “scene”, we left to “discover” other cool things around Laramie. It didn’t take us long to find this interesting piece of art - literally on the road. The sculpture, created by artist Sarah Deppe, is called “Exhaling Dissolution”. It has, apparently, been quite controversial among local townsfolks. That’s the thing about public art. It’s a great vehicle for inspiring community conversations.
Continuing our search for the “interesting and unusual”, we came across the historic Wyoming Territorial Prison. According to a plaque outside, the prison “opened as a U.S. Penitentiary in 1872 and later became Wyoming’s first State Penitentiary. For 30 years it held violent and desperate outlaws". One especially famous bandit housed there was Butch Cassidy.
For all of the outlaw romance associated with Butch and his sidekick, the Sundance Kid, there was nothing warm and cozy about his digs when he was a guest there.
Bart went into one of the tiny cells to check out the ambiance. Rorie locked him in.
We walked the grounds of the prison. It was after hours, so we tried to be discreet.
This view through an open door reminded us of forts we’ve seen on old TV shows.
This is what an Uber prison car might have looked like back in the day.
Hanging out in this “Hotel Desperado” made us hungry for something a little better than prison food. We found it at O’Dwyer’s Public House...a restaurant in the round (https://odwyerslaramie.com).
The restaurant is located in the heart of the University of Wyoming neighborhood. The U of W, like so many campuses we found ourselves near, has beautiful surroundings and a mix of gorgeous older and modern buildings. The University’s nickname is “The Cowboys”. It made us smile to see this sign of gender equality.
Well, that's it for this episode of the Discover Small Town America Tour. We're saying "Goodbye Laramie". Tomorrow, it's "Hello Park City, UT". Stay tuned...