Vacation Time – August 1997 Part V

I restart myself by running wind sprints in the deep rye grass that is so ubiq­uitous at Colorado rest areas. Barefoot in the park. My legs feel like pumped-upiron, and I’m not even short of breath at 5,000 feet. Thank you Lord, it feels sogreat. I repose in my easy chair, watching the western sky slowly cloud over withhigh cirrus formations which more often than not prognosticates a definite inclementchange in the weather. The Interstate traffic is still whizzing byin a hypnoticstream, still breaking the comfort sound barrier. So I have time to reminisce aboutSt. Vrain Creek and realize most people would wonder what does one do for three daysin the mountains, alone with no fishing rod. (I do have lures and line). Well, forstarters, a lot of time is spent scavenging for firewood – a true test of persever­ance since it has been a wet summer, and an abundance of green wood. A dichotomypersists between the whims of nature and man: the wetter the season, the lower therisk of building a fire. Conversely, an abnormal dry stretch means a plethora ofpines ready for kindling, but no can do, according to the Park & Wildlife yellowsigns admonishing against any campfires being built. It’s not all that dishearten­ing. All I had to do is find deadwood, and there’s plenty of that around. The restof the time is spent reading a backlog of Smithsonian publications while basking inthe intense sun, perched on a creekside boulder, and typing a travelogue on my trust-worthy old1946 Royal. Okay, I admit it. I was tuned in to the outside world -listening to the Rockies baseball games. It was pure paradise.

Having outwaitedand outwitted the crowd on the Interstate, I head north acrossthe Colorado plains with the Rockies diminishing from view to the west. At teno’clock, in Air Force terminology, a bank of cumulus clouds are forming with aslow and steady intensity, accompanied by a lower nimbostratus layer of roiling,blue-gray steel-colored clouds that encompassed the entire northern horizon. With myhead-on direction, the movement of the mass of clouds above me was accentuated. Nowthe entire overcast expanded from eastto west with a defined frontal edge as artic­ulated as any earthling could conceive with computerized-dital animation. A monthearlier I had seen the1996 megahit movie “Independence Day”, the themebeing theextraterrestrial invasion of the planet earthvia humongous spaceships (sound famil­iar?). “Special effects” have always been quintessential in science-fiction flicks,but the technicians for this movie outdid themselves by creating a spectacular illu­sion ofa galactic module the size of Manhattan hovering over the Empire State Build­ing. I swear, the resemblance of those metallic-tinted clouds and the imaginaryspace monster was uncanny. Had Cheyenne been obliterated? Was Denver next? I’llfend off these outer-space fiends with my Louisville Slugger. My imagination wasrunning amuck. All that meteorological activity sure made the rest of the driveexhilarating, to say the least. I really relish having a skylight at times like that.

I exit I-25 at the Old Lincoln Highway sign (U. S. 30) and head east a few blocksto one of my all-time favorite motels – Best Western’s “Hitching Post Inn”. I duckunder the shade tree that harbors my “reserved” space, not far from the frontal portco-chere and just a stone’s throw from the Union Pacific tracks, where I can literallywatch my “stock” roll by. I call it the “Three-Cee’s” railroad – Cars, Coal, andContainers, the last “C” comprised mainly of Japanese logos: HANJI, SUKI,and NO MOAMERIKI. Ironically, a sign of the present: America’s transcontinental railroadsince1869is now the primary transporter of goods between Asia and Europe, thiscountry’s Axis enemies fifty years hence. I would venture a guess that not many a shareholder has the opportunity to physically see, hear, smell, and feel what their investments are producing,, Oh yeah,the next day I’m downtown at the classic,Romanesque-style Union Pacific depot, wandering through the multi-track yard. I justwant to touch a coupler, a handrail, and sense the pulsation of the idling 5,000 hpdiesel unit, which would dwarfJohn’s Winnebago to some degree. The enormous amountof rail freight trafficking through Cheyenne is staggering, and extremely encouraging.I might add that, besides the aforementioned “3-C’’s”, U. P. R. R. has been increas­ingly competitive with the trucking industry by hauling their own trailers “piggy-back” on flat cars. A (great) helluva way to run a railroad!

In the nearby vicinity are several antique shops, a.k.a. flea markets, which Ivisit in hopes of finding a few more “classic” license plates, the collection ofwhich has become an avid avocation ever since I purchased the 1940 Pontiac threeyears ago and adorning it with authentic (andlegal) 1940 Texas plates. I locate avintage 1954 Nebraska plate plus two 1970 Wyoming plates with the familiar buckingbronco stamped on them. The descriptive “stamped” (or raised) forall characterson the metallic surface is the criterion by which I draw the line. I reject and abhor any and all the “picture-postcard” plates of thegreed-conscious, neon nineties. Statespromote these aberrant apparitions for rear bumpers tosolicitmore revenue. Theinane, voracious public buys it, hook, line, and tailgate. Anything to advertise thatour state is better than your state is acceptable. Personalized plates from any statein my view induces nausea. Whatever became of the slogan: “You don’t have to shoutto be heard”?A postscript to this madness: Highway patrol officers have finallybegun to register complaints concerning theclarity of identification of variousstates’ licenses. These appeals have fallen on deaf earswith state legislators.

After a stop atthe post office I find an old architect friend at his modestdowntown office. Morris Kemperwas the local coordinating architect with RNL whenwe were commissioned to design the State Office Building, or the WY.S.O.B. as wecalled it. He and I reminisced over the good times back in August of 1980. But itwas 16 hours a day for five days that proved our true grit. The challenge was todesign a contemporary three-story (approximately 60,000 sq. ft.) structure that wouldharmonize with the adjacent 19th century, pseudo-classical capital building. We pass­ed with flying colors at the final day presentation. Wow, did we celebrate! I refreshMorris’s memory about his gracious invitation to our indefatigable design team tojoin him at his home about15 miles north of Cheyenne. The drive out there was atypical Wyoming adventure – anunimpeded360 degree view of nothing but rolling plainand blue sky. The only vertical resistance to the wind and driving snow were thefence posts and power poles. The Kemper residence did not come as a surprise at all – a semi-dugout structure into a slight rise, shielded from the cold north and westwhile affording an unlimited view to the south and east. What else should we expect?He’s an architect who simply drew from the past of prairie sod houses.