When we got to Laramie, we really didn’t know what to expect. We knew that Wyoming was the least populated state in the United States, and that it was home to Yellowstone National Park. Asides from this, we knew very little about the state and its cities. As a result, we had written to a bunch of different people on Couchsurfing from across Wyoming- Jackson Hole, Rawlins, and eventually, Laramie. As we were in the white van to Cheyenne, Ruebin accepted our request in Laramie, and we gratefully took him up on his offer to host us. We were also continuously warned about the backwardness of Wyoming. If you take the words of Coloradans for granted, Wyoming would seem to be a place full of drunk, unfriendly, and though hay thrower, who would be more likely to shoot at you than to give you a ride. In fairness, some of the stories they told us turned out be true, like the fact that there are only 2 escalators in the whole state or that the tallest building is a mere 6 floors. However, we so far have found the people of Wyoming more than friendly enough. Political opinions we disagree with, sure. Apart from that, we have had a very warm welcome in Wyoming (literally).
It was sunset after we dropped our things off at his apartment, and we first visited where he worked. We learned from him the very innovative industry of agrotech, and after, Ruebin took us on a walking tour of the city. The bridge above the train tracks offered a stunning view of the sunset and over downtown Laramie, which was very much organized in a grid system. We passed by a couple bars on the way to his apartment, and saw that Laramie was quite hip.
Coal Creek Tap is one of the microbreweries of the town, and we settled in there for a drink and for a chat. They do brew some great beers that ranged from pilsners, to hefeweizens, to IPAs and many more. After, we checked out the Buckhorn Bar (“the Buck”), the local dive bar, that is normally packed during the school year but was quite roomy now that it was the summer vacation. Before we headed out for our walk, we heard from Ruebin’s neighbour, Nancy, that someone not long ago wanted to make a long distance call on the payphone. The phone only allowed for local calls, and in the man’s frustration, went out to his car and returned with a gun, and unloaded a round on the phone. We could only imagine what the other patrons could have possibly been thinking as we stared at the gunshot that was still visible in the bar’s mirror. After a quick round of Jameson, we went to the local vegetarian restaurant, Sweet Melissa, for a late dinner. Since we had travelled all day, we were quite tired, and fell asleep within minutes of returning back to Ruebin’s apartment.
We decided to take Ruebin up on his offer to take us camping the next day. Since we didn’t leave until late in the afternoon, we had all morning to kill, and went thrift shopping at NU 2 U. With 5 more weeks of travel, it would have been difficult for us to purchase and carry more things to our already very full backpacks, and mostly just marveled at all the great deals on offer.
As the late afternoon approached, we got our things ready to go on a glamping trip. Our first stop was the Walmart just outside the city, where once again, we confirmed our hypothesis that everything is bigger in America. All the deals on larger quantity goods were better, and we loaded up on snacks and beer. Not long after we returned to Ruebin’s apartment, his girlfriend, Sam, showed up and we got on our way to the town of Centennial.
Centennial is perhaps better classified as a hamlet with a population of around 280 people. On this fabulous summer evening, it seemed that all its current inhabitants were out at the bar we were at. Ruebin was meeting some friends there before we were supposed to go camping nearby, and we had a chance to witness the true rural lifestyle. Everybody was drinking, and the young and the old and Laurent stepped to the beat of live band playing country/folk music. As the sun set around 9pm, it got very cold quickly, and we headed to the campsite.
Although it was private property, Ruebin’s friend knew the owner and they welcomed us kindly to their land. Luckily for us, the owners allowed us to use their bonfire pit and also had left out quite a bit of tinder in the form of garbage. Before we knew it, we had a pretty terrifyingly large bonfire for some sausage and marshmallow roasting. This experience of sitting next to the warm fire on a cold evening with the stars glistening in the night sky above us truly made it feel like summer.
The next morning, Ruebin greeted us with coffee, and we quickly packed so that we could move on. Along the way to Saratoga Hobo Hot Springs, we stopped by a gas station with witty postcards and souvenirs. Here, we skeptically bought a bag of “America’s best gummy bears.” We were both loyal Haribo fans, but this was truly revolutionary. All 12 gummy bears colours had a different flavour and they would basically melt in our mouths. We would spend the rest of our time at gas stations in the US hunting for them to no avail.
Saratoga Hobo Hot Springs gets its name from its free admission to the area. However, despite the fact that its free entry, it seemed to be much more of a locally kept secret, and we were grateful that Ruebin and Sam brought us there. For some reason, it wasn’t too busy, and we got to enjoy the surprisingly very hot water with only the occasional shriek from a child. It was a very charming place.
To help us get further along in our journey, Ruebin drove us to Rawlins where Highway 287 towards Yellowstone and Grand Teton began. We said goodbye to our absolutely wonderful host in Wyoming, who generously took the time out of his days to spend time with us so that we could experience a side of the States that tourists rarely get. Thank you Ruebin and Sam for the incredible few days in Laramie and Wyoming!