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Friday, August 6, 2010





Wyoming is a large state. Curious that along US 30 Highway, most towns are spaced at close to 20 miles apart. I asked about this, and was told:

In the late 1800's , the Union Pacific Railroad was built, closely following the Old Oregon Trail.
Many frontier towns / Forts already existed, built by Pioneers & US Army as settlers pushed WEST.

The WEST, at that time, was covered with many forests which no longer exist.

The early Union Pacific Railroad Steam Engines burned WOOD...not coal, which came much later.

The Steam Engine appetite for fuel to turn water into steam,, required refueling about every 20 miles. Wood was cut in the nearby mountain forests, floated down the few local rivers to be cut and stock-piled along the Union Pacific route.

Around these stockpile yards, towns evolved...many still existing today...often located in remote areas, but with massive Union Pacific Diesel Engines - sometimes 5 0r 6 Engines to a train, trains roaring by in both directions every 15 minutes or so.

These isolated towns are recognized by passing trains which...without slowing down...give two long - one short - followed by one more long Air Horn Whistle as they pass by...the whistle is NOT saying "HI" to the town. The whistle is the signal given by ALL trains in America when approaching a "Grade" crossing (Automobile Road crossing) to warn vehicle traffic of the train approach.

If the isolated town has no Grade Crossing, the only recognition it receives from the Steam Engine Descendants, is a deep rumble of Diesel Engines & steel on steel wheels on the tracks.

I have walked through and past many former Steam Engine Wood Storage Yard Towns...many of which have perhaps a single building; if they are lucky, perhaps a few dozen homes supported by a gas station and General Store...reminders of past importance in support of America's Railroads.

One such town is Rock River, Wyoming.

Rock River is more fortunate than some. Rock River has some 265 residents, two gas stations - one with a General Store, a Tavern, a Post Office, a large Rancher's Supply store (one of the gas stations as a part of it's service), a well trimmed City Park, and a rather large number of homes lining partially paved - partially dusty - streets. Rock River receives NO train whistles.. Rock River receives instead, the rumble of the present to remind it of the reason for it's past.

Rock Springs has one more significant feature...SOUTH of town, is the steepest hill I have climbed on this modern Avenue of The Old Oregon Trail, US 30, since I first set foot on it back in Longview, Washington many weeks and many miles ago.

US 30 has another distinction. It was at one time known as The Lincoln Highway. Rock River sports a gas pump from those days. A pic of that pump is included in today's Blog.

I met another Walker today. Ray Reed, walking out of Orlando, Florida was making for Portland, Oregon. We met SOUTH og Rock River in the middle of a violent Storm Cell. I asked Ray if he needed anythng...he replied, water if you can spare some ( I did) and a bit of food.

Ray carried ALL his belongings on his back..."I walk most of the way...folks are reluctant to pick up hitch-hikers."

I rushed back to my Van, two or so miles away getting thoroughly soaked by the violent downpour accompanied by lots of lightening and thunder. I threw off my soaked shirt, reflective safety jacket, put on Les Blackwell-donated microfiber hoodie, started the Van, made an illegal U-turn and rushed back up US 30 to retrieve Ray. He hopped in, ate some Pringles I offered, telling me he slept on the ground with his one blanket...someone had made off with his tent back by Denver...and was hungry.

We drove back to Rock River. I introduced him to the General Store, and gave him bagles, ham, cheese and a few other food items from my coolers where everything is kept on ice.

He accepted my offerings with a "GOD Bless" and busily attacked his backpack. I made another illegal U-turn and drove SOUTH once again away from Rock River.

Yes, I did walk 32 miles today, reaching some 18 miles short of The Gas Lite Motel in Laramie, Wyoming, where I slept warm and dry this night (is 4;00 am at the moment as I write this). I keep thinking about Ray and so many others walking America...wondering under which tree or in whose leaky cold barn they are sleeping tonight dreaming of the food they cannot carry...

Maybe...just maybe, my Van has given something to them, as well.


Sydne said...

Hi Bruce - The pictures of the long empty roads are daunting to me. You are seeing and learning a lot on this trip, which I'm sure makes every step worth it, but it is a long long way! I can see in your last picture of you, that you really are losing weight. Never realized walking would do so much for you, even though I have heard that it does. Enjoy yourself and I guess you are approaching a very busy part of the country - in upper Colorado. Take care of yourself. Sydne

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