Small Town News


Lincoln May Soon Lose His Head as Construction Dominates Our Road Trip

High Plains Sentinel of Wright, Wyoming

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Of Wyoming's four seasons, this one can be the longest and the butt of the most complaints.

We are talking about "road construction," one of the four seasons used to describe Wyoming by some grumpy curmudgeons. The other seasons? How about Almost Winter, Winter and Still Winter.

I repeat this with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. As someone who loves all things Wyoming (even that wind), this is a fun way to describe the Cowboy State.

Between book tours, business meetings and trips to Iowa for a wedding and a high school reunion, well, we have been covering lots of miles recently. Thus, those experiences become the topics of my weekly columns.

If you are traveling some of the roads that I travel, well, some interesting things seem to pop up.

We love having better quality roads but right now the trip from Lander to Rawlins on Highway 287 can be daunting. Lots of delays as they are making major improvements to this historical federal highway.

More on highway 287 would be the following:

For example, our Main Street in Lander is the same as Laramie in that US 287 runs through our town.

We spend lots of time in Dallas, Texas, and one of the main highways heading into the Metroplex from the northwest is highway 287.

As a board member of the Mountain West AAA, our headquarters is in Helena, Montana. Main Street of that capital city is highway 287.

It is all the same road.

On this trip we made it to Jeffrey City after myriad delays for construction when a warning light came on telling me that "oil maintenance" is required. When you are in Jeffrey City with 850 miles ahead of you, what do you do?

Well, you stop at Three Forks at Muddy Gap and try to figure it out. Everything seemed fine, so we decided to keep going. Ken's Toyota in Laramie was the next logical stop so we made it there and their folks took super care of me. No problem. The warning is triggered by the odometer, not by the oil. Whew.

In Rawlins we admired their new award-winning Main Street. In Laramie, we spend some time at the wonderful Marian Rochelle Gateway Center. What an amazing building.

A major Interstate 80 landmark is the giant statue of Abe Lincoln on the summit between Laramie and Cheyenne. I was surprised to see it still there as it has been scheduled for refurbishment this summer.

Tourism officials reportedly convinced highway department folks to hold off until after Labor Day. The big bronze head will be hauled to Lander where the renowned Eagle Bronze foundry will apply a new patina, which will protect the big face for years to come.

The statue was built in 1959 for Lincoln's 150th birthday and marks the highest point of the Lincoln Highway (former highway 30 and now Interstate 80), which is in Wyoming. It was sculpted by the late Robert Russin of Laramie, whose ashes are interred in the base on the structure.

I am writing this from western Iowa near Omaha, Nebraska. While crossing the Bob Kerrey Memorial Footbridge from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Omaha over the Missouri, I read that the longest river in America is the Missouri, not the Mississippi, which most of us would assume.

Not long ago, I was in the town of Three Forks, Mont., (not Muddy Gap), which is the headwaters of the Missouri. I was at one end of the country's longest river and now to the other end over a two-week period.

Big news back here in Iowa is the onslaught of the state by political candidates.

Folks ranging from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton and everyone in-between keep showing up at oddball events all over the Hawkeye State.

My sister Marybeth Smith and her husband Steve own the Winthrop News, a wonderful weekly newspaper in Buchanan County. They gave me a press pass so I can get into some events and possibly interview some of these characters.

Stay tuned to see how this works out.

Meanwhile my wife Nancy is complaining about how she looks at her 50th high school reunion. She looks great and does not take any solace when I remind her she will be hanging out with 70 other 68-year old guys and gals. Most of these folks might be better restored than us, though, as most made fortunes on the corn farms and retired years ago.

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Original Publication Date: August 13, 2015

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