Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Into the Great Wide Open

We started the last day of our trip yesterday, driving
across some of the emptiest parts of the country. The
drive between Custer, South Dakota and Grand Junction
is relaxing. Almost hypnotically so since there are so
few people in this area. The area north of Lusk, Wyoming
especially so. A Wyoming native I worked with down on The
Ice once told me he was really proud because Wyoming had
just hit the 500,000 mark in population. You can really
tell by driving across almost any part of the state that
500,000 almost seems an exaggeration. There is so much
empty land that you can drive for miles and miles without
seeing another car, let alone a house. But it's strikingly
pretty country though. The sky is huge and in some areas
you can see for 50 miles in any direction from flat ground.

All across Wyoming are huge snow fences. They really don't
get much more snow than many other places in the country. It's
just the wind factor. Wyoming is one windy place. How windy
is it? These snow fences are
almost 20 feet high and stretch as long as football fields in
some areas. They do work though. We've driven across Wyoming
several times in the winter and they make a difference.
However they look a lot like bleacher seats, empty and waiting
for some football game between prairie dogs that will never happen.

We made a slight detour at our Ice friend Steve's hometown
of Torrington, Wyoming and crossed over to Mitchell, Nebraska.
Mitchell is the home of Brown Sheep Wool. This is Lynn's
favorite wool to knit with and their headquarters and
factory is located just outside of Mitchell. We've been
there so many times the owner knows us and eagerly awaits
Lynn's stories of knitting around the world. Brown Sheep
doesn't have it's own stores. They sell their yarn to
retailers around the country. They recently started
distributing to locations in Australia and the U.K. so
their reach is ever-growing. The owner shared a funny
story with us in which she received a complaint about
their advertising poster (see above). This person was
complaining that Brown Sheep was treating sheep cruelly
by dying them different colors.'s a digitally
altered photo. Apparently the writer of the nasty letter
hadn't thought of that!

After leaving Mitchell, we left Nebraska and started a
fairly long drive across southern Wyoming. Once we
made it west of Cheyenne, the really strong winds began.
At no place is this more evident than the Foote Creek Rim
Wind site. I know the other day I talked about Wind Power
in Minnesota, but THESE people really know their wind
power. 168 windmills make up the Foote Creek Rim site and
they can be seen for miles in every direction. All but a
few of them were cranking away, providing power to farflung
places such as Denver and Tacoma. One huge windmill is
impressive. 168 of them is powerful.

Once we exited I-80 and started heading south toward Colorado,
we saw hundreds of Pronghorn Antelope. They don't usually
gather in great numbers now, but at one time long ago, it's
been estimated that 70 million of them existed on the plains
of North America. They're North America's fastest land
animal, and second fastest in the world, reaching running
speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. I haven't seen as many
as we saw on this stretch of highway. They were all over
the place.

Interspersed with the Antelope territory were hundreds of
natural gas drilling rigs. Many of these are operated by
the Halliburton company just like the ones east of Grand
Junction. Because this area is so remote, the drilling
employees have large living quarter trailers in several
places. Essentially they put a dozen or so large mobile
homes together and made a small city out of it. It's
similar to the field camps on the tundra in Alaska or
a larger version of the camps in Antarctica.

During our last hour on the road it got pretty dark and
made it a little tricky to drive. The road between Craig,
Colorado and Rifle, Colorado was good, but a little dangerous
since their were so many deer around and it was dusk. The
deer become very active at dusk and can run across the
highway. Hence, we saw a lot of these signs. Soon,
we saw the welcoming lights of Grand Junction and we knew
our trip was almost over. It was a great trip and it was
really nice to see everyone...but it's good to be home.

1 comment:

Tom Gray said...

Thanks for the mention of wind power. Great stuff! I visited the Wyoming wind farms and Yellowstone a few years ago, and really enjoyed it.

Tom Gray
American Wind Energy Association