Laramie KOA, near Laramie, Wyoming
A Stop on the Phoenix's Grand Fossil Tour
By Jim Fulton
|Day of Tour||452|
|Map miles from last stop||376|
|Mileage on arrival||46,000|
|Actual miles from last stop||400|
|Accumulated miles for trip||27,483|
I spent three nights at Laramie KOA, near Laramie, Wyoming. I engaged in one last bit of exploration for this first part of the Grand Fossil Tour, and visited the Geology Museum at the University of Wyoming.
The KOA in Laramie where I'm staying, apparently thinks that its guests so love the highway that they don't want to be parted from it. My campsite was barely 50 yards from I-80, and the road noise is constant. Ah well, only 3 nights. Then it would be a sprint to get to Olympia in a week. Amazing how in the last miles of a journey, like the last chapter of a book, you start focusing on getting it over with, even if you don't want it to end.
Laramie presents an intriguing combination of the relatively modern University of Wyoming, surrounded by a rugged frontier community grown up to support both ancient ranching and more recent fossil fuel industries. I suspect that the disparity between town and gown attitudes is far less than at big-city universities on the East Coast.
The Journey to Laramie
It was a many-flavored day, when I drove from Oakley, Kansas, to Laramie, Wyoming.
The day started out cold and clear as I returned to I-70 and the high plains with their 10-mile horizons, and fields of drying corn and sorghum. With barely a hill and nary a tree, except in the occasional gully, I could see grain elevators and windmills far in the distance.
About midday the outliers of a rain storm to the south began to spread over the sky like pie dough rolled so thin that it is laced with gaps. Those clouds stayed with me almost until I reached Wyoming.
West of Limon, Colorado, the terrain changed from flat plains to deep, wide basins, fenced by gently sloped ridges. When the road topped those ridges, the horizons expanded to 30 miles or more. I found myself looking for mountains, just as I did half a century ago when Dad drove our family through this same route (on a much older highway). With the clouds touching the horizon, I was 70 miles into Colorado before I was certain that what I was seeing were mountains and not clouds.
The route skirted Denver to the northeast and headed north on I-25, until it turned west around Ft. Collins. For some reason, Google Maps could find no better route than five miles of unpaved road that finally dumped me out on US-287 that took me the last 40 miles to Laramie. Those miles were through low foothills and badlands, outcroppings that were not mountains but more piles of rock, some iron-rich red sandstone, others heaps of cracked, rounded, brown boulders that looked as though they could at any moment jump up and run after me like the stone giant in Galaxy Quest (one of the best sci-fi comedies I've ever seen).
Map of Laramie
I am sad to report that I can no longer show the routes I took to get from place to place. Google, in its infinite corporate wisdom, now charges a fee to embed such"advanced" features, a cost which a pro bono site like this cannot endure. From now on, I will only show you the location of where I stay (at least until Google gets even greedier, and puts a price on those too). Nonetheless, you can still view my route, at no cost to either of us (yet):
- Click on "View larger map" to open the map in Google Maps.
- Click on the "Directions" button.
- Replace"Your location" with "Stanfield, Oregon".
- Hit Return.
Of course this procedure doesn't show you which among alternative routes I took, or what side trips I ventured on, or what strange adventures my phone's GPS might have sent me down, but I will give you an approximation of my route.
I have one thing to say to the owners of the Laramie KOA: Shut it down! I have one thing to say to you who are bringing a big RV rig to Laramie: Go Elsewhere! In a sea of marginal campgrounds, Laramie KOA sets the bar below acceptability.
Oh, it's clean and neat, and it has all the requisite facilities. But there's no beauty, no life, no soul! They didn't even provide on-site management when I was there. Just a remote reservation service, and some mysterious messenger to put check-in instructions in the late check-in box.
The campground is just a gravel parking lot, laid out in the regular KOA pattern of diagonal pull-through sites. But the space between sites is barely wide enough to fit a picnic table and the adjacent site's utilities.
Then there's the noise! Laramie KOA is barely 50 yards from busy I-80; the road noise is constant. And they put me in the row closest to the traffic. Their map shows a "Green Belt" dividing the interstate from the campground, but that consists of a few scattered firs and a row of newly planted baby trees that might offer a sight and sound barrier in twenty years.
What we have here is a typical monopoly situation. There are few campgrounds in the Laramie area, and I saw some on the way into Laramie that are far worse. Nonetheless, KOA management is exploiting the fact by charging upscale prices ($43/night) for a minimal investment. They're getting by with it because customers still come, though not many to judge by the the campers here in late October. It's time to show KOA management that resort pricing requires resort quality, and that we won't stand for less. If you have to come to Laramie, don't bring your RV! Go to a motel!
Photo Gallery for Laramie KOA
University of Wyoming and the Geology Museum
I found the University of Wyoming, like Newfoundland, to be a beautiful and attractive place in the summer time, knowing that its winters would make permanent residence impossible for me. The Geology Museum, like many I have seen, is musty and underfunded. Nonetheless it has a good collection of fossils from Wyoming and some of the surrounding states.
Photo Gallery for University of Wyoming Geology Museum
University of Wyoming
After leaving Laramie, my next brief stop was Brigham City, Utah, on the way to Washington.
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