Sunday, September 30, 2012
Posted by Sean
We are at a Wyoming state rest area on Highway 220, adjacent to Independence Rock, about 50 miles southwest of Casper, Wyoming (map). Out our windows just a hundred feet or so away, we can see the wagon ruts of the old emigrant trail, and beyond them the Sweetwater River. Independence Rock was an important landmark on the Oregon, California, and Mormon emigrant trails. While the department of transportation manages the rest area and parking, the park service manages the rest of the Independence Rock site, which includes many descriptive signs and a replica Conestoga wagon.
As rest areas go, it is very nice, with modern facilities designed around a passive solar arrangement, picnic shelters with grills (bagged at the moment due to a local fire ban), and even a dump station. A sign prohibits overnight camping but one of our guides clarifies that Wyoming does not prohibit overnight stays of self-contained rigs so long as they show no signs of "camping" such as the extending of slides or jacks, awnings, etc. -- basically the rig needs to remain in "drive off" condition. We deployed the satellite dish, but here in Wyoming we can drive off with that up without worrying about hitting anything.
After we got parked we walked around the rock, along part of the old highway grade, and past the interpretive signs. It's actually a nice historic spot, and as a bonus our views of the surrounding hills are spectacular. 220 is lightly traveled at night, so it was quiet here, and we selected a spot where even the handful of idling trucks that spent the night did not disturb us.
Yesterday we had a nice drive west along US-20. In Lusk, Wyoming it rejoined our old friend US-18, which arrived there via a longer and more circuitous route than we took. Immediately west of Lusk is a Wyoming rest area much like this one, only with a fancy playground attached, which apparently was one of the first highway rest areas in the region. It was also the first to receive the modernization program with the passive solar system. On a different schedule, that, too, would have been a good overnight stop.
US-18/20 took us all the way to Casper, although it was colinear with I-25 for 34 miles. We bailed off the Interstate at the first opportunity, west of Glen Rock. In Casper, the Gas Buddy web site told us a small service station in the middle of a mostly residential part of town had diesel for $3.899. I was skeptical, since it was a good ten cents or more higher at every other station, but we rolled down there anyway. The price was indeed correct, and we squeezed Odyssey into the tiny lot where it took me a half hour to put in 160 gallons. While this was $0.19 per gallon more than we paid back in Missouri, it's the cheapest we've seen since, and we won't see fuel this low again anywhere west of here.
Ironically, we also fueled the last time we were in Casper. Back then, fuel was so high, and our tank so empty, that this was the single largest fuel bill we ever paid -- $1,310. Good practice for the boat, I suppose. On this visit, the little neighborhood station, a Kum & Go, had no trouble ringing up our $620 purchase on a single ticket, in stark contrast to the Safeway and its rigidly-controlled point-of-sale system. Long-time readers may also remember that we then spent two extra nights in Casper, to install new flooring over at the Home Depot.
Today we continue on WY-220, past Devil's Gate (another emigrant trail landmark) and to its intersection with US-287, which will take us south to Rawlins. There we will pick up I-80 west, incredibly for the first time in eight years on the road. That's the only reasonable route west to Rock Springs, where we will face a choice to remain on the Interstate, or turn south on US-191 past Flaming Gorge to pick up US-40 in Vernal, Utah.