Here’s your sign . . . Overnight stay at Laramie Wal-Mart

Let me tell you . . .

If you want to comprehend how vast is the West, drive Interstate 80 from Rawlins to Laramie, Wyoming.  The vastness is very, well, VAST.  I mean it is vaster than any vastness I’ve ever seen.

This Interstate 80 is one ominous stretch of highway.

The first hint is the snow fences.  My understanding of a snow fence is it catches snow that’s blowing sideways.  The snow hits the fence and drops into a drift that stays put, more or less.  That should take care of it, right?  Not along this section of road.  Snow fences are six deep in places.  Six!  That means the snow must keep blowing past one, two, three, four, five fences!   And the fences are long!  You can thank the snow fences in Wyoming for keeping the lumber business alive in the United States.

A drive-by photo of snow fences taken at 60 mph through a dirty windshield.

Another hint that wind and snow take no prisoners here is the billboards.

There aren’t many billboards, but the ones that are still standing have a strange characteristic . . . only half the billboard has a message on it.  The other half has been stripped bare.

And then there’s the road signs erected for your safety by the Wyoming DOT.

The first one we encounter reads something like “Windy conditions may exist.”  Okay, no big deal.  Soon after that, we come upon another sign, “High winds may be present.”  Hmm . . . starting to sound serious.   The next sign has a wind sock on a pole:   “Hazardous conditions may exist.”  Not good.   This is followed by the numbers on your radio dial which you call when you are unable to figure out what it is that’s blowing your vehicle off the highway.  And then there’s the insulting sign at the approach to infamous Elk Mountain:  “Why are you still on this road, fool?”

The much-feared segment of road takes you through the shadow of Elk Mountain. Truckers speak of it in hushed voices on their CBs.  Note the mysterious beam of light.

The land is worse than barren.

A big area (near all the snow fences) is plain dirt.  Dirt swept clean.  Not one bush or blade of grass.  I guess if a seed starts to germinate here the wind comes along and blasts it to kingdom come.  There aren’t even any rocks!

Needless to say, we make it to Laramie or I wouldn’t be making a blog post, now would I.

My plan is to turn off the interstate at the appearance of a teepee, as directed by a helpful blog reader who camped there a few years back.  Not in the teepee.  At a campground nearby.  Well, I don’t see the teepee.  I keep passing exits for Laramie and still no teepee.

We come to the last exit to Laramie.

A sign threatens us with “No services the next 53 miles.”  Okay.  I give up.  I take the exit.  It doesn’t look promising at all.  Houses, a church, and . . .  a Wal-Mart!  Hooray!

Now the fridge is restocked with Wal-Mart goodies and life is good again.

I walk the crew along the parking lot.  They go back to sleep in the BLT.  I kick back and empathize with an exasperated Judge Judy as she points out to a know-it-all young woman that she’s not making wise choices, primarily the choice of shacking up with a guy who doesn’t work and who recently served time for breaking and entering.

I gaze out the window which affords a clear view of Laramie.  Well, lookie there.  A teepee.   Oh well.   I’ve never slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot before. 

We’re camped next to a light pole.  The shopping cart stands as evidence we are patrons of the store.

The adventure continues!


Photo by Tom Dietrich


About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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61 Responses to Here’s your sign . . . Overnight stay at Laramie Wal-Mart

  1. Lisa says:

    How exciting! It all sounds so different, strange and well, vast!

    Take care, Sue! And if the wind starts to pick up, tie down the dogs!! 🙂

  2. You must have passed us or vice versa… We are in Landers, WY. The “Titon BLM Reservoir” was very nice to camp at and free (3G coming in and out). Do you use “Benchmark” maps? (one per State but well worth it). They have it all in there. Much Free BLM here and National Forest passed “Dubois” going North. Check it out, specially “Brooks Lake” off 287/26. Ara and Spirit

  3. Nita Laughlin says:

    I know how you feel about Wyoming. I remember the first time I saw Laramie, I thought we were only a short distance away. After traveling for miles and miles and hours we finally arrived. That’s when I realized distance is quite deceiving in parts of that state. Watch that wind!!.

  4. Kim says:

    Smart idea about the shopping cart as a signal that you are a customer. I don’t know how people live with that wind. Wow – a Flying J one night, Wal-Mart the next. You are living my dream! (I’m not kidding). Sleep tight!

  5. Bob Leighton says:

    Your writing had a little edge to it today. Maybe you should rest for two nights at “Lake Wal-Mart”. I always enjoy your logs.

  6. Pleinguy says:

    I’m a survivor of that wind blowing me off the highway in Wyoming. Take the warnings seriously! I would strongly suggest getting off the interstate and take the slower pace of the blue highways.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Pleinguy . ..

      Blue highways in unfamiliar territory can get one in a fix out West. I’ve looked at topo maps and what looked like a hill turns out to be a lot more than that. Not a lot of choices in some areas . . . I made sure it wasn’t going to be windy before attempting that stretch of road. I’m glad you survived your wind incident! It’s a scary feeling to be hit broadside by that force.

  7. Joy A. says:

    If it’s my teepee sign you didn’t go far enough. What I said was the teepee sign is half way between Laramie and Cheyenne just west of Buford. I’d say another 25 miles or so east on I-80.

  8. Even tho Montana is stark I thought it was very beautiful in its starkness when I drove thru there.

  9. Pat says:

    LOL…….I used to live north of Elk Mt. I know exactly what you are talking about..

  10. Dedra says:

    You are a hoot! Judge Judy! I find myself checking my email a lot. Don’t want to miss “our” next adventure. I found you by deleting my travel bookmarks, now isn’t that a hoot. Saw a Casita and knew it had to be a great person. Such cute stories. Thank you,

  11. DesertHawk says:

    One could take exit 323 for WY-210 (Happy Jack Rd) which goes to Cheyenne. It was a nice drive when used it back in the olden days (early ’90s, I believe) at least from Cheyenne to Curt Gowdy State Park. I was sure they’d be a gas station after getting onto it in Cheyenne, but no not a one. A friendly Park Ranger let me have some fuel so we could go get the trailer (which I left on the side of the road, hoping the pickup would not run completely dry). Nice folks, we have found Wyoming people.

    WY 210 is more protected from the wind & was scenic (IMHO). Comes out at I-25 by FE Warren AFB. Just a little north of the Flying J & WY Welcome Center.

    Curt Gowdy State Park was a nice place, should be even better now, it was pretty new back when we stopped. Canoed in two of the lakes.

    We enjoyed the WY Capitol Building with a museum in it if I remember correctly.

    PS: Mileage would be the same, but time a few minutes longer using the WY route. About 10 mins.

    Never been on the I-80 in that area, but I-25 isn’t quite as barren & can be very scenic in places, but there are Big Skies up there. Always enjoyed driving through.

    Hope the Wind can give you a break as you keep on your trek.

  12. john says:

    Hi Sue, I’m reading your blog while watching the same judge judy show here in sacramento ca… I have traveled I-80 more than once, and were you are is the s.,< s ,,,, Just east of Rawlins and past the snow fence's is the "THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE" But don't fret Sue, when you see the grand teton's and devil's tower, you will say i've gone threw the middle of no where, to heaven.. save travel's

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, John…. That’s funny . . . with the different time zones you’re watching Judge Judy after I’ve reported on her show. I’m glad I-80 is behind us now. I knew we wouldn’t make it across Wyoming without a stretch of nowhere. I’m certainly not returning on that road . . .

  13. cathieok says:

    Can you imagine being a pioneer wife and your husband taking you to live out there? I love to drive through it, but am not hardy enough to live there.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I often think of pioneer wives when driving through places like that. They had to feed their families from the supplies they brought with them, no refrigeration, no medical clinic, and the unrelenting wind. Some went crazy from it.

  14. Bob Corlew says:

    Sue: Take a look at this URL so you can see what a Wyoming wind sock looks like. It would probably be to heavy to carry in the BLT.

  15. geogypsy2u says:

    I remember driving I80 many, many, long years ago and wasn’t overly impressed. Don’t like the wind, or the snow either for that matter. I have stayed at my fair share of WalMarts.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Some people don’t like Wal-Mart. One thing though . . . Wal-Marts — at least some of them — help the weary traveler. How many stores do the same? Not many.

  16. Kevin says:

    Sue – When you head east toward Cheyenne, look for the little town of Buford – Population 2. On the north side of the road about 1/4 mile you will see a hip roof house with some out buildings. My in-laws built that place themselves. I lived there for a while to take care if of it while they followed construction.
    I’ve seen 100+ mph winds a LOT out there! The blizzards are amazing too.
    I’ve been enjoying your blog since you started. If you get to Yellowstone before the end of Sept, stop in the Grant Store. I am working in the grocery and Robin is in apparel. We’d get a kick out of meeting you.
    That reminds me, we need to get to SD to change our TX licenses to SD
    Safe travels — Kevin

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      ‘Hi Kevin,

      I saw the hip-roofed house! You lived there? In winter?

      So you’ve been reading my blog from the start (great!) . . . Stay with me and then you can remind me to stop in the Grant Store when I’m over at Yellowstone. Otherwise I’m sure to forget.

  17. Been many years that I have traveled that Laramie/Cheyenne route & from what I can remember, it was just as you described.

  18. WJ says:

    Sue and Crew,
    I so enjoy all your travels, but especiallay WYO as I was born and grew up there. Lovely area. Miss it very much. Thanks for photos and stay safe. WJ

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi WJ,

      I apologize for all the negativity about your home state of Wyoming. I’m a wuss of an Easterner. and there’s a lot more of the state I haven’t seen. What do I know.

      I’m happy you’re enjoying the photos.

  19. ct says:

    Hi Sue,
    I lived in Wyoming for 2 years & those were the longest 2 years of my life. Couldn’t stand the constant howling wind, no matter what time of year. One winter the wind chill was 80 below for 2 weeks straight. After that winter, I regained my senses & high-tailed it back to Colorado.
    I love living in the West because of the vast openness & beauty of the mountains. Wyoming is an interesting place to visit, it does have some scenic areas but you sure have to be mindful of the weather. Safe travels!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Interesting comment, ct. I imagine living in Wyoming is an experience you don’t soon forget. The people here must be pretty tough. Which is a given, I guess, since their hobbies include riding a horse that’s trying to buck them off or, if that’s not enough pain, riding a mad bull at the risk of being gored . . .

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Great idea to leave a shopping cart next to your rig!! Well, you have a receipt to show them if asked too!! Hope it is restful for you there!! We really enjoyed some parts of Montana we drove through as we migrated out east 9 years ago!! We were in Wyoming a little…we just LOVED the town of Sheridan…even have thought of maybe relocating there someday….but it is not near so barren….very beautiful area really. At least in April it was!!

  21. Bill says:

    Once upon a time, K worked as a ‘skip tracer’. There was a seminar she needed to attend in Casper (Dec) . She came home with an entirely new wardrobe! And we thought CO was cold!.

    Made the trip in a 23′ class C MH.Pulled into a rest stop one night and parked behind a truck as a wind break. Trucks ‘move’ and this one did, about xzty AM!

    In the early years of RVing, moteling looked better and better but we had dogs (multiple dogs, big dogs airdales ,irish wolfhounds, poodles) so we continued to ‘rough it’. It eventually worked out (for the bank, insurance folks, ect). (ps-poodles think their big)

    Rain, cooler temps but not for us. Up north. Still lots of NM fires but other states are catching-up. Oh well, cheers,br, k,kids, (Sue, watch the temp gauge…I mean the one on the dashboard!)lol

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Bill and Kathy .

      You always seem to have an interesting escapade to share! The temp gauge has been staying where it should. I wonder if it went up before because of the 100+ weather along with the steep climbs.

  22. Sherry says:

    I well remember those wind warnings. I thought they were funny at the time as the wind was the only tail wind we ever had but I wish I’d thought to blog about them. Love the way your readers suggest places for you to go and roads to travel. Bet you do too. I’ve never done the Flying J or Walmart thing but am happy to see that it has worked out for you. Gives me courage! 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Sherry,

      Actually we didn’t experience much wind at all, but it was obvious the area gets some pretty big snowstorms and windstorms.

      It is great how readers help me. Now if I’d get better at following their directions! The camp I’m going to write about next (where we are now) is a suggestion from a reader.

  23. Wendy says:

    I have been quietly reading your blog for awhile now and i’ve loved every minute of it, I havent felt the need to comment till this one just had to let you know I was laughing through out reading it. Love the way you write. Thanks for the laughs as always, a silent reader

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello Wendy!

      If I haven’t said so before, welcome to my blog! Thanks for not being “silent” today. I never tire of hearing that someone is enjoying my writing.

  24. cinandjules says:

    You’re bringing back memories of our drive across! 65mph winds thru NV and the same thru WY. That 5-1-1 really comes in handy when you don’t have internet access. You pick the interstate and then bypass to the area you are Rawlins-Laramie or Laramie- Cheyenne…etc. A huge clue is if the big rigs are congregating at one exit…’s too windy ahead.

    There is a cohesiveness amongst RVers…the ones going in the opposite direction will tell you what’s up ahead…in return you do the same about the road you just traveled. That’s how we found out about Elk Mountain. Yikes..while doing laundry…a man headed to Calee told me..keep watch on the mt (from where we were staying)..if it looks clear..go…if it looks ominous…don’t even try it! He drove his fifth wheel over it the night before..and needless to say… it scared the heck out of him.

    Oh and the signs get better…………as you leave WY…the sign says something to the effect of “Wind is your friend”. Seriously!

    Whew……………glad that’s over for you and the crew.

    • cinandjules says:

      I forgot to add…..if you get stuck driving in the wind toward the next exit…instant lane changes from the gusts….the truckers will make sure you have control of your rig before they pass you. Don’t know if it’s the same for your rig…but when they pass…they push you toward the rumble strips at the edge of the road….then suck you back as soon as their backend passes you.

      As for the road…………one can really fall asleep at the wheel..wake up and you’re still on the road! Dreary and boring indeed!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Wind is your friend. Ha! A sarcastic road sign!

      Re Elk Mountain . . . That’s why I mentioned it in my post. I read about Elk Mountain on a truckers’ forum. It can be bad, bad, bad. That section of I-80 is closed during bad snowstorms.

      We didn’t have bad winds. Just enough to keep me alert!

  25. earthdancerimages says:

    Glad the wind has been giving you a break. We are still in Zion waiting for the part to arrive so we can head north to cooler weather! Chuck and I were in Sheridan WY also, we agree it’s a cool town!!! . We loved the downtown area, looked like it was straight out of Roy Rogers !!! 🙂 Only modernized a bit! Wishing you continued safe travels! Anxiously awaiting your next blog to find out where you are!

  26. mockturtle says:

    I remember as a child traveling through WY on our way to CO and counting dead rabbits on the road [white patches] to relieve the monotony. But vastness is one thing I truly love about the West.

    Yes, the wind can be a real bugger. My worst wind experiences have been in the SW desert, SE CA. Had to stay in Needles two nights because of wind and it was still really dicey when I finally ventured west. I found that full holding tanks are my friend in a crosswind and always fill my freshwater tank before leaving when I know it’s windy.

  27. Dan Bailey says:

    Hi Sue, I am wondering what do you do to protect your solar pannel from hail?
    Dan from Ga.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      I don’t know what there is to do, Dan. What do people do who have solar panels on their motorhome or on the roof of their house? If there’s any warning, a blanket might help, but hail usually is a surprise.

  28. Ed Smith says:

    Hi Sue,
    Sorry to have been absent for so long but I haven’t had Internet for two weeks. First at Great Basin then at South Ruby campground at Ruby Lake Nevada.
    If you ever travel that way I highly recommend Ruby Lake. It’s a wildlife refuge and it’s wonderful, A desert oasis dozens of lakes and ponds feed by over 200 natural springs.
    I know you’re headed for South Dakota. If you get the chance travel through Wind Cave National Wildlife Refuge. I was there maybe 10 years ago and saw deer, elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, and antelope.
    When we get some pictures of Ruby Lake posted to our website I’ll send you the URL.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Ed, I’m so glad you’re back online. I’ve been wondering about that Wind Cave NWR. I’d like to see that. It must be pretty high up, given the wildlife that lives there. I hope the road isn’t scary.

      Yes, I’d like very much to have the link to Ruby Lake photos. We may go through Nevada next year.
      Sounds like you’ve been enjoying your travels. Good for you!

  29. Cari says:

    Wow, I thought West Texas had some desolate country, but Wyoming puts it to shame!

    On another note, I stopped by the Casita showroom this week. Jonathan showed me through several different models, and I like the 17′ too. The 13′ just seems too small to live in for any length of time.

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