I’m out and about lately, and it’s about ding-dong time.
Time to put some miles on the Ranger, even at $4.69 a gallon gasoline (thanks Joe, and we’re not buying that “Putin’s fault” crap), after a winter that saw plenty of snow, and enough spring wind to knock down a brick outhouse.
I’d never leave Wyoming, but the relentless, punishing, door-slamming wind this year made me think for the first time, “Does the wind blow like this in Arizona?”
If you told me 20 years ago that Gillette would become one of my favorite towns, I’d have been taken aback. Nonplussed. Many times I heard Rawlins and Gillette lumped together. They were the red-headed step children of Wyoming towns.
But then I spent the coldest winter of my life in Rawlins, 1979-80 – cross-country skiing to work on several occasions – and came away liking the place, and the ornery folks I met there.
And today, after a daughter who used to say she wanted to live in London instead married a guy from Gillette, I have new respect for the city once known as Donkey Town. I agree with the buttons Mike Enzi once brought to the Wyoming Legislature that said, “I Kind of Like Gillette.”
Gillette is a place where you can wear your work clothes to any restaurant in town. It’s a working town, with more Super Duty company pickup trucks than you could shake a greasy wrench at, heavy equipment everywhere, and lots of die-hard, flag-flying Trump supporters. This year you see Harriett Hageman signs from Douglas to Gillette.
Like Mark Twain, reports of Gillette’s demise are exaggerated, and there’s an energy industry hiring boom going on now, as our greenie friends learn where electricity for their swell electric cars comes from.
Two red-headed, blue-eyed grand daughters, both under four, have us doing the Cheyenne to Gillette milk run pretty often. Heading to Gillette, the perfect place to stop for lunch is Penny’s Diner in downtown Bill, Wyoming, where the Penny’s Burger will not disappoint. They don’t get a lot of traffic at Penny’s – it’s there primarily for railroaders – and the employees are so darned happy to see anyone come through the door that the service is great.
Going home, the perfect lunch stop is The Soda Fountain in downtown Chugwater, where the malts are to die for, and the BLT I had was very good.
For those who drink too much coffee, I highly recommend the rest stop north of Wheatland – where the view of Laramie Peak is spectacular – and the rest stop in Wright, a park-like setting where a guy could even go fishing. Both are well maintained.
This time of year, I go through Laramie a lot, and this summer I’ve got to try the Reuben Sandwich at the Alibi Wood Fire Pizzaria and Artisan Bakery, which was featured recently on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-in and Dives on the Food Network. (I spent my formative years at the Alibi, back when it was just a bar across the street from the Boomerang.)
Fieri also visited J’s Prairie Rose in Laramie, where I had an excellent lunch two summers ago, although I remember when it was called “Sally’s Steakhouse” many decades ago. (The girl who would become Mrs. Simpson tried to squirt me with a ketchup packet at Sally’s late one night after the Buckhorn closed, and ended up squirting herself. It’s a fond memory that still makes us laugh.)
Fieri also visited Sweet Melissa’s Cafe in Laramie, where I had the best grilled cheese of my life several years ago.
For my money, the best BLT around is at The Bear Bottom Bar and Grill in Centennial, where my son used to prepare the green chili pizzas, and sometimes tended bar across the street at The Trading Post. (I could spend some quality time in Centennial.)
And don’t miss the brewery-restaurant over at the Saratoga Inn, where they make an impressive Reuben, and a great glass of beer.
Maybe something strong from the brewery can help us forget Joe’s $4.69 gasoline.
Wyoming’s at it’s best this time of year. It’s worth the price of gasoline to get out and about.