Bill Sniffin: Driving To Cheyenne In Winter For Christmas Party – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes, "Last winter, Interstate 80 was closed so much, it almost disrupted parts of the national economy because of those 13,000 stalled semi-trucks that pass through each day.”

Bill Sniffin

December 16, 20235 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A few years ago, I mentioned in a column that one of the greatest secrets about Wyoming is how often winter driving can be just perfect – dry roads, blue sunny skies, little wind, and no snow to worry about.

Based on 53 years of winter driving in Wyoming, I know that to be true.

It is also a fact that often our winter driving can be horrible. Perhaps the worst in the nation. Some of my recent columns included stories of some horrible trips by prominent Wyomingites.

Last winter typified these awful conditions. Interstate 80 was closed so much, it almost disrupted parts of the national economy because of those 13,000 stalled semi-trucks that pass through each day. South Pass, next to my home town of Lander, was closed an all-time record 42 days. The previous record was just 18 days.

There were very few days last winter when driving was fun.

But that was last year.

So Far, So Good This Winter

This year, despite that big Thanksgiving snowstorm (we got 28.7 inches of snow at my place), the winter weather has been somewhat tolerable and the roads are doing okay.

Living in Lander, when I need to go to Cheyenne or Denver, we have two options. The fastest one is head south to Interstate 80 by way of Rawlins and Laramie.  The slower option being through Casper and taking Interstate 25 down through Douglas and Wheatland.

Despite what you see almost every day in Cowboy State Daily, I am a very safe driver. I told Editor Jimmy Orr that he is putting me in an impossible position by poking fun at my driving almost every day. God help me if I ever have an accident. But I digress.

We were headed to Cheyenne for the annual CSD Christmas Party last Saturday. The road report showed Rawlins to Cheyenne to be sketchy so we took the Casper route. The roads were dry all the way. Despite some heavy winds around Wheatland, it was a five-hour trip, which included four stops. Remember, we are senior citizens. It is important for us to stop and walk around frequently. I paid $2.69 for gas in Cheyenne, which was stunning. In Lander gas prices are still much higher.

We stayed at the Red Lion in Cheyenne for two nights. On Monday morning, we headed home and, yes, Interstate 80 was dry. We had an uneventful trip and made it home in just four hours. Again, with four stops. Despite dire predictions, both trips were almost boring. Just miles and miles of dry roads and endless blue skies and bright sun.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation does a fantastic job of both keeping the roads open and letting us know the status of the roads that we are thinking of taking. I love their digital map, which I can access on my computer or my phone.

I also rely on Cowboy State Daily Meteorologist Don Day for my weather predictions. Modern weather predicting is amazing although I was not impressed back on Thanksgiving when the 10-inch prediction ended up two and a half times as much. It sure was pretty, though.

Seeing Old Friends

We spent some quality time with fellow columnist Dave Simpson and his wife Caryl. They have a nice five-acre spread on the east edge of Cheyenne. Dave has a great lab for a pet named Mitch. Who doesn’t love Labradors? They will love you to death.

With the Simpsons, we were able to watch the Denver Broncos clobber the Los Angeles Chargers, which was a bonus. As a long-time fan, it has been fun watching the Denver team’s recent resurgence. I hope they can keep it going.

On Monday, we stopped by Ray and Debby Hunkins place in Cheyenne and caught up with them. They will soon be headed to Tubac, AZ where they have a winter place. Ray plans to celebrate this 85th birthday in March.

He is not letting any grass grow under his feet. He says he is working on another book. 

I have had a home office and always want to check out other people’s home workplaces. Ray has perhaps the best home office I have ever seen. Wow.

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

My home office is awful. I forgot to check on Dave’s but I bet his is nicer than mine, too.

And then there was our Christmas Party. Managing Editor Greg Johnson bought gifts for everyone, which included candy, squeeze balls, candy, hand warmers, and more candy. We practically got sick snacking on that candy on our way home.

It was at the Rib and Chop House. They served up one of the best bacon-wrapped filets I have ever eaten. Nicely prepared.

Jimmy announced that CSD has had a great year. Daily circulation is over 58,000 and Facebook followers should soon hit 80,000. Four years ago, we had 800 subscribers. This is quite a success story. I have never seen anything like it. Cowboy State Daily has become the biggest news organization in Wyoming history.

My next column will be about last-minute Christmas gifts, with the focus on locally produced products (like my Coffee Table Books!). Please send me your ideas to

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.