Imagine this: you've just decided to dedicate your life to pooping inside all 50 state capitol buildings, you've already got your first two under your belt, and you live a mere 102 miles from a neighboring-state capital, and upon Googling it, you find out that neighboring-state capitol is closed for renovations for the next three-years. Well, dear readers, this is the exact scenario I encountered three years ago. Cheyenne, Wyoming is less than a two-hour drive from my home in Denver. I thought to myself, "Great, I can cruise up there any old time and cross Wyoming off the list," only to find the number one Google search result was the Wyoming Capitol Square Project website. I learned I'd have to wait two to three years to visit the Wyoming capitol, which seemed like an eternity. Denver is so isolated out here in the vast American West, and few capital cities are within a reasonable driving distance. Especially since I don't own a car. I had to remind myself that this strange endeavor of mine is likely a ten-year project, so I would have to be patient.
Fast forward to July of 2019, when patience paid off...
As you well know by now, I've had the entire summer of 2019 off of work due to my broken elbow. I resolved to make the most of my free time and plow through as many capitols as I reasonably could, and Wyoming was back on my radar. You see, the renovations on the capitol building were complete, and the Wyoming Capitol was reopened to the public on July 10, 2019.
Now my dear friend Nathan, a Cheyenne native as well as a crapitols veteran (see Utah), had previously offered to accompany me (read: drive my sorry ass up there) sometime in August, but after a three year wait my patience had reached its limit. I was bored out of my skull just laying around my apartment after nasal surgery (did I mention I had a septoplasty?), and I was feeling the need for speed. That's where Turo comes in. Turo is like AirBnB for cars. Got a car you're not using? Rent it to a stranger for money! You can rent any kind of car you desire. You want a bitchin' Camaro? You can rent a bitchin' Camaro. I wanted a bitchin' Camaro, and I found one for about $100. It was the second day of August, 2019.
After blasting the Sex Pistols all along the way I arrived on Capitol Avenue in under two hours. The street was still adorned with flags and leftover fanfare from the grand re-opening as well as Frontier Days. I parked the car and headed for the nearest coffee shop, which happened to be the Library Cafe, located in the Laramie County Library.
After a delightful stroll through the biblioteca, I made my way to the capitol. The exterior gleamed with a new coat of paint, and the grounds were lush with freshly laid sod. As I've said before, it's always preferable to visit a capitol after renovations have been completed.
I climbed the stairs to the main entrance and was immediately struck by the curious horizontal door handles.
Turns out, horizontal door handles work just as well as vertical ones, so I was able to enter the building without a problem. Just inside the door was a small office which appeared to be future home of the visitor information office, as it was filled with boxes and temporary furniture. The entire building had that same just-moved-in-haven't-unpacked-yet vibe. I signed the guestbook and grabbed the booklet guide to the capitol renovation and began my self-guided tour.
Compared to some of the more ornate and extravagant capitol buildings (see Minnesota), the Wyoming Capitol is elegantly spare. Walking through the door is like stepping onto the set of a big-budget HBO series. The classic Western vibe is everywhere. The building was constructed in 1888, and expanded in 1890 and 1917. The last major renovation had occurred from 1974-1980, and boy howdy were those terrible years for renovations. Drop ceilings were installed, original features were covered up; seemingly no regard was given to maintaining the historic beauty of the building.
The renovations are simply gorgeous. Many of the ceilings were restored to their original heights, revealing archways over the doors, the ornate caps of columns, and the Historic Territorial House Chamber was even restored to it's original two-stories.
What's so historic about the Historic Territorial House Chamber you ask? Well, it was in this chamber that Wyoming held it's State Constitutional Convention in 1889. In an attempt to attract some ladies to the sausage-saturated frontier, the Wyoming Territory had granted women the right to vote in 1869, becoming the first US territory to do so. Even though it might have jeopardized Wyoming's chances at being accepted into the Union, they stood their ground, Washington be damned, and enshrined the right of women to vote in their state constitution. Hence, Wyoming is officially nicknamed The Equality State.
I wandered the building at leisure as there were no guided tours available. I found my way into the House of Representatives chamber, where I was welcomed to cross the velvet ropes by a large jovial man who was showing some friends around. Since he seemed like he had some sort of authority in the building I took him up on the offer and ventured onto the chamber floor.
As I loitered about taking pictures I overheard this man telling his friends all about the House and the remodeling, and it became apparent that he was actually a state representative. He explained that out of the 60-member House, he was one of only nine Democratic representatives, which is more than I would have guessed.
Across the building in the opposite wing I visited the cozier, 30-member Senate chamber, presumably also dominated by the Republican party. It was here I finally felt the urge.
I found a pristine, newly remodeled bathroom full of shimmering white tiles, polished marble, and gleaming porcelain - everything I could want in a government facility - and I accomplished my objective.
I then wandered down to the basement level of the building where I found a series of many mysterious vaults, one of which contained a vacuum cleaner.
Having seen all there was to see and having completed my mission, I returned to the office at the main entrance, as I had actually remembered to bring my 50 US Capitols Passport and wanted to get it stamped. There was no one in the office, but the stamp lay unattended on the desk, so I stamped my own passport. The date hadn't been updated since yesterday, though, so it incorrectly reads August 1st, 2019.
I emerged victorious, and returned to my bitchin' ride to do a little bit of exploring of the rest of the town. I made my way to the nearby Wyoming State Museum, mostly to grab a souvenir penny, but also to wander through the free exhibits and get a condensed 20-minute overview of the place. In summary: they had dinosaurs, and a bison, and Yellowstone, and some other stuff.
Another cool thing to see in Cheyenne is the Big Boy engine on display in Holliday Park. This is one of only 8 surviving examples of this monstrous machine, the largest and most powerful steam engines ever built.
On my way out of town I stopped for a bite to eat at The Luxury Diner. From their website:
"Legend has it, the Luxury Dining Car was an operating trolley car on the streets of Cheyenne from 1894 to 1912. It has been operating as a working diner at this location since 1926 and has been the Luxury Diner since 1964.
Today, meals are still prepared from scratch, and some recipes, like the green chili and sausage gravy, are decades old."
Denver has been rapidly losing its tacky outdated kitsch for over a decade now. I've grown so used to seeing old restaurants and dive bars go belly up, only to be replaced with some bland 21st-century-basic-bourgie-gastro-fusion-microbrew-cookie-cutter-weed-related-reclaimed-wood-custom-light-bulb-co-share-workspace-"affordable"-housing-vape-loft-scooter-parking-type development. Cheyenne is a city full of the untouched 20th century kitsch that I so love, but this diner is its crown jewel. I had a patty melt.
I couldn't linger in Cheyenne all day as I had somewhere to be. That somewhere was the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, CO, to see the legendary Leo Kottke. This concert was general admission and seated, a 37-year-old's dream come true. I sat in the front row with a perfect view as he meandered loosely between stories with endless tangents and masterful finger-style guitar wizardry. He even played Crow River Waltz, my favorite.
The concert was over by 9:30 (again, dream come true) and I was on the road back to Denver. I bid farewell to my bitchin' Camaro the following morning and that was that. Crapitol number 15 was in the books.
Special thanks goes to the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Library, where I wrote the bulk of this blog post using their public computers.
So yeah, up next will be Bismarck, North Dakota.