Tag Archives: Cheyenne

The Future of Transportation

This weekend, I got a glimpse into the future in an unexpected place … Wyoming.  Not to say that I have any kind of preconceived notion that Wyoming is backwards in any sort of way.  It is just that in mainstream American culture, people tend to look elsewhere for glimpses of the future.  More frequently, people will look to the latest gadgets being developed in Silicon Valley, the newest fashion designs coming out of New York, or even a new dance craze coming out of a place like Miami before they look into anything going on in a more remote area of the country.

However, my experience in Wyoming this past weekend felt oddly futuristic, albeit in a more subtle way.  As a travel lover, I pay close attention to all issues related to transportation and how we get around.  We are a mobile country full of people (such as myself) who love to be in motion.  And, regardless of what changes, I sincerely hope we (as a nation) never lose that zest for life and exploration that draws us out of our homes, and out of our day to day lives, to new places, experiences, and adventures.

While many novels and films set in the future immediately focus on some kind of major technological breakthrough that ultimately changes the way we live, the changes we actually observe are typically more gradual.  And, while many people are anticipating electric, driver-less cars coming out of Silicon Valley, over the last fifteen years, we have achieved some less high-profile, but still significant changes, such as the proliferation of hybrid cars, incremental efficiency improvements, a general increase in interest in bicycle commuting, and a few new rail lines in some cities.  Once again, nothing monumental, but the results of these changes, and how they impact our lives is easy to spot.

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These gradual changes were on display this weekend when I, for the first time ever, got to drive on an 80 mile per hour road.  Prior to today, the highest speed limit I had ever observed had been 75.  In fact, it was just last year that speed limits on interstate highways in many parts of Wyoming increased to 80 miles per hour.  Higher speed limits can at least partially be attributed to vehicles becoming both safer and more fuel efficient, as historically these two concerns have prompted many to feel uncomfortable about high speed driving.

When I see the 80 mile per hour speed limit on Interstate 25, I see the future.  Growing up in the Midwest, I rarely got to drive on roads with speed limits in excess of 65 miles per hour.  I would commonly go 80, but doing so undoubtedly meant the risk of a speeding ticket.  The same speed here is not only legal, but almost necessary to keep up with the speed of traffic.  Over the years, a significant number of states have decided to allow higher speeds on their interstate highways.

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This is not the only transportation trend I observed in Wyoming this weekend.  In Wyoming’s largest city, Cheyenne, it is hard not to notice a newly built Greenway system, designed to accommodate the increasing interest in cycling, and the increased use of cycling as a form of transportation.

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And, while there are many places (such as Denver, where I live) that have built trail systems like this many years ago, Cheyenne is still ahead of the game.  As more people bicycle to get places, I expect to see many more trail systems like this one pop up in smaller to mid sized cities across the country.

Cheyenne is also ahead of the game when it comes to new and innovative road design.  On the south side of town, a diverging diamond intersection has been built to handle the large volumes of traffic that occurs when a highway has multiple popular rest stops (truck stops) at one exit.

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This particular design is best suited for intersections like this one, where most of the traffic is either turning left or right (in this case entering or exiting the highway).  A majority of U.S. States have yet to successfully implement a diverging diamond interchange.  Yet, people who live in or travel through this area have seen a significant reduction in congestion at this interchange.

When I see the future of transpiration here in Wyoming, I see a bright one, and also a realistic one.  I am not waiting for some pie-in-the-sky innovation that should suddenly fix all of our problems.  But, I see incremental improvements, as there is one commonality in all of these developments, the desire to accommodate people.  While speed limits are increasing on highways across the country, they are not increasing everywhere.  In fact, last year New York City actually decreased its speed limits on surface streets.  At first these trends appear to contradict one another, but both are actually helping accommodate more people.  Maintaining slower speed limits on surface streets in town is seen as accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists.  We are moving towards a world where drivers can drive a fast but comfortable speed and arrive at their destination quicker using limited access highways, meanwhile pedestrians and cyclists feel increasingly comfortable choosing not to drive places as they travel on Greenway-ype trails, and/or surface streets where their safety is at only minimal risk.

Accommodation of different types of people, who live different types of lives, is important beyond just methods of transportation.  If we are going to live within a diverse nation like this one, let alone a global society, we must learn to live with those who chose to do things differently than us, and not let these differences lead to violent conflict.  Although some people would probably never look to a place like Wyoming for clues as to how the future will unfold, I am quite proud to be the kind of person who can see value anywhere.  And that, despite the current political situation in our country, I can go to a place like Wyoming, but also to a place like New York, and enjoy the local culture.  It is not that I do not have strong opinions opinions about anything, it is just that I refuse to view everything through the lens of the current red-state blue-state divide that so many people focus on.  Those who view all places, ideas, and even people through this lens place unnecessary limitations upon themselves.  Recently, at a bar, an acquaintance of mine actually suggested that political affiliations are a strong consideration for potential one night stands.  Needless to say my respect for this individual evaporated that evening.

If we can find ways to accommodate one another, such as maintaining both high-speed interstates and safe places to walk and bike, we no longer need to fight with those who do things differently than us.  The more we do so in all areas of our lives, the better we will be equipped to handle the diverse world that we have, and the more opportunities for meaningful experiences we will be able to take advantage of.

Cheyenne Frontier Days

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Every July, the World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo (The Calgary Stampede is larger, but indoors) comes to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Cheyenne’s Frontier Days is not only a rodeo.  It is a major nine-day event, and the most exciting time of the year to visit Cheyenne, Wyoming.  At Frontier Park, not only does one of the most major pro rodeo events take place each afternoon, but live concerts take place each night, and a carnival is set up just outside the park.  It is the week where Wyoming shows in full display it’s western heritage.  And while the “old west” can be thought of as encompassing part or all of 16 states, I find it hard to think of a state that shows more pride in it’s “old west” heritage than Wyoming.

Consistent with the culture on display at Cheyenne Frontier Days, most of the concerts that take place over the course of the week are country/western.  I am not a fan of country/western music.  I am from New York and Chicago, it is just the culture I grew up in.  So, I went to the only non-country/western show on the Frontier Days lineup, which happened to feature two of my favorite classic rock/ arena rock acts; Journey and Styx.

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Styx went on first, and they began on-time!  This was at 8:00 P.M., Friday night, the first night of Cheyenne Frontier Days.  They put on a phenomenal show!  Some bands just don’t sound the same as they get older, but this band was quite good.  In fact, it reminded me how much I liked this band.  As an added bonus, I took pride in the fact that they are from Chicago.

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Journey was the main act of the night, and they also sounded really phenomenal!  Their story is quite an interesting one.  They scored their biggest commercial success in the time period from 1977 through 1984 with lead singer Steve Perry, who has a very unique sounding voice.  After breaking up, periodically reuniting, having a falling out with Steve Perry, and a few years with a different lead signer, in 2007, they hired Arnel Pineda, from the Philippines, as their new lead singer.  The interesting thing about this hire is that they hired him based on hearing his Journey Tribute band perform on YouTube.  It is interesting how this technology has helped a California based band find the most ideal new lead signer on pretty much the other end of the world.  How’s that for the benefits of the internet and connectivity?

I also love watching this guy in concert.  His attitude is just so positive!  Whenever I see him on stage, it just feels like singing for Journey has been a dream come true for him and that he is loving every minute of it.  I can feel his energy, and it seems like the crowd can feel his energy as well, and responds positively to it.  I think people in general just love it when someone seems really happy and enthusiastic about what they are doing.

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In addition to seeing a wonderful show, we got to attend the show in a special section called the “Party Zone”.  This section of the venue is in front of the stands, fairly close to the band, which is how I got those fairly close-up pictures.  There are no seats here, and beer is sold right in the section, just slightly off to the side of where the crowd congregates.  Essentially, this is the section for people that came to dance, jump up and down, etc., as opposed to those that just want to sit and watch.  This is where I feel I belong.  So, I was happy to have good company, have a few beers, and see an amazing show.

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The next day, Saturday, we went to the parade, which occurs four times throughout the duration of this festival.  Saturday morning’s was the first one, but there will be another one on Tuesday, Thursday, and the following Saturday.  For this day, I decided to find the most western looking attire I own, which includes a cowboy hat that I actually bought at last year’s Frontier Days.  I have no boots, no fancy belt buckle, or anything that would make me completely legit.  But, it was nice to somewhat look the part, and somewhat look like I fit in in a place that could not be more opposite from where I am from.

I am not a conformist.  I believe that everybody should feel free to be themselves.  However, sometimes I enjoy just fitting in.  It makes me feel like a versatile individual, like somebody that can find a way to feel comfortable in many different situations and scenarios.  Wearing jeans and a cowboy hat for one day did not in any way make me feel like I am compromising my values or losing my ability to be who I am.  I will return to my quite urban lifestyle when this is over.  So, why not fully embrace the experience while it is happening?

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One thing I try not to do while attending major events is loose track of the actual purpose of the event.  The best example of this is the Mifflin Street Block Party in Madison, Wisconsin.  Originally a Vietnam War protest, this event quickly evolved into large early May block party with little purpose other than drinking heavily.  The major event at Cheyenne Frontier Days is the rodeo.  It is actually one of the most significant rodeo events on the pro rodeo circuit and attracts some of the best the sport has to offer.

Rodeos feature a variety of events, including your standard bull riding, and bucking broncos, but also the events pictured above; calf roping and barrel racing.  Calf roping is quite a crazy event.  A cowboy will first lasso a cattle.  Then, they jump off of their horse in order to tie it up, using a rope.  The best of the best can do this in a matter of 12 seconds.  Steer wrestling also features cowboys jumping off of their horse, but in order to wrestle a steer to the ground by the horns.  I saw someone do this in a matter of 7.6 seconds!

Of course, from the standpoint of an animal right activist, this is probably the worst sport in existence.  In order to get the bulls, as well as the broncos, to buck, they literally tie up their balls.  Maybe greyhound racing is worse, I don’t know, I am not PETA.

This particular rodeo ended with a unique and quite exciting event; a wild horse race.  For a lack of a better way of putting it, the wild horse race is literally a shit show.  Teams of three attempt to saddle up and ride an untamed horse, straight from the wild, one time around a track, in a fashion similar to a more proper horse race like the Kentucky Dirby.  However, because these horses are wild, anything can happen.  Before getting started, many of these horses started pulling their “handlers” in all sorts of directions, and some even “sat down”, if that is something a horse can do.  While running around the track, two of these horses jumped over the gate, throwing their riders off, and one of them completely changed directions out of nowhere.

All of this was quite amusing, but I actually kept thinking about this entire scene from the point of view of the horse.  Specifically, the people who were dragging the wild horse around in a vein attempt to get them to act like Man-O-War were, in some cases, riding trained horses.  These wild horses, being dragged into the arena must be wondering why these other horses are betraying their own species and helping the humans do this to them.  It’s got to be on their minds.

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We also got quite lucky with regards to the weather.  Towards the end of the rodeo, around 3 P.M., storms started to form to our West, Northeast, and South.  But, luckily, the storms formed and tracked elsewhere, and very little rain fell on the rodeo itself.  The storms did, however, help cool things off.  In both Colorado and Wyoming, in summertime, storms are like power plants; you want them close to you but not close enough to mess things up.