As we moved into the last driving day of our trip, we edged toward the plains. The landscape still has quite a bit of rolling relief in this area, with some characteristic human interventions, like rows of wind turbines along a ridge, forming a wind farm:
That was just one of the arrays that we saw. Semis were also on the interstate carrying blades for the turbines. The blades may have been manufactured in Windsor, Colorado, which is near where we live. The blades are so large (131 feet/40 m long) that a single one is often considered a truck load, although we saw one trailer carrying two (there are three blades to each assembled turbine set-up). The plant is new, having just opened this spring. This week, Vestas (owner of the Windsor plant) announced that they’ll be setting up to manufacture the turbines in Pueblo, Colorado. And they’re putting another plant in Brighton, Colorado, to manufacture more blades and nacelles (for housing the gearboxes, generators, and transformers).
Vestas is a Danish company. Denmark has shifted its energy dependence over the past couple of decades. In 1973, it was 99% dependent on imported energy and now it is 0% (zero) dependent.
Yes, the situation here in the U.S. is extremely different than in Denmark. We’d need to come up with different solutions. But wouldn’t it be cool . . . and FUN! . . . to solve these problems? Like, now?
And I know I’m driving a car on this trip, using fossil fuel. I don’t have an alternative yet. I’m getting great mileage, which is some small consolation (the average gas-fueled car gets 20 mpg; the best of the fuel-efficient cars get about 40 mpg and don’t fit either our needs or our budget; our overall average for this trip was 29.7 mpg). I’m also imagining, out here on the road, a world where the interstate lanes are divided up between different modes of transportation, and people take wholly different types of trips . . . maybe even with a larger number of vacation days. (I’m self-employed; technically, I either don’t have any vacation days, or all my days are vacation days . . . except then we don’t eat. Yes, I brought work on this trip. And I got it done, too. I only brought work that was low-stress, so it really was a vacation.) In this world I’m imagining, there would be more rest stops, because there would have to be, with more interaction at those rest stops with the people and environment and history of each locale. We’d all get smarter about issues beyond our back yards. Local businesses would flourish. . . . Dreaming on. . . .
A wind turbine blade has been trucked to a sculpture park in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, which begins tomorrow. It will visit the Republican convention as well. As an aside, Vestas is bringing 1350 new jobs to Colorado. For a number of years, the big news around this state has been outsourcing of jobs to overseas providers.
Some folks think it’s boring to drive through Wyoming.
Sharp-eyed handspinners may note bits of a Lendrum wheel peeking up at the back end of the load. Hint: The flyer’s on the right. Gord Lendrum’s website is astonishingly uninformative, but you can find out about the wheels on many retailers’ sites. The folding-style Lendrum is a terrific wheel for traveling: sturdy, compact, nice to spin on.
Here’s another human intervention in the Wyoming landscape—some of the many phalanxes of snow fences:
Mile after mile of them, about 12 feet (2 m) tall. With the broken and weathered boards repaired on a regular basis (and also available later, recycled, for rustic construction projects). Snow and wind are big deals in Wyoming. The roads get closed a lot because of weather.
Laramie means we’re almost home. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived there and we were hungry. We stopped at Sweet Melissa Cafe, which I’d heard about but hadn’t tried. Even Laramie is a bigger trip than we usually indulge in. There were tables out front, in full sun. The inside of the place was cool but . . . dogs. We took our lunch and walked about a block to a small park by the train depot and railroad tracks.
It was one of our nicest stops.
And a good conclusion to the trip.
Trip odometer: 2828.2 miles (4551 km).
New York, NY, to Seattle, WA: 2839.06 miles (4569 km).
According to MapQuest, we drove 11 miles (17 km) less than a coast-to-coast trip.
Green shows the trip west, blue-green the trip back east. Asterisks: where we spent the nights—Ogden, UT; The Dalles, OR; Ocean Park, WA; Nampa, ID; Rock Springs, WY; home (CO). I just realized they’re all in different states, and one for each state we traversed.
The second map is unmodified. Both National Atlas of the United States, August 24, 2008, http://nationalatlas.gov .
Deb, I’m grateful for your wonderful photo essays during your trip. I’ve particularly enjoyed the photos of Wyoming and the seashore and have saved several to my desk saver. When I moved to Colorado from Illinois in 2003, I drove through a corner of Wyoming and fell in love with the windswept grasslands. I had never seen such long vistas free of trees. And it was so clearly a good spot for wind farms that I’m glad farmers there have more to sell there these days than hay.
Thank you for taking us along on this vacation! These are parts of the country that I’ve never seen from a car. Thank you for showing them to us! I’ve recently decided that car trips (especially when driving) are sort of restful. All those hours in the car? You can’t be doing anything but looking at the window, sitting on your bottom, driving, knitting, reading or snoozing in the backseat. Good way to recharge one’s batteries!
Janice in GA
Since I live in the (relatively) wet east, I tend to forget that HUGE portions of the US are not covered in trees and greenery. Flying over the west and pictures like yours remind me of how much treeless land is out there.
I love my eastern forests.
Thanks for sharing. You can spread the fuel usage across all the people who enjoyed the trip through your blog. I’m from the west (Lewiston, ID) and I love open lands. When I hear someone say ‘it’s a boring drive’, I’m pretty sure I’ll love the terrain. I think it’s operatic.