“Don’t worry, it’ll be fun,” Tina said, sensing my concern.
We were in Kansas City, about to embark on a thirty-six-hour tour bus ride to San Francisco. The drive was to be broken up into two legs, so that the bus driver could get some sleep in the middle of the long haul. This meant we’d have a ten-hour mid-day stopover somewhere halfway between K.C. and S.F. My geography knowledge conspired with my math skills to give me an uneasy feeling about where this stopover take place.
“We’re stopping at a city in Wyoming. I haven’t ever heard of it, but it’s a real city,” Tina went on.
A real city? In Wyoming, which is hardly even a real state?
“It’ll be fun,” she repeated. I still had my doubts.
Having traveled along Interstate 80 many times, to me Wyoming is a four hundred mile-wide test of endurance. I wouldn’t even call Cheyenne, the state capital and its biggest metropolitan area, a “real city”. The entire population of the town could fit into any NFL stadium. As I told Tina: if Cheyenne was the best we could hope for, somewhere in Wyoming that she’s never even heard of was nothing to look forward to. Thirteen hours later, as our driver pulled off of the freeway and I read the exit sign, my heart dropped. Maybe Tina had never heard of Rock Springs, but I unfortunately had.
Rock Springs is the first place I ever saw a Razor Scooter. It’s also where a friend’s lung collapsed as he attempted to pass through town. Other than those two items, I can’t remember anything specific from my many, many previous visits to the place. Because those visits were only long enough to fuel up before getting the hell back on the road. Despite having nothing to look forward to but hundreds of miles of mostly-barren Mormon country (headed west) or mostly-barren redneck territory (headed east), the urge to get out of Rock Springs is overpowering.
Continuing westward through Mormon country only leads to hundreds of miles of Nevada desert. Going east, after Wyoming you can look forward to a thousand miles of corn-rowed plains. South of Rock Springs you’ll find more– and increasingly weirder– Mormons on your way to the forlorn Four Corners region. To the north is a vast wilderness, which includes Yellowstone National Park but also includes the other parts of northern Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Contemplating the remoteness of Rock Springs gives the visitor a strong sense of hopeless isolation, so I can only imagine how the residents feel.
Based on my recent time spent there, I can say these things about Rock Springs:
- The businesses in the “downtown” area seem to have all closed down, and Wal-Mart probably has something to do with it.
- After a single phone call, the dispatcher at the cab company will remember you by voice when you call back hours later.
- Halliburton has some sort of presence there.
Here are some things I learned from research (as well as a Very Serious user who’s from Rock Springs):
- Kum & Go, with four locations, dominates the local convenience-shopping market.
- In 1885, one of the worst race riots in American history happened there, during which twenty-eight Chinese immigrants were killed.
In summary, when traveling along I-80, you might want to skip Rock Springs. The only shopping you can do there is at Wal-Mart or Kum & Go (the latter of which isn’t as pleasant as it sounds), the taxicab people will stalk you, you won’t see any good movies, your lung might collapse and if you’re Chinese you’ll probably get killed by a mob. If you must stop, make it quick.