My husband and I like weird little haunts, off the beaten path places that few people visit, or see the wonder in exploring. In June we packed a cooler full of goodies and hit the road for Peoria, Illinois, where the maternal side of my family was having a reunion. I love road trips, and over time, I’ve gradually convinced Bradley that driving to destinations is much better than flying, because you get to experience the land in between your home and your destination. The first day we left in the early evening and drove to Laramie.
After exploring a few places around Laramie, we headed to the Ames Monument. I have a few friends from Wyoming, but none of them had heard of the monument or knew anything about it. So, of course, we had to stop by and visit.
There was another place on our itinerary, Buford, or PhinDeli Town Buford, but we ended up not stopping because it is now closed. Like most of the towns we stopped in along I-80, Buford exists because of the Transcontinental Railroad, but once railroad usage declined the small town dissipated,
That place was the convenience store in Buford store. I was interested in visiting the site because it was a town with two residents, and it was won in an auction by a few Vietnamese businessmen. They decided to rename the place after their coffee brand.
The idea seemed to be that they were going to peddle their coffee at the store, but the owners must not have spent much time in this section of Wyoming. There are very few people in the area, and the state has a spillover of Mormons from Utah who don’t drink coffee, so a cup of joe might not be a big seller in this area. The store was closed when we passed through, and it appears that the town of two might be the town of zero at this point.
The Ames Monument is located about 20 miles east of Laramie. As you cruise down I-80 eastbound, you come across Vedawoo, unique rock formations in the distance. You take exit 329, drive down to a dirt road that has a sign for the Ames Monument. The trail is rocky and would be challenging to traverse after a rainstorm, but we made it without fail in our Ford Taurus. Houses spread out across the wind, stripped land.
Even though it was June, a chilly wind blew across the tree-less land, penetrating my windbreaker. Bradley and I stood there and marveled at the structure and read the placard that told us that it was erected in honor of the Ames brothers-Oakes and Oliver. The brothers invested a great deal of money in the railroad and were involved in something of a scandal, in which Oliver was censured in Congress. A few more fun facts about the brother-Ames, Iowa and Ames, Nebraska were named after the brothers. There are some articles out there that indicate scandal on the part of the brothers, but the monument was constructed to redeem the reputations of the brothers.
The monument was completed in 1882, and the goal was to have it at a stop along the Transcontinental Railroad so passengers would get off the train and admire the monument. The pyramid is four-sided and 60 feet tall and 60 feet at the base, and it is made out of native granite. No remnants of the railroad remain, but the monument still stands in the middle of southeastern Wyoming.
Visiting the monument was not life changing, but it caused me to reflect on how we often invest so much time, money and effort into things that fade fast. The Ames brothers made huge impacts on the Trans-Continental railroad, but the monument honoring them sit in obscurity, unbeknownst to many. The railroad they helped fund is nowhere to be seen, and the towns that sprang up around the rail line, are gone. The monument cost $62,000 dollars to build in 1882, but how long was it prominent? How many Americans headed west with the goal of simply seeing the monument? I can’t be sure, but I am willing to guess..not many.
What things in your life are taking top priority? Are those things really important? Or are they expensive, obscure objects that you won’t care to recall in a a decade or two? Why not let those things go and focus on something you love? Sometimes the things we view as big and important, are simple inflated by world views, or our imagination. Today, take some time to focus on the little things that make you happen. In the end, they may turn out to be the big things.