We’ve been traveling the country for about five years now and we “workamp” or volunteer as we go. We usually work 12-15 hours per person per week in exchange for our RV site and utilities. Sometimes we get a little extra too, maybe reduced cost at the park store or restaurant, free laundry or some other perk to help out with our monthly living expenses.
We’ve worked in commercial RV parks, public park campgrounds, museums, and fish hatcheries.
But we’ve never worked at a prison!
Our good friends Matt and Sherry had an interesting gig this past spring working (volunteering) at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site at Laramie, Wyoming. They dressed in period costumes and portrayed what it was like to work at (or be incarcerated in) the prison back in “The Olden Days”.
Well, since we were passing through the area (always looking for places to go and things to see), we took a few hours while we were staying at Cheyenne Wyoming and drove to Laramie to visit the prison.
The prison was built in 1872 and for 30 years it held a lot of violent and notorious outlaws including Butch Cassidy. It originally sat on 640 acres and the main building is over 18,000 square feet.
The prison is one of only three federally constructed territorial penitentiaries that still exist and the only one that has most of it’s original structure still intact.
The rooms that have been restored and are open for viewing include; the intake processing room, Warden’s office, the kitchen, north cellblock, dining hall, guards quarters, watchtower, infirmary, women’s cellblock, the prison bathroom, and the laundry.
The Prison Industries Building (also known as the Broom Factory) was built in 1892 by convict labor and holds the original broom making equipment that the convicts used to make the brooms that were sold all over the United States as well as being shipped overseas.
We found the venue really interesting to visit and just might like to work there ourselves in the future. Dressing up in period costumes and “playing the part” can be fun!
Thanks again for riding along and we hope to see you here again soon. In the meantime, be good to and for each other and you’ll be blessed back ten-fold.
When we stayed a couple weeks at Angostura Recreation Area (Hot Springs SD) you’ll remember that we had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with our neighbors Clark & Anita.
They told us that as we traveled south from South Dakota through Wyoming and Utah, we just HAD to stop (and camp if we could) at Dead Horse Point State Park just northwest of Moab, Utah.
He told us if we didn’t make it to any of the other popular parks in that area of Utah (Arches, Canyonlands, Canyon de Chelly, Grand Staircase Escalante, Capital Reef) we’d just HAVE to visit Dead Horse.
As it turned out, our travels back to Rover’s Roost at Casa Grande Arizona found us traveling west along southern Wyoming and the east side of Utah and traveling down U.S. 191 instead of using the interstate highway system – and we’re so glad we did!
This way we stayed out of Colorado and the I-25 / I-70 yet we still got to see a LOT of beautiful scenery and ecosystems as we traveled up and down the hills and valleys, sometimes as high as 9000 feet!
But the Creme de la creme – has been Dead Horse Point State Park. The Colorado River runs through the park. The main (only) paved road through the park is Utah State Route 313 and it’s one way in and the same one way out. The $20 (non-resident) entrance fee is per vehicle so we parked our rigs in a gravel parking area just outside the park entrance and then we climbed into David and Susan’s car to visit the park.
As we all realize, photographs just never represent fully the depth and beauty of the subject. But I just had to share some with you here.
If you click on any of the thumbnails below, a larger picture will open. If you have a slower internet connection it might take a second (or a few) to sharpen up the image. Just be patient and you should be able to see and appreciate the beauty in the detail.
Here’s a short (1-1/2 minutes) video of some of the beauty we took in.
And a special thanks to Clark and Anita for putting us on to this gem. Next time we are going to be in the area, we’ll need to make campground reservations ahead of time!
Thanks once again for riding along on the journey of our lifetimes. It’s been five years now that we’ve traveled full-time and worked (volunteered) part-time along the way and it’s still fun – how about that!
Until we meet again, take care of yourselves and each other. You’re all you’ve got. Be good. And stay safe in this crazy world of ours.
There’s a lot to see and do when visiting the Cheyenne / Laramie Wyoming area, but there’s more than a few hundred miles to go between now and Casa Grande, Arizona which is our target for November 1st. We knew we couldn’t see it all.
We talked with our good friends Matt and Sherry because they just spent a few months in this area volunteering at the Wyoming Historic Territorial Prison in Laramie and I knew they’d have some suggestions of where we might visit.
Although the exercise we’d get walking around downtown would do us all a lot of good, I knew my knees wouldn’t last very long. We spent some time looking online at reviews and found a lot of wonderful reviews for Messenger’s Old West Museum. We decided to check it out.
We found it on the near east side of downtown Cheyenne just north of I-80/US-30 (the Lincoln Highway). What a great find it was!
This is a private collection of Charlie and Katie Messenger that’s just chock full of Old West-era carriages, saddles, models & memorabilia exhibited alongside mounts of bears & wolves. No, they did not hunt/kill any of the wild animals exhibited, they bought them all from other collections. They started their collection over 30 years ago and opened it to the public 20 years ago.
It’s tucked away in a residential / light commercial neighborhood where the Messengers operate their self-storage business. In fact, the entrance to the museum is the same place that storage customers go to pay their rent. The day we were there one of their employees (Marco) welcomed us and allowed us to start our self-guided tour. We were the only ones there and as we each were drawn to different displays, you could hear any one of us exclaim “Oh Wow! – Look at This!”.
What’s really great about this collection is the way all the items are displayed. It’s as if the owner secretly holds a degree in Museum Conservatorship or has received special training as a Museum Curator. It’s wonderful to read about what you’re looking at. Not just what it is, but where it came from, how the Messengers obtain the item, and the significance to their family.
The carriages are especially awesome. These are all REAL horse drawn carriages from the 1800’s old west that have been lovingly restored and/or rebuilt. The Messenger family has driven all of these carriages at one time or another and many of the antique automobiles too for participation in a parade or serving as props in television commercials advertising tourism in Wyoming.
The big burgundy colored carriage in the picture below (Overland Stage Line) is Buffalo Bill’s personal carriage and harness.
None of the items in the collection are replicas, they’re the real thing.
Marco told us that it’s too bad we came in early morning and Charlie (Mr. Messenger) wasn’t there yet. This has been a labor of love for the Messengers for many years and Charlie typically stops in daily to check up on the business and often chats with visitors about some of the displays giving the guests more insight on the history of the early west.
After our visit we (of course) stopped for lunch and afterward we were nearly back to our camp in Pine Bluffs when my cell phone rang. It was Charlie. He was hoping to catch us before we were out of town so that we could visit a while.
It wouldn’t work this time, but we’ll be sure to leave Messengers Old West Museum on our Bucket List for the next time we are anywhere near Cheyenne Wyoming. And you should too!
The museum is open Monday-Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm, no admission charge, but donations are welcomed.
That’s all for now, but more to come … thanks for riding along. Take Care of yourselves and each other.
Fort Robinson State Park and it’s two main campgrounds Soldier Creek and Red Cloud are located just west of the small town of Crawford, Nebraska on U.S. 20 and west of U.S. 385 in the extreme northwest corner of Nebraska.
The interactive map below shows everywhere we’ve camped overnight since we’ve been on the road. See if you can zero in on Fort Robinson. You can zoom the map in and out and move it about. When you click your mouse (or finger on a tablet) on any red balloon, the name and location of the park will be highlighted. Let me know if you find Fort Robinson! (you can click on “Accept All Cookies” to get rid of that annoying text box that covers part of the map.)
When we stayed (early October) the full hook-up campground (31 sites) at Red Cloud was closed for the season but the Soldier Creek campground has 80 electric only sites, clean pit toilets, and a shower house. Water hydrants and dumpsters are located on the main loop and there’s a dump station at the entrance/exit to the campground.
It’s about a 50/50 split of those sites that are reservable on ReserveAmerica and those that are held for walk-up only. I thought we were lucky to get a reservation a few days earlier given that we needed to stay on Friday and Saturday night. When we arrived about 3p.m. the campground was pretty empty, but they were still rolling in well after dark. By Sunday morning, about 80% of the campground was once again empty. The crowds there on Friday night and Saturday were local folks just trying to enjoy an end of season campout with family and friends. It was entertaining to see all the little kids playing soccer, football, or riding their bikes all around the campground — Kids just being kids .. it was great.
Here are pictures of some of the landscape surrounding the fort. The road (U.S. Route 20) is called the “Bridges to Buttes Highway” and the tall buttes adjacent to the park are impressive.
We took a short drive north of the parade ground up toward the Wilderness Camp area and found a small fishing lake. This is on the park grounds, so access is included in your daily entrance fee.
Many buildings still stand today and are used by the park as guest quarters. These include the main multi-story brick barracks that serves as the main guest reception and registration building and also has guest rooms and a full service restaurant.
Other buildings on the grounds include officers quarters, horse stables, commanders quarters, the post headquarters building, the veterinary hospital, and more. Unfortunately most of the buildings and tours were not open to visitors since we were there after the summer season.
Walking around the perimeter of the parade ground and seeing all the buildings … one can almost see the men walking to their assigned duties of the day or in drill on the parade ground.
The following text is taken from the back of the campground site map that they gave us when we checked in at the office.
“Fort Robinson was built in 1874 as a temporary encampment during the Indian Wars and used by the U.S. Army to beyond World War II.
One of the most tragic events in the life of Fort Robinson .. the Cheyenne Outbreak, occurred where the Soldier Creek Campground now sits.
Indians were being rounded up by the U.S. Army and forcibly sent to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. A band of Northern Cheyenne escaped and fled across the plains of Kansas and Nebraska, pursued by thousands of soldiers.
Captured by troops from Fort Robinson, the 149 men, women, and children, wo had survived the ordeal, were imprisoned in a log barracks.
Told they would have to return to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, their Chief Dull Knife said they would rather die here in their old hunting grounds.
The army attempted to starve them into submission, and on the bitter cold night of January 9, 1879, they tried to escape. With the few guns they had managed to hide, the braves opened fire on the guards.
As the women and children ran toward the White River, the men fought a running battle with the hastily awakened garrison. Many Cheyenne fell between the parade ground and the river, where the campground is located today. It was one of the last battles of the Indian War.”
All in all, it was a great place to camp. We couldn’t have asked for better weather … warm sunny dry days and cool evenings allowed us to leave the windows open and listen to the breeze rustle the leaves on the trees.
Everybody in the campground behaved themselves and the ability to walk the grounds was an added benefit. We only wish we were here before Labor Day so that we could take advantage of the open buildings and the tours.
Once again, thanks for riding along. We hope you’ll consider scrolling down the page here and leaving a comment.
Our stay at Angostura gave us the opportunity to spend some time in Hot Springs visiting the local grocery store, the post office, one of the local barbers, the Pioneer Museum, the ACE hardware store, and at least three of the local restaurants more than once each during our stay.
We enjoyed visiting with the locals while we patronized their businesses and sought out opportunities to visit with other “travelers” along the way.
Fall River (also the name of the county) runs right down through downtown from north to south along the main drag. There are very few “new” buildings in town with most having been built in the early 1900’s and many including City Hall, the County Courthouse, the old Evans Hotel, the town school, the old hospital and a host of others were built in the late 1800’s.
These buildings are not only old, but beautiful as well for they are made of the brown-pink colored sandstone mined from one of the local quarries back in the day.
As always, click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger picture.
Here below are some pictures of the inside of the former Hot Springs School (used until 1963). It is now the home of the Fall River Pioneer History Museum. It’s three stories of classrooms plus a fourth floor attic that they are currently working to rehab into an art studio and gallery for community use. This school is up on the hill overlooking the town and the students had to climb up a couple hundreds steps (I’m guessing) to make it to class.
And today we see Moms and Dads all over the country driving their kids down a hundred foot driveway to sit in temperature controlled comfort while waiting for a school bus to come and pick them up! Remember when our parents would say “Quit complaining, when I was your age we had to walk 5 miles uphill both ways to and from school!” We were led to believe that we had it lucky, but now these kids today got it lucky even more so!
There are a lot more buildings to marvel at in Hot Springs as well as some nice neighborhoods to drive through as well.
With regard to any of the springs in town, we did not take advantage of a visit personally. The Evans Plunge is the largest, oldest, and most popular boasting a 70′ x 200′ indoor hot mineral spring fed pool that is tempered by cool fresh water from the Fall River. Another newer spring and Spa called Moccasin Spring caters to those that desire spa type treatments in addition to their outdoor multi-level soaking pools.
“The biggest development in baths was the Plunge, built by Fred Evans in 1891. The building was constructed of wood, iron, and glass, and covered a pool approximately seventy by two hundred feet. Various slides, diving boards, rafts, and other accessories were provided for the enjoyment of the guests. Evans Plunge is still operating at the same site. In 1893, our sandstone City Hall (still used today), and an impressive sandstone public school building (now the Fall River County Museum) were built. By the end of 1893 the population of Hot Springs was estimated at 3350, and the city had laid more than five miles of sidewalk and graded more than three miles of streets in the preceding three years.”
And what’s traveling across the country without experiencing the local “Mom’n Pop” diners and cafes? I mean “Ya Gotta Eat” right?
We enjoyed our stay at Angostura Recreation Area and our frequent visits into Hot Springs (only about 4 miles away) but it’s time to move on down the road and meet up with our friends David and Susan. We will be traveling tandem for about the next month as we make our way back to Arizona for the winter.
So long for now, thanks for riding along and please feel free to leave a comment down below. If you’re not already getting automatic email notification of our new posts, you can look over in the right margin (sidebar) and enter your email address. Then you’ll get a brief email anytime we post an update.
Be good, take care of each other and if you’re on the road … safe travels to you. See you next time.
We knew that after Spearfish SD, we wanted to work our way down by Custer State Park. This was so we could meet up with our friends David and Sue once they finished their volunteer gig there on October 1st.
Our plan was to hook up with them and we’d mini-caravan together on our trip back to Rover’s Roost by November 1st. David and Sue are leaseholders there as well.
We had considered staying in Custer State Park, but we were reminded that during the time we would be there, the annual Buffalo Roundup would be taking place and the park would be mobbed with about 25,000 EXTRA visitors, all coming to see the excitement of the roundup.
If you’d like to see and learn more about the Buffalo Roundup, follow this link.
We really wanted to avoid the crowds and the noise of a busy state park, so we looked for another opportunity south of there since that’s the direction we’d all ultimately be heading.
I use a number of apps and web sites when looking for a place to camp. We have found that there are some nice city or county parks in little towns off the main interstates. We also like state parks and Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds as they are less “commercial” like RV parks and more like campgrounds were meant to be.
We’re now completing 2 weeks here at the park and we’ll be here a couple more days, leaving for Nebraska on Friday.
The park has four campgrounds within it’s boundaries and we just lucked out that we were able to get one of the Camp Host sites with full hookups because it’s the end of the busy season and the hosts have left for the year. All of the other sites have electric only so you have to go to the dump station to empty your waste tanks and take on fresh water.
We’re in the Cheyenne Campground at the top of the hill overlooking the lake. I guess if it was mid-summer we might have preferred one of the other campgrounds down by the lake but then we’d be putting up with more crowded conditions too.
The fact that it’s fall and we are up and away from the lake has afforded us the luxury of having an otherwise vacant campground around us most days.
If we’re sitting outside and see someone walking by we’ll always wave and say hello and sometimes they’ll come on over for a short chat. Sometimes we’ll meet other campers as we take our daily walks and we’ll strike up a conversation. Sometimes the folks we meet and talk with are full-timers like us and often-times they are Weekend Warriors or on an extended vacation from their Sticks-N-Bricks home.
Today, we had something unusual and unexpected happen. It was about 8:30 am or so and Kathy and I were sitting here having our morning coffee and watching the news on TV. A knock on the door. Who would be knocking on our door?
As Kathy went to the door to open it she looked out the window and remarked “I know this lady”.
Kathy opened the door and the lady apologized for knocking so early, but explained that they were leaving the campground and heading to Cody Wyoming but she just HAD to come over and say hello before they left.
Turns out that the folks that pulled in to the site next to us last night were actually from Ohio. Not just Ohio, but the same county where we used to live. Further, she (Janet) used to do Kathy’s mother’s hair when Lois lived in the local nursing home!
Not only that, but Janet and Homer’s daughter (Staci) and her son (Sammy) were traveling with them and I had sold Staci her home in Cardington back when I was a Realtor in Morrow County. What a hoot!
We had a nice conversation (although short because they were anxious to get on the road) with them and wished them well on their trip over to Yellowstone and eventually down to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.
As we’ve said before … this mobile lifestyle has afforded us the opportunity to see so many places and things that we would never see if we still had our Sticks-N-Bricks home. But far more meaningful to us has been all the people we’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way. Some of these folks are “passing through” like Janet and her family so our visits are short. But there are others who we get to spend more time with through our Workamping and volunteering gigs, so more meaningful relationships develop in those situations. We are so thankful to be able to be exposed to these situations and to meet so many wonderful people. Who knows how long this lifestyle will continue for us? But in the meantime, we’ll make the most of it.
Thanks again for riding along – we look forward to connecting with you again in our next post when I’ll share with you a little about the City of Hot Springs South Dakota.