This dispatch is dedicated to the memory of television star, celebrity chef and celebrated author Anthony Bourdain, who was found dead this morning in France as the result of an apparent suicide. Anthony’s curiosity and insatiable appetite - for food but also for human connection and new cultural experiences - were an inspiration for many including this restless misfit.
He is missed. May he rest in peace.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to speakingofsuicide.com/resources.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of the tech boom and the green revolution. It was the age of uncertainty in the mineral extraction industry.
Denver shimmers in its newfound glory. Cheyenne persists.
Though separated by a mere 100 miles, the drive from the capital of suddenly resurgent Colorado to that of staunchly conservative Wyoming is like a trip back in time, once one makes it through the sprawl that seems to stretch from Denver most of the way to Fort Collins, the last Colorado city.
Then miles of grassland that continue beyond the state line, interrupted by billboards touting the western history of Cheyenne and a large fireworks store. Then a few houses, a few more, and then Cheyenne.
The site of what would become Cheyenne was chosen as the point at which the Union Pacific Railroad would cross the Crow Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River. The railroad reached Cheyenne in November 1867. The new city, named after a prominent Native American Tribe, grew rapidly from a little over a thousand in 1870 to more than 11,000 by 1890 and more than 30,000 by 1950. Approximately 65,000 people call Cheyenne home today. It remains Wyoming's most populous city and hosts the annual Frontier Days, billed as the world's largest outdoor rodeo and celebration of western culture.
Cheyenne is also home to the Plains Hotel, built in 1911 a stone's throw from the train station. The hotel served as lodging for exhausted train travelers and cowpokes, included multiple restaurants and meeting rooms and a grand lobby.
By the time we made it to the "historic" hotel in 2017, the creaky floors had warped and the rickety old elevator – supposedly made small to prevent out-late cowboys from trying to bring their horses up to the rooms instead of paying to set them up in the stable – malfunctioned often enough that the similarly worn yet gregarious maintenance man merely cursed the wretched box with resignation and started tinkering when it went down during our visit.
One of our rooms faced a brick wall. One lacked soap. A fellow traveler had to ask for toilet paper.
On a subsequent visit the elevator, while still slow, appeared to have been repaired, but the carpeted fitness center had lost its sole treadmill. And yes, I stayed again. The Plains is the only even halfway decent hotel downtown.
The sign outside the door, resplendent in the picture on the website, appeared worn during the daytime.
The hotel boasted of renovations done a little more than a decade ago. I wondered at the state of the rooms before the renovations while staring at the fraying arm of a lounge chair, covered in a repeating pattern of buffalo while truck after truck loudly revved their engines while driving over an overpass outside my window.