the cheyenne

You left Cheyenne at five in the morning. You’re not sure why you decided to leave so early; it’s just to get a head start, you told yourself.

You’d been listening to some music, but you haven’t had cell service since you passed through Wheatland. Was that an hour ago? Two hours? The silence starts to unnerve you, so you turn on the radio. It crackles a bit and goes in and out. You catch something about a gun show. Cattle feed for sale. Some kind of festival in Thermopolis. The only other station you can find features an impassioned minister talking about final damnation. “Turn to Jesus, for Jesus is our only chance for salvation. We must turn to Jesus.” That station comes in crystal-clear.

Everything is so flat here, save for the occasional rock formation. The interstate curves to the left, yielding to some beautiful, imposing rock formation. You get the feeling you’ve seen it before; they all start to look the same after a while. You realize you haven’t noticed the road curving back after passing any of these rock formations, but your dashboard compass indicates you’re going north, so you keep on driving.

You stop just outside of Casper to fuel up and grab a snack. There’s no one else in the convenience store, but the cashier doesn’t seem too surprised to see you. She didn’t even look up from her book of sudoku puzzles when you opened the door. You grab a bag of chips off an immaculate, newly-stocked shelf. You grab a bottle of water out of an immaculate, newly-stocked refrigerator. The cashier smiles pleasantly as she rings you up.

The next time you drive around a bend by a rock formation, you watch your car’s dashboard compass. It reads north the whole time. You watch the road to see if it bends back on the other side. It does. You’re still driving north. You can’t remember the last time you saw another car on the interstate. Just semis. The sun begins to go down. You turn the radio back up for a second. The preacher is still shouting. You turn it back off. Somehow, the silence is more comforting.

After what seems like at least six hours, you see the city of Sheridan, a beacon glimmering in the distance. There have been signs for it on the roadside since you left Cheyenne. Dozens of them. Sheridan. Sheridan. Sheridan. Sheridan. You know the state line is just ahead. You pull into town, and the lights are all out except for the Albertsons in the middle of town. The parking lot is full of cars. There are no cars on the road.

You see it in the vast, flat distance: a big rectangular sign. The state line. You’re probably speeding a little bit now, but you’re excited. Besides, no one really lives around here anyways, right? You finally get close enough to make out the words on the sign: “Wyoming: Like No Place On Earth.”

You drive north across the border into Wyoming. You tell yourself you’d better stop in Cheyenne and get some rest. You’ll leave early and get a head start, you tell yourself.