As I proudly profess, I have visited all fifty states (see Sound. Color. Hawai’i. from February 2022) and with the exception of a small handful, I have seen almost all of them more than once. Counting from the other direction, a few states I have visited so many times that I practically lived there. Oh wait, I did live there. For starters, I grew up in the Grand Canyon State (see The Lights on South Mountain from November 2021), but since the vast majority of those years I did not drive, I did not get to choose where I journeyed throughout Arizona. It’s close, though. I’ve probably seen about eighty percent, including the various trips I have taken as an adult (see Pizza, A Wedding, and Queen from May 2013).
Florida, North Dakota, and Wyoming may be the three states I have explored the most. Having lived in Florida for nearly a decade and a half, I saw pretty much everything I wanted to see (see The Meraids Of Old Florida from June 2021) and got out while the getting was good. There isn’t too much to see in North Dakota, but I took a road trip one fall and hit all the highlights. Check that box. Wyoming, however, was only my home of residence for six months spread across two summers, but it may well be described as the state which stole my heart. I’ve seen so many beautiful places, visited a variety of state parks (see The Light At The End Of The Wind River Tunnel from February 2022), hit the big national park locations (see Five Routes Coming and Going from February 2015), and fallen in love with nature (see A Saturday Morning Story from August 2016).
Stop. Just Stop.
One of the most common pieces of travel advice I impart to others may be summed up in one word: go (see The Alaskan “Wilderness” from February 2020). I have personally witnessed hundreds of places that would take your breath away, and not just in Wyoming. Of course, I adore the small, secluded, special stops that stick with me for both their simplicity and their impact, much like this stop on the campus of the University of Wyoming. Laramie lies on Interstate Eighty between Cheyenne and the entire rest of the state, and for those passing through, they may not even stop at the Lincoln sculpture off the interstate, much less weave their way into town to see today’s destination in front of the school’s Arts and Sciences building.
There’s no statue here, no sculpture or elaborate exhibit. The courtyard doesn’t have shade trees under which to sit. Yet, there is a place to sit – a bench. A small plaque features twenty-three words and two dates. There is no marker describing the circumstances that led to this space, just a few token words in an effort to capture the hope that stemmed from the tragedy that ended the life of Matthew Shepard. While I do sit and take a moment to think peacefully about this young man, sitting feels intrusive into the small space allocated for his memory. Yet left with no other alternatives to remember this beautiful human, I sit hoping for something better in the future for him, and all those who walk in his footsteps, both here on this campus, and in their own journeys towards finding love. Breathtaking and heartbreaking describes this unadorned place where I contemplate and remember the life of a man whose breath was taken away.