The road from Lander to Cheyenne is about 275 miles long, and we were on our fifth trip recently in a month on that route.
During the winter, I favor the northern route through Riverton-Shoshoni-Casper-Douglas-Wheatland-Cheyenne. It takes about 40 minutes longer but I get to avoid the fun weather events at Beaver Rim, Muddy Gap, Separation Flats, Elk Mountain, and the Summit. Plus I am not sharing the ice-packed highway with 10,000 semi-trailer trucks.
But I digress.
On this latest trip, the wind was blowing near 70 mph between Wheatland and Cheyenne, and it felt like a hurricane.
Wheatland is one of our favorite towns, and we stopped at Interstate Conoco to drop off some books. Brian and his staff do a great job selling all sorts of wonderful products. We had a nice lunch at Western Skies restaurant next door, meanwhile looking out the window at the swirling wind.
Once in Cheyenne, Nancy and I attended a couple of legislative receptions and caught up with some of our state’s lawmakers.
Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, joked that he was convening a meeting of cancer survivors when he was chatting with Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, Rep. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, and Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, at a get-together at the Old West Museum, sponsored by the Wyoming Education Association. Case runs a hotel restaurant operation in Lander. Eli operates an energy company with his brother Nick in Riverton. Von Flatern operates an airplane charter service in Gillette.
Bebout has recovered from bouts of throat cancer and esophageal cancer. Case is in remission from a bout of melanoma from a few years ago. Wasserburger is responding well to treatment for lung cancer. He never smoked and said his treatment is going well. When not being a legislator, Wasserburger is the principal of the largest junior high school in Wyoming in Gillette. Von Flatern had prostate cancer but is doing fine now, he says.
Nancy and I were attending the annual Governor’s Tourism Conference, the biggest event of the year for the state’s second-largest industry.
I have been attending this event for 30 years. The newest trends are the emphasis on digital marketing and how the whole world is a market.
Had a nice chat with former legislator Pete Illoway and his wife Chloe. At 78, Pete looks hale and hearty.
Two of my favorite people are Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, and longtime tourism activist Kari Cooper of Jackson. They recently got married and carry on a long-distance relationship.
Lander is 160 miles from both Jackson and Cody, so Hank and Kari get together as often as possible in my hometown.
The venerable Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, took issue with my question about increasing transparency in Wyoming government. He said legislators have gotten pushback from smaller governmental entities that contend they cannot afford to comply with requests about their financial affairs.
I told Sen. Scott other states have systems where this does not require special effort. What Wyoming needs is a culture where all things are already transparent. This is good government.
Chris Brown does good work as the main lobbyist for the tourism industry. This industry is going through its most dramatic transformation when it comes to funding its national and international advertising and promotion campaigns.
For decades, the Department of Tourism has been funded directly from the general fund. Now a program is being considered that will call for a five percent statewide lodging tax, which will generate around $14 million per year to promote Wyoming tourism. As I write this, it looks like this great program will pass.
Enjoyed eating a meal with Doug and Kathleen Campbell of Saratoga. They won the Big WYO award last year and are longtime tourism promoters as owners of the historical Wolf Hotel. Congratulations to this year’s winner, Rick Hoeninghausen, who heads up marketing for Xanterra, the Yellowstone Park concessionaire.
Tom Hirsig, the CEO of Cheyenne Frontier Days, was there promoting his event. It will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2021.
Wendy Volk was beaming. Her project is promoting the new Cheyenne-Dallas air service. We flew that service over the holidays. It was convenient and a great deal.
Rachel Girt, the new communications director for Gov. Mark Gordon, was coordinating his visit with tourism folks.
Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, was holding court. As vice president of the State Senate, he has a lot of responsibility and says the session has been busy.
I love visiting Cheyenne, especially during legislative sessions. You can just feel the energy. Nothing quite like that pulse.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies.