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  • Colorado Springs? Home? I will return to that place. I always do; however, last week, I headed north on 1-25, out of Colorado into the big sky of Wyoming and onto South Dakota. Since I was five, I have made this drive every couple years. This is my true point of origin; several generations on both sides of family have made a scattered this South Dakota landscape; some like my mom and dad have left, but we always return.

    When I was eighteen, I graduated a semester early from a Colorado high school and announced to my family that I was moving to Rapid City, SD. I think my dad was happy to hear that I wasn’t moving to Los Angeles or New York, so he decided to help me.

    We loaded up his Bronco and my Subaru and headed north on I-25. It was January and there was a blizzard, but my dad and I both come from South Dakota stock, so snow didn’t stop us. At one point, my car did a 180 and slide off into the gultch. My dad who was two cars ahead of me kept going. I put my car in first and prayed, soon I was right behind him again and he didn’t even notice I had gone off the road. We made it to Rapid City in record time. My dad dropped me and my stuff off at his sister’s house, my Aunt Barb. A new phase of my life began. I was eighteen.

    I am forty now and I make the same drive although it is not January; it is May. Over a decade of living in Southern California has melted my courage to drive in any weather other than sun and very light rain.

    As I drive north on I-25, I notice how much Colorado has changed. Outlet malls and urban centers mark where there once was prairie near Fort Collins. Then, I am in Cheyenne WY. Here, not much has changed. Little America is still the big tourist point of destination to see a stuffed King Penguin while the locals look forward to Frontier Days in August of every year; it is the rodeos of rodeos. They are looking forward to it again this year.

    Just outside of Cheyenne, I take a right on Highway 85, which takes me into Goshen County. For miles, there is nothing, not even cell reception. It is nice to be alone driving along this prairie.

    Then, I hit the big city of Goshen County, Torrington WY. There has always been a big sign that welcomes anybody that happens to wander into these parts. “Welcome to Torrington WY.” Next to it, a new sign has been added; it is a picture of a mother holding an infant. It reads, “Where Life is a Gift, not a Choice.” I take notice and then head up the street and look to the left. Yep, an old brick building still stands; St. Joseph Children’s Home, an orphanage. My mom used to threaten to drop me off there if I continued with my childhood question, “Are we there yet?” I smile and am happy that she followed through. I pass the liquor store by the grain silo and notice the drive through of the store has long been closed. We used to be able to buy a can of beer through that window and drink it on the Wyoming roads. Not anymore.

    The road winds around and Torrington turns into its twin city, Lingle. Where does one mingle in Lingle? The corner bar. I went in there once when I was on a college debate trip when I was nineteen; a woman literally peeled her face from the bar sticky with 3.2 beer and asked me what the hell I was doing there. I have never been back in. I check to see if that place is still there. Sure enough, yes, but it has a new name. It is no longer simply called the Corner Bar; it is now officially The Bitch’s Corner Bar. I stop and take a picture. Despite living and working in a Southern California inner city, I still don’t have the cajones to go back in there.

    I hop back in the car and make sure to follow the 35 mile an hour speed limit that goes on for about 35 miles. Then, I am in Lusk WY. I got pulled over once in Lusk WY when I was 21 and on my way from a concert in Denver back to Spearfish SD where I went to college. I never bothered to pay the ticket. I figured Lusk police could never find me; I was wrong and when I went back to renew my license three years later, I discovered that Lusk police not only know how to suspend an out of state license; they also know about how interest. I made a very expensive mistake; never underestimate Lusk police.

    As I slow to the 25 mile an hour speed limit through the Lusk metropolis, I look to my left to the diner where I have had many a country fried steak. The diner is now a Calvary Church with the tag line Living Loudly for Jesus Christ. I will miss their chicken fried steak.

    I stop at Lusk’s Conoco to fill up my tank. A group of local girls on their bikes gather around the Conoco doors.

    “Where are you from?” they ask everyone who walks into the doors.
    Various answers come from us travelers. Wisconsin, Colorado, Oklahoma. The list goes on. When I graduated from college from Spearfish SD, I considered taking a teaching job in Lusk WY. The school offered more money than I had ever seen. $21,000 in 1994. I think of this as I answer these girls.


    The girls smile; they want to go there, they say. Had I taken that teaching job, these girls could be my daughters. I move on and am thankful that I never found any lust in Lusk.

    The rest of the drive is prairie; I return to 65. Within a few hours, I am there again in Rapid City SD on my Aunt Barb’s steps.

    “How was the drive, dear?” she asks.

    “Same. Different,” I shrug, “I’m just glad I’m here.”

    Rapid City SD, a place I always return.
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