Cheyenne Frontier Days

Our first full day in the wild west, so what better way to spend a slightly jet-lagged day than at the World’s Largest Rodeo, otherwise known as Cheyenne Frontier Days, going on this week in the capital of Wyoming just up the road. Now, all I knew about rodeo is the 30 seconds I see on OLN while flipping through the channels once in a while, and it’s not something I intend to take up as a spectator sport on a regular basis, but it was kind of fun.

If I were a betting man, I would’ve lost big this morning, as I figured the kids would be up at 4:30, lack of sleep notwithstanding, two hours off their schedule and ready to rock and roll. But instead they seemed to instantly adapt to Mountain time and woke up around 6:30 here. Since we’re all in the same room these first two nights, that was a huge coup on our part. Justin was still cranky, but not as bad as he could have been. We managed to get ourselves ready and go check out the continental breakfast, then headed north and got to the Frontier Park around 9:30 or so.

Reading up on the rodeo ahead of time, they had me worried about the parking situation, but as it turns out during the week I think if you get there before noon you wouldn’t have any problem. CFD is an annual event that is sort of the Wyoming equivalent of the Illinois State Fair, except with the focus on rodeo instead of livestock (although there is a also Wyoming State Fair, as it turns out). The ride from Fort Collins to Cheyenne is devoid of trees or any evidence of civilization, but it’s neat to see the mountains following you along a few miles off to the west while you drive through what appears to be mostly ranch land, rolling terrain with little vegetation and some buffalo off in the distance. The day started on the cool side, perfect weather for a mostly outdoor event.

The rodeo itself takes place every afternoon in a large outdoor grandstand. We got our tickets for that early on, and spent the morning checking out the competition that was just getting started for authentic western pioneer cooking, and taking a tour of the “Behind the Chutes”, basically an excuse to get up close and personal with the various horses and bulls that would be participating in the afternoon’s festivities. The smell of horse manure was omnipresent, making me harken back to my summer working for the State Fair.

A huge, densely packed carnival midway was the main source of food in the area, so we still had time after the tour for overpriced carnival food for lunch. The rodeo itself was a steady stream of bull riding, bronco riding, steer roping, steer wrestling, and various other festivities, punctuated with loud popular music and a running commentary by a couple of cowboys and a jumbotron for instant replays. It was definitely entertaining even for the uninitiated like us, but the show went on well past three hours, so we cut out shortly before it ended. Surprisingly, Chloe was enthralled by the whole thing, even Justin was mildly entertained for the first couple of hours.

After that we checked out the Indian Village and did a little shopping until the Indian Dance demonstration began. By the time that was over it was 7pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner and hadn’t had anything substantial to drink since mid afternoon. So we called it a day and headed back to Fort Collins, where we tracked down an Italian restaurant in the Old Town area, a few miles north of our hotel, and although it was well past their bedtime, the kids managed to do okay and eat something. Bedtime was even later tonight than last night, so they should be comatose for the big ride tomorrow.

I suppose if you’re going to do a big driving vacation like this one, this part of the country is a good place to do it, since most of the interstates have a 75 mph speed limit. So our trip tomorrow to our next destination in Rapid City is over 300 miles, but maybe it won’t seem quite so long if there’s no traffic, nothing to look at, and you can do 75 on the highway legally. Should be fun!