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Herman: The escalators of Wyoming

Generally, we are a people who look forward to summer. Specifically though, many of us are happy to see the summer of 2017 fade into the distance.

It was a season of deep discontent, lowlighted by debilitating disasters that will cause problems for many for many, many months, and possibly years, to come.

It’s for that reason that I’ve held off on my “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay. Let’s try it today, but with a knowing nod of sympathy and ongoing support for those in Texas, Florida, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the other places where folks long will be recovering and rebuilding from the summer of ’17. Please remember there still are ways to help.

Photos: Major earthquake strikes Mexico City

I told you back in 2014 that I had accomplished something of a personal goal when, upon entering North Dakota on Amtrak’s Empire Builder train: I had made it to all 50 states since my arrival on the planet. I like to joke that I’ve also been to the three locales potentially in line if we ever decide to add states: the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Afghanistan. (FYI, upon recently hearing me say I’d been to Afghanistan, a woman thanked me for my service. Thank you, m’am, but it was just journalism service.)

This past summer I had reason to revisit Wyoming, which, as most Americans know, is one of the 50 states. And Wyoming served up a unique opportunity I had not previously contemplated nor put on my bucket list.

The opportunity is no less than this: The achievement of riding on every escalator in one state in America. This would be difficult to impossible in most states. But it can be done in the Cowboy State, and in one day. Heck, depending on traffic in Casper, it can be done in one hour.

Join me as we count the escalators in Wyoming: There’s the one at First Interstate Bank in downtown Casper. There’s the one at Hilltop National Bank out on Country Club Road in Casper. And that’s it.

Wyoming has two escalators.

Repeating: In its 97,914 square miles, the state of Wyoming only has two escalators (four if you factor in that each has an up and a down). Repeating again, sort of: There is one state in America that has only two escalators. That state is Wyoming.

My heart fluttered with the possibility of riding on every escalator in one of the 50 states. Yours would too.

WATCH: Wyoming still the Old West

The all-knowing internet knows all about the Wyoming Escalator Phenomenon. So do the people of Wyoming, including Matthew Seedorff, who until recently was a newsman at Casper’s KTWO-TV (and yes, KTWO is channel two).

Seedorff’s now a Texan, reporting for News4 in San Antonio, where escalators abound. But earlier this year, while still working for “Wyoming’s News Leader,” Seedorff did an entertaining story about Wyoming’s two escalators. Escalators are news in Wyoming, worthy of attention from Wyoming’s News Leader.

“Kind of like riding a tilt-a-whirl, but only slower,” Gary Trapkus, marketing veep at Hilltop National Bank, told Seedorff in explaining to KTWO viewers what it’s like to ride on an escalator.

The common-everywhere-but-Wyoming devices are exotic to some in that state.

“It’s amazing how many people have trepidation about getting on the escalator and we have to do a little instruction, you know, ‘Please do use the handrail,’” Trapkus told the TV station.

The bank’s Cathy Carson acknowledged the escalator is quite the attraction.

“That’s what kids come in for so they can ride the escalator,” she told the TV station. “They’ll be very good and wait in line with their parents just so they can get a ride on the escalator.”

Nice, and so much more cost-effective than Disney World. The Casper TV station’s news story showed happy people happily riding the Hilltop National Bank escalator. Maybe we should stop taking these mechanical, gravity-defying marvels for granted.

So, enthused by the TV story, I was geared up to ride up and down on every escalator in Wyoming, all in one day.

Like so much in life, this ended in crushing disappointment.

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Our inflexible schedule had our four-person travel party in Casper on a Sunday. You know the deal about banks and Sundays. Sympathetic to our plight, Hilltop National’s Trapkus did the best he could via email in advance of our arrival.

“In the attached pdf is an overhead shot of the bank,” he wrote, including directions to windows through which we could see one of Wyoming’s two escalators. “You can go to the front door and cup your hands, looking to the left center of the lobby. You’ll be able to see the bottom of the escalator.

“Additionally, you can go to the Fourth Street (mountain side) of the building, up the stairs to the doors indicated (left side), cup your hands, and you can see the top of that same escalator,” Trapkus instructed.

The directions were helpful, though we (struggling through our disappointment but eager to see one of the escalators of our dreams) had a little difficulty finding the proper window to peer through. But we succeeded and, thanks to the miracle of hand cupping to battle window reflection, we saw the escalator in Hilltop National Bank an hour or so after peering through a window and seeing Wyoming’s other escalator, the one at First Interstate Bank.

Hilltop National Bank understands and embraces the marketing potential of controlling 50 percent of the escalators in Wyoming.

“Free Escalator Rides With Every New Account,” it trumpets in an ad. “If you’re under 18, please bring a parent with you (to open the account, not ride the escalator).”

I cannot now claim to have ridden on every escalator in any of the 50 states. But I can proudly proclaim that I’ve seen every escalator in one of those states.

With it comes an odd sense of fulfillment and content. And my new dream job is state of Wyoming Director of Escalator Inspection.

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