Part 29: Nixa, MO to La Junta, CO


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The Trip

From Nixa, MO we headed to the northwest corner of Arkansas to visit a four-wheeling friend Scotty in Siloam Springs.  We stayed with Scotty for several days and took care of some chores.  We were very thankful that Scotty had air conditioning in his place.  The weather had been unseasonably warm and the a/c was a real treat.  We got to meet Scotty's new Rhodesian Ridgeback "Ray".  From Siloam Springs, we headed northwest to the Tallgrass Prarie Preserve to do a brief drive-by and then continue on to La Junta, CO.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Once we got into Oklahoma, we started seeing many oil derricks.  The one above was happily producing oil and money for its owner.

On the Tallgrass Preserve, there are many buffaloes.  These are claimed to be the last remaining "free range" buffaloes in North America.  The road into the preserve is 10 miles of easy dirt road and took us right by the buffalo herd.  The one above appears to be dozing in the late afternoon heat.

There were many buffaloes on the preserve, but apparently there were enough visitors in vehicles that they were merely curious about our presence but not alarmed.

The views from one of the overlook points were stunning and were a throwback to what the original pioneers saw when they first arrived in this area.

Most of the preserve did not have trees except in the draws and washes.  On our exit from the area, we spotted this one lone exception.

The grasslands were very impressive.  The height of the grass was mid-chest.

From northern part of OK, we headed into Kansas and then west along some of the back roads.  In one small town, we elected to eat at the local cafe that had a nice view of the grain elevators across the road.  Note that the small red building was the Santa Fe railroad depot for the town of Cunningham, KS.

We rolled in to the cafe parking lot in Cunningham, KS and the whole cafe emptied out to look at the Unimog.  Farm boys like their trucks.

In western Kansas, we passed many miles of power poles that were pushed over due to strong winds.  To do this much damage, the wind must have been preceded by rain or the soil must have been already soaked to allow the poles to be pushed over.

Further on, we passed more damage due to high winds.  Above, these grain elevators were hammered by high winds.  Note the heat shimmer.  We ended up staying in a motel in Wichita because of the heat.

Along our path we passed some interesting articles of Americana.  These are wind mills made by an artist who clearly had too much time on their hands.

Many of the big farms and feed lots have massive infrastructure to support their operations.

A monument to the Texas Longhorn in Dodge City, KS.  Dodge City was one of the cattle centers of the west and was the objective of many cattle drives.  Today, Dodge City still has many feed lots and slaughter houses.

Our route paralleled the original Santa Fe Trail and along the way we stopped at one of the many museums that commemorate the trail.

More wind damage to local infrastructure.  This was an expensive storm, for sure.

After passing into Colorado, we passed this surplus 5 ton truck near the road in Lamar, CO.

We decided to stop for lunch in Lamar and had to circle the block to get to the restaurant.  By happenstance, we passed this beautiful Mack truck that was restored by the owner of a truck repair facility.  The truck had the twin-stick transmission and the Mack Thermodyne direct injection diesel motor.

The BNSF main line passed through Lamar to points east and west.

Next to the tracks was the Lamar Santa Fe railroad station that was converted into a visitor center and museum.  In addition to the things that you would normally expect, they had a large GE windmill blade on display.  There is a large wind farm south of town that uses these blades.

The way it was done in the old days, steam locomotives and windmill water pumps.

The steam locomotives used air brakes and the apparatus in the center of the photo above is the steam-powered air compressor.

The details on the steam engine at the Lamar station.

On our departure from Lamar, we had to go around the block again and spotted another nice restoration done by the local truck shop.  This is a Federal brand truck.  From Lamar, we continued west to La Junta, CO to visit our friends Rob and Erin and see their new twins.

Outside of St. Louis, MO a large rock was thrown into our windshield by a passing truck.  The damage was extensive and the windshield was trashed.  The hole was about 5 inches across.  Upon discussing this with Rob, he said he had a replacement windshield and would be happy to install it on our truck.

Rob and one of his employees attach the rubber gasket to the new windshield.

A rope was placed in the trough of the gasket to aid in seating the windshield.  Using the rope method, they had the new glass seated in just a few minutes.  It would have taken me hours to accomplish the same task, assuming I could have succeeded at all.

In addition to the windshield, I had to replace the rear driver's hub while at Rob's shop.  That hub had been serviced in Helena, MT 2 years prior.  Due to our situation and parts availability, used parts were installed in Helena.  But, these parts served us well: they got us from Helena, MT to San Diego, CA to the Arctic Ocean and back and then from San Diego to Maine and then Colorado.  The hub was starting to generate some metal particles in the oil, and since we had the parts with us, we elected to change the guts before continuing on.  The photo above shows no severe damage.

When we removed the driven gear, the wear spots on the gear race were clearly visible.  This gear would fail soon, no doubt.  It may or may not have gotten us all the way home before giving up the ghost.

At Rob's we decided to inspect a Mercedes 1017A that he has for sale.  Above, Kathleen measures the height of the cab.

The 1017A is a 5 ton, 4x4 cargo truck.  The mechanics of this rig are reasonably similar to the Unimog in that it has the OM352A diesel motor and common control mechanisms.

The air system for the 1017A is classic Mercedes.  The plastic cowling covers the 24V battery box.

The underside of the 1017A is very beefy.  In the photo above, you can see the actuator arm for the load detection/brake modulator as well as the air line actuator for the differential lock and lock sensor.

This segment of the trip was uncomfortably hot.  In many of the photos above, the images are blurred by heat shimmer.  On most nights, we stayed in motels because our camper does not have a/c and it was just too warm to sleep.  Many thanks to Rob and Erin for hosting us at their place in La Junta.  And congratulations on your new twins!


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