Part 24: Memphis, TN to Osage Hills, OK


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The Trip

After the "interesting" experience at Graceland, we got a taxi to downtown Memphis to have a look around.  We went to an area called Beale Street which caters to tourists and is reputed to be home of the Blues.  What we saw appeared to be a low-budget Bourbon Street without the sex sleaze.  There was music, but we were hungry and instead found a nice restaurant.

The next morning, we broke camp and headed out of Tennessee into Arkansas en route to see our buddy Scotty in Siloam Springs.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We drove most of the way across Arkansas in one swoop via the freeway.  Freeways are not that much fun, but when you want to get from Point A to Point B in a hurry, they work.  Kathleen found an interesting Corps of Engineers campground at Toad Suck.  Toad Suck is a dam and lock installation on the Arkansas River.  The dam has a bridge on top that allows passage over the river.

I believe that the dam was built for flood control and the locks were required to allow passage of ships and barges past the dam.  The level of the lake upstream of the dam is adjusted via the heights of the gates.

I went down to the water to look around and spotted this large bird fishing near the river bank.  I believe this is a Blue Heron.  It was very hot and humid and the bird was attempting to keep cool my opening it's mouth.

I watched him from afar for quite awhile and he finally decided to fly away.

The locks at Toad Suck had plenty of warning signs.  During the night, we heard the siren's scream as the water levels were raised and lowered in the locks to allow passage of barge traffic.

We left Toad Suck and headed to Russellville, AK.  Our plan was to do a resupply stop there and then head north to Siloam Springs.  Along the way, this LMTV passed us on the freeway.  This is some kind of service and repair vehicle.

When the LMTV exited the freeway at Russellville, we got a good look at the cargo area.  There is a crane just aft of the center of the frame.  Also note that this truck has an extended cab.  I believe that this vehicle was built by BAE Systems.  BAE lost the LMTV contract to Oshkosh when it came up for rebid.  When seen from the side, it is easy to notice that Thor was the precursor to the current LMTV.

We had a mediocre lunch at the local Mexican restaurant (what were we thinking?) and after lunch we decided to check out the state park at Lake Dardanelle on the Arkansas River.  We had no intention of camping there, but thought it would be a good idea in case we were ever in the area again.  We drove through the campground and spotted this rig.

Right next to it, we spotted this monster.  We dismounted and went to talk to the guys at the camp and were told that they were part of the Steel Soldiers "Run to Alaska" convoy.  The truck above was purchased and built-out especially for this convoy and will serve as the mechanic/support vehicle for the trip.  The owner told us he had been working on the rig for over 2 years in anticipation of the trip.  The local group was very interested in Thor and during the conversations they told us that they would be meeting more members of the convoy in Denver and in Montana prior to crossing the border into Canada.

This setup here consisted of a 5-ton truck with a fifth-wheel trailer mounted on top.

This was a clean setup but it lacked one vital item - air conditioning in the living compartment.

We visited our friend Scotty in Siloam Springs for a few days and then headed east toward the Buffalo River.  We descended a steep grade to get to the river and were treated to large limestone cliffs in addition to a nice strip of bottom land.

There was a state park in the river bottom, but it was too early in the day so we motored on.  Later in the day, we visited the Wilson Combat factory in Berryville, AK.  Sadly, they did not do factory tours so we chatted awhile with the front office crew and then headed off to a camp in Jasper, AK.

South of Jasper, the ridges gave us a nice view of the Boston Mountains.

We headed south to Hot Springs, AK.  Hot Springs is a rather sad place with many miles of abandoned buildings on the highway.  Near the somewhat revitalized downtown area we passed this hulk.

Near the hotel, the shot-crete coating on the cliffs had fallen off revealing the uplifted bedding of the bedrock.

There were plenty of businesses mining the tourist stream.

South of town we passed this unlucky fellow.  EMS came for a visit, but I doubt that the injuries were severe.

We headed west into the Ouachita Mountains and the state park at Queen Wilhelmina.  Given that we were on the crest of the mountains, I was surprised to find an operational model train at the park.

In addition to the model train, they also had this old steamer at the park.

The drive mechanism of steam locomotives are a mechanical wonder.  I wonder how they actually worked.

We headed west along the crest of the Ouachita mountains and got nice views to the south.

Passing into Oklahoma, we saw a logging operation based on the Cherokee Reservation.  These logs will be turned into telephone and power poles.

This over-sized, over-weight monster passed the two vehicles behind it just in time to miss me.

We spent the night at an Oklahoma state park at Natural Falls.  It was hot.  Very hot.  Next morning we went to check out the falls and discovered this nice garden on the path to the falls.

This was a very hard shot.  My camera has a dynamic exposure range of about 8 stops.  The falls, still in the shadows, was about 12 stops of range and resulted in an over-exposed sky.  I cannot easily do HDR because my version of Lightroom does not have that ability and it would have required a tripod anyway which is too much hassle.  The falls were nice, but not very large due to the extended drought in the area.

Near the bank of the pool at the base of the falls we spotted this nice butterfly.

We headed north across Grand Lake and spotted these casino tour boats.

Did I mention it was hot?  When we saw 108 degrees on the sign, it just confirmed what we already knew.  Kathleen used the IR thermometer on items in Thor's cab and got readings that were higher than 108.  My leg was 109 and the lens on the camera was 112.  Kathleen drank 6 liters of water that day and I did at least that much.

There were a number of fiberglass buffalo statues along the side of the road.

We only spotted 3 buffaloes on our route, but I am sure that there are many more in town.

Our destination for the night was Osage Hills State Park.  The place was nice, but it was very hot and we got just enough rain to make it nice and humid.  The good news was that there was 30 amp electrical service so we could run the a/c.  During the night, a hose came loose in our internal plumbing spilling many, many gallons of water into the camper.  So, at 0300 when we heard the water, we ran outside and turned off the water and then tore the whole cabin apart to mop things up.  Next morning, we had the guts of the camper out on the slab drying in the hot sun.

Tomorrow, we would head through the Tallgrass Preserve to see some free-range buffalo.


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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.