Part 25: Osage Hills, OK to La Junta, CO


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The Trip

Our stay at Osage Hills was pleasant except for the plumbing issue.  We got all of our personal items dried, repacked and we hit the road.  The day was very hot.  We headed north through the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve hoping to see some free range buffalo.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We drove through the preserve but saw nothing except the tallgrass.  The rolling hills were quite beautiful, but the plains state were suffering from a drought and the grass was a bit brown.

On the exit route from the preserve, we stopped for a road-side break to refill our hydration bladders with ice.  It was well over 105 and no breeze.  And, to top it off, we did not see even one buffalo in the preserve.  We guessed that they were hiding in the trees by the limited number of creeks in the area.

Our stop was near one of the transcontinental microwave links left over from the seventies.

Oddly, while we were stopped we were passed by a stretch limo with the signage "Oil Capital".  He just waved and drove on.  We assumed he was taking potential clients to a candidate drilling site.

We went to Ponca City, OK to get supplies including some plumbing repair items.  Did I mention it was hot?

We headed to the Great Salt Basin State Park that was on the edge of a reservoir.  The campground was near the spillway but the lake level was way down due to the drought.  All the water in this fork of the Arkansas river was stagnant.

The late afternoon light highlighted the colors in the bedding of the nearby hills.

Next morning I went outside to discover that the birds on the river were making quite a ruckus. I managed to get a photo of a pair of Turkey Vultures that were leaving the scene of a kill.  The lead bird had entrails hanging from its beak.  Yuck.

In the shallow, stagnant water below the spillway were a flock of Herons.  Also, note the group of Turkey Vultures on the island at the right of the photo above.

Next morning when we were getting ready to break camp, I looked up and noticed that one of our cabinets was coming loose from the roof.  The fun never stops!

We caught this just in time before it actually became fully detached.  The cargo basket that we fabricated actually prevented the cabinet from falling down.  The fix was to reuse the 2 1/2" wood screws and move them to new holes.  The good news is that we had an air-powered drill and bits with us.  In about 30 minutes we were on the road.

Our path took us through many small towns and in one of them we decided to search for a place to eat.  While driving around the town, we spotted this place.  I was aware that this area is known for Rattlesnake Roundups, but never thought too much about it.  I can only imagine what transpires inside that building.

Next to the Den of Death was the local watering hole.  I am not sure whether the rattlesnake roundup participants go here before or after the event.  Most likely it is both.

Our search for a cafe took us by this old locomotive used in the local train museum.

Further south, we passed Little Sahara State Park.  These were interesting dunes, but very, very small compared to those in the Altar Desert in Sonora, Mexico, Glamis, Dumont or Death Valley.

The rancher that owns this land is able to get royalties for mineral rights as well as whatever crops he plants.

We spent the night at another Oklahoma state park, but it was unremarkable and we did not take photos.  The following day, we knuckled down for some extended road work that took us to the furthest western reaches of the Oklahoma panhandle.  We spent the night at Black Mesa State Park.  The place was clean but best of all it had electric for our air conditioner and shade from the cottonwood trees near the stream.  We drove to the lookout to get the photo above.  Note that the flat plains of central Oklahoma are giving way to the high plains usually associated with Colorado.  We were, in fact, only about 20 miles from the Colorado border.

The "stream" near the campsite actually turned out to be a pool of stagnant water.  The drought was taking its toll on the local water table.

On the walls of the cliff above the pool I saw these bird nests.  However, I saw no birds.

We headed north into Colorado and were soon back in the high plains ranch land.

Near Lamar, we spotted this large wind farm.

These wind turbines are huge.  The crane used to service them was being dismantled.

In Lamar we ate at the Thai restaurant next to the train station.  After lunch, I shot this steamer at the local museum.  Note the wind turbine blade behind the locomotive.

The mechanism that controls the steam valving is amazingly complex.

On the way out of Lamar, we passed a place that had a bunch of military surplus trucks for sale so we went in to answer the question "who's is bigger".

This is a 5-ton cargo truck, same capacity as Thor but a 6x6.  From Lamar, we headed west to La Junta to visit our friends Rob and Erin.

Our lack of air conditioning in the cab proved to be quite a hardship.  The days were very hot and humid and there was no place to hide.  We drank tons of water and took electrolyte pills to stave off the heat exhaustion.  Our plan was to add the a/c unit before our departure, but we were overcome by events.  With luck, we will get the unit installed during this trip.

The camper is slowly self-destructing, but to some extent that was expected.  As I have repeatedly stated, I am no fan of the build quality of American RVs.  We are well along in our planning of a replacement camper.  This will require some extensive efforts and has some risks.

 Next, we address some maintenance issues for Thor.

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