Diary - Day 14




Jeremy's Pictures

Day 14 Wednesday May 25th Raton NM – Liberal KS

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Colin's Picture



Version 1

Pauline & Peter Camm

Drivers Meeting: - We were warned about police radar traps and told that today we would be crossing three states and entering a new time zone which meant putting the watches forward one hour and losing an hour’s sleep!
After the meeting we met the hotel manager (complete with ten gallon hat) and the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, after which the group drove into town for a photo-call in front of the “Welcome to MOA” sign in town.
The Drive up to the Capulin Volcano National Monument was spectacular; the two mile winding road led to views of The Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

We were the first to arrive at the historic Eklund Hotel, Dining Rooms & Bar for the first drink of the day; within thirty minutes the place was in a state of chaos with fifty or so MOAers running the very efficient staff off their feet!
The biggest surprise of the day came in the shape of Feed Lots near Guymon; literally thousands of cattle standing around in small pens, in blazing sunshine, putting on weight! We were reliably informed that the young animals arrive weighing 250 lbs and are kept at the Feed Lot for 120 days during which time they gain 3lbs a day (we know how that feels)! After their allotted time they are transported to the slaughter house.
We were intrigued to see our first Stacker Train. American trains are far more exciting than European trains. Firstly they announce their arrival with a deafening whistling so meaningful that everyone looks up and the Brits all reach for their cameras, hoping for the perfect shot! This is followed by sometimes up to four engines and up to one hundred trucks; occasionally there may be an engine in the mid section and more often than not several engines bringing up the rear. A stacker train has huge containers literally stacked one on top of another – seemingly unsecured. Such a train may take up to thirty minutes to pass; sometimes causing motorists to take a detour rather than be held up at crossings.
Now mid afternoon and we were gasping for lunch and a drink so began looking for a restaurant in Guymon; we drove up and down the main streets only to find there were no independent places to stop and eat or drink; just McDonalds. Naturally the cars caused a great deal of interest and we struck up a conversation with three men who were having a coffee and a chat - something they did most days as there was nothing else for them to do! One of the men was about to go to Europe for the first time on an eight capital cities break; the other two teased him unmercifully. They enjoyed warning us about the Pig Processing Plant which we were to meet as we approached our destination. When we got there the smell was quite something; one of the joys of driving an open top car! (We prayed that the wind would not carry the smell as far as our hotel)!
Other observations as we approached Liberal, Kansas; lots of signs for cemeteries (?) and more brick built houses; far fewer mobile homes or wooden houses.
We stayed at the Liberal Inn which turned out to be a barrack-block “inside out” motel with the rooms having no external windows; the only window opening onto an internal corridors with external glass panes. The temperature of the room was stifling and the air so stale we turned the air conditioning to coldest and went out.
A visit to Dorothy’s House (from the Wizard of Oz) had been pre-arranged for us at 5.30pm and a great crowd assembled at the Museum to be greeted by two teenagers dressed as Dorothy, and our guide who had probably been a “Dorothy” many years ago. We learned that the house had been transported from its original plot to the current plot on the main highway and had been adopted by the town as a tourist attraction after the film of the story had become popular. Our tremendously over-enthusiastic guide gave us an “animated” history of the story and then began the tour of the museum (much to the stifled amusement of the Brits who found the whole episode totally hilarious). The ambiance was rather akin to a UK fifties seaside attraction, with amateur figures and backdrops; the best of which was the Munchkins; every one an out of date shop window model children, each sporting a moustache!
An hour later we all gathered at the Midwest Air Museum who had kindly stayed open late to welcome MOAers to their museum. Once inside there was a great deal to interest everyone and we were privileged to be let lose to examine planes of all description, some experimental and some plain eccentric. One plane was steered by a ship’s wheel and had motor bike wheels too! I was fascinated by memorabilia from the US Space Programme including a mock up of a space capsule and medals awarded to those who had travelled to the moon. It was interesting to look inside the first Air Force One, used by General Eisenhower; a tiny three-seater plane far removed from the luxury of JW Bush’s plane of today. It was quite moving to read about Amelia Earhardt and her tremendous bravery and to read an actual newspaper telling the sad story of her faint calls for help which couldn’t be traced in time to save her after she ditched in the sea, just short of completing her circumnavigation of the world. Fascinating too to read the poems written by servicemen stationed in Liberal and how they found living in Kansas so different from their own homes.
We considered going for a swim in the hotel pool to cool down, but the bullet holes in the window made us change our minds! We decided upon an early meal in the busy hotel restaurant and were served by a Dolly Parton look-alike as country and western music blasted out from the bar. The surprisingly good meal was interrupted when Phillip and Margaret were sought out by the City Police after paying for their petrol by credit card (see yesterdays reference to la Fonda hotel). We all volunteered a donation to pay their bail should they be imprisoned but thankfully they soon returned to finish their puddings with the most exciting tale to tell their friends!
Several glasses of wine later we returned to our room and found it more bearable and we fell asleep thinking of Arthur and Patricia Edge and Andrew Duncan driving through the night to catch up with us all.


Version 2

Trudy Hughes & Jim Robinson

In our stay in Raton we were made very welcome by the locals even to the extent of our trip being announced on a big screen, “Welcoming MOA IV” to Raton.
Inevitably before leaving we all went to the huge parking lot in front of the sign where mayhem broke out - so many cars and so many people all trying to get in on the group photograph.
Our first stop was at Capulin Volcano National Monument. We travelled the 2 miles up and around the extinct volcano which had a very slow speed limit (well for law abiding citizens!) because the road was very winding with no barriers on the drop side. However I survived Jim’s driving once more and reached the summit.
The views on a clearer day would have included the Rocky Mountains and to Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. But instead I had to make do with the view of the ranger (that was very nice!) whilst Jim exhausted him by asking so many questions. One of the questions was asked do they have rattle snakes on this volcano – what was he planning for me? The ranger replied that sightings had been reported by the visitors centre and some on the surrounding farms.
The other useful piece of information related to the surrounding land and he told us that it was owned by a chap by the name of Turner – Ted that is! Half a million acres belonged to him and the ranger explained how he had re-introduced buffalo to the land and also taken down the fencing to allow for natural grazing.
On the way to Clayton we covered lots of very flat land rolling on for miles. On this seemingly never ending expanse we saw Llamas, Elk, and Buffalo & Horses with foals grazing. This was a very long part of the day that I thought was going to be so uninteresting.
Next stop was to the Eklund Hotel, Clayton in New Mexico with a famous historic sign on the 3 storey building and once inside was just how you see saloons in the cowboy films. They had the swinging doors; the walls were covered in pictures and stories of the past lynchings. The most famous celebrated in this truly Wild West town was that of Black Jack Ketchum hung from the gallows.
Suitably refreshed we set off again to head for our third stop which would be in Guymon, Oklahoma an interesting stop as it had another Wal-Mart store which certain ladies in our group would always insist on visiting! The boys found a garage "Lube & Tube" with very friendly mechanics who not only helped Michael with his car but as I recall they all had an oil change (at no cost!) while they chewed the fat.
We dined at a restaurant called the Ambassador with a table towards the back of the restaurant big enough for us all with guess what - a television for the boys to watch soccer and Liverpool of all teams. I was beginning to feel as if I was back in England (except for the Wal-Mart bit). However the young waiter guy was from German/American stock and took very good care of us all - even to the extent of watching our cars and coming to tell us it was raining, so there was an immediate rush to put the hoods up.
Onto our hotel the Liberal Inn, Kansas. I have to say this was not one of the best hotels on this trip, but not to worry we could go and sleep in Dorothy’s house which was just across the road. Then I could click my heels and imagine being some where else.
Visiting Dorothy’s house was interesting and since most of us have previously watched the film we can now tell our younger ones all about the house and show the videos of inside
After Dorothy’s on to visit the Mid America Air Museum. Jim found this museum very interesting as most men would. I can't say I saw many women visiting the museum!


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