Saturday, June 23, 2007

Visitors and a road trip

Visitors, re-visited

We had a house full of people at our house for a Fathers' Day lunch. K's side of the family was all here -- two sisters, a brother-in-law, a nephew, and both parents. My friend Matt was also here, visiting from Kansas City. When dinnertime rolled around, it was Mom's turn to host a large crowd -- me and K, two of my cousins and their wives, and a total six kids between us! And Matt. A good time was had by most. After dinner, we went out and explored the overflowing creek in the greenbelt behind Mom's house, and then enjoyed a few rounds of ladder golf. It was a very enjoyable family get-together.

L and her cousin explore the overflowing creek

Tim and Marc compete at ladder golf
MLW-quest 2007

On Monday the 18th, Matt joined me for a road trip to southwestern Oklahoma to check out the 2007 wheat harvest and its associated rail traffic. K must think I have a girlfriend north of the Red River; I've been there so many times during the past year. No, I've just been going there for the trains. And there's some new stuff worth checking out on Farmrail, as you'll see below...
Anyway, we started out by heading northwest of Wichita Falls to Vernon, then north to Altus, OK and later in the day we continued north to Clinton. The wheat harvest begins around Memorial Day, and most of the wheat had already been cut and taken to the elevators. Covered hoppers crowded every elevator track and spur track in sight. This year's harvest produced record volumes, and the railroads are having a heck of a time moving this traffic, especially since the recent heavy rains washed out some of the track on the Grainbelt line north of Snyder. Traffic was quite busy, and by the day's end we had seen 4 of Altus' 5 railroads in operation: Hollis & Eastern, Farmrail, Wichita Tillman & Jackson, and BNSF. We missed seeing the Stillwater Central, which has been operating to Altus via BNSF trackage rights from Snyder, but they might have been in town during the middle of the day while we were up north.

Hollis & Eastern crosses the WT&J / Farmrail diamond while a Farmrail crew switches the grain elevator in the background.

Grainbelt's washed-out track at Hobart, OK

A Wichita Tillman & Jackson crew finishes their day's work at Altus.

Our real objective for the day was to locate and photograph two M420 locomotives (essentially a Canadian Alco version of the GP38) operating on Farmrail. These were originally Canadian National units, now owned by Arkansas & Missouri but displaying Ohio Central initials. Although the skies were mostly cloudy, we fared well; we caught them switching near Clinton and stayed with them for over an hour to get several shots. I hadn't been to Clinton since harvest season in 2000; it was interesting to see this area again, with its extremely busy seasonal traffic. And I hadn't seen or photographed an M420 since 1998, when I caught a pair of them on the Ohio Central.

Ohio Central M420s 3554/3553 idle at Clinton as a pair of ex-Georgetown geeps shove cars around the southwest leg of the wye...

Ohio Central 3554 at Clinton. Gotta love those CN zebra-stripes!

On our way home, we paced an eastbound loaded sulfur train on BNSF between Vernon and Wichita Falls. I was hoping for some killer "glint" light around sunset. The hazy sky robbed us of the really good light, but we shot him anyway...

Eastbound sulfur tanks at Iowa Park, TX

Memory Lane on 287

A couple hours into our trip on Monday, Matt and I made a pit stop near Iowa Park to get gas and stock up on ice and foamer snacks. We selected a combined Fina station / 7-Eleven / Stuckey's just off US-287. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get the full Stuckey's effect I remembered from the 1970s and '80s. Remember their old stores, strategically located next to Interstate off-ramps, with aisles and aisles of kitschy, tourist gyp-joint crap like shot glasses, collectible spoons, snow globes, and "Texas-size" fly swatters; and kitchens serving up an abundance of greasy burgers and assorted fried food? The Iowa Park location bore little resemblence to the Stuckey's I remembered from back in the day. Besides fountain drinks and snacks, all they had was a single rack of cheap t-shirts.

My first visit to Stuckey's in 9 years was a disappointment

But it wasn't that long ago that K and I stopped at a "real" Stuckey's along I-40 in eastern New Mexico. And the Stuckey's website reveals that they still have stores in 18 other states, in addition to New Mexico and Texas. They may not be going strong, but at least they're still around...
np: Waylon Jennings - "Black Rose"

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Blogger BEK said...

But did Stuckey's still have the Pecan Bar from days of old? I used to only remember them along the interstates in the midwest. . . .strange to see 7-11's now partnered with fast food and gas station joints as well.

It's all about Synergies!

7:37 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Whiskey said...

Well... that clears up the girlfriend theory. Thanks honey. :D
Love, K

3:32 PM  

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