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
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
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
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.
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
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!