CannonTour - The Armies of Summer (Wildland Firefighting) Pt 1/3

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 19 Continued

    Bonneville

    Headed over to the Bonneville Speedway.

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    Potash facility. Potash is made with salts that contain potassium in a water soluble form. Potash is used in fertilizer and some industrial processes.
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    The road ends at the speedway.
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    They had a film crew out here today. Movies filmed at Bonneville.
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    The Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely packed salt pan. Despite some brine withdrawal, there have been no significant changes in the salt crust thickness.
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    12 miles long, 5 miles wide. During spring the salt is moist or has standing water on the surface so there are closures. You can break through the salt near the edges and get stuck in the mud. Near the center the crust is 5' thick. Near the edges it can be 1" thick. UV reflecting off the salt can be intense. The BLM used to prepare the speedway each summer. Now it is the responsibility of event organizers. It is 80' wide and 10 miles long. Sometimes it is restricted to a shorter distance like 2.5 miles depending on conditions. First motorized stuff here in 1912 but it got more popular in the 1930s. there have also been some problems with heavy rains eroding mud from the mountains onto the track.
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    I didn't see what cars they hauled here from the dealer in Beverly Hills but I think they were probably expensive.
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    Bonneville Salt Flats Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA)

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  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 19 Continued

    Through depot country.

    The Utah Test and Training Range is on both sides of the interstate in this region. It is the largest contiguous block of over-land supersonic training airspace in the US. The area is used by several of the armed services for both air and ground training. New equipment sometimes gets tested here as well. It is also a landing site for some NASA missions that have or will return some materials from space.

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    Viewing area along the interstate for the salt flats.
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    The Tree of Life. Mostly a concrete structure that has spheres coated with natural rock and minerals native to Utah. The fence is to protect people from falling tiles.
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    Morton Salt
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    Bonneville Seabase. Saltwater ocean type exhibit in the desert.
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    They built a fort near here in 1853 as protection from local Indians. Earthen walls were five feet thick at the base and 12 feet high. About 50 people lived in the fort.
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    Twenty Wells is unique. The Donner Party refreshed themselves at 20 wells.

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    The Deseret Peak complex offers a lot of opportunities.
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    There is a motorsports complex here.
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    The Tooele Army Depot stores a lot of war reserve and training ammunition. It started up in 1942. A Colonel serves as the Commander.
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    More road maintenance.
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    This was part of the Deseret Chemical Depot. I think Tooele had a facility to dispose of chemical weapons.
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    At one time 45% of the US stockpile was here. It closed in 2012. Various nerve agents that were stored there have been destroyed.

    A wildfire once threatened the depot.
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  3. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    I was at the Utah motorsports park in April. It is the site of Ford high performance driving school. Had a great time there. It was recently purchased by a Chinese car maker, so the duration of the Ford High performance driving school is now in doubt. They do trucks, the Raptor, and the ST cars (most have been discontinued) and special edition mustangs. If you get the opportunity, was some of the most fun I have had driving.
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  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 19 Continued

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    The Pony Express came through here.
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    Stagecoach Inn State Park
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    In 1858 they put an Army post in here. 3,500 troops were stationed here making it the largest troop concentration in the US at the time. This was done to stop what was believed to be a Mormon rebellion. 400 buildings were constructed for the post. With civilians that followed along, the area grew to about 7,000 people or about half the size of Salt Lake City. Supplying the post was expensive. The government cut a contract for 3,500 wagons, 40,000 oxen, 1,000 mules and more than 4,000 men from the same outfit that did the Pony Express. It was too expensive to supply and the troops were needed for the Civil War so they closed up shop. Two months after the Army left the area was down to 18 families.
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  5. mtnbikeboy

    mtnbikeboy Been here awhile

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    Awesome report!

    The firefighter memorials with the faces on stone bear a very strong resemblance to Han Solo in carbonite.

    Does the US not use any self filling fire tanker planes? When I was a kid I got to see a fire tanker at a base in Dryden, ON, and IIRC, it could refill itself in about 10-20s via a touch & go. Is it an issue of lake proximity to the fire zones possibly? In my younger days I thought hotshot sounded like an interesting job. My wife and I actually completed a S-130 class about 12 years ago when part of a volunteer SAR unit. Digging handline is no joke!
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  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    A base I visited had the Fire Boss SEATs. They are essentially a crop duster on floats. There are some Canadair CL-215s and CL-415s listed in the inventory but I don't know who in the US has them available for contract aerial tanker work.
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  7. jrod

    jrod squidless

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    There are CL-415's under contract with the Forest Service, and, through compact agreements, our neighbors to the north provide support via 215T's to both the L48 and AK. I believe LA County also contracts two 415's from Québec.
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  8. mtnbikeboy

    mtnbikeboy Been here awhile

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    A quick trip through Google tells me I probably toured a CL-215. I seem to recall them stating it was possible to add retardant, which Wikipedia doesn't list as a feature of the 215, but the visit was either around 1989 or 1992, and Wiki says the 415 didn't come out until 1993.

    I can see where the 215 would not be as desirable, because based on what Cannonshot has shared so far, 600 gallons seems to be a light load for a plane that large.

    Are either @jrod or @Cannonshot able to speak to the reason the US doesn't use more CL-215s(actually less capacity than SEAT) or 415s or why there isn't a US made equivalent larger than the SEAT? The ability to grab water from the nearest lake long enough to land on seems to be a powerful tool that could greatly speed up turn around times and therefore the gallons/hr dropped on the fire.
  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    The capacity for a single load on some of these aircraft is offset by the number of loads they can deliver in a certain time span. If you are able to dip or skim nearby you can apply a lot of water. If they have to travel a longer time/distance to reload, they aren't going to be as powerful of a resource.

  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 19 Continued

    Heading north toward Promontory.

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    The Utah Data Center is on a National Guard base in Utah. It is a big data storage facility for the intelligence community. I'm sure the mission is classified but Wiki says "The data center is alleged to be able to process "all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Internet searches, as well as all types of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital 'pocket litter'."
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    The two big buildings hold data. The others are support facilities.
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    Might be a good time for an artillery picture or two. It is some kind of rule with CannonReports I think.
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    The Machinegun Fire got started here and burned a few houses before it could be controlled. The troops were firing .50s (no tracers) when conditions were volatile and some sparks must have lit things up. 1,600 homes were evacuated but only three were lost. Now they use goats on the base to maintain fire breaks.

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    Traffic was miserable trying to work my way north through Salt Lake City and the suburbs.
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    Plus it was 103 degrees on the highway.
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    I was going to swing by Hill AFB. They have some interesting old planes on display.
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    They do some aerial tanker work at the base. Access would have been tough. Hill is the 6th largest employer in Utah. During WWII battle damaged or worn airplanes were sent here to be rebuilt. In 1943 there were 22,000 military and civilian jobs here. Used to be they stored a lot of idle aircraft here too. The place still does maintenance support for some modern planes and missiles.
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    Tankers were operating out of Hill a few days ago. They were making drops on the Francis Fire.

    This MAFFs C-130 dropped a nose gear while working Hill some years back.
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    I rode over to visit Morty Thiokol's outfit. Blast/security berm around whatever is stored here.
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    I'm not sure who actually owns this outfit now as things shift in the defense contractor bidness.
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    Facilities are spread out over a wide area. When it was Morton-Thiokol, you may remember when their o-rings failed on the solid rocket boosters and blew up the shuttle. Morty said "don't launch". NASA launched anyway.
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    They have a rocket/missile park to explore.
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    Nice that they had a parking spot for me.
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  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 19 Continued

    Golden Spike and end of day.

    Checked out the Golden Spike National Historical Park which commemorates the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the US.
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    Engine house.
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    Original rail from the project.
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    Riding some of the old rail grade.
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    Lots of cuts and fills.
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    Overnight in Tremonton.
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    End of day 19.
  12. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    That is one place I'd like to see one day. Maybe when my wife retires we'll have time.
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  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 20 598 miles.

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    Logan Canyon Scenic Byway
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    Heading from the flats to the entrance of Logan Canyon.
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    Logan has a Mormon Temple. Usually these are pretty ornate. Brigham sent the boys here to look for a site for a fort back in 1859. Logan has been listed as third on the list of Best Places to Retire Young, tenth on the list for Best Small Places for Business & Careers, the most walkable community in Utah, and the #1 city in America to be a kid on Christmas.
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    The university has the Space Dynamics Laboratory which has been involved with 430 payloads into space over the years. Morris Jeppson is from here. He was a weapons officer on the Enola Gay. After the war he went to work for Larry Livermore working on nukes. Russ Maughan is from here. He was a pioneer aviator in the Army. During WWI he earned a Distinguished Service Cross. When he dove on an enemy plane four other enemy planes dove on him. He shot one of them down but when the number of planes against him increased to 7, he skillfully maneuvered an escape. One the way back to safety he saw a plane diving on our trenches so he shot that one down too. Chase Nielsen is from here. He flew on the Dootlittle Raid. He was one of four surviving prisoners of war from that raid. He served 40 months as a prisoner before being rescued. He returned to his military aviation career and flew big bombers in later years. Evelyn "speed reader" Wood is from here. She developed a speed reading method that could triple people's reading speed.
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    Logan Canyon Scenic Byway
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    The canyon climbs about 3,000 feet. "The highway is the site of many serious and even fatal traffic accidents given the winding nature of the canyon, the drastic elevation changes, and the poor driving conditions encountered during winter weather.""
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    Overlook near Bear Lake. Bear Lake is about evenly shared by Utah and Idaho. It is a little over 100 square miles in size. The lake is sometimes referred to as the "Caribbean of the Rockies" because the suspended limestone in the water gives the lake a unique turquoise-blue color. The unique water properties also make for some native species not found anywhere else. The lake was formed on a fault so as the fault slips the lake keeps getting deeper.

    Shoshone tribes used to hang out here in the summer in big colonies with up to about 400 lodges. Whites never showed up until around 1818 when trappers found it. The trappers got along with the Shoshones due to trading.
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    There is a monster living in Bear Lake. Indians called it a water devil. Reports go back many years including some men that reported they saw the monster kill one of their horses in camp. Lots of different descriptions but a common theme is that it is serpent like, has legs, can move fast, and that it marauds along the shore. The last sighting was 2002.
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    Last time I was here I met the host of My Classic Car. They were filming a show out here.
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    Garden City is kind of a summer resort town.
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    In 1827 and 1828, trappers met up on the south end of the lake near what is depicted in this photo for a rendezvous. Mountain men, Indians, and trade goods suppliers met up for a few weeks of trading, boozing, and entertainment. Jimmy Bridger and Jedediah Smith showed up. In 1827 Jedediah Smith was the hero of the rendezvous after he completed the first overland round-trip to California from the US.

    In the 1860s, Mormons settled on the north end after cutting a deal with the Indians that kept the south.

    The Blackfeet weren't so friendly to outsiders like the Shoshones were. Bob Campbell's group of 18 trappers were headed for the 1828 rendezvous when they were attacked by Blackfeet warriors. They holed up in some rocks and shot it out for five hours. One trapper was killed.

    I heard there is some graffiti in these historic rest rooms left by trappers that attended the rendezvous back in the 1820s.

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  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 20 Continued

    On to Sinclair

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    Heading toward higher ground just south of the lake.
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    It is a nice ride up the grade.
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    Time to change topo map cards. This is a reason why I prefer the built in topos with other map cards for other purposes.
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    There is a coal mine that also directly feeds a power plant just outside of Kemmerer. Two coal mines in this area have fallen on serious hard times. Some employees haven't been paid. Another company is working to buy the two mines and keep them in production.
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    The power plant with some of the mine in the background.
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    The JC Penney mother store is in Kemmerer.
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    Penney is from here. So is the owner of the LA Lakers. Bill Carlisle, one of the last of America's train robbers, lived here as well. He was known as "The Robin Hood of the Rails". His first robbery was with a toy pistol backed up by a .32 caliber. He wouldn't take money from women, children, or servicemen. After he got out of prison he eventually opened a motel which did well partly because of his reputation. He eventually got a pardon and later died in 1964.
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    Wyoming had some serious mine disasters back in the day. A mine near here blew in 1923 killing 99 miners.
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  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 20 Continued

    On to Sinclair Continued

    Not much in Opal these days.
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    There are several gas plants here.
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    One of them blew up a while back.
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    Swung through Granger. Not much there either.
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    Granger was at the intersection of the Oregon Trail and the Overland Stage Trail. They put in a stage coach station here in 1856 which was also used by the Pony Express.
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    The place was in operation when Mark Twain came through.
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    New-ish but small public school here.
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    In 1834 trappers had their annual rendezvous here along the river..
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    Back through Green River and Rock Springs (where we visited earlier in the report).
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    Just past Rawlins is Sinclair which was a company town.
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    You can read a little of Sinclair's interesting history, a some about Rawlins, in my Great Divide report.

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  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 20 Continued

    Heading to Ryan Park

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    Heading to Saratoga.
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    Saratoga is on the North Platte. The town has been economically devastated by changes in the timber industry. The two largest employers now are the USFS and the local school district.
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    The town motto is "What Trout Leap in the Main Street".
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    They have hot springs here. The public pool involves hot spring water.
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    The north Platte offers recreation but also furnishes a lot of water for irrigation.
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    Snowy Range Scenic Byway
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    Ryan Park looks like a place that would be vulnerable to a forest fire.
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    There is a campground nearby that used to be a CCC camp.
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    When the timber industry started to get short on workers during the way, a local operator requested that some prisoners of war be brought in to cut timber and help run the mill.
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    The first batch were Italian prisoners - 114 prisoners and 40 guards. Some of them really liked it here and wanted to come back to live after the war. Eventually the Italian prisoners were replaced by German PWs.
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    Here are some things the prisoners made during their free time at the camp.
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 20 Continued

    Medicine Bow Peak and an airliner crash.

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    In October 1955, an airliner smacked into this mountain about 50-75 feet from the top.
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    One firefighter told me they were losing more firefighters to falling trees than to fire itself.
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    The crash killed 63 passengers and 3 crewmembers. At the time it was the deadliest crash in American commercial aviation history.
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    When the plane went missing, to government sent two Air Guard jets to go look for it. Thinking the pilot might have been trying to make up lost time with a shortcut, the pilots headed for the two tallest peaks in the area.
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    The pilots spotted a black stain (engine oil) and wreckage here. Turbulence kept them from taking a closer look for survivors.
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    Roads weren't too good here back then. Eventually rescuers got to the scene. They reported that they found about 50 bodies strewn along the face of the mountain. Eventually they located a tail piece, a fuselage, and a wing. They had problems with snow drifts and howling winds. Some wreckage slid down the mountain.
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    Recovery teams had a difficult time with loose rocks and rock falls. Cold weather and snow didn't help. Even so, they completed recovering human remans only about five days after the crash.
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    There are still a lot of parts and pieces from the airplane on the slope. Much of it continues to work its way down to the base. CAB investigators, lacking mountaineering skills, never did get to examine the site of the crash. They worked from studying recovered parts.
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    Their theories include that the altimeter was improperly set reading a higher altitude than they actually were at, that the mountain was obscured by clouds, or that turbulence and downdrafts pushed them into the mountain. Because some of the bodies seemed discolored, they wondered if carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty cabin heater was involved. They never did figure it out for sure.
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    After the investigation, United Airlines requested that the military destroy the remaining debris. Some report that explosives, artillery fire, and napalm were used to try to completely obliterate the wreckage. The truth is more like they blew up some pieces with explosives without a lot of fanfare about it.
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    There are still parts and pieces visible to anyone that hikes around the slope. They seem to collect near the bottom.
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    In 2001 some folks dropped this memorial plaque in at an overlook. No interpretive signs. Personally I think it is noteworthy history.
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    This scenic byway was interesting and entraining and takes in a patch of mountains that might be overlooked by some travelers. It is worth it to make a pass through here to enjoy the area.
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    Video from 1955 here.

    Video from 2012 here:
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  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 20 Continued

    On to Sidney, Nebraska.

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    I rolled into Centennial. This place started up with the transcontinental railroad. The railroads set up a camp here and sent people into the nearby forest to cut trees for railroad ties. After the job was done, the workers had some conflicts with local Indians so they cleared out.
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    Someone discovered gold nearby so the place filled up again and became a town. After the gold ran out, some of the town assets hung around to serve area ranchers.
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    There was another brief gold rush in the 1920s but it didn't last. Centennial is named for the 100 year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
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    This territorial prison was built in 1872 and is one of the oldest buildings in Wyoming. Of 44 initial prisoners, 11 escaped. Butch Cassidy was locked up here for a couple of years. I think the prison in Rawlins took over for this place.
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    Laramie is a railroad town. It was named one of the best places to retire. When the town first started up they had problems with three outlaws (one of which was the marshal). That guy killed 13 men and harassed settlers into turning over their deeds. The three outlaws ran a saloon. The Sheriff formed a vigilante committee, went into the saloon, captured the three outlaws and lynched them. In 1870 five women served on a jury here making them the first in the world to do so. Mathew Shepard was from here. His death led to a surge of hate-crime laws being enacted. Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence, set on fire, and left to die in near freezing temperatures because he was gay. Two guys were charged and their girlfriends were charged as accessories. The murderers are locked up.
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    Like many towns along the main line, only bridges cross the railroad yard.
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    The depot was built in 1924. It replaced a previous depot that burned. The railroad gave the depot to the town. Now it is a museum and social center.
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    More oil refining along the way.
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    This plane got caught in a tornado. It is going to be rebuilt.
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    End of day 20 in Sidney. The Medicine Bow diversion was well worth the side trip. Nice ride there.
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  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 21 Heading toward home. 523 miles to Des Moines

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    Pretty uneventful instate highway ride. Someday I'll stop and check out this museum . . . or maybe not.
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    Gas station breakdown for a classic.
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    "There's yer trouble . . ."
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    Day 22 and end of trip. 379 miles to home.
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    About 10,000 miles on a loaded GS. Heidenau Scouts. Pretty satisfied with the wear.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Gosh that was fund. I'm ready to turn around and go again!
    boristhebold, Shaggie, AVPU and 4 others like this.
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    33,684
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    So, that pretty much covers this trip. 22 days and around 10,000 miles. The GSA was fine.

    I had an exceptional time on the segments of the scenic byways that I included in my route.

    I also had a great time seeking out a variety of points of interest (some pretty obscure) and passing on some interesting stories related to the places I visited.

    Hopefully some other riders will benefit from some of this information as they plan some rides of their own.

    I had a wonderful trip touring around - even apart from the wildfire theme visits.

    As far as the wildland firefighting theme, I really enjoyed speaking with the professional and enthusiastic fire personnel along the way. A great group of folks for sure. It was nice that so many were willing to spend so much time with me. I hope I shined a light on some of the important work they do. Regarding the tragedies, it is important to understand what has happened in the past to be able to better protect people going forward. It is also important to recognize the hazards that others are exposed to as they work to protect us and our resources.

    For some riders that sometimes travel near a fire, I hope this has created a greater awareness about why it is important to respect those road closed due to wildfire signs. Things sometimes change with wildfires quicker than people can react.

    I have two more similar trips researched and laid out for the southwest and California. I've captured a lot of wildfire related sites and of course a ton of byways and points of interest. That said, if someone has some suggestions for wildfire related places or facilities I might want to visit, or contacts that might help me get access to some interesting visits I can share later on, please send me a message. I'd be happy to coordinate some things formally "through channels" if that is required. :D

    Again, many thanks to the wildland fire personnel I met along the way! Hope I brought you some recognition and gratitude for your work. :D
    proeasy, EmmEff, bikerfish and 16 others like this.