Our four days in La Junta were like many travel experiences; one arrives in a place with some plans but really little, if any, conception of how events will actually unfold. Our La Junta visit was that type of experience in spades.
Tuesday morning we drove our truck into the workshop and immediately pulled enough bits off the engine that it was no longer mobile. It stayed incapacitated until Friday midday and hence we camped inside the workshop for the duration of our stay; a somewhat unusually campsite. The work on the truck occupied nearly the entire 4 days being complete only mid afternoon Friday. By the time we finished, the list of things I had asked Rob to do had grown from the original 3 or 4 items to over 30 - a detailed discussion of what was done can be found here. I spent my time hovering around watching all the mechanical activities, trying (probably unsuccessfully) not to get in the way and trying to learn as much as I could. This has been a great experience; the truck seems and feels in very good shape and I feel much more capable of looking after it during our planned travels.
Nina, being less myopically focused on the mechanics of the truck, got out and about a bit more than I did. With the help of Rob's wife Erin she got an introduction to a local farming family and visited their farm. The Hanagan family have been farming in the area for 106 years and currently grow chillies, tomatoes, pumpkin, corn for animals, a variety of melons and other crops on their 150 acres. Given the families long history of farming in the area there was some interesting information about farming in the early days. For example, today harvested corn is stored in huge ditches covered by plastic and tires. But in earlier days the corn was stored in silos. The corn plants were bundled into sheafs and the sheafs blown, yes blown, to the top of the silo where they dropped onto the top of the growing pile. Also on top of the pile of corn were a number of goats whose walking around broke down and compacted the plants. Once the silo was full the goats were extracted by tying a rope around their middle and lowering them to the ground.
Another of Nina's discoveries at the Hanagan's was that those neat rows of corn are the result of technology. The tractors that plough, seed and reap the corn (and other crops) are controlled by very accurate GPS systems and the driver's only contribution is to turn the tractor around at the end of each row. The GPS system is very precise ensuring that each row is dug within 1/16" of the plan. This accuracy is necessary to ensure that underground irrigation pipes are not damaged. Even the turn is somewhat automated as the GPS system sounds an alarm when it is time to turn. Between turns the drivers watch movies.
Nina was very complementary about the Hanagan family and the patience and hospitality they showed in answering her many questions about things that they no doubt saw as routine day-to-day activities. Margaret, Gary and Eric - thank you.
The local Koshare Museum also provided an interesting visit for Nina. The museum displayed a variety of artifacts from tribes of the region. Of particular interest were the displays related to the Koshare. Among the Rio Grande Pueblo Indians the Koshare are an integral part of society, the Koshare who provide entertainment and laughter during dances while re-enforcing community values. The Koshare are painted with black and white horizontal stripes. The museum was founded by James "Buck"" Burshears and the local Boy Scout 232 Troop, it is funded by monies raised by the local Troop. The name has been applied to the local Troop and a group of Scouts that dance traditional Indian dances.
Thursday night Nina, Rob P and I were invited to dinner by Sally and Tom (long time acquaintances of Rob's). No sooner had we sat down on the back porch to drinks and nibbles than all the cell phones at the table started beeping with dangerous weather alerts. Within 5 minutes the tornado siren was sounding and within another 5 minutes high winds and driving hail had arrived. The storm did not last very long, maybe 15-20 minutes but in its wake the streets were strewn with leaf debris (curtsy of the hail), piles of hail stones closed the highway, and the streets around Robs workshop (the lowest point in town) where covered with up to 3 feet of hail. After a scrumptious dinner, back at the shop, Rob fired up one of his Unimogs to join the emergency crews clearing the roads while we stood around taking photos and marveling at the mess 20 minutes could make.
Friday night we were invited to dinner by Erin and Rob and got to meet their delightful (and energetic) three children. It was a bit of a trip back in time for Nina and I as it is years since we helped manage toddlers through the chaos of dinner-bath-bed. Nina and I enjoyed chatting to Erin and Rob between their parental chores, enjoyed meeting Erin's mother Lorraine and really enjoyed the children. Though I am sure our presence made the evening more difficult for the parents.