Calcium Carbonate and Amarillo

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Flying J Truck Stop I35 exit 127, Emporia, KS July 9, 2017

 The trips are shorter now and I have to look hard for the thought-provoking aspects.  I would rather make journeys of three or four days, but now I am lucky to get two days from a load.  It does pay much better, however. Some sacrifices have to be made for financial concerns.  Life does that to you.

That is not to say that that this new stage of Walkabout does not have interesting aspects.  A recent destination was Quincy, Illinois where Geology and Mining give rise to industrial real estate opportunities.  Quincy is home to a calcium carbonate operation that has already created 600 acres of naturally climate controlled area and is busy making more:

“Huber each year mines about 600,000 tons of calcium carbonate, which is a filler used in floor tile, drywall compound, paint, plastic and other products. This creates about eight acres of new underground caverns a year.”

CaveDock.jpgBeneath Quincy, Illinois

At first glance, this is just another truck in another loading dock.  Those lights above are not on an awning, however. Let me walk over to the truck and look back this way.

CaveLocalA view of the local surroundings.

 Those great pillars are to keep the cavity from collapsing and allow mining to continue.  The side-effect is all this empty space that stays at temperatures of 48 to 60 degrees F (9-16C).  This is optimal for cold storage facilities and the construction amounts to a bit more mining with attention to detail. The climate above in Quincy may range from 0 to 95 F (-18 to 35C) during the year.

I did not get a glance at the offices, but had to remain “outside” by my truck while unloading took place.  Another photo on the way out gives an idea of the extent of this facility.  I have included an eighteen-wheeler for scale.  Fortunately, they are all not rare around the place.  The inset at lower right shows what they do to keep us from wandering around lost in the less traveled parts of the mine.  The blocks are, of course, more calcium carbonate “ore” stacked in an “airbrick” pattern.  Construction  Architecture in this venue must be a lot of fun, since you can pretty much carve out custom rooms and make up your own parts.

CaveDrivewayThe exit view.  The driver’s side elliptical mirror intrudes in the photo.  You might as well get used to that. 😉

Like most everything, there is a Youtube video of this.  Unless I am mistaken, the destination of this trucker was the same as mine*.  At least, that truck pulling out near the end was labeled with my customers name.

*No lame pun intended


Near Amarillo, Texas along Interstate 40 there is a stretch of prairie-turned-farmland that has few natural distinguishing features.  There are some man-made sights that stand out, however.  One has been discussed already in  Route 66 and the Cadillac Ranch


Left:  The closest photo was inconveniently near another object of visual interest, so I resorted to the tricks of lazy newsmen – I looked up a file photo – Right.

Photo Credit:

It is called “The Leaning Tower of  Groom Texas” and it has attracted attention for many decades.  Stories about why the tower is leaning range from shoddy construction to a passing tornado to an earthquake.

The true cause is a bit of genius marketing by Ralph Britten.  He bought the tower (for a scrap price) and moved it here.  The ten degree tilt is intentional.  It looks like more, does it not?  There are no guy wires, the structure is balanced (they say) on the two buried legs and the other two are actually off the ground.    I would be willing to bet a small amount that there is a third leg hidden in that white “downpipe”, or that the pipe itself is load-bearing.  But I have not found any documentation to that effect. The only date I have found for Britten’s assembly of the structure is “somewhere around 1980”.

And why would Ralph want a tilted tower?  Because the breathless motorists who pulled off of Interstate 40 to see this pending disaster found themselves in the parking lot of Britten’s Truck Stop and Restaurant. It inspired a lot of Citizens Band Radio traffic among truckers as well.  This was quite successful as a marketing tool for about five years or so and survived the fire that destroyed the Truck Stop.

There are some who wryly observe that it’s a shame there was no water in the tower to fight the fire.  In fact, the tower’s tank has just the right amount of water to put the center of gravity directly over the two (or possibly three) grounded legs.  So, any use of the water for firefighting might have endangered the tower.

The tower now stands alone in an empty field, but still attracts attention to this day.

Waiting for a door in Olathe, Kansas receiver’s parking July 10, 2017 0500

I am here hours early and fortunately allowed to park and wait.  Another trucker who arrived at about 0200 was not so lucky as parking permission starts at 0400. He was cast out on the street until he returned near 0500.  No two receivers have  the same policies about such things and procedures vary and change without notice.  Putting up signs to explain things is rare and the few that exist are sometimes vague, misleading or obsolete.  So, my current strategy is to pull in to the guard shack and await instructions.  The worst they can do is make me turn around and leave.  I can do that.  If they wanted something else, they would put up a sign – now, wouldn’t they? 😉

There is yet another Amarillo-area Public Art Project that echoes the Cadillac Ranch.  It is composed of five Volkswagen “beetles”  and, just like it’s older sibling to the East, the units are heavily “tagged” with graffiti (“graffiti” is the plural of “graffito”, by the way).  I caught a glimpse of this from I-40 (exit 86, as it turns out) about 14 months ago,  back in my training days, but I have yet to see it again despite many passes on I-40.  I was a passenger at the time (that is to say, the Instructor was at the wheel) so I had plenty of idle attention to turn to roadside wonders, back then This also seems to be on an abandoned property, so approach it at your own risk.

Photo Credit:

Over The Road,


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