October 17th, 2021

A few days ago I did some thinking and felt that I need to get back out on the road for another adventure.

Today was as good of a day as any…so here we go!

I started out heading SE toward an area I have not spent much time in. It was a beautiful day for a drive, blue sky, sunshine, and an early enough start to not get into too much traffic.

I never knew Missouri had armadillos until just recently, and there are a lot of them dead on the highways. Actually, there were quite a few dead things on the highways. And I did see a vulture dining on one along the side of the highway.

Speaking of the “side of the highway”, notice the roads. There are no shoulders, very little room to get off the roadway of you have car trouble, and the lanes are really narrow. One bridge I drove across, and it is common in the hills of Missouri, was only about a car and a half wide!

As I have said before, the backroads of the U.S. are so beautiful and fun to drive. Some of the interstates have beautiful parts as well, but they were originally designed to move military personnel and equipment (yep, they were NOT designed for vacationers). You can really get a feel for an area by getting off the beaten four-lane path and driving not just the US highways (like US 2 that I drove a few weeks ago) but also state highways as well. You can see things you never thought you’d see, and maybe some things you never wanted to see (cue the canoes, banjos and pig-squealing). It is worth slowing down your life and seeing more than just the obvious.

Today’s adventure was just that – state highways and some secondary roads known as “supplemental routes”. It was as if I were driving a roller coaster along a forested track. One hill was a 10% grade, which you do not see much anywhere since it is so steep; every 1000 feet the road drops (or climbs) 100 feet.

With the narrow, winding roads and the hills you really need to pay serious attention to what you are doing. And given the fact there is little cell service for miles you won’t be distracted by that (you shouldn’t anyway).

I had a few destinations in mind but I made a turn down a road just before my first stop to see what was down there. It was a Missouri Conservation fishing access/boat launch. I figured it would be a good place to get the dog out for a squat. It was a nice place to stop.

It reminded me of when we used to go canoeing years ago, which was actually just an excuse to drink a lot and get a hellacious sunburn. It was fun though! Missouri has open water access, which Kansas doesn’t, so there are a lot of canoe outfitters and shuttle services in southern MO. It is a lot of fun and you can go for a day or maybe up to two weeks, sleeping on the gravel bar each night. I know one outfitter even goes in winter.

I got back on the road and went down to the other direction of this river and there was my first stop:

This mill was in a beautiful setting as you can see. I stopped and “milled” around the property and took pictures while getting my legs moving and checking the place out.

I have been in these types of mills (sometimes called “gristmills”) before and they are very interesting to see and learn about. As you probably know, the water comes through a channel into the waterwheel (here, it looks to come out of a cave), where the paddles/cups/etc. are pushed by the water, causing the wheel to spin. If I remember correctly this is the first method of powering the mills – we’ll get to the inside of the mill in a minute.

In later versions, they devised a water turbine that looked like this:

These water turbines, as you can see in the picture above left, are a little complicated but an great feat of engineering for the time. All of those rods on the top controlled the pitch of the blades, which, in turn, adjusted the speed of the turbine. Water would go through the blades and spin the turbine and the speed was adjusted as necessary. In the picture above on the right you can see the turbines mounted under the mill in the water as they were used.

In both methods – turbine or waterwheel – the physical energy generated was sent into the mill via an axle that ran up vertically through all floors to the top floor. From there, via gears, belts and pulleys on horizontal axles on each floor, to power all of the milling equipment in the building on each floor. It was extremely dangerous working in these mills, as the equipment was inches apart. Many lost limbs and/or their scalps…some lost their lives.

The grains were hauled up a big conveyor built literally a cup at a time – small tin cups on giant belts ran the height of the building. The grain was dropped off on a floor depending on what it was being turned into and how fine the resulting grind was wanted.

There were millstones that ground the grains, and those stones had to be “trued”, or reshaped to the correct angles. There were craftsmen that traveled around doing this, hammering and chiseling the stones back to shape. When they would chisel the stones the rock chips would be hot and hit the craftsmen in the arm, causing burns and scars. The guides that explained all of this years ago told us that you could tell the guys who were the best at their job just by looking at the scars on their arms!

This was someplace I had never been before and it was really a cool place to see. I had planned on going to see a few other places, but remember I said earlier how there was no cell service? I had no idea where to go and somehow I lost my cheap reader glasses so I could not even read the road atlas. I drove to find cell service but by the time I found service I was 25 miles and an hour west so I just decided to head back.

Even though the adventure was a bit abbreviated it was still a day out and I had a great time. I got to see more new scenery and got some nice pictures as well.

Until next post!

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