Spring Break 2012 Eastern Great Plains Road Trip Compilation

An Illustrated And Narrated Journey

This is a compilation page for each of the photo essays from a road trip that I took in the Eastern Great Plains in March and April 2012, and it includes, before the links, a description of the trip itself. 

There are pictures from 11 US states over 10 days of this trip.


PLEASE NOTE: Beyond all of this explanatory text is a table of contents with links to each post of trip pictures along with brief descriptions of their contents.  If you are here only to access that table of contents with links, scroll past all of this explanation about the trip to the bottom of the page.

What And Why, And Why I Maybe Should Not Have Made The Trip

In the Year 2012, from early in the morning of March 30 until late in the evening of April 8, I was on a road trip that had me leaving my home in southern Louisiana, traveling as far north as De Smet, South Dakota, and visiting four friends along the way, staying at the homes of three of them, spending only four of the nine nights in hotels. 

Still, it was a pricey trip that I perhaps should not have made.  The transmission on my truck failed a few weeks before the trip, and prudence dictated canceling the trip, since I suddenly had a new major expense on top of needing to rent an automobile make the trip.  I made the trip, though, and it helped me achieve a level of healing from some prior trauma. 

I had traveled plenty over the previous almost-decade after entering adulthood, and I could sense that this pattern was, by both financial and biological necessity, coming to end, and there was another reason to end this practice that I will soon mention.  So, this particular trip was loaded with meaning as a way for me to saying goodbye to travel, making sure that my most recent jaunts to the east weren’t the last thing that stuck out in my mind as I enter a period of life of no such travel, going back to my old territory of interest to ‘reclaim’ it, even if only in my mind.

Another reason for the trip is that, even though I had been to all of these areas (even if not exact places) before, I wanted to experience these places at a part of the year that I had never experienced them.  For all of these areas north of Poteau, Oklahoma, I had been to them only in late spring or early summer, basically, June and July.

But there is more.


In the section about what to call this trip, I will write more about whether “spring break” is an appropriate name.  As uncomfortable as I am with the “spring break” characterization, not only is it accurate in the literal sense, but the unflattering-to-me nature of it is appropriate, too, as there may have been an element of gratuitousness to it, especially as I see in retrospect.  An essay published in 2019 entitled “Wanderlust Is a Vice, Not a Virtue” really helped drive home the point for me.  I don’t agree with every single assertion that the essay makes, not all of its assertions with which I do agree apply to me, and I still very much think that I and others – including you, the consumer of my images and the stories behind them – have mutually benefitted from my travels and all that all of us have learned from them, but the reality is that I was indeed using all of these travels as a way to distract myself from problems inside of me, and I was, fortunately, able to admit that to myself as early as a year-and-a-half prior to this trip.

A few years later, I had to acknowledge that I am apparently autistic, and that has been a relief, really.  So, I am not entirely sure that the idea that “wanderlust is a vice, not a virtue” is unequivocally true, but the idea certainly has a tremendous amount of merit.

On that note, though, of all of my extensive travels, only one other trip, the road trip that I took to Georgia in April 2009, can really be called a “spring break” trip.

The closest thing that I have done to any kind of road trip in the decade since this one was the three days that I spent chasing the train on the CN Bogalusa Line, between Bogalusa, Louisiana, and Ferguson, Mississippi, in December 2014.  It was far enough away from home that I needed a hotel room to make it work, and I spent most of the daylight hours in Mississippi, because that’s where most of the train action that I was photographing happened, but the hotel in which I stayed was where the train was based for the night, in Bogalusa.

So, in the decade that followed this 2012 road trip, I did not once spend a night outside of Louisiana, which is amazing given how much I had traveled in the years prior to the trip.  Then again, it’s not amazing at all, since all of that travel both drained my finances and somewhat drained my desire to keep traveling.

Shades Of 2008

For me, this trip had so very many shades of the year 2008 for me, three separate trips in that year, even down to my diversion, on the final leg of the trip, via Monroe, Vicksburg, and Jackson. 

On this trip, until I got to Lincoln, Nebraska, I mostly followed the northward path that I took on my Great Northward Pilgrimage in June 2008 to North Dakota and beyond, and I crossed that path during the DM&E train chasing on Day 6 (and maybe even on Day 5, too.)  On this trip, I also crossed the path that I took on the southbound journey back home in 2008 in multiple places, the last of which would have been somewhere around Kansas City, before I rejoined the path in Jackson, Mississippi.

My last-day diversion across northeastern Louisiana and into Mississippi also had me going to places that I went both in the early-June-2008 trip to northeastern Louisiana for the KCSHS convention and in my August-September-2008 hurrication after Hurricane Gustav.

Redoing The Writing And Pictures For The First Half Of The Trip

In 2013, on the one-year anniversary of Day 1 of the trip, I published a blog post very similar to the current Day 1 post linked below, and, the day later, I published a blog post very similar to the current Day 2 post.  In 2015, I did the same for Day 3 and Day 4, and, in 2017, I did the same for Day 5, intending to come back in 2022 on the 10-year anniversary of the trip and do the rest, which is what I have done here in addition to actually replacing all of those prior posts, especially as only the first two survived my site crashing in 2017.

I decided to redo even the first two, reprocessing every picture and even writing new posts, so that all of these photo essays are new, with new writing and new renditions of the pictures.  I did this for several reasons, all of which can be reduced to a desire for consistency.

The first reason is that, as I evolve, as my worldview is not what it was when I wrote those essays in 2013, 2015, and 2017, especially given what Trumpism since then has revealed and also given learning that I am autistic, I wanted the writings to reflect my updated worldview and have each of the posts be consistent with each other.  Since I had to write new essays for the days of the second half of the trip, the old essays would have been incongruent with the newer ones.

The second reason is that my photo-editing standards have very much evolved even just in 2021 and 2022, and I wanted all of the pictures at that standard and consistent with each other.

So, all of the day-by-day essays published in 2022 were written in March 2022, and most of this compilation essay was also written in March 2022, with the remainder completed in early April.

So, given that I’d love to have as much of a “view from nowhere” as is possible, for reasons that I think should make sense to you, I have a desire to keep all of the writing reflecting my worldview and-or state of mind in March-April 2022.  The only deviation that I’ll make from this is if I find a lost audio recorder (or any other source materials) with the information from the trip that I am lacking; I am pretty sure that I dictated oral notes into an audio recorder during this trip, and, if I did, and if I can find it, I can come back and add so many forgotten details to all of the stories in these posts.

Writing the essays for the second half of the trip, Starting with Day 6, was liberating, because I had no previous writings on the topics and had to largely make up the whole thing.

There is also another reason, a more specific reason, though, that I wanted to make a fresh start with the writing.

A Bonvillain Influence

The vagueness with which I will in the following paragraphs describe a particular human being and his influence on me is deliberate, but I will say that the person in question is not the friend with whom I visited South Dakota and Minnesota on Day 5 and Day 6 and also not the friend at whose house in Olathe, Kansas, I stayed at the end of Day 8.

I should forgive myself, though, because, if I am a fool, so, too, are so very many others.

What do I mean?  Let’s go far back in time.

In my early adulthood, in early 2003, shortly after my first adult visit to Rich Mountain, I was referred to a blog of railroad photography.  The identity of the particular person who referred me to this blog is itself rather ironic even if not particularly relevant, though I’m not sure that I would have found this blog any other way, as, afterward, the only other references to it that I encountered anywhere were extremely vague.

I was so enamored and amazed with what I saw in the way of photographs and read in the way of narrative and ideas – and the artistic way in which they were presented – on this blog.  It had a huge effect on me, to the point that it’s having an effect on you, because it inspired the creation of and even the design of Jimbaux’s Journal, which is something that I must ponder now, as I type this a decade after these pictures were taken in 2012, that I have long outgrown the “Jimbaux” character and also this blogger whom I am describing.

This blogger seemed like a really intelligent guy, and he was also someone who loathed George W. Bush.  It may shock many of you to learn that I wasn’t that bothered by Bush – I preferred him to Al Gore – until the Iraq invasion, and this blogger helped radicalize me against Bush and even make me liberal.

All of those factors together are why I loved reading his blog and are why I began to communicate with him.

That’s also why I was shocked, saddened, horrified, and dismayed that, like so many other people, he revealed his true hateful self during the Trump era, at which point I ceased – or chose to not revive – communication with him.

In retrospect, I can see that so many signs were there, both in him and in me.  He seemed to think of himself as very smart and, as such, most other people as not so smart, as he was always talking about how stupid people are, and, so, it felt good when he would respond to my messages or writings in ways that suggested that he thought that I was smart or insightful!  In retrospect, I can see that the multiple hints of self-loathing that were sprinkled into his writings, too, were a sign, both about him and about me, given my attraction to it all.

All of it has left me with plenty of confusion but also with plenty of answers and insights, and the most hopeful that I felt about all of it is when I read Sean Illing’s piece about why the alt-right and the Nazis got Nietzsche wrong.

Like I said, the vagueness, including the relevance of all of that to this trip, is deliberate.

In another way, though, it’s nice to look at the pictures that I made a few dozen miles west of Kansas City and realize that I’ve come a long way since then, even if, in some other ways, I have not.

What To Even Call This Trip

I mean, most people don’t give proper nouns to their expeditions, but, since I’m making this big series here on the blog, I must name it something.  I sometimes call this my Spring Break 2012 Road Trip.  “Spring break” seems to be a tad juvenile framing, though, in my own defense, I conceived of the idea for the trip (no later than the previous November) when I was still employed as a school teacher and was scheduling the trip for the week off for spring break.  I thought about removing the “Break” and just calling this my “Spring 2012 Road Trip” or “Spring 2012 Eastern Great Plains Road Trip” or some such, and that would have been accurate, but the “Break” in there makes it more accurate, in a sense.

Then, there is the matter of whether or, probably more accurately, to what degree this should be a “Great Plains” road trip.  There are various definitions of the Great Plains, which is to say, various opinions on the locations of the boundaries of the region.  I entered and traveled in many Great Plains states, but at the eastern ends of most of the ones that I visited, and it is the western parts of those states that are truly in the Great Plains.  Heavener, Oklahoma, and Rich Mountain, which you can see in Day 1, Day 2, and Day 10, are mountainous places that are not at all plainsy.  The first place that I could possibly have entered the Great Plains was in eastern Kansas.

I’m sure that most people would consider most of the parts of Nebraska and South Dakota that I visited to be part of the Great Plains, but they are still near the eastern edge of the region.  I would loved to have gone farther west than Huron to at lease Pierre, but time and money did not allow for that, and, now, that railroad is no longer the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad.

I should mention why that matters.  I should explain why the DM&E is both the farthest away from home that I traveled on this trip and why it was essentially the primary target activity on the trip.  Even a decade later as I type this, I remember much of the two days (really, one and a half days) that we spent on the DM&E fairly well.  It was time well spent with a great friend.  It was very intense. It was also a visit to a neat old-school railroad just as it was losing that identity.

Our goal was to head north to what had until recently been and still very much looked like the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, which was about the only railroad that still looked like other railroads, especially the “granger” railroads in the Great Plains, looked 20 to 40 years before.

Until the late aughts, a few years before these pictures were taken, the Kansas City Southern Railway was remarkable in that, of the remaining Class I railroads, its trains still looked like other railroad’s trains from more than a decade prior, as most of its non-unit road trains still had traditional “Spartan Cab” locomotives.  In retrospect, I see that this was actually only a really brief few years to which I attribute outsize significance because it happened to have occurred right after I entered adulthood and was able to drive around and take pictures with SLR cameras.  By the end of the 2010s, the KCS was about as comfort-cabbed as other major railroads.

The DM&E still wasn’t, even though it had lost its independence, having been – along with its sister railroad, the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad – fully acquired by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 2008.  As you will see in the images from Day 5 and, especially, Day 6, despite having been swallowed by the CP more than three years before, the DM&E still looked like the DM&E.  That would begin to change a little bit more than two years later when CP sold these lines to the newly-created Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad.

Even after saying all of that, I still think that I have not adequately conveyed my particular fascination with that particular railroad.  The photos from Day 6 will have to suffice.  If you know, you know.

Time Is Of The Essence

One thing that really vexed me when working on this project was trying to figure out what “time” I took each picture.  More specifically, I don’t trust the time stamps on the pictures.

More recently, and perhaps because of this trip, because I do vaguely remember being confused by this as early as when I was trying to download pictures to my laptop computer while I was on this trip, I have settled on the practice of leaving the clocks in my camera permanently set to Central Standard Time, even during Daylight Saving Time or even if I travel, because it’s just easier that way than to try to remember to change the clocks on the cameras and risk forgetting to change them back.  The only way that I can imagine ever changing this is if I were to permanently move out of the Central Time Zone, but that seems extremely unlikely.

So, that’s why, in these essays, I don’t much mention the times in which I did things, including taking of pictures, but I do say that so many pictures passed between one picture and the next.

New Ways Of Processing Pictures – And New Ways Of Thinking Of One’s ‘Own’ Pictures

Shortly before Hurricane Laura struck in 2020, the laptop computer that I had been using since 2015 crashed, and I had to get it wiped or whatever for it to work again.  When I tried to make it work again, I could not re-install the old version of Adobe Photoshop CS3 that I had bought in 2008 with a teacher’s discount that I can no longer have.

So, I had to get the new version of Photoshop, and it actually has become a blessing.  I don’t even know if the features that I am now using weren’t available on the old version, but, at the very least, I have found them and taught myself new tricks on the new version, such that it is really altering the quality of my pictures in a way that pleases me and that makes pictures that I have processed prior to my learning of these new tricks look so lame.  This is especially true for any picture of a subject that is not lit by sunlight behind the photographer.

This is part of why I wanted to process all of the pictures from the trip, even the ones from prior to Day 6 that I had already processed before, in 2022 as I made the final versions of the images for this project.

But, if you’re a long-time reader of my site, you may have noticed something else.  You may have noticed both a reduction in the number of pictures that have my watermarks on them and a reduction in the levels of ostentatiousness of the fewer watermarks that are there.  I have made this change, in gradual phases, for plenty of reasons, but one of them is that I have come to be less inclined to view my photographs as my private property.

That’s a bigger discussion for another time, though.  I will say two things about that now. 

First, I still consider my photographs “mine,” but I’ve become, shall we say, less ‘protective’ about them. 

Second, as a general practice, I now put “JIMBAUX.com” watermarks in a color darker than that part of the surrounding image, as opposed to how I made them brighter, usually just plain white, than the surrounding part of the image.  This allows them to be relatively easily seen without overshadowing the image itself.

The Posts From The Spring Break 2012 Road Trip

Okay, here are breakdowns for each day of the trip. Click on “Day [X]” at the beginning of each subheading below to get to that particular day’s pictures, and please note that, for three days of the trip, there are so many pictures that the pictures from each of those days was split into multiple posts.

Day 1 – 30 March 2012 – Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma

I didn’t take the camera out until I got to Shreveport, Louisiana, where I photographed the Kansas City Southern Railway yard.  Then, at the Louisiana-Arkansas-Texas tripoint, I photographed the tripoint marker.  I got some pictures of Texarkana, then some pictures of southwestern Arkansas as far north as Cove, and then some pictures in Oklahoma from Page to Heavener, where I got more KCS Railway scenes.

Day 2 – 31 March 2012 – Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas

I spent the morning near where I slept, going south for dozens of miles to chase a train up Rich Mountain, then came back to Heavener and got some pictures in town before resuming the northward movements.

I spent the afternoon in southeastern Kansas, particularly around Pittsburg, where I got some more KCS action before continuing northward to the old Santa Fe Transcon line.

Day 3 – 1 April 2012 – Kansas and Nebraska

This day included my big morning on the old Santa Fe Transcon and also my only time ever getting some pictures on the Transcon except for a brief visit to Cajón Pass in September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

The afternoon and evening had me visiting the town of Sabetha in northeastern Kansas before ending around Lincoln, Nebraska.

Day 4 – 2 April 2012 – Nebraska

This was a relatively insipid day, which was fine, because I needed a break.  It involved me chasing trains and visiting friends in southeastern Nebraska.

Day 5 – 3 April 2012 – Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota

On this day, with a friend, I entered the state of Iowa for the first time in my life and quickly got my first train pictures there before we continued and got to South Dakota and Minnesota.

Day 6 – 4 April 2012 – South Dakota and Minnesota

This day was essentially the climax of the trip, coincidentally, its midpoint, the farthest north that I went on this trip, and we knew at the time that this is the one thing that we could do on this trip of mine that was about to become impossible, as its anachronistic nature was the source of its appeal.  In the “What To Even Call This Trip” section above, I described why this particular railroad was so important and fascinating to me.

Day 7 – 5 April 2012 – Nebraska and Iowa

This was a welcome low-key day after the intense day that preceded it.  With my friend, I visited parkts of Elkhorn and Omaha.  Later, alone, I went as far northeast as Logan, Iowa, and as far west as Fremont, Nebraska.

Day 8 – 6 April 2012 – Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas

Now, leaving my friend’s home, it was really time for me to head back south.  I got a few pictures in Omaha, I got some pictures in Pacific Junction, Iowa, and then I visited areas damaged by the Missouri River Flood of 2011.  Then, I saw and photographed a controlled burn before photograping a train on the BNSF “Saint Joe Line” in Missouri before crossing the Missouri River into Kansas to visit and spend the night at the home of a friend in Olathe, Kansas.

Day 9 – 7 April 2012 – Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

This was a really low-key day, as I traveled from Olathe, Kansas, to Heavener, Oklahoma, and visited the southwestern edge of Missouri in the process.  I got some night pictures of railroad activity in Heavener.

Day 10 – 8 April 2012 – Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi

This is it.  This was the last day.  I got some pictures of the city of Heavener, how it has become so Spanish, then got some pictures of Rich Mountain due to taking a road there that I had never before taken west of Rich Mountain, and, in the process of it all, I got pictures of KCS action in three states.

That’s all.  I hope that you both enjoyed and were educated by this series.



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