Oklahoma - The end of the trail

"End of the Trail"


Oklahoma was the last stop on our November road trip around the southern states. It had been a whirlwind of big roads, big smiles, big hair, big meals, big hearts. I urge people to visit the south - learn about the civil rights struggle, have a chat with a local, lose yourself in their melodic hypnotic southern drawl, maybe drink a little whiskey, definitely eat fried food, and if you’re up for super charged excitement drop into a church, remember, down south, you’re in God’s Country and God is throwing one hell of a party!

Sky scraper to Heaven?

Oklahoma City knocked me back on my heels. I had expected it to be small and rural, and possibly a little backward. Note to self, Oklahoma has had the fastest growing economy in the US in the last 10 years, ain’t nothin backward about it, sweetheart!

Before we trotted into town my only reference to the Sooner State was the musical Oklahoma. Thanks to a school production in my youth, I knew the words to way too many of the tunes and treated Dom and Róisín to some glorious renditions as we traversed the state. My singing brought tears of joy to their eyes as they pleaded for more (or less, who knows, who cares, I was on a roll).

Kickin it
Dom did manage to drown me out by blaring Nat King Cole’s “Get your kicks on Route 66” as we drove some of that historic stretch of road. The route famously starts in Chicago and ends in LA. It was officially discarded in the 1980s when interstate highways tore it up. You can't even see it marked on maps anymore (apart from in Oklahoma).

It broke my heart to learn that ‘progress’ had literally bulldozed Route 66 off the face of the earth. On the up side, there are preservation groups that are trying to restore the famous route and the historic old markers, however, on the down side, people keep stealing the signs :( Peeeoooopplleee (shaking my fist in rage).

November in Oklahoma was a refreshing 70 degrees with a balmy breeze. The breeze would build and build as the day went on, and at night the winds would howl at our windows, broken only by the choo-chooing of freight trains as they trundled past.

It gave me a teeny tiny small sense of what a day might feel like before a twister arrives. Clearly I’ve never experienced a tornado so I have no idea what I’m talking about, but when it comes to natural disasters I’ve had my fair share of bad hair days.

We stayed in Midtown, a brand spanking shiny reinvented part of town. The streets were lined with trendy eateries, lots (and LOTS) of hair places (?!), kookie craft shops, and boutique clothes stores. I liked it. The area also had something which made me yelp with excitement and nostalgia - roundabouts, or as they say here ‘traffic circles’. You very rarely see them in the states (they prefer a stop sign - ‘talk to the hand’) they remind me of the old world, they are like an infrastructural cup of tea.

Midtown (as the name might suggest) sits just above Downtown and right under Uptown, walking between the three was easily done.

Uptown was appropriately posh with large trees crowning the pavement, old school movie theatres, mom and pop shops, nice restaurants. I was already thinking about checking out the local schools for Róisín when Dom decided it was time to get in the thick of it Downtown.

On our way into town we passed a "Paint and Wine" place. Everyone had their easel out doing their works of art with a glass of vino on the side. Excellent idea, although be careful where you dip your brush!

We stumbled into Bricktown, the famous entertainment district. The place heaves with action. Bars, restaurants, a winding canal, it immediately put me in mind of London’s Camden Lock area.

Don’t go to the south if you’re on a diet, you’re wasting everybody’s time. We had eaten a lot on our trip and I wasn’t about to slow down in OKC. We found a creole place and had delicious seafood.

Kudos to southern ladies, they do like to get dolled up, especially ‘the her’ (that’s “hair” with an accent, no?). While driving through rural Oklahoma we saw our fair share of America’s obesity problem (hell, after all our eating, we were putting the “O...no you didn’t!” into Obesity). But once you get to the city the slim southern belles were out en force.

I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of art galleries in OKC. Maybe all those “Paint and Wine” people are knocking out some masterpieces as they knock back their merlot. Nice going.

In an attempt to walk off the cheesecake (or were we walking to find more cheesecake) we came across something that humbled us from our head to our toes. The monument to the Oklahoma bombing.

Horrifically sad
In 1995 Timothy McVeigh (an insane pro militia anti federal government terrorist) set off a bomb in OKC that destroyed a 16 block radius, it killed 168 people and injured 680. The monument that stands where the bomb went off shows the time it exploded 9.02am. 

There are empty chairs for the 168 people that lost their lives. The monument evokes deep sadness, you can still feel the raw grief of the city. A sad and awful loss of life. We quietly walked back to our hotel.

Pretty in pink!
The next day we set about exploring more of Midtown. My favourite ‘find’ was a handful of food carts, gathered around a trellised outdoor beer garden, lit by fairy lights. It looked a little magical.
Downtown we spent the afternoon in the botanical gardens. They are on the small side but they have lots of butterflies. Who doesn't like a b-fly, especially if you're 8 months old. Randomly they had a miniature Christmas town complete with train. In the US once Thanksgiving is wrapped it is open season on starting the Christmas bru-ha-ha. I adore Christmas and I'm partial to some bru-ha-ha, bring it on!

If you go to OKC you’ve got to get your cowboy on. Start off in Stockyard City where people wearing Wranglers and cowboy boots sit in saloons getting ready for the live cattlemarket. I was actually devastated to learn that we had missed the cattle auction, all that "biddybiddybiddybiddySOLD" carry on, that would have been legendary to see in action, goshdarnit!

To raise my spirits Dom suggested we check out the National Cowboy Museum. It was no cow sale but it was very interesting. They had created within the museum an old west town to scale. There was a school house, church, bank, jail, saloon, etc, all of which you could enter. It was very impressive and the museum is worth the visit for this wild west town alone. In fact, to this day, 10 months later, Róisín’s stroller still proudly bears the ‘Cowboy Museum Visitor’ sticker.

Rule of the road (wild west style)
If you ever wondered where the term cowboy came from, it was the Irish! Apparently since 1,000 AD Irish herders were called cowboys. When the Irish spread to the ‘colonys’ they brought the term with them.

In the 1930s cowboys started dressing in the manner we are familiar with today (pointy boots, big hats, wranglers). But surprisingly, in the early 1900s they wore clothes based on comfort similar to the modern day rugby shirt, especially to compete in rodeos. Who knew!

As you turn to leave the museum you're stopped in your tracks by the most famous sculpture associated with the Native Americans struggle to keep their lands from the avarice of the white man - the End of the Trail. A native American warrior on horseback, blown by a strong wind. In 1915 it fronted the famous international exposition in San Francisco, only to be dumped in a mud pit when the expo finished! Thankfully it was rescued. It's impressive and evocative, an image I will never forget.

I was very sad to leave Oklahoma City and admit that our tour of the south was finally at an end.

But these 50 states aren’t going to visit themselves. I’m furiously trying to catch up on my blog posts and will soon share my stories from our trips to Colorado, Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

<<PREVIOUS POST                    NEXT POST>>


Post a Comment