As most of our previously visited states rank in the bottom half of all American states by area, the ones we set off to explore these days take quite a bit of driving to get around. For that very reason when we arrived in Oklahoma, we had to abandon our earlier plans to see the Holy City of the Wichitas in Cache and Mount Scott near Indiahoma before heading up to Oklahoma City. That little detour would have surely cost us four or more hours of daylight, and we only had one day allocated for all of the capital’s sights.
It was an unfortunate renunciation, for the rest of the trip turned out to be only moderately exciting, lacking noticeably in the rural component. Time is never on our side.
As I mentioned, by first day’s end we wanted to finish off Oklahoma City and make for Tulsa. So, our morning stops on the way to Oklahoma City (we were coming from Dallas, Texas) were few and brief. One such stop occurred in the Turner Falls Park, whose $12 entry fare (per person) we dismissed as unreasonable, yet whose magnificent waterfalls and elaborate castle ruins are seen free of charge from a small viewing platforms a few miles up the road.
We also made a couple of stops in a nearby city of Sulphur. A very particular smell obviated any further deduction about the origin of the already suggestive name. But we were not there to study therapeutic properties of the local ecosystem; it was the Lincoln Bridge and Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area that we were after. Niagara proved too darn little for us to find, so we settled for only the bridge.
On our path back to the highway we spotted a scene that could be construed as either an architectural oddity or testament to the windy Oklahoman weather.
We reached Oklahoma City at the break of noon and made our first stop in the neighborhood of the National Stockyard Exchange.
A local woman explained to us that the place was hardly an attraction unless we were into livestock exchange. We were not on that particular occasion, and our course was promptly changed to the Hefner Lake Lighthouse.
Unfortunately, we were traveling shortly after Saint Patrick’s day, and the lighthouse was still bearing the shame or a recently endured decorative vandalism.
From the shores of Lake Hefner we moved into the city to gallop through a series of varied sights, starting with the Milk Bottle Grocery.
Paseo Arts District was next and far from anything noteworthy.
Then, we caught a glimpse of the Governor’s Mansion,
whose splendor was easily matched by a handful of houses in the adjoining residential area.
A somewhat similar observation can be made about the Governor’s workplace: while the Capitol building is imposing and well-built,
some of the neighboring estates, especially the Overholser Mansion, hardly live in the shadow.
Next, we glanced at the seemingly improvised exhibitions outside the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Wreaths and brightly colored kerchiefs hung on a sidewalk fence, a tiled half-wall with children’s paintings, and a memorial ensemble comprised of dozens of gravestone-looking chairs with leg-like backrests—all convinced us that a $15 admission to the museum was unlikely a smart investment.
After, we took a stroll around the Myriad Botanical Gardens. They were rather unprepared for the season, so we looked for beauty in the entourage of the streets encircling the site.
Our following point of interest was the SkyDance bridge. It would have surely been a better sight at night, when the city switches on the bridge illumination, and one can see from miles away its unique cusped silhouette glowing gently in the dark. In the daytime and, what is worse, dull weather, all I could discern is an odd pointed monstrosity spanning across a highway.
Of half-a-dozen places remaining to be seen in Oklahoma City, a few were in the Bricktown District, all within walking distance from each other. So, we circled a few blocks until we found a parking space in the strategically reasonable location and got out for some legwork.
Our stroll comprised such sites as the Devon Mosaic
(most comfortable observed from the Devon Bridge—very logical indeed);
a short segment of the Riverwalk sided by a four-storey “entertainment unit,” full of quaintly decorated lobbies, fancy shops, and terrace cafés, resembling remotely its better known San Antonio’s cousin;
American Banjo Museum, whose collection to most people, myself included, is as meaningful as these exhibits in the gift shop (?);
and Bricktown Brewery, the principal local beer supplier.
As we gradually drifted north towards I-44, we needed to drop by just two more places before hitting the road to Tulsa. The first was the Centennial Land Run Monument.
A simply colossal procession of horses, horsemen, and wagons, cast in bronze and complete with most minute details, it must be one of the biggest sculptural ensembles I have ever seen.
The second was the Oklahoma Railway Museum. The museum is free and hosts a fascinating variety of train engines and cars once operating on much of the continental U.S.
Visitors are granted access inside certain cars and control cabins, which is a rare opportunity to acquaint oneself with the relics of the past era and its once useful professions and undemanding culture.
The sophistication of design and cosmetic implementation varies greatly from engine to engine.
Perhaps, the most peculiar item of the entire collection is an authentic steam engine housed for repairs in a nearby hanger, patiently awaiting its finest hour.
Time being not as clement to us, we bid farewell to Oklahoma City and proceeded to survey the attractions scattered along the former Route 66.
First one in that list was the Pops restaurant in Arcadia. The theme of the establishment revolves around soft drinks and concomitant fast food culture. The most notable features of the restaurant are its sloping glass walls crammed with soda bottles and a huge monument thereof erected outside.
The famous Arcadia Round Barn was second.
Not much further we dropped in at John’s Route 66 Museum.
John keeps his workshop’s doors wide-open, so anyone can take a sneak peek at what is in the making.
Before reaching Tulsa we made one last stop at the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum in Warwick. I am far from a motorcycle expert, or even enthusiast for that matter, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Aesthetically, though, the bikes are quite enjoyable.
Understandably, there are also articles of tribute—to the realities and heroes of the past.
(to be continued)