Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oklahoma City and Guthrie

Not originally planned as a part of our itinerary, but added after we met Frances and Don in Branson, MO Oklahoma City was a big surprise beginning as we drove from the east to see the city with modern skyscrapers and many beautiful new structures silhouetted against the western sun. We had arranged to meet Frances and Don for lunch in the restaurant of the Cowboy Museum which was very close to our RV Park and were delighted to visit with them and meet their 4 year old granddaughter Hannah. The museum is a really imposing very modern building with gorgeous landscaping that has a huge entrance hall and a foyer with a recessed area in which there’s a plaster statue 18 feet tall, on an 8 foot plinth of an Indian on horseback titled "The End of the Trail". The statue was made for San Francisco's 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition; in 1920 the city of Visalia, California, obtained the discarded statue and placed it in Mooney Park where it remained in a gradually deteriorating condition for 48 years. In 1968 the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum acquired the plaster statue, restored it to its original magnificence and made it a focal point of the museum.

The museum has a big section dedicated to Cowboy heroes of the Silver Screen with of course, John Wayne, Gene Autry, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Tom Mix, Charlton Heston, Roy Rogers and Hop Along Cassidy to name but a few; also displayed were the outfits they wore and other memorabilia from their movies.   There’s a scaled down Rodeo Arena and movies of different competitions; a section on working cowboys, lots of saddles, bridles and barbed wire. We learned that cattle were driven many hundreds of miles to the railway (for 75 cents a head) for onward transportation to Chicago and points east. There was also a section devoted to the military in the west, mountain men and Native Americans; all very well put together. The art section displayed items from an annual competition - artists are invited to compete – all of the art was for sale so…as you can imagine it was wonderful; there’s also a permanent collection which is excellent.
The following day we drove into the city and took the trolley to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, dedicated to the 168 victims and the survivors of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. The grounds where the building stood are beautifully laid out; it has a reflecting pool with an arch at either end, one inscribed with 9.01 and the other 9.03 - the bomb went off at 9.02 which changed our world. A moving and poignant feature is the field of chairs with a chair for each person killed name inscribed, there are smaller chairs for the 19 children killed. There’s a rescuers orchard surrounding the Survivor Tree - this tree was in the middle of the car park for the Federal Building – was badly damaged in the blast, yet managed to survive. Inside the museum all the TV coverage, photos and stories of the people lost, sadly some families lost children and a parent. The second floor housed the nursery and was right at the epicenter of the blast, most of you will remember the footage of a fireman with a little girl in his arms which became a symbol of the tragedy, she died on the way to hospital. Our visit there was a moving and heartbreaking experience!

Afterwards we caught the Trolley back to a part of the city that’s being redeveloped and gentrified called Bricktown, really well done with a mix of old warehouse buildings and new buildings on the sides of a 4 foot deep canal that twists and turns through the area. There are restaurants, shops, a cinema, apartments and a lovely walkway with bridges to cross the canal, trees, shrubbery and little gardens. At the end of the canal is a really massive display of larger than life sculptures depicting the land rush west of the late 1800’s. This took a local sculptor 20 years to put together. Believe it or not we stood in line, in 100F heat to take a boat ride on the canal! This is the nicest redevelopment project we have seen.

On Sunday we drove 30 miles north to Guthrie the original capital of Oklahoma a local newspaper editor was stridently critical of the governor whereupon the governor said he would see Guthrie reduced to dust and moved the capital to Oklahoma City. We took a self-guided walking tour (on the shady side of the street) and commented that small towns in the Midwest are built to last with all the buildings made of brick, nice architecture and built to complement one another.  We wandered into a coffee shop out of the heat and started chatting to our host Brittani while ordering our coffees, recognizing our Irish accents she told us that she and her family are going to Ireland next year and asked for our advice on what to do, see and how to get there. We then started a conversation with Brad, a published author, who is writing a western trilogy. He has been to Ireland and other parts of Europe - we promised to keep in touch. As we were leaving the coffee shop Brad suggested that we should take a little diversion on our way back to a cafe called Pops. What a surprise? This is a store with walls of glass and glass shelving displaying thousands of bottles of soda, in hundreds of varieties and colors from all over the world. It also has the largest freestanding canopy in the world.
And, where is Pops? In the middle of nowhere, near a town called Edmond right up tornado alley! We had a great few days in Okie!

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