Next stop Oklahoma City! A short two hour drive from our last campground in Tulsa.
If you've ever wondered what the state of Oklahoma looks like, most of it looks like this:
With the occasional, this:
And, of course, lots of these:
But we found this next landmark to be a bit unsettling:
Sitting silently as tombstones in a graveyard, these structures are a stark reminder of the brevity of life. These were located throughout our next campground at Roadrunner RV Park (our 57th RV park and one that we gave 5 out of 5 Stars). The campground's assurance that tornadoes "almost never" happen this late in the year (which was back in October, 2018), did little to allay our fears. Since everyone knows that trailer and RV parks are natural magnets for destructive weather, we made sure we knew the location of the closest shelter.
So after setting up, we found the maintenance man and asked for a tour of a shelter. The interior was pretty sterile, maybe just big enough for 10 people and half a dozen large, angry-looking spiders. We asked if he'd ever found anything interesting when doing his routine inspection of these shelters; maybe a homeless person, or a dead body? He laughed and said he once found a young man and a young woman, in the embrace of ...love.
First person in gets dibs on the jug of water!
And here's something else we learned.. This RV park was devastated by a tornado back in 2015! And now, we understood.
Fortunately, no lives were lost.
Disturbing FYI: Since weather records have been kept, Oklahoma City has been struck by 13 violent tornadoes, 11 of which were rated F4 and 2 were F5!
Oklahoma City has an interesting history, it was founded during the Land Rush of 1889 and grew to a population of over 10,000 within hours! Here it is back then:
And here it is 129 years later, in all its glory:
The skyscraper near the center of the picture is the Devon Energy Center. It is the tallest building in the state. Not only does it dominate the city's skyline, but it also represents the substantial influence oil has had on the economic development of the state and why people say "Oil made Oklahoma". As pleasant as the city was, it was overall, rather forgetful. But for some people, that may not be a bad thing.
To be fair, we only spent four days here, but found nothing to contradict its moniker of "One of America's Least Glamorous Cities"!
STATE CAPITOL BUILDING:
Our first stop was a visit to the state capitol building. And, what does one expect to find sitting prominently outside this dignified Greco-Roman structure? Why, an oil well, of course.
..Only in Oklahoma!
This now decommissioned, and restored, oil derrick named Petunia #1 (because there used to be a flower bed where they sunk the well), pays homage to the days when oil was discovered under the Capitol building.
We learned that back in 1928, Phillips Petroleum discovered that the Capitol was sitting squarely atop a massive oil field. Oil wells sprang up, and at one time there were two dozen active derricks sitting on the grounds. Now there's an attractive look!
The oil field produced over 1,000,000 barrels of oil.
In the above picture, taken about ten years after the Capitol building was competed, you'll notice the building has no dome. Even though the original plans called for a dome to adorn the central square rotunda, large cost overruns caused the state legislature to halt its completion. So for 88 years the building sat topless. In 2002, as part of its centennial celebration, the Oklahoma legislature voted to finish the job.
Here are a few pictures we took in and around the Capitol building.
The capitol is a beautiful structure but overall we found its interior to be rather subdued. While impressed with its many colorful murals representing different tranches of Oklahoma history, it lacked the braggadocios sparkle found in other state Capitols. This structure is made of no-nonsense Indiana Limestone with a base of local Oklahoma pink granite. It is built for business, not for show, and in keeping with the state's motto of:
Labor Omnia Vincit (Work Conquers All).
OKLAHOMA ART MUSEUM:
On one cold and rainy day, we decided to visit the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. They had a Dale Chihuly blown glass exhibit called Magic and Light. It is the largest exhibit of Chihuly glass in the world. It began as a temporary display, but drew such attention that the museum decided to purchase the exhibition and make it permanent.
We have had the opportunity to visit many of his collections around the country and this one did not disappoint.
And, yes, they do display works by other artists in this three story building but Chihuly overshadows them all, at least in our opinion.
No visit would be complete without a visit to the Stockyards:
Just west of downtown OKC, is the historic Stockyard City district where the old west lives on. People have been coming here to buy and sell cattle since 1910. It is the largest cattle market in the world, with live cattle auctions every Monday and Tuesday. So strap on your boots, shine up your spurs and prepare for a day of leather goods, sizzling steaks, and tall hats.
You will find everything you'll need to "dude out" on the nearby streets:
Boots! Boots! Boots!
So if you have an itchin' to take a walk on the western-side, this is the place. As you stroll these dusty streets, you'll find Ranch ware, house-made soaps, blue jeans, handcrafted cowboy boots and cowboy hats, and after you've "ridden 'em hard and put 'em away wet", you can wash it all down with a tall, frosty glass of Sarsaparilla!
We had a lot of fun exploring these shops. It's a life-style very different than what we northerners are accustomed to, which is what made it all the more interesting and made me want to sing:
"..Move 'em on, head 'em up Head 'em up, move 'em on Move 'em on, head 'em up, rawhide!"
Another fun stop in the heart of OKC is Bricktown. This one time boarded up industrial park, was revitalized through the development of a river walk.
There's an interesting story behind the canal you see above. It was originally built in the 1880's to give merchants easier access to the Oklahoma River. It opened for business in 1890..
..And closed three days later when the entire canal drained back into the river!
For over one hundred years, the riverbed sat empty and neglected. But inspired by the success of the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, public and private investors developed came together and transformed the waterway into what it is today. This amazing transformation has brought new life to this once blighted section of town.
Here is a picture I found online that shows the beauty of the area:
And here are some photos we took when we were there:
The mile long river walk is lined with over two dozen restaurants, numerous boutiques, a bowling alley and something really unique: One of the world's largest bronze sculptures commemorating the Land Rush of 1889! The line of statues (pictured in the slideshow above) is 365 feet long and portray 45 participants of the frenzied Land Rush moments after the opening was declared. As if frozen in time, the faces of these statues reflect the fear, excitement and emotions settlers must have felt as they rushed toward their new homesteads.
We would highly recommend a visit to the River Walk. The city has done a superb job revitalizing an area where empty buildings and littered fields once stood.
THE OKC BOMBING MEMORIAL:
This memorial was heart-wrenching. We've visited many sights around the country where horrible acts of violence have occurred; places such as Sand Creek, Little Big Horn, Gettysburg and the Greenville area of Tulsa. Places where a heaviness hangs in the air. You can still since the sorrow and grief that will forever envelop these areas like a heavy fog.
But none has impacted me as much as this memorial. When I walk along a battlefield where a conflict might have occurred one hundred and fifty plus years ago, I can comfort myself by thinking "This happened a long time ago. We've learned and grown since then. Certainly it could never happen today". But then you realize that this horrific event happened a mere twenty six years ago. The images I saw on my t.v. screen the day of the event are still fresh in my mind.
Timothy VcVeigh, Terry Nichols and their co-conspirators, in 1995, decided to protest the government's handling of Ruby Ridge and Waco, by blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, which also housed a day-care center. The senselessness and depravity of their actions left 168 people dead (including 14 children). The bomb they made was so powerful that not only did it out-right destroy a third of the Murrah building, it also damaged 258 nearby buildings. The shock wave could be felt 55 miles away..
"Jesus wept." -- John 11:35
After the rubble was cleared and precious loved ones buried, the city dedicated this site as a National Memorial. It was touching to see that even today, people still leave mementos on the fence surrounding the site.
The monument contains 168 bronze and stone chairs, one for each person that died that day. The taller chairs represent the adults and the smaller ones represent the children. The chairs symbolize the empty chairs that families had at their dinner tables that night and each night afterwards. Ugh..
Upon entering the Memorial, you pass a large gate, on it is inscribed with the time: 9:01. On the opposite end of the reflecting pool is another large gate which reads 9:03. The reflecting pool represents the moment of the blast at 9:02.
The engraving above the doorway reads:
“We come here to remember. Those who were killed, those who survived and those who were changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”
I wasn't aware of this, but the 90 year old tree you see pictured below sat shading a corner of the Murrah building's parking lot. Workers would get to work early just so their cars could park under its shade. Miraculously, it withstood the bomb blast and the ensuing fires and lives on today. It is now known as the Survivor Tree. It is a symbol of the resiliency of the people of OKC.
If you're interested, you can buy seeds that have been cultivated from this tree by clicking on this link.
I don't know much about Timothy McVeigh, he was given a lethal injection in 2001, but I believe I know where his soul rightfully resides.
MEETING UP WITH AN OLD SHIPMATE:
On a more upbeat note, I had the chance to visit with a friend that I hadn't seen in a few years.
Greg and I became friends when we both went through a volunteer's training-class aboard the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of the wooden sailing ship that first brought Swedish settlers to the banks of the Christina River in Delaware, in 1638. The training class consisted of living aboard ship for two weeks while we "learned the ropes".
The other crew-members were incredible. From left to right: Greg is from Oklahoma, Brad is from Virginia, Al is from Newark, and Melissa is from Kansas. We all came together for this training session. Over the two weeks we learned to climb the shrouds (always with the wind at your back), tie knots, furl sails, ease the clew garnets and swab the decks. After a hard day of training, we would relax topside, watch the sun set over the Christina River, and swap stories. We all grew very close and I must say, I don't think I've laughed as much or as hard as I did those evenings. It was like being back in high school.
These were our individual sleeping quarters:
Here are a few other pictures I took while aboard ship:
It was great to see Greg again as we talked of "saltier" times.
As always, we enjoy the new experiences a new location brings. While I would never say that Oklahoma City is a "must see", we did have a pleasant time and met many nice people while here. Since the weather continues to cool, from here we are moving further south. Next stop, Texas!