We started out the morning from Ft. Smith jetting over to Oklahoma City. We’ve spent a lot of time in Tulsa in the past…but we had never been to Oklahoma City so we made that our focus for this trip since the plan was just to cross through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas to get to “the west”- doing a few fun things along the way to break up the drive. Oklahoma City was bigger than I expected… but at the same time never felt congested or too busy.
We started exploring downtown at the Alfred R Murrah Federal building memorial – likely best known by everyone as the site of the “Oklahoma City Bombing” in 1995. I remember having chicken pox at home in 6th grade when this happened so I watched a lot of news footage of this event.
The bombing was a domestic terrorism act in retaliation against the government for the Ruby Ridge situation in 1992 and the Waco massacres in 1993. Timothy McVey was killed for it in 2001. Terry Nichols still sits in prison. Those events in ’92 and ’93 are largely the basis for a lot of today’s “patriot” militia and anti-government movements like the Oath Keepers or the Three Percenters… the federal overreach and botched sting operations, with coverups to protect FBI reputations of these high profile events… it gave rise to a lot of the organizations with crazier and crazier conspiracy theories we now see…although just like our traditional political party values change over the years- I’m not saying anyone “patriot party” affiliated is blowing up federal buildings or even has any intent of the sort… don’t come for me! haha I’m just stating that you can follow the trail from these mid-90s events to today and see the connections and the adaptations and the change.
But… back to Timothy McVeigh. On the morning of April 19, 1995- he parked a rented Ryder truck in front of the building. He had made a homemade bomb of fertilizer, diesel fuel and chemicals. He lit a fuse and made his way to his getaway car. The bomb exploded at 9:02 and 168 people were killed, 19 of them children. 300 buildings in the area were damaged. The twist of fate was that 90 minutes after the bombing, Timothy McVeigh was pulled over in his getaway car for missing a license plate and he had a concealed weapon…and was arrested. When the FBI found the serial number of the Ryder truck axel in the rubble and traced it back to who rented it- he was already sitting in a jail cell. He was executed in Terre Haute, IN in 2001. He said his only regret was not completely blowing up the building. So… good riddance, I say.
The memorial was quiet. Peaceful. As you would expect. There are black monuments at each end of the site. One says 9:01 and the other says 9:03. Meaning that everything that occurred in between happened in 1 minute. On one side of the memorial reflecting pool are 168 empty chairs in rows for which level of the building they worked on or were visiting when the bomb exploded. Tiny chairs for the children were a very somber reminder of the incredibly innocent lives lost.
After finishing at the memorial, we tried to get a table for Brunch at a place called Packard’s downtown but they didn’t have any tables, so we ordered carryout and ate it in the car. It’s a great restaurant in the old auto district and the building used to be the showroom for Packard Automobiles. Some pretty cool vintage history in the name and building.
Kegan had the Breakfast Board which had praline bacon, avocado, toast, burrata cheese, deviled eggs and a compote jam of some sort. He said it was great.
I was fairly boring with a steak salad with sunflower seeds… but the steak was fantastic and I was happy. Norah had grilled cheese. I think we make the kid eat too adult at home, so when we go out its always mac and cheese, chicken fingers, grilled cheese or pizza. ha
We continued driving around Oklahoma City checking out the area. This old gold dome bank was neat! I want to restore it to something! Something this cool shouldn’t be sitting empty and boarded up… I demand to speak to someone. lol
Right next to the dome is an old grocery building – shaped like a triangle- in the middle of the intersection with a giant Braum’s milk bottle on top. Braum’s is a big chain of burgers and shakes out here that years ago was a dairy business, I believe started in Kansas and then into Oklahoma.
We stumbled on something called “the Asian District” that I didn’t know existed in Oklahoma City. I had noticed a lot of asian restaurants when researching lunch options…but never clicked that there must be a large asian population here! After the fall of Saigon in the Vietnam War, a lot of Vietnamese were relocated here and they opened businesses and created a vibrant community.
Hot Pot Heroes did not show up in my Googling or we would have went here for lunch. I have been dying to try a good hot pot for a while. Later in the trip we have reservations at XPot in the Venetian in Vegas that is supposed to be great hot pot… i’m sure it will be good, but will it be authentic? Indianapolis has Homey Hot Pot that is next up on my restaurant list when we are in Indy.
We worked our way downtown to Bricktown. I booked us a Water Taxi tour on the canal in Bricktown. We had 20 minutes to kill so Norah and Kegan played video games at an arcade ride at the boat ride site.
The tour guide told us the ferris wheel is newer to the city and it came from the Santa Monica pier in California.
The boat tour took us by the Centennial Land Run Monument. An amazing art installation that took 19 years to complete made of black bronze- memorializing the first land run into the “unclaimed land”. In 1862 Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which allowed settlers to claim lots of up to 160 acres, provided that they lived on the lands and improved them. This set the precedent in the West of free land up for grabs for families willing to work it. In 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Act which aimed at divide up the wide tracts of Indian “tribal land” and make it to where each family within the tribe had their own 160 acres. This didn’t go over well with the tribes. No Indian tribe even had a word for “land owner”…it was just not a concept to the native Americans that each family would have a sectioned off piece of land that they “owned”. Most Indians refused to be assigned a plot…and keep in mind, these tribes had been “relocated” to the Oklahoma area forcibly some time before from further East. So of course, as we did over and over, we moved the goalposts and completely disregarded our agreements, and in 1889 since the tribes wouldn’t claim the plots, the US Government bought back 1.9 million acres in the Indian Territory and opened it up to white settlers for claims. There were rules for it though since this land was sought after by this time. You had to line up at one of the 5 points set up as a starting line to race out into the territory. Each 160 acre plot had a stake in the ground. When the guns were fired, you had to race off in your wagon, on foot, on a single horse… whatever you were working with and race to replace the flag on the plot you wanted with your own flag with your family name. It was a mad race with over 50,000 men lined up to race out into the territory and claim their share of the 12,000 plots of land. These people that lined up and headed out into the territory at the appropriate times- they were called Boomers. But of course, no one can ever play by the rules- there were also people who snuck past the guards and lines days before in the dark and hid out in fields and behind thickets and trees to get a head start to claim the land they wanted. These people were called “Sooners”. Hence the nickname in Oklahoma of Sooners.
After leaving Oklahoma City, we were headed towards the Texas panhandle. We stopped at a Cherokee Trading Post for gas and to browse.
Norah picked out a sterling silver blue opal heart from the jewelry case. She bought it with her souvenir allowance and was pretty proud of her $11.20 purchase (a steal!) The ladies working there were so sweet to her and let her try on all kinds of the rings and size her fingers. She had a great experience.
Kegan found food, of course. Prickly Pear jelly.
We continued on I-40 West and exited for a little Route 66 stop off – Lucille’s Service Station in Hydro, Oklahoma. Lucille Hamons ran this service station from 1941 to her death in 2000. She was known as the Mother of the Mother Road. This is a rare still-standing 2 story filling station. Her personal residence was above the station in the upper floor above the pumps.
Lucille ran this place while her husband was off driving a truck. The interstate came through and Lucille and her husband divorced.. but she kept running the station and ended up with a huge local clientele even after the I-40 bypassed her station because she sold super cold beer from her cooler when the neighboring county was a dry county. Smart lady 🙂
We passed a big oil drilling rig that seemed photo worthy.
We stopped by a Route 66 museum in Elk City, Oklahoma-but it was closed on Sunday. So we took a few photos of some randomness outside. The horseshoe globe outside the blacksmith shop was really cool.
Our final stop was in Shamrock, Texas for the night. They have a very famous Route 66 landmark called the Tower Filling Station and the U Drop Inn Cafe, or the “Taj Mahal of Texas”. Its the inspiration for Ramone’s Body Shop in the Pixar movie Cars.
It was built in 1935. In its heyday- it was the only restaurant for 100 miles. It served many a guest over the years but like most things along Route 66, she just kind of progressively got worse. In 1997, the building was repossessed by the bank and the city of Shamrock purchased it- restored it to all its glory and it is currently the Chamber of Commerce Office for the town of Shamrock.
Everything in Shamrock was closed when we arrived at 5:30pm on a Sunday. All of the restaurants. Like, all of them. The liquor store, too. So we got fuel and ate Taco Bell and McDonalds. (We decided we could go to 2 places to get everyone what they wanted since we now had nothing to do for the evening! ha) Kegan located some Shiner Beer at the gas station and Norah did a Google Meet with a friend from her virtual school playing Roblox together. Overall a good day trekking across Oklahoma!