Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Stockyards City

You probably wouldn't think of the stockyard district of a town as a tourist attraction, but there are a few things to do in this part of Oklahoma City. That doesn't include the actual cattle auctions, which are held on Mondays and are open to the public.

First, OKC's oldest restaurant is there. Cattlemen's Steakhouse has been around for decades, and the steaks are still delicious. It's a friendly, casual place, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Second, this is definitely the place for Western wear. There are all sorts of boots, pants and shirts available in the relatively small shopping area. There are even a few cowboy hats, although I can't say I saw a lot of them.

And, you can gawk at this fine statue, located in the middle of that shopping district. The Stockyards just had its 100th anniversary in 2010, and that's no bull.

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Gold Dome Building

It looks like the relatively famous Gold Dome Building in Oklahoma City is going to survive to live another day ... maybe decades.

The building, which is on the old Route 66, was built in 1958. It was a bank until 2001, when the owner wanted to close it because of the high cost of needed repairs. That prompted a big civic effort to save the dome, and put demolition plans on hold.

The building was put up for action and purchased in 2012, but the developer reversed his renovation plans and had hoped to demolish it and put something else on the property. An engineering firm tried its luck in 2013, but that didn't work either.

While the building looks pretty lonely now, help appears to be on the way. Natural Grocers has announced plans to put a store in there. Progress has been made in that transaction, so let's hope the business will thrive and the dome comes back to life.

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Milk Bottle Grocery

You have to admit - this is darn near irresistible. How could you not get out of the car and take a picture of a tiny building with a milk bottom on top?

Once upon a time - in this case 1930 - this small building was constructed on a spot of a street car stop. It's right on the old Route 66 route, so it became relatively famous.

The first purpose of the building was as a very small grocery story. The bottle went up in 1948 - a nice plug for the local dairy industry.While the building has been used for many different businesses over the years, the bottle has remained separate.

The current advertiser is Braum's, which is a chain of restaurants in Oklahoma and surrounding states. While you can buy some hamburgers and sandwiches there, and it also has convenience store items, ice cream is the main attraction. Not only is it really good ice cream, but the prices are amazingly low. It didn't take long to us to adopt the place as the primary stop for treats.

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Miss America Statues

Who is doing the recruiting at Oklahoma City University?

Someone knew how to pick winners there. The school had three of its students end up as Miss Americas in 31 years. I mean, what are the odds of that?

The trifecta is celebrated at the entrance to the campus in the Kerr-McGee Centennial Plaza. It's a nice salute to Jane Jayroe, Susan Powell and Shawntell Smith.

Oklahoma City is a relatively small school. It received some publicity for basketball when legendary coach Abe Lemons was here. Now in the NAIA level,  the Stars usually do very well.

By the way, Kristin Chenoweth, of Broadway fame, went here, so maybe she's next for the statue treatment.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Oklahoma Land Rush Monument

It's a little difficult to describe a land run. Therefore, it's only natural to have difficulty describing the monument to it.

The United States gave away land to settlers in Oklahoma in the 19th century on a first-come, first-serve basis. The authorities would shoot off some guns, and people went charging into the area to put down markers and stake their claims. The people who went in a little early were called "Sooners," which is how the state university's football team got its nickname.

That brings us to the monument, located near the riverfront just south of Bricktown in Oklahoma City. It's a long, long series of statues, shows a bunch of people heading into the state to get their land. The park is quite big and quite nice, by the way, and it's a good spot for an afternoon walk or run. There's plenty of free parking near Bass Pro, and definitely worth a stop.

I couldn't figure out how to capture the size of the monument in one picture. I'll leave it to someone else to show you in a video:



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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark

Bricktown is the name for Oklahoma City's entertainment district, and it looks like they are doing a nice job with it. There are all sorts of restaurants and amusements in the area.

One of the biggest was opened to the public in 1988 - the baseball stadium. The Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark is the home of the Oklahoma City Dodgers.

It's a little hard to see the inside of the place in October, but as the picture shows it looks like a nice facility. Some famous Oklahoma ballplayers are honored in the plazas on the corners of the block. The one pictured here has a statue of Johnny Bench. Also given the statue treatment are Mickey Mantle and Warren Spahn (by the way, Spahn was born and raised in Buffalo). I didn't notice something for Joe Carter, but they did name one of the border streets after him.

Near the Mantle entrance are smaller plaques that salute some of the other heroes of Oklahoma baseball, such as the Waner brothers. It sure looks like a good spot for a ballpark.

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Myriad Botanical Gardens

Back in the 1960s, the leaders of Oklahoma City wanted to have some sort of public park in the middle of downtown. It hired I.M Pei to draw up some plans, and by 1970 was ready to get to work on it.

It took almost two more decades, but the Myriad Botanical Gardens opened for business in 1988. The centerpiece of it is something of a tube that is something of a bridge over a pool of water. The inside of that tube is what is shown in the picture - all sorts of tropical plants are on display, and one end has a nice waterfall.

The facility remodeled in 2010, adding restaurants, an amphitheater, and garden areas. It's extremely well done, and certainly a wonderful addition to the city. There is metered parking on the streets bordering the 15-acre site.

One picture really doesn't do justice to the place. So here are a bunch of them, strung together for a video.

 

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: National Memorial and Museum

It's difficult to believe for those of us over the age of, say, 35, but it's been more than 20 years (at this writing) since Timothy McVeigh used a homemade bomb to blow up the Murrah office building in downtown Oklahoma City. The details still seem fresh in our minds - especially the pictures of how one side of the building was simply gone.

Such people often visit the National Memorial and Museum, constructed on the site of the blast. The area carries quite a bit of an emotional pull, even if you didn't have a direct connection to the incident.

There are two parts to the visit. A two-floor museum is next door to the site. Visitors hear a tape on the second floor that was recorded across the street when the bomb went off (the timing was coincidental), and then see exhibits that include some of the wreckage, and videotaped stories of the people involved including heroic actions by first responders. The first floor has something of a shrine to the people who died in the incident, the story of the police investigation in the case, and a quiz of sorts on the legal issues raised by the incident.

Then visitors walk out the door to the grounds. There they will see a couple of giant gates that mark the passage of time that fateful day, a reflecting pool designed to provide calming sounds, and 168 chairs - one for every victim on that day. They are aligned by where they were when the blast went off, placed in nine rows - one for each floor of the building. There's also the survivor tree, which somehow lived through the blast. Seeds have been harvested and planted around the world. It's all moving.

There is a gift shop, and proceeds go to benefit the complex. They sell items from the annual marathon there. I picked up a t-shirt from that race, and I'll be proud to wear it to help remind people of a day in American history when we saw the worst and the best in humanity within minutes of each other.

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: State Capitol

This blog has quite a few pictures of state capitol buildings. This one, though, is the only one with an oil well in the parking lot.

Welcome to Oklahoma City. The capitol offers quite a welcome to visitors.

This building has an interesting history. It was built in the 1910s, but the state didn't have the money to construct a dome on top of it. So it sat incomplete for more than 80 years. Finally, the dome was added in 2002 - a couple of million pounds of stuff had to be removed first - and it makes for an impressive site.

There are the usual paintings of state history and local heroes (Jim Thorpe, Will Rogers and Mickey Mantle are included). The Governor has an office there, and the legislatures and Supreme Court have working space as well. Free tours are given on the hour during the week.

Fact of the day: Oklahoma has the highest percentage of Republican legislators in the country.

Odd fact: A list of Oklahoma governors shows that few have been able to make any sort of impression nationally. The most famous Oklahoma politician might be Carl Albert, a speaker of the house. 

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

The cowboy is a distinctly American image. He spends his days in the sun, tending to his chores or duties. It's a hard life, but heroic in its own way. You've seen it portrayed in a bunch of Western movies.

That thought obviously led to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The slogan is "The West Begins Here."

Fine, but what exactly do you put in a Cowboy Museum? It's not that easy a question, since there aren't many personalities attached to the image - except for those in the movies (and they are well represented here).

Curators of this museum came up with a variety of ways to salute cowboys. There is a wing of attractive art pieces. Native Americans get their due in one area, as do rodeos. Do you want to see all sorts of types of barbed wire? This is the place. A Western downtown from the 19th century is recreated in "Prosperity Junction." Outside are some nice gardens, with a few statues, ponds and burial sites. The picture here is of a sculpture that greets visitors as they walk in. Very nice.

It's all well-presented, and done with an upscale touch. There aren't many cheap souvenirs in the gift shop. My guess is that the kids might get a little bored here after a while, so keep that in mind.

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