Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Welcome to the first installment of another special MCC miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our 2005 drive from Indianapolis to San Antonio, Texas, and back again in far too short a time…
State #5 on our seven-day, eight-state journey had its pros and cons, but at least we can say we crossed it off our list of states to visit. To its credit, unlike our home state of Indiana, it’s had its own famous musical. We haven’t watched it yet, but I expect we’ll get to it someday and develop a deeper appreciation for the Sooner State, or at least understand a few more pop culture references. I’m assuming it generated some, anyway. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a famous musical if everyone forgot the songs ten minutes later, right?
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Another hour after Fort Worth came the Oklahoma border…or at least, the area where the border should’ve been. In all the times that Anne and I have crossed state lines throughout our years of vacationing together, this was the first time we crossed a border without being greeted by a proud “WELCOME TO [NAME OF STATE]” sign. Not even the Canadian border was that rude to us. Even if there was road construction, there was always a welcome sign. You, dear Oklahoma, owe us a frickin’ welcome.
Once we got into Oklahoma City, I got waylaid by the signs around the intersection of I-35, I-44, and I-235, and diverted onto the wrong path. I exited off I-235 once I realized my mistake, spent several aggravated moments flipping through my map collection, then returned to I-235, headed southward to the same intersection, headed east, and miraculously made no further wrong turns till we reached our next hotel, a Best Western in the northern suburb of Edmond. It was the least crowded and best-smelling hotel of the whole trip. We threw our stuff in the room, spent nearly half an hour scouring the restaurant section of their Yellow Pages, then stopped at the first decent place we found for supper: a steak/buffet joint called Mackie McNear’s, which sounds like the name of a grouchy Irishman who runs a pub across the street from the Daily Bugle. To us it was like a Ponderosa with a wider buffet, outstanding in the area of diet selections such as sugar-free puddings, diabetic cookies, and wheat rolls. It was nice to stop cheating for at least one full meal.
Back at the hotel, Anne and my son hit the pool as usual, but with one difference: over the course of tonight and the previous night in San Antonio, my son proved to us that he’d finally taught himself how to dog-paddle. Maybe someday he can teach me. Meanwhile, I sampled their exercise room, but found it lacking — the treadmill wouldn’t turn on, the stair-stepping device strained to do my bidding, and the backpedaling machine refused to stay put at whatever length I tried to set it. I gave up after fifteen minutes of struggling and opted instead for the hotel hot spa, the only such spa we’d seen all week. Fair trade, I figured.
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DAY SIX: Thursday, July 28th.
Our final free hotel breakfast of the week consisted entirely of carbs: bagels, toast, muffins, and a quickly exhausted supply of donuts. There was also a standard Belgian waffle maker, but some lady hogged it for almost twenty minutes, long enough to discourage us from using it while she made a stack of Belgian waffles that would give Shaggy and Scooby a stomachache.
Our first tourist attraction in Oklahoma was the National Cowboy Museum, possibly the most extravagant and posh museum we’ve ever visited. The exhibit halls are practically blocks long with cathedral ceilings. An extensive art exhibit — which felt almost the size of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in itself — offered prints of any painting or casts of any statue on display, all carrying three- to five-digit price tags. Each nametag had a place where the museum would put round little blue stickers to mark how many people had ordered a copy of each work of art. Some expensive pieces had accumulated a lot of little blue stickers. One security guard helpfully informed us they take “Visa or MasterCharge”. I didn’t see a single page of Jack Kirby artwork, so I politely declined.
Other highlights, inside and out:
* An exhibit of famous movie cowboys, whose sections varied in size depending on how many objects their respective families and estates had donated
* An overdecorated tribute to rodeo that included one small section on rodeo clowns
* My personal favorite, a meta-exhibit about the very art of museum preservation itself, going into great depth about how museums restore important items, retire other items, how new items are fixed up before being displayed, and the sorts of damage they have to watch out for and repair as they go, such as bugs and ambient light.
By the time we finished up, it was time for the day’s true centerpiece. At 12:30 we made our way back to Edmond for lunch at Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler with an internet friend. Meet Dave, a fellow comics fan.
Johnnie’s was a quasi-fancy burger joint, the quality of which I barely noticed because we were too immersed in chatting and more chatting about message boards, Real Life, Oklahoma, comic books, and the like. I don’t even remember the name of my sandwich — the bun to which fell apart halfway through my meal — but our family will always treasure the part when, after my son finished his steak, Dave bought him a slice of pie. On a related note, my son asserted in subsequent discussions that Dave was now his favorite “computer person”, as he used to refer to anyone we’d ever communicated with online. This effectively dethroned the previous titleholder, who’d won the honor just by having a Captain Jack Sparrow avatar. We finally said our goodbyes to Dave ’round 2:00, and my son never forgot the pie.
From there we sped toward one final Oklahoma tourist site: the OKC bombing memorial. It’s not just the length of a city block. Before the incident, it actually was a city block. An entire section of Fifth Street was converted to a sobering tribute to that day, with a monument bookending either end of the block. One wall bears the time of the minute before the explosion. The other wall bears the time of the minute after the explosion.
Between the two walls is a shallow reflecting pool. On the south poolside is a field of empty chairs, one for each victim. There’s a whole museum on the north side, but we were too short on time. Fodder for another future road trip, perhaps.
We made our way back to the SUV — parallel-parked three blocks down on Sixth Street because I couldn’t find the handy post office that Dave had referred us to — hit another gas station (and another lost receipt — figure another twenty bucks), then zipped from I-35 to I-44, whereupon I encountered a most beauteous sight: a 75-mph speed limit. It was a toll road, but I didn’t care. I have no problem shelling out pocket change in exchange for the opportunity to floor it. And floor it I did, stopping once in Stroud for another $19.83 in gas.
We quickly reached Tulsa…just in time for evening rush hour, where we came to a near-standstill and spent almost an hour inching from the west side to the east side. Once we finally reached Tulsa’s eastern edge…BAM. The most intrusive, most in-depth, most poorly directed road construction of the entire trip. After an agonizing and drawn-out waste of my turnpike toll and innumerable minutes, we couldn’t cross into Missouri quickly enough for my taste, albeit with one notable sight along the road — the reputed largest McDonald’s in America, located above I-44 in Vinita.
To be concluded!
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