Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A perfect summer day.

Well, maybe "perfect" isn't actually the perfect word since things didn't go quite like I thought they would, but yesterday was one of those days that will be a favorite memory to look back on.

It all started yesterday morning, when I woke up with nothing to do. I say nothing, when in reality there is always laundry to finish, a house to clean (but when isn't there?), emails to catch up on, projects to finish, etc. Like I said, nothing to do. Ha. And I'm normally a homebody, happy to stay at home all day with nowhere in particular to be. Anyway, I guess I must've gotten antsy or something because the next thing I know, I was planning a small roadtrip.

I'm nothing if not occasionally spontaneous.

I mean, seriously, you should see how much we already have crossed off our summer bucket list.

This week the weather is supposed to be pretty wet around these parts, which is pretty unusual for an Oklahoma summer. It should be nice and hot and sticky right about now, but not really wet. Well, although this week finds us knee deep in rainfall, yesterday's forecast looked pretty darn clear for the most part. And I figured it was the perfect least-rainy-looking day (out of the other 4 weekdays) to go on a little adventure. You'd think after living pretty much 90% of my life in Oklahoma I'd know better than to assume such a thing about our always unpredictable weather, but oh well. And besides, I'll take rainy and 75 glorious degrees over a scorching hot 100 degree, 99% humidity day ANYDAY.

So around 10:30am, my mom, my mom's friend, my little man and I hopped into the car and headed north. Er, I guess more northwest actually. We were heading to the prairie!

Right off the bat in the first part of the hour and a half drive I made a directional mistake. Let me tell you something, for an experienced driver such as myself, this is a rarity. I'm known for my unbelievable navigational skills -- you could drop me in a cornfield in Nebraska and I would find my way home. This trip was only an hour and a half up there, max, and I am used to driving up to 12 hours a day on our usual roadtrips. So I am one experienced trucker, I can definitely brag on this. But this morning, while pointing out something to my mom and her friend, I forgot to turn right.

No biggie. In today's day and age, technology is my friend. I dialed up my husband working at home, had him Google the directions on his laptop, and he was able to tell me where to turn five miles ahead. Turns out my mistake was really more of just an alternate route that was equally right, so we lost no time. This is how we fell upon the little town of Hominy, Oklahoma.

That little town's been around a while, probably since the days of Indian Territory, but there's not a whole lot going on since it's a teeny little town. I did see an Indian art gallery, and there were numerous Indian murals all around the town worth seeing. I liked it right off the bat with it's old buildings made of local sandstone bricks, and especially since there was a guy riding his horse on the side of the road right there in town. Doesn't get much more Oklahoman than that! Of course, the five-year-old in the backseat piped up enough to argue with his mama about whether or not it was really a cowboy since he was wearing a baseball cap. I ended it right there -- son, a man riding his horse in town? Definitely a cowboy. I mean, how often are you gonna see that?! It's moments like this that make me proud to be an Oklahoman. Oh yeah. (Don't make me break into song for ya'...OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain....)

Oh sorry. Where was I? Oh yes,...

We saw a historical marker and followed it down two blocks to find this:

The Historic Drummond Home.

Ring any bells? Yep, this house is tied to the family history of the beloved Pioneer Woman, part of her husband's family. In fact, the whole county is, really, but who's counting? (And just so you know, it's the largest county in our state, larger than all of Rhode Island or Delaware even!)

But seriously, doesn't it totally look like it could be a stand-in for Villa Villekulla, Pippi Longstocking's home? I loved it and wished we could have gone in for a quick tour, but alas, it was closed and we had other places to be.

We hopped back on the road and headed north to our intended destination, the great metropolis of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. If you're a Pioneer Woman fan, you'll also recognize Pawhuska as a town near and dear to her heart. She lives pretty close to there. Anyway, Pawhuska happens to be the "Gateway to the Tallgrass Prairie", and that, folks, is where we were planning to end up. (Not to mention, Pawhuska is also the home of the very first Boy Scouts in America. For reals. Betcha didn't know that.)

When we got to Pawhuska, we were hungry, so we asked around to find out a good spot to eat. We were quickly pointed to the most ramshackle-looking little house in town -- seriously, there was a huge gaping hole in the roof on the porch. Inside there was a little lunch counter with stools, assorted tables and chairs, and no A/C. But friends, I am here to tell you, I ate the most delicious cheeseburger I have had in a loooooong time. Maybe ever. If you're ever up in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, as I know you will be since it's surely on the Top Ten Most Fascinating Places in the World list somewhere, you need to grab a burger at Greek's. You can thank me later. Looks like they also serve a mean breakfast. Maybe we'll have to do that on our next trip up, okay?

The kind lady that had pointed us to that burger joint had also pressed a brochure in my hand all about the Osage Nation area (that's a real bonafide Indian, I mean, Native American nation, for all of you not in the know) and its attractions. Sure, out in New York they've got amazing sights to see like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, but dude, we've got our own amazing attractions here in Oklahoma. I kid you not. They're just not as well, um, yeah, not as well heard of, that's all....

On this list was some Catholic church my mom had been going on and on about in the car. (It was either that or check out yet another casino since there seems to be one on every corner nowadays. What's up with that, Oklahoma?! Someone's gotta put a stop to the stupid casino epidemic around here. Anyways, sorry, I'll get off my soapbox.) This particular Catholic church made the "attractions" list because somehow they had acquired these two large stained glass windows in it that were made in Munich, Germany specifically for this church and then flown over after World War I and installed. Not only that, but these two windows had to be approved by the Pope since they had Osage Indians depicted in them. So off we went, driving around the town (it took all of two minutes since this isn't a big city) searching for the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, also known as the Cathedral of the Osage.

We got there, and from the outside, you couldn't really tell the windows apart because it was dark inside and no light was shining through the beautifully colored panes. My mom haggled me until I finally gave in and whipped out my cell phone and dialed the number on the brochure. Sure enough, the lady at the parish office said to come on in and she'd give us the keys to let ourselves in and look around.

You know you must be in Oklahoma when people are so trusting that they hand perfect strangers the keys to a Catholic church! Especially to a couple of Baptists! Haha. My own little funny joke. But really, I bet if you go to see a cathedral in New York City and it's closed and you ask nicely, they are not going to hand over the keys to let yerself on in. Just sayin'.

But oh, my friends, those windows are gorgeous. The two windows that depict the Osage Indians are 9 ft. by 36 ft. each. The rest of the church was beautiful as well, but those windows especially were unbelievable. And the fact that we had this beautiful quiet sanctuary all to ourselves for a few minutes? So cool.

(My apologies for the slew of pictures of all the statues and icons as well. That's what happens when you let a camera-totin' Baptist in your Catholic cathedral. You won't find such relics in our churches unfortunately, so I eat it up when I get to see 'em.)

By 1:30 we knew we'd better get the show on the road if we were going to make it up to that prairie. So we handed the keys back over with a hearty thankyouverymuch and headed north.

About 15 or 20 miles north of Pawhuska is the mighty Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. It is over 38,000 acres of breathtakingly beautiful scenery. I'm tellin' you, usually I think that scenery like the Rocky Mountains or the majestic ocean or other such dramatic landscapes are the most gorgeous work God has created on our planet, but honestly, the Tallgrass Prairie has a beauty all it's own. And on this tallgrass prairie are almost 3,000 free-roaming bison. Sounds like a lot, but I guess the Tallgrass Prairie used to be a part of 14 states and over 142 million acres and at one point in history there were probably hundreds of thousands of bison roaming around. Thank goodness someone out there was smart enough to save a small sliver of it all for us to see, huh? It was really interesting reading about the tallgrass prairie and how its ecosystem was restored.

Sure enough, the clouds had begun to darken and it started to sprinkle. Just great. About ten minutes into our drive through the prairie (on gravel roads, mind you, and no fences, so those bison could always come outta nowhere and thunder across the road if they'dve had a mind to) and we had seen NO bison.

Let me just tell you, I wasn't going to be too happy if we drove all that way and saw not a one. And that little man in the backseat, clutching his two stuffed Beanie Baby bisons in each hand certainly wasn't going to be too happy if we didn't see a single one!

Thank goodness as we came 'round the next bend, we looked over and saw part of a herd of about 50. They were so far away from the road that I only got a couple of shots (and these were with my telephoto lens, keep in mind, so they were really far away), but dang it, we saw some bison. I think you can barely see a baby bison in one of those shots -- it's the lighter brown colored speck. You have to click on the pictures to see them closer.

Then we continued on around the bend to the headquarters where we got out of the car to stretch our legs just before the monsoons came and the prairie was soaked.

At the bunkhouse headquarters the docents were so friendly. By the way, the bunkhouse was built in 1940 or so and has seen the likes of John Wayne which means I might have stood yesterday where John Wayne once stood! They had a tiny little museum setup on one side of the gift shop with all sort of bones and skeletons and artifacts of animals and bugs and birds and snakes and other critters that live on the prairie. My boy was in heaven. He and I looked over so many little carcasses and oohed and ahhed. Who cares that we only saw a few bison and from far away?! Dead bug carcasses was where it is at if you are five years old. The docents also pointed out that some people drive up there and never see a single bison (boy, would that ever suck) while sometimes you can drive up there and see 500 in a herd, many times up close and personal right in the road! That's probably what Erin got to see. Check out her pictures if you want a better visual in your head. No, really, do it. They're a million times better than my sad little waterlogged several-football-fields-away-and-it's-so-obvious shots I got.

Regardless, check it off the list, because we did, in fact, see the bison. Woot! By this time, the rain (that wasn't supposed to be there all stinkin' day long) was not about to let up, so we bolted back to the car and drove back south through the prairie. Heavy rain + gravel roads + the remote but ever-present possibility that you could turn the bend and find your car doing the tango with a thousand-or-two-pound bison = no fun. Just in case you were wondering. We were soon headed back to Pawhuska, not only the "Gateway to the Tallgrass Prairie" but also our gateway to the road home. You'd have thought that our time in the thriving metropolis of Pawhuska was complete already, what with our fun little lunch and private cathedral tour, but no, there was one other quirky thing on that attraction list that we hadn't checked off. And you know how I love me some quirky!

Unfortunately for us, this "attraction" was outdoors, and at the moment, it was raining cats and dogs and bison outside. So we used our cunning Oklahoma wits and drove down the street to Sonic where we could lure the carhops into bringing us our drinks to our car without us having to step foot outside. Us Okies, we're nothing if not brilliant. If you weren't aware of that, it's only because we like to keep that to ourselves so the rest of the world doesn't get too jealous. Yeah, that's it.

Anyway, now hopped up on syrupy-sweet goodness (and for half-price since it was Happy Hour so add "resourcefulness" to your ever-growing list of Okie attributes), we headed back to the "attraction" in mind, although it was still raining quite hard. At this point, I wasn't about to give in to the stormclouds after having driven all the way up there, so I got out of the car, camera in one hand, umbrella in another, and trudged over to.......

a suspension footbridge!


You never know what yer' gonna find in Oklahoma, I tell you what.

Seriously, how hilarious is that?! There was this quirky little suspension footbridge, dangling quite high over Bird Creek just a couple of blocks south of the little downtown. Don't laugh, it was pretty high up, and with all that rain, that nasty brown creek was really raging down below.

The best part about this bridge, that we read about in our little brochure, was the fact that it is a mover and a shaker. Oh yeah, peeps, take a couple of steps on it and you're either going to love it or be terrified! It bounces and swings when you take any steps. It seemed pretty secure, especially since it had high sides of chain-link fencing so you couldn't easily fall over. I personally did not make it all the way across because I admit it, I was too chicken, but I did at least make it halfway across, which is pretty impressive since I am generally quite afraid of heights. My mom and my mom's friend and my boy scurried across, laughing and squealing all the way. In fact, my boy LOVED it. When I asked him his favorite part of the day, he didn't skip a beat when he answered, "the BWIDGE, Mama!!!" Out of the mouths of babes. If you ever find yourself in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, don't miss the bwidge.

So there you have it. We went out as adventurers; we came home drowned rats.

But happy drowned rats.

And the moral of the story is, you never know what you're missing until you get out there and find it. Even in a place like Oklahoma, there are so many adventures to be had!

Hmmm, where will our adventures take us next??? Stay tuned...


~Michelle~ said...

looks like a fun (albeit wet) day, missy! that suspension bridge would scare the crapola out of me though :)

random fact - if you come out to Cali for a visit and hop the boat over to Catalina Island, you might also spy a bison over there...they brought a herd over in the 30's for a film production, but didn't want to take them back to the mainland, so they left them over there and there are 100+ currently on the island!

mo said...

That sounds like an awesome summer adventure. I need me one of those! My boy is still playing baseball everyday (Championship game tonight- keep your fingers crossed!) but as soon as it wraps up we are geting out to have some fun like you!

sacha said...

ooo! we're going too, after i saw that on your summer list. didja know we have a house in hominy?

Phyllis said...

Sounds like a great day. I love a spontaneous roadtrip. Sometimes I'll hop in the car and not even have a destination in mind, just start driving and see where I end up. That suspension bridge looks cool, but no way would Kristen walk on it. I thought you were going to say you were going to find Ree's ranch :) I hope you know that you're the one who "introduced" her to me.

Happily Ever After said...

LOVE this post! Too much fun! I can't believe I've never been out there. I think it's a must-see when Claire gets a little older. Thanks for sharing.

Lindsay said...

Love it...

And I want that house! It is very much the Pippi Longstocking house!!

Heather said...

aw, I love it! Your trip so reminds me of this spring when a friend and I and Audrey hopped in the car and headed for the little house on the prairie in Kansas. I swear, I missed my exit 3 times--- I had the most trouble getting out of TULSA and then after that I was fine ;)

I need to visit this tall grass prairie reserve! It is so beautiful. I think people underestimate the sheer loveliness of the prairie. Thanks for the tour! :)

A Nerd and A Free Spirit said...

Okay WOW. That is all very impressive.

My sister's boyfriend's family lives in Hominy.

I love Bison (GO OBU!).

That restaurant sounds divine.

The stained glass was beautiful.

And that bridge would REALLY scare me. Seriously. I'm a huge pansy. (-:

I'm glad you are enjoying the video blog, btw. (-:


LJ said...

that was the perfect summer day! i would have loved to see that house. I'm a romantic for history and stuff like that. how does one email you if they wish to??