Tag Archives: Oklahoma

“Travel America” and Me

20 Feb

The other day, we were flying to Arizona, and I picked up a magazine to read on the plane. Travel America lists over 250 places to visit in the United States. As I skimmed through the pages, I began to count all of the ones that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to travel to all 50 states and have seen some great stuff. This is a list of places that Travel America and I have in common.

Wait, here is a picture that I took on the trip to get you in the mood. It is in the Superstition Mountains.img_2279

Massachusetts

Paul Revere House

Old North Church

USS Constitution

New York

Central Park

Madison Avenue

Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

Broadway

Niagara Falls

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

National Constitution Center

Rhode Island

The Breakers

Florida

Walt Disney World

Kennedy Space Center

Everglades National Park

Miami Beach

South Beach

Georgia

River Street

Buckhead

Georgia Aquarium

World of Coca-Cola Museum

Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Louisiana

Garden District

Lafayette Cemetery

French Quarter

Louisiana State University

Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club

Delta Blues Museum

Natchez Trace

North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Biltmore

South Carolina

Harbour Town Golf Links

Tennessee

Beale Street

B.B. King’s Blues Club

Graceland

Ryman Auditorium

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Hermitage

Union Station Hotel

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Alum Cave Trail

Cade’s Cove

Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

Old Town Alexandria

Mount Vernon

Illinois

Michigan Avenue

Indiana

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Michigan

University of Michigan

Missouri

Gateway Arch

North Dakota

Badlands

Fort Mandan

Ohio

Progressive Field

Warehouse District

Oklahoma

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Cattleman’s Steakhouse

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

Wall Drug

Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer State Park

Saloon #10

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Arizona

Tombstone

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post

Sedona

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Montana

Billings

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield Indian Memorial

Beartooth Highway

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Nevada

Death Valley National Park

Luxor

Excalibur

Venetian

New Mexico 

Carlsbad Cavern

Palace of the Governors

Inn of the Anasazi

White Sands National Monument

Texas

Sixth Floor Museum

South Congress Avenue

Sixth Street

River Walk

The Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon

Temple Square

Wyoming

Snake River

Grand Tetons National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone Lake

Old Faithful

Lower Falls

Yellowstone River

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park

Denali National Park

California

Universal Studios

HOLLYWOOD sign

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Walk of Fame

Rodeo Drive

Golden Gate Bridge

Chinatown

Redwood National Park

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

Pacific Coast Highway

Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial

Lanikai Beach

Volcanoes National Park

Waimea Canyon

Oregon

Haystack Rock

Columbia River Gorge

Mt. Hood

Historic Columbia River Highway

Crater Lake

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

Never Been to Spain

1 Jul

Today, we are supposed to be in Barcelona, but, as many of you know, we had to cancel the trip. Instead, we are going about our usual business and getting ready for a long weekend. For some reason, all of this makes me think of Three Dog Night. They had a song called “Never Been to Spain,” which is apt for a time like this. We have still never been to Spain.Three Dog Night

It also mentions never being to England, but I have actually been there. It also mentions heading to Las Vegas and to Needles. As it turns out, I have also been to those two places. There are also some lines about Oklahoma and Heaven. I have been to Oklahoma, but I have not been to Heaven. I just hope that I get to Spain before that.

Anyway, here are the lyrics to “Never Been to Spain

Well, I’ve never been to Spain
But I kinda like the music
Say the ladies are insane there
And they sure know how to use it

They don’t abuse it
Never gonna lose it
I can’t refuse it

Well, I’ve never been to England
But I kinda like the Beatles
Well, I headed for Las Vegas
Only made it out to Needles

Can you feel it?
Must be near it
Feels so good
Oh, it feels so good

Well, I’ve never been to heaven
But I’ve been to Oklahoma
Oh, they tell me I was born there
But I really don’t remember

In Oklahoma, not Arizona
What does it matter?
What does it matter?

Oh, I’ve never been to Spain
But I kinda like the music
Say the ladies are insane there
And they sure know how to use it

They don’t abuse it
Never gonna lose it
I can’t refuse it, oh, oh

Well, I’ve never been to heaven
But I’ve been to Oklahoma
Well, they tell me I was born there
But I really don’t remember

In Oklahoma, not Arizona
What does it matter?
What does it matter?

Museums, Memorials, Steaks and Some College Football

16 Sep

This weekend, I traveled to Oklahoma with my nephews and Larry, a friend that you have read about. We went for a college football game but did a few other things, as well. At least, we did a few other things once we arrived. That, in and of itself, was an adventure.

We arrived at the Nashville airport in anticipation of a quick trip to Oklahoma City. That quick trip turned into a two-hour delay for mechanical problems. Once we got into the air, the plane was redirected due to weather. That added another couple of hours to the flight. A three-hour layover in Houston suddenly turned into a missed connection. When we landed, we discovered that the connecting flight was delayed because the plane had not left New Orleans. We did not miss our connection, but we still had to sit around for a couple of hours.

All of that adds up to a couple of things. First, a night of messing around Oklahoma City was cut short. Second,  I was reminded why I hate flying. If I am driving, then I know what the schedule is going to be. In an airport, I have to wait for somebody else to screw up.

Anyway, we made it to Oklahoma City and to our hotel. With little time to spare, we went to a couple of places that were high on the agenda.

I have been to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum many times on our annual field trip to New Mexico. We make a point to stop and show our students the site of the Murrah Federal Building, which was blown up in the first major terrorist attack in the United States. However, I had never seen it at night. I have heard that this is the time to visit. The memorial is lit up and the feelings of what happened there hit the hardest.image-9

I must say that it was a beautiful site to see, and the memorial is an appropriate tribute to the people who lost their lives.image-8

My oldest nephew had been there before, but my youngest nephew had not. I am glad that he got to see it. Unfortunately, we could not stay for long because we had our name on the list at our next destination.

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse is a well-known restaurant across the river in Stockyards City. It has been around for decades and is known as the best steakhouse in Oklahoma. Some friends who were already there placed our name on the list, and we needed to get there before our buzzer went off.

The place was packed with people from Tennessee. Apparently, they all got the word that this was the place to eat. Heck, they could have seen it on Guy Fieri’s television show. It is a cool restaurant with a great atmosphere and a great history. If John Wayne and Ben Johnson have eaten there, then it must be a great place.

With all of that being said, I was disappointed with the food. The steak was pretty good, but it was far from the best I have ever eaten. It is no comparison to the Land of Magic in Manhattan, Montana. I am glad that we went because we can always say that we were there, but I hope that Oklahoma has better steak places.

After a long day of flights and a big meal of food, we were ready to pack it in for the day. Besides, the important day was coming up. There was a big night game to be played down the road, and there were a few more places to visit before heading to the stadium.

I had not been to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum since I was a kid, and, honestly, I did not know much about it. I figured it would be cheesy, but, with a lot of time on our hands, it was something to do. I could not have been more wrong. This was one of the best museums I have ever seen. Rooms were filled to the brim with artifacts, art and anything that a lover of the American West would want to see.image-11

There was a room full of firearms, but that was not my favorite. I liked the artwork by Frederick Remington, C.M. Russell and others. I also liked the room dedicated to movies, which had an extensive collection of John Wayne’s personal belongings. There was a painting based on The Searchers that I would steal if I know how to be an art thief. There were also props from a bunch of my favorite movies.image-10

I cannot write about the museum without mentioning the rodeo room, which places you in the middle of the ring, and the room with the town, which places you on the streets of an old cattle town. The only thing missing was a brothel, and I still have not gotten over that disappointment.

We left that museum with the intention of visiting the ASA Softball Hall of Fame. My dad is in the Tennessee Hall of Fame, and we know several people who are enshrined in the national one. Unfortunately, it is closed on the weekends. One would think that the weekend would be a good time to open the doors.

With all of that behind us, it was time to drive to Norman and the football game between the University of Tennessee and the University of Oklahoma. The game did not go the way we wanted, but we had a great trip. We saw some interesting things and visited some interesting places. Like always, it is always good to travel, but it is also good to return home.

The Legend of the Shadow Horse Gang

14 May

For the past several years, I have joined a team of professors on a field trip course to New Mexico. Heck, I have been going for so long that I do not even know how many times I have been. This year, I have other duties at work that are preventing me from going, and it feels weird. It is as if going to New Mexico every May has been programmed into my DNA.

Tonight feels especially strange because they are leaving in the morning. I should be finishing up with packing around this time, but I am typing a blog post instead. Well, I will not have to get up at 5:00 in the morning. That is one positive thing. Another positive thing is that I will not be away from my family for 12 days.

However, I will still miss the experience of the trip. Four professors and a group of students build a community of experiential learning that cannot be matched in the classroom. I have said many times that there is nothing like teaching history at the place where history happened. Hopefully, there is nothing like learning history in the same way.

The group will head out in the morning filled with anticipation. Some people will not know each other, but they will by the time they reach Sallisaw, Oklahoma for the first night of rest. The students think that the first days of riding are just a way to get to New Mexico. However, they are wrong. The learning and the experience begin as soon as they leave campus.

Over the next couple of weeks, the group will do all kinds of cool stuff, but it all adds up to one thing – an experience that they would not have if not for Dr. Heifner, the man who puts it all together. It is also an experience that can never be repeated. We have had students go more than once, but each trip is its own entity.

After last year’s trip, I wrote about the Shadow Horse Gang, the name I gave to the group of teachers that go on this trip.BB-New Mexico 105

The ride of the Shadow Horse Gang is changing. A couple of them have retired. One feels like his time is coming to a close. I am sitting this ride out.

Dr. Heifner would like for me to take over the trip, and that is something that I would like. However, I will need to recruit new members to the gang. Our dean is taking my place on this run. Maybe he will like it enough to join. We have other teachers who would be great additions.

The trip is legendary around our campus, and I hope the Shadow Horse Gang is just as legendary. I have no idea what the future of the gang will be, but the legend will continue.

Listeria – Cattle Towns, Mining Camps and Other Assorted Outposts

14 Feb

True West magazine came out with their list of the “Top 10 True Western Towns of the Year”, and I had to see what they came up with. As it turns out, other lists were included – “True West Towns to Know” and “True West Towns to Watch”. A quick counting brought the total number of towns mentioned to 30.

I decided to weed that list down to those that I have visited. I have no idea what criteria the people at True West used to compile the list, but here is a little information about the places that I know about.

1. Dodge City, Kansas is, in my opinion, the most famous of all the cattle towns. It was the epicenter of a huge industry and the home of real life lawman Wyatt Earp and fictional lawman Matt Dillon. Dodge City is still a player in the cattle industry, but I do not see it as a tourist mecca. Obviously, any lover of the Old West must go there, but they will be disappointed with the fake western town that sits on the main drag. However, the trolley tour is cool.

Inside a fake saloon on a fake streetfront.

Inside a fake saloon on a fake streetfront.

2. Durango, Colorado is a cool western town that has held on to its past. Historic buildings, such as the Strater Hotel, line the streets. The famous train from Durango to Silverton starts its journey at one end of town. There are restaurants, bars and a bookstore with all of the great western historians.

A couple of cars on the Durango and Silverton Line

A couple of cars on the Durango and Silverton Line

8. Lincoln, New Mexico is a state monument that looks almost like it did when Billy the Kid was roaming around. There are all kinds of buildings and museums, but the best is the old building from which he made his famous jailbreak. Billy the Kid is the most famous of those who participated in the Lincoln County War, but I find myself more interested in John Chisum and some of the others.

9. Tombstone, Arizona which its economic peak during the 1880s and had its growth stunted when the minerals ran out. That circumstance makes it still have that feel of a frontier town. Of course, that could also be because they ripped up the concrete sidewalks and put down wooden ones. The OK Corral is cool. The Birdcage Theater is cool. However, the coolest thing is talking to Ben Traywick, the town historian.

If this building could talk, then it would have some real stories to tell.

If this building could talk, then it would have some real stories to tell.

10. Lewiston, Idaho is a place that I have never been. However, I must mention it because the Cumberland University baseball team has won two national championships in Lewiston. It is a western town, but it is also a baseball mecca.

There is half of the Top 10, but some interesting towns are on the other lists, as well.

Prescott, Arizona is listed as one of the “True West Towns to Know” and, on the surface, looks like any other regular old town. However, a walk around its square gives you an idea of what it used to be like. The square is huge and is bustling with activity, as people venture into the historic buildings.

This statue stands in front of the county courthouse.

This statue stands in front of the county courthouse.

“True West Towns to Watch” lists several places that I have visited.

Juneau, Alaska is the state capital and can only be entered by plane or boat. It is a small place that has a frontier and isolated quality. One of my great memories of Alaska is having a drink with my brother in one of Juneau’s saloons.

Cody, Wyoming is another good western town. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is one of my favorite places to visit. A few years ago they had a traveling exhibit in Nashville, and I was able to take my students.

Checotah, Oklahoma sits on Interstate 40, and, frankly, I have never been in the downtown area. We have only stopped a few times for gas. Most people probably know it as the hometown of Carrie Underwood.

Custer, South Dakota is one of the less famous mining camps in the Black Hills and is overshadowed by Deadwood and Sturgis. However, it is a good place to stop and look around. Also, it is named in honor of George Armstrong Custer, the man who led the gold-finding expedition into the Black Hills.

Bisbee, Arizona sits several miles down the road from Tombstone and is a place that I like better. Its economic boom lasted into the 20th Century, which means it has a more modern look than other mining camps. It also has a great mining museum operated by the Smithsonian Institute.

Those are the places listed by True West that I have visited. It would be interesting to read if any of you have been to these places. What are your thoughts and stories? What other towns have you visited that you think may be or should be on the lists?

Musical Journey

14 May

In a few days, we will be leaving on our annual field trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I will return with stories from the Wild West, but, until then, I will be out-of-pocket for a while.

The trip to Santa Fe is an adventurous one. Four teachers and ten students jump into a couple of vans and journey from one end of the continent to the other. It’s a long way, but the directions are easy. My town sits on Interstate 40. That means we stay on one road through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and part of New Mexico. Like Bugs Bunny, we take a right at Albuquerque.

Or maybe it was left.

Or maybe it was left.

The stretch of Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis has been dubbed the “Music Highway”, but the entire road to pretty musical. It seems that a lot of the places we pass have songs written about them.

Nashville has a bunch of songs written about it, but one of my favorites is “Nashville Cats” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Not long after Nashville, we go through Jackson. Now, I don’t know if June and Johnny Cash were singing about the Jackson in Tennessee or the Jackson in Mississippi. However, this is my blog, so it’s going to be Tennessee.

Next, we go through Memphis, a city of Blues and Rock n’ Roll. Like Nashville, there are a lot of songs about Memphis, but one of the best was by Johnny Rivers.

I guess Little Rock has some songs about it, but we don’t really go through that town. This means that Oklahoma is the next musical place we hit. Obviously, there is a musical about this state, but Three Dog Night recorded my favorite Oklahoma song. It’s a weird tune that talks about Spain and the Beatles.

We stop in Oklahoma City, but I can’t think of a good Oklahoma City song. However, Carrie Underwood has a song about her hometown of Checotah.

From Oklahoma, we venture into the panhandle of Texas. There’s not much in the panhandle of Texas but the city of Amarillo. George Strait has a great song about Amarillo.

That’s about it for Texas, but there is one more song. When we get close to Albuquerque, I always think about a song that is about a guy driving on Interstate 40. However, he is traveling the opposite direction. Instead of going west, he is going east through all of the towns that we have passed. He is leaving a bad woman, and “by the time I make Albuquerque she’ll be workin’“.

So, that’s the musical journey I will be making this week.

Pueblos, Pottery and Captain Vla

22 May

I have returned from the sojourn into New Mexico with fellow faculty and a class full of students. Fun was had by all, and it would be impossible to cover everything we did in a blog post. With that in mind, I will provide a brief synopsis by describing my favorite activities from each day. Hopefully, this will provide an entertaining glimpse into our adventures.

Day 1 – The beginning of a trip is always the best part of the first day. The students are anticipating the places that they have yet to see, and the teachers are anticipating the return to an interesting part of the country.

Day 2 – We can’t drive vans to New Mexico in one day, so we check out some things along the way. My favorite part of the second day is driving through Hereford, Texas, the citizen-proclaimed “Beef Capital of the World”. I don’t know if that is true, but there are definitely more cows in Hereford than there are people. Holding pens line the highway and railroad as thousands of head of cattle wait to be shipped to the plates of America. The students could only discern the smell, but I find the beef industry, both its past and present, interesting.

Day 3 – We made it to Santa Fe, our ultimate destination, later this day, but we had one stop along the way where I had the chance to talk about some history where that history took place. Billy the Kid is buried in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Well, most people think he is buried there. Conspiracy folks believe he survived instead of being killed by Pat Garrett. Anyway, I was able to tell the students about Billy the Kid next to his grave.

Day 4 – Our plans to hike Chaco Canyon were rained out, and our leader had to develop a day full of activities on the fly. We went to the Santa Fe plaza, but my favorite part of the day was spent at the Shidoni Gallery. The building and surrounding grounds are full of metal artwork that has been forged at the on-site foundry. It is interesting to see what people consider art and the prices they are willing to pay for it.

Day 5 – On this day, we went to a few places that we had never taken students before. The Very Large Array, or VLA, was the best. This is a series of giant satellite dishes used to study the far reaches of space. I don’t have a good picture of these, but if you have seen Contact with Jodie Foster, then you have seen the VLA.

It was cool to walk around them, but the real fun was on the periphery. On the way, we drove through sunshine, rain and hail. On the way back, we drove through snow. This is the first time we have seen precipitation in New Mexico – much less three different kinds. Also, one of our students, with my help, began calling himself Captain Vla. He imagined himself a superhero who could fly through space, powered by the satellite dish that emerges from his butt. His only weakness would be his limitation to travel by rail while on Earth, just like the VLA dishes. He even had a theme song – Super hearing! Super sight! He can travel through space at the speed of light! (For those readers who know the students who went, I will give you one guess who turned himself in Captain Vla.)

Day 6 – We visited my favorite place on the entire trip, the Acoma Pueblo. The oldest continually inhabited place in the United States, Acoma is located on top of a mesa and has a history of survival from the elements and European invaders. Native American docents take groups on a tour through their pueblo and their culture. Along the way, tourists can buy pottery from local artisans. One of our teachers, who shall remain nameless, buys pottery from the same lady every time we go. He also gets a hug.

Day 7 – We always eat well in New Mexico, and this trip was no different. The New Mexican cuisine is wonderful, especially the sopapillas that are always served for dessert. On the seventh day, we ate at Rancho de Chimayo, one of the great restaurants of the area, but dining was not the only enjoyment. There is a pottery shop inside, and two of the faculty members on the trip are addicted to buying Pueblo pottery. It so happens that the shop had a pot that they were lusting after. As they bickered back and forth about which one was going to purchase the $1,400 piece of pottery, the third teacher, not me, stepped in and said he would buy it. They both stood there with their mouths hanging open.

Day 8 – This was an easy day with little driving and little expended energy. Believe me when I say that everyone was ready for it. We were also ready to visit Madrid, New Mexico, an old ghost town that was resettled by flower children in the early 1970s. It is like going back in time to a place where peace, love and other things were still possible. The guys found a blonde in the ice cream parlor/art gallery that they wanted to find peace with. I found the first person to move to Madrid in 1973 and had a discussion about his life.

Mel Johnson was a dean at the Art Institute of Chicago and gave that up for a life in Madrid. In the following years, other people followed him until the town was filled with artisans and free-thinkers. Before I left his studio, I had found an interesting story and bought a painting.

Day 9 – Once again,  I was able to talk about history where it actually took place. We visited Los Alamos and a museum that is housed in the only remaining building from the days of the Manhattan Project. I find World War II history interesting and have a special interest in the building of the atomic bomb. One reason is that Oak Ridge, Tennessee was one of the secret locations. Another reason is that my mom’s uncle worked in the Manhattan Project and told a lot of stories about it. People have different opinions about the use of the bomb on Japan, and it is great to discuss the different views of the students. In the end, we agreed that hindsight is 20/20, and we can’t place that hindsight on people who were making decisions in the moment.

Day 10 – This was our last full day in New Mexico and was really a time to wind down. We hiked the mesa at Ghost Ranch and spent some time back on the plaza in Santa Fe. On top of the mesa, the students and I spent a spiritual moment reading a Native American poem, an ode to the land of New Mexico. I think we all felt a twinge of sadness because we were soon leaving and a sense of happiness because we had a great time throughout the trip.

Day 11 – We left Santa Fe at 5 am and drove over 700 miles to our original hotel in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. After a meal at Western Sizzlin’, the professors pulled chairs from our rooms into the Super 8 parking lot and discussed the trip. We deemed it a success.

Day 12 – We left Sallisaw at 5 am and headed home to Tennessee. It seemed that we got faster the closer we got to home. Like most trips, we were glad that we went but also were glad to get home.