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Oklahoma City & The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

STATE 16 - OKLAHOMA

sunny 95 °F

Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom, Plen'y of air and plen'y of room, Plen'y of room to swing a rope, Plen'y of heart and plen'y of hope. I'm off to where the land is grand, the great state of Oklahoma!

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The opening paragraph may seem strange to some of you, but it is exactly how the state of Oklahoma was explained to me. I couldn't wait to have a circle of people surround me, singing and slapping their knees, and telling me about all the great wonders of their state. This is the official informational video on Oklahoma:

In light of all the devastating tornadoes that have hit the US over the past few months, going to Tornado Alley may not seem like the best idea. Thankfully we experienced nothing but clear skies the entire time I was there (as well as scorchingly hot 95 degree temperatures that seemed unnatural for the first week of May).

I actually flew into Dallas to meet up with Jason since it was a direct flight and Jason was driving to Oklahoma City anyways. It was only a 4 hour drive, and it gave us a chance to see the countryside of Oklahoma. Southern Oklahoma didn't differ that much from Northern Texas. Few trees, and even fewer hills. You could see forever in any direction. Oklahoma was much more green than I expected (not sure why I expected something a little more desolate, I guess countless watchings of Westerns showing dusty plains skewed my perspective). There were hardly any exits off the interstate, only fields filled with cows. As we got closer to Oklahoma City, oil wells were everywhere. I guess when gas gets over $4 a gallon, every well in the state was operating.

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We stopped in Norman just south of Oklahoma City. Norman is home to the Oklahoma University Sooners, so we parked the car and began making our way around the campus. Our first stop was the football stadium which was right in the middle of campus.

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We also stopped to watch the Kansas Jayhawks warm up before their baseball game with the Sooners. The wind was always present, a strong breeze that never seemed to stop. The breeze was blowing straight out to center field, so in the short time we were watching warmups, several homeruns were belted only feet from where we were standing.

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When then turned to walk through the main part of campus. Most of the buildings seemed to be made of brick, and the campus was smaller than I expected (I was expecting it to be about the same size as NC State). We walked around the majority of campus in under 30 minutes, stopping to read some of the historical plaques and take a couple pictures.

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We still had a couple of hours to kill before we had to meet up with Brian in Oklahoma City, so we did what most people do in a college town, head to the college bars. We found a place called The Library and stayed through the duration of happy hour.

It was a quick drive to downtown Oklahoma City, and since we still had a little time to kill, we stopped by Tinker Air Force Base on the east side of town. They had around 10 retired jets lined up in front of the base (stealth bombers, giant carrier jets, and a variety of attack aircraft). Most of the jets were actually on the base and behind a giant fence, but one jet sat in a small park in front of the base.

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The sun was starting to set, so we headed back towards downtown to check into the hotel. Since it was pretty flat, we had a great view of the skyline and the sun setting behind the buildings.

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Jason and I met up with Brian (a friend of mine who is stationed in Kansas) and made our way to the entertainment district of Oklahoma City, an area called Bricktown. Like a lot of cities, the old warehouse district of town was being remade into the weekend hotspot. The baseball stadium overlooked a number of bars and restaurants. After hopping through a couple bars, we got a recommendation from one bartender for a good place to get something to eat. The "great pizza" ended up being a choice between a supreme or veggie DiGiorno that I pulled out of a freezer. At least PBR was on special.

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We woke up early the next morning to head back down to Bricktown and check out the canal that runs through the city. A Mexican restaurant overlooking the canal looked like a good place for lunch. Tour boats worked their way up and down the canal, offering the lazy man's approach to check out some of the sights.

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After lunch we walked along the pathway next to the canal. Restaurants, bars, and some shops lined both sides. We passed by the first Sonic, past Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar", and eventually made our way to the Land Run Memorial. Back in 1889, the previously restricted Oklahoma Territory was opened to homesteading. One of the main ways the land was divided was by having aspiring homesteaders line up and race to claim territory (as portrayed in the movie Far and Away). Giant metal statues reenacted the land run. Sooners were the people that hid in the fields to claim territory instead of legally racing the other participants. It was estimated that 50% of the land was claimed by Sooners.

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After walking through all the statues, we walked back down the canal and into Toby Keith's bar (primarily to escape the brutal heat). After rehydrating with a couple waters and cooling off with a couple beers, we walked back through downtown to head to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial.

We came to the block that contained the Murrah Federal Building that was destroyed in the April 19, 1995 attack (which was the most destructive terrorist attack on the US before 9/11). At 9:02, Timothy McVeigh detonated a Ryder truck filled with homemade explosives that was parked on the side of the building. The blast destroyed a large portion of the federal building (and 323 other buildings in the area, some of which are still condemned today). The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6. One of the floors in the building housed a preschool, and a YMCA was only a block away.

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The building was selected because of its proximity to a road where the rental truck could be parked. The motive for the attack was in response to the Waco Siege (a standoff between armed militants and the ATF beginning when several agents were killed trying to serve a search warrant), and the attack marked the second anniversary of the date when FBI ended the 51 day standoff by using tanks and gas.

We first saw the Murrah Federal Building Promenade, which featured a waterfall and several ramps. Thinking we had reached the memorial, we took a picture in front of the fountain.

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However, upon walking to the end of the promenade, we realized that we were only in the remains of the federal building. The memorial stretched out below us. 9 rows of chairs marked where the building used to stand (one for each person killed in the attack with little chairs representing children, and the 9 rows representing the 9 floors), a memorial pool marked the road that ran next to the building, and the Survivor Tree stood on the far hill (a tree that survived the blast and served as a symbolic reminder of perseverance).

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We walked around to the Gates of Time, which are two giant walls marked with 9:01 and 9:03 that indicate the moment before and following the attack. The tranquility pool was crystal smooth and very shallow. Water slowly trickled over the edges of the pool and it was very calming. The children's playground was still visible over their chair memorials.

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We circled the memorial, read the informational signs, and then decided to go through the museum. The museum was very detailed, painting a picture of life before the bomb, the background on McVeigh and his co-conspirators, the rescue effort, and the aftermath of the bombing. A section of the museum still contained some of the original wreckage.

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The memorial and museum tugged at the heart strings, really letting you feel the impact of the terrible attack. One of the the lasting impacts from the attack may have been increased security around federal building, but the final displays in the museum focused on how the citizens of Oklahoma City, the US, and countries around the world came together to help out one another. The clear, sunny day perfectly complimented the feeling of hope and togetherness that you felt leaving the museum.

We left the museum and walked back down to Bricktown. The Oklahoma City NBA team, the OK City Thunder, were playing in a playoff game (unfortunately they were away) and we didn't want to miss cheering with the local fans. The English pub we entered had the game on every screen, and fans filled every seat. The fans were passionate, and all over the city we saw signs of "Go Thunder" (one sign spanned the side of a building). The Thunder ended up losing the game in overtime, despite the loss we still enjoyed the game.

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After the game, we took a cab over to Stockyard City, the world's largest cattle market. Our destination was Cattlemen's Steakhouse, the oldest restaurant in Oklahoma. President George H. Bush raved about the steak at Cattlemen's, dubbing it as "The Presidential Steak". Man vs. Food also recently went to Cattlemen's and loved the steak as well. Instead of starting with the steak, we eased into the meal with Cattlemen's own beer, "The Double Deuce" and a signature starter, the lamb fries.

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The lamb fries are not made from lamb or potatoes. I didn't tell Jason or Brian what they were until we were almost finished. They are, in fact, fried bull testicles. Mmmm, mmmm!

We each ordered a steak, and they were humongous. Each steak came with a potato, salad, and bread, but after eating just the steak, I had no room for anything else. It was huge, but tasted fantastic. I would say it is a must-do in Oklahoma City.

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Oklahoma had been a lot of fun, and I can say that the land was indeed grand. As we drove back to Texas, I tried one last time to find that hawk doing lazy circles in sky.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 14:36 Archived in USA Tagged beer museum state_park local_food

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