State Thirty: Oklahoma

The GIANT Golden Driller in Tulsa.
The GIANT Golden Driller in Tulsa.

After a fantastic night’s sleep in Arkansas we drove into the birthplace of Brad Pitt and straight to see another golden guy – this one was the ‘Golden Driller‘ in Tulsa. He’s a 76-foot-tall, 43,500-pound statue of an oil worker and (according to Wikipedia) the largest free-standing statue in the world. Built in 1953 he’s still got it. And is huge. A fun and a quirky stop along the way – one of the offbeat attractions that make USA roadtrips so much fun.

The Symbolic Memorial at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.
The Symbolic Memorial at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.

We then pushed on to Oklahoma City (oh so pretty!) and straight to the incredibly moving National Memorial Museum which carefully tells the story of America’s worst incident of domestic terrorism. As you may know, on the morning of 19 April 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and at 9:02am, a massive explosion occurred which sheared the entire north side of the building off, killing 168 people.  Following an investigation – which resulted in the execution of McVeigh and the sentence of life without parole for his accomplice Terry Nichols – what remained of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was demolished on 23 May 1995. The entire 3.3 acre site subsequently became home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

The Museum is harrowing in parts – a room which contains a photograph and possession belonging to each of the victims, including the 19 children, is heartbreaking – but never overwrought. It explains what happened, encourages reflection and is truly a place to honor the victims, survivors and rescue workers. Outside, the Symbolic Memorial is quietly devastating. It consists of 168 sculptures of empty chairs, 19 of which are smaller, standing in nine rows representing each floor of the building. Each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. It’s a fine tribute.

The entrance to Stockyards City.
The entrance to Stockyards City.

We then drove to Stockyards City – where we were thrilled to see real-life, actual cowboys. Home to a number of shops specializing in all things western, this is the kind of place where you can outfit an entire ranch – cattle included – or just find a new pair of boots. But we decided to go and enjoy a great steak. We found ourselves seated in a sumptuous leather booth in Oklahoma City’s oldest restaurant – Cattlemen’s Steakhouse – which has been serving up steaks to cowboys and city-folk for more than 100 years. We enjoyed beautiful pinot noir, garlic mushrooms, soft pillow-y baked potatoes with whipped butter (may all our butter be whipped from now on) and two extraordinary steaks. Josh had a T-Bone of epic proportions (apparently what George W. Bush eats when he’s there) whilst Hannah had a perfectly cooked fillet steak and piquant peppercorn sauce. It was immense. And extremely tasty. We skipped the lamb’s fries (which are actually testicles) but maybe you’ll be braver than us when you go!

Cattlemen's Steakhouse - a 100 year-old dining legend.
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse – a 100 year-old dining legend.

With full bellies we drove to Guthrie.  Whilst looking at a map on the way there Hannah was delighted to spot an actual ‘Pawnee’ (howdy all the Parks and Recreation fans out there) located in Oklahoma. With redbrick and sandstone Victorian buildings lining the streets Guthrie is beautiful and our hotel – the former bank The Pollard Inn– looked like something out of an old Western. We were pretty much too stuffed to even contemplate moving that night so we watched lots of news – it was the midst of the Government Shut-Down which political nerds that we are, we found fascinating.

The Pollard Inn, Guthrie.
The Pollard Inn, Guthrie.

After our beautiful, almost indecent, breakfast (no less than five courses which included baked Moroccan eggs, French Toast, crème brûlée almonds and a tart raspberry sorbet) and a chat with the innkeepers Larry and Michelle about our quest to visit all fifty states, we had to hit the road. We were Texas-bound but we were sad to leave Guthrie, which, we found out hosts a Bluegrass Festival every year, and Oklahoma more generally. Romanticized by Rodgers & Hammerstein in their musical, captured in the sad yet hopeful songs of Woody Guthrie and home to plenty of Route 66 attractions, it’s certainly somewhere we’d love to return to.

Rate the State

Good for: meat, cowboys, the open road, big golden men.

Bad for: it’s solidly Republican and pretty much the “buckle” of the Bible belt – this might not float your boat.

Overall: 8/10


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