‘Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain…’. So sings Curly the cowboy in Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s famous musical, set in Oklahoma in 1906. The silver screen reinforced the romantic image of cowboys and Indians roaming the great plains throughout the 20th Century, but what can visitors to this state expect to find in 2011? My friend and I embarked on a road trip halfway across the USA in May, with Oklahoma City our final destination. For me, it was the highlight of our adventure.
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum was a must from the moment we began perusing tourist leaflets in our motel. From barbed wire to Stetson hats, this museum celebrates every facet of cowboy culture. It also gives a fascinating insight into Native American history and houses a huge collection of Western art, including the eclectic Art of the American West gallery. For film fans, the Western Performers Gallery charts the evolution of the Western genre, from silent movies to the present day, and showcases memorabilia such as John Wayne’s firearms. We enjoyed a tasty bowl of chili in the museum’s restaurant and revelled in the gift shop, which I believe would satisfy even the fussiest of souvenir-hunters.
Our next stop was Bricktown, home to the Oklahoma City RedHawks baseball team. We took a yellow and green water taxi along the short canal, which was a pleasant way to pass time and hear more about the state’s history. Bronze sculptures depicting the 1889 Land Run line much of the route and were the perfect supplement to our driver’s friendly narrative.
An American road trip would be incomplete without a stint on Route 66 and in Oklahoma we got our chance. There are many famous landmarks along this iconic road and one of the newest is Pops , a 66 foot tall soda bottle (complete with straw!) that becomes an LED light show when the sun sets. This futuristic sculpture is situated near Arcadia, about 30 minutes’ drive from Oklahoma City, and visitors can fill their cars at the Pops gas station and their bellies at the Pops diner. In true Route 66 spirit this is no ordinary diner, as it sells over 500 varieties of soda. It’s quite something to see the rainbow of bottles on shelves from floor to ceiling, particularly in the evening light.
Our final destination, The Oklahoma History Center, reinforced my desire to return and explore more of the ‘Sooner State’ , particularly the natural landscapes that lie beyond the cities. There is so much history and heritage to absorb in Oklahoma that two days were not enough to do its capital city justice, let alone the state as a whole.
Written by Jemma Saunders
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