Oklahoma – Days 1-3: Museums and Memorials and Learning Some New Things

My first day in Oklahoma I stopped in Tulsa to visit the Gilcrease Museum. Gilcrease focuses on art from the American West. I really enjoyed the exhibits of Native American art and Mexican masks. I was also super impressed with some of the sculptures. They were some of the coolest, most detailed sculptures of Cowboys and Native Americans I’ve ever seen. The artists really utilized texture to capture movement in their sculptures.

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There was also an exhibit I didn’t like. At all. It was the one showcasing the work of Rick Bartow. I really, really didn’t like his work. I found it disturbing. I didn’t even end up looking at most of it. I walked in the room, looked around briefly, and then quickly turned around and left. His work just gave me the creeps.

Outside the Gilcrease Museum is Stuart Park. It’s beautiful. Even though it was quite cold and windy I wandered around the pond and enjoyed the view.

Stuart Park, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK.

Stuart Park, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK.

I didn’t find a host in Tulsa so after Gilcrease I made my way to Oklahoma City. I started my first day in Oklahoma City with a trip to Organic Squeeze, the juice bar where one of my hosts worked. Free Wifi and a healthy breakfast? Yes, please! I worked on some Couchsurfing requests and got some blogging done and then I was off on the rest of my adventures.

My first stop was the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. In the hallway was an exhibit of photos by John Langmorese. The photos were in black and white and as I made my way down the one wall and back up the center wall I lamented that the world of cowboys was a bygone era. It just seemed like such an interesting culture, one I’d love to experience. Then I turned the corner to go back down the other side of the middle wall and the pictures on that side looked similar to the ones from the 1970s, but these ones were dated 2015. Wait, what?! Could it be true? Do cowboys really still exist?! Amazing! I made a note to see if I could make my way to Elko, Nevada on my journey and find these modern day cowboys.

Here are some of the other highlights of the museum: There was a large, 8′ x 5′ painting of a sunset by Albert Bierstadt that gave me chills. There were also a couple cool black and white paintings, which I love because they’re so rare and interesting. I enjoyed the video of contemporary Native American women discussing their art and how it was passed down to them from their grandparents. Louis Ortega’s rawhide braiding was intense. And super cool. I loved getting to see all the different designs and types of braiding. I also really enjoyed the Western Performers Gallery, especially the video that played clips from a bunch of Western movies, that was fun.

There was also a section called the American Rodeo Gallery and one about the Frontier West. The Rodeo Gallery was interesting; it reminded me of Crossett, where I saw my first rodeo. the Frontier West Gallery was a little dry, especially after all the other sections had been so interesting.

At one point, as I wandered around the museum, I overheard someone say something about UConn. I was like, wow, we’re a long way from Connecticut…and then I realized they were talking about Yukon… Regional differences for the win! Also, the security guards at the museum were wearing cowboy hats…

The last section of the museum I checked out was called Prosperity Junction. It was a recreation of an old Western town. It was awesome. My only complaint was that the lighting wasn’t better.

Prosperity Junction, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK.

Prosperity Junction, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK.

Even though I was in the same city for two nights, I had a different host my second night. So after the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum I went to meet my new host. We had dinner together and then she took me on a tour around town. My host recently graduated with a nursing degree and she used to be on the Crew team in college. While we ate dinner she asked if I’d be interested in going down to the Boathouse District and learning how to row. I said, “Yeah, absolutely!”

When my host was in college she trained at Devon Boathouse, which is where she took me. Apparently Devon Boathouse is also where Olympic rowers and kayakers train. As we walked through the weight room my host pointed out one of the Olympic athletes. What?! How cool is that?! I didn’t even know there was Olympic kayaking…

My host was an excellent teacher. I learned a ton about Crew and rowing. For example, did you know when you use one oar it’s called sweeping, but with two it’s called sculling? Me neither…until now.

There were lots of cool things about Devon Boathouse. One was the high altitude training room. Yep, they actually have a room where they can lower the air density and limit the amount of oxygen in the room…crazy, right?! They also have an indoor rowing area. My host took me there and taught me the basics. Do I look like a natural? Granted, wearing a skirt probably wasn’t the best idea…

Showing off my mad rowing skills at Devon Boathouse, Oklahoma City, OK.

Showing off my mad rowing skills at Devon Boathouse, Oklahoma City, OK.

After the Boathouse District we wandered around Bricktown, Oklahoma City’s business-y/nightlife-y area. Then we drove to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and my host told me what she knew about the bombing. She’s originally from Washington state so I forgave her for not being able to answer all my questions. I planned to go to the museum the following day anyway, so I hoped I’d learn everything I wanted to then.

At this point we were both freezing, so we went back to my host’s house and had a nice long chat. My favorite part was when she started quizzing me about human anatomy. Remember how she’s a nurse? I didn’t know as much as I should but, like I said, she was a great teacher.

The next morning I started my day at Waffle Champion. It was probably the best breakfast I’ve ever had…it was amazing! A fluffy and filling waffle topped with scrambled eggs and veggies and cheese and served like a taco?! Yes, please!

Breakfast of Champions at Waffle Champion, Oklahoma City, OK.

Breakfast of Champions at Waffle Champion, Oklahoma City, OK.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum was really moving and powerful. It made me wish I hadn’t missed the 9/11 memorial museum in NYC. The videos of mothers and fathers and grandmothers looking for their children the day of the bombing were utterly heartbreaking. I cried. I firmly believe tragedies like this are avoidable if we continue to remember the ones that have happened before and honor their victims and tell their stories so we don’t forget. This museum is a must see.

The tree in the center survived the bombing and was preserved as a testament to the resilience of the people of Oklahoma. Oklahoma City Memorial, Oklahoma City, OK.

The tree in the center survived the bombing and was preserved as a testament to the resilience of the people of Oklahoma. Oklahoma City Memorial, Oklahoma City, OK.

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