2006.07.07 Oklahoma to Salina

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We hit the road at the crack of 11:00 a.m. Our first stop was the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve northwest of Pawhuska, OK. On the way, we drove past Skiatook Lake, which was a first for us. The water was very clear and there were several boaters out & about.  It looked very nice.

We got to Pawhuska and started looking for signs to the Preserve. We found what we were looking for and the signs took us through downtown Pawhuska. Now, Pawhuska is the County Seat of Osage County, but we had low expectations of this town – however, we were extremely impressed with the incredible number of old brick multi-storied buildings that lined the downtown district. They were most all in very good shape, and it really seemed like we were stepping back in time while driving down Main Street. We would like to go back to Pawhuska when we have more time and do some prowling around.

We had to stop at a park, Williams Park, just north of town for Mallory (age 6) to use the restroom. What a great park! There was an eclectic collection of playground toys for the kids to play on. But we didn’t take time out for that, we simply used their restrooms and continued on to the Preserve.

When you enter the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, you notice one thing immediately: gravel roads. (Also, I must point out that the emphasis is on “prairie” and not on “tallgrass”. I was a little disappointed with the height of the grass, but it was impressive to see the prairie stretch out for miles and miles in every direction.) There was a very nice sign near the entrance, so we pulled the van over and were getting the kids out for a picture, when another car pulled up. While we were walking over to the sign, we told them hello. It was two ladies, and they asked us where we were from, so we told them the Tulsa area. They laughed and said they came from a little bit farther than that. They were from Toronto, Canada, and one of them was directing the play “Oklahoma” back home. They had come to our state to watch the play “Oklahoma” at Discoveryland – a local production of the play that is staged outside. We have seen it there years ago, and it is excellent. While they were in Tulsa, they had decided to visit the Preserve. We took pictures of each others groups and wished each other well.

The Preserve was created in the early 1990s. It is made up of prairie, as the name implies. At one time, there was over 140 million acres of prairie that stretched from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Today, there is less than 10% of that left, and the Preserve in Osage County is one of two primary preserves left in the country. They have introduced bison back into the area and the herd now numbers around 3000. We did get a chance to see a small group of around 30 of them at decent range as we were leaving the preserve.

After leaving the Preserve, we decided to drive west across Oklahoma. This seemed to agitate Miles (age 8 ) who we had told that we were only 10 miles from Kansas while at the Preserve. I believe that he was trying to measure our progress by whether or not we were in Kansas.

We hit I-35 at Blackwell and then headed North to Salina. Kansas reminds you that Oklahoma does not have a monopoly on toll roads, because as soon as you cross into Kansas, they get you. The stretch of road between Wichita and Salina was not very visually stimulating, as it is mostly farmland and flat. It did get monotonous. We did find Wichita interesting in that there appears to be an aqueduct running right down the middle of I-35, near their downtown, and then it switches to a several mile stretch of elevated interstate. What exactly is going on in downtown Wichita that the Interstate has to be elevated?

We arrived at our hotel in Salina around 7:00. We quickly ate, and then attacked their outdoor pool. The weather was perfect, and we had a wonderful time. We brought our own pool toys along on this trip – diving sticks, splash balls, noodles, etc. One highlight of our evening was Stephanie taking a picture of myself and Miles and Mallory performing a choreographed three-way cannonball into the pool. However, have you noticed there are no pictures associated with this blog entry? We have had an incident with the digital camera and the water in the pool. Let’s just say electronics and water do not mix. We are drying it out the best we can right now, so maybe it will heal itself. Oh well…

We are gearing up for tomorrow, because it will be action-packed, with lots to report. Maybe we will even have pictures!

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