Our room got up at 8:00 and we were on the road by 9:15. We did not plan too many stops on the last leg of our trip, but KK suggested that we should make a stop at Lake Optima, which is east of Guymon about 15 miles. We pulled off the road at the sign advertising the Optima Wildlife Refuge, and drove down the side road for several miles. Unfortunately, we totally missed the lake. KK had wanted us to see the lake, because it was designed and built as a regional recreation area. But sadly, the lake never filled with water. This was evidenced to us by the fact that the Beaver River, which feeds the lake, was dry as a bone. Not a single drop of water! KK was amused by the fact that you could see the picnic tables which had been setup originally to be at the water’s edge, but instead were a ¼ mile from the water (when there was any water). Perhaps they have already shut down the idea of there being a functional lake there…
Not that this came as a surprise to us, but there was not a whole lot to see in the panhandle. It is mostly flat, and brown except for the areas where there is irrigation. However, the farther east we drove, the greener it did get. While we didn’t see a lot of green fields, we did see plenty of windmills. A high percentage of these old windmills (a great many of them bore the “Aeromotor” brand) were still operational. They knew how to make a windmill back in the day.
We pulled over to check out the historical marker at the edge of the panhandle. It described how the panhandle was once known as “No Man’s Land”, and was actually under no governmental jurisdiction for the longest time. This fact made it attractive to outlaws. For whatever reason, it was assigned to Oklahoma, and now we have a panhandle. During our brief rest stop, Marissa got out her new horse-on-a-stick and was galloping around, but the horse tripped and Marissa got skinned up.
As we left the panhandle and made our way between Fort Supply and Woodward, we were greeted by a wind farm. At least a 100 of these towering, three-propeller “windmills” were spinning in the wind of the Great Plains. KK said that when he was back this way in September, they were not present, so these are a new addition to the landscape.
We stopped in Woodward for a quick bite at the KFC/Taco Bell. Woodward was busy getting prepared for the Elks Rodeo, which was the “tuffest and the oldest” around. They are celebrating their 78th year this year.
At Woodward, we decided to try a different route back home, so that we would not backtrack the same road that we took when we were headed west. We drove Highway 270 southeast until we hit Highway 51 than we were able to take that highway east all the way to Tulsa.
We shook up the seating arrangements while on the drive back, as Mallory rode with PK, KK, Scott and Erin for quite some time. Mallory and PK were reading a book to each other that they had purchased at Capulin, New Mexico. Since Mallory was not in our vehicle any more, Marissa entertained herself by listening to some Arthur and Clifford books on tape. It is also entertaining to us, because as they are singing songs on the tape, Marissa likes to sing along herself.
Several interesting things we passed along that route was mile after mile of shelterbelt wind breaks that were planted during the depression in the 1930s. We came across some good examples of these near Canton, OK. It is impressive to see these lines of trees thriving to this day.
Near the town of Southard, OK, we drove past the gypsum quarries. KK tells us that the gypsum mined in this part of the state is considered to be the purest in the world, and the best of it is sold to be included in pharmaceuticals. The gypsum that is not top-notch is used in sheetrock. We even saw a huge truck carrying a load out of the quarry as we drove down the highway.
We drove through Okeene, OK, which is home of the annual Okeene Rattlesnake Round-Up, which is held each May (darn, just missed that one). We loved the billboard as we rolled into town advertising the “Den of Death Butcher Shop” with a picture of a huge rattlesnake on it.
We stopped for gas in Hennessey, and it was here that we parted ways with the rest of our travel party. We gave them their two-way radio back, and they gave us Mallory. We got the better end of that deal!
As we had been promising Miles a trip to Dairy Queen for the past few days, and that visit had never worked out, we told him we would keep our eye out for a taste-freeze on the way back. While driving through Yale, we found exactly what we were looking for – the Dairy Hut! We were not even sure that this place was open when we drove up, as there were no cars in front. But the sign said “Open”, so we pulled up. The owner of the Dairy Hut, Mary Hall, has been working at the Dairy Hut for over 40 years. I know this because of the mayor’s proclamation that was hanging on the wall at the restaurant. We ordered malts, sundaes, and wizards (the Dairy Hut equivalent of a Dairy Queen blizzard). It was all very tasty.
Afterwards, we drove approximately one block, and paid a visit to the home of Jim Thorpe, which is the only home that Jim Thorpe ever owned. He lived there between 1917 and 1923. Jim Thorpe was named the top athlete of the first half of the twentieth century by the Associated Press in 1950. He was a native American, born in Oklahoma, who won Olympic gold medals in both the pentathlon and decathlon. He played football, both collegiately and professionally, and also played professional baseball and basketball. Unfortunately, the house was closed on Sundays so we could not go in, but it served as a museum of sorts. We’ll have to make plans to stop by when it is open.
We pulled into Tulsa about 5:00, and spent the next hour unloading the van! You have to take a lot of gear to withstand a 9 day road trip.
Many thanks go out to Mom and Dad for making this trip possible. They handled all of the lodging arrangements in Elizabethtown, all of the food that we prepared while on the trip, and provided all the ideas for the itinerary on the trip.
We drove 1,924 miles on the trip, and every mile was a pleasure. I am already looking forward to the next road trip, whenever that may be.