travel

Wild West Adventures in Cody, Wyoming

By Randy C. Anderson                     (Photos by Randy C. Anderson)

Cody, Wyoming. The name conjures up images of the old west, cowboys, outlaws, mountain men and Native American Indians. I loved studying about the old west in my history classes, and still enjoy learning about it. The images of the west I have carried in my mind since my youth came to life during a recent trip to my wife and I took to Wyoming. As we researched the trip, we found several interesting museums, shops and restaurants that we wanted to explore. Cody would be our first real layover in Wyoming, and we set aside three days to check out the attractions.

 

_DSC4326-1            Things started off as soon as we parked at our hotel and began to unload the car. We noticed a sign in front of the local drugstore that read, “We Have Bear Spray.” Yeah, I guess we were in bear country. But that part of the trip was still three days away … right now, we had some exploring to do in town.

 

Cody, Wyoming is a tourist town. It caters to the needs of hikers, campers, fishermen and hunters alike. Any outdoor activity you may wish to participate in, you can find everything you need for it in Cody. We grabbed a good night’s sleep in preparation for the next day’s exploration – Old Trail Town located on the west side of Cody. This remarkable gem is a memorial to “the old west.”

 

_DSC4541-1Old Trail Town stands on the original town site laid out by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in 1895; the town was named in his honor. He loved the area for its spectacular scenery, hunting, and close proximity to Yellowstone. The entire town is made up of authentic structures from across Wyoming and Montana that were taken down piece by piece, moved here and reassembled by western historian Bob Edgar. Each of these structures was carefully preserved to help keep the history of the American West alive.

 

Old Trail Town is filled with thousands of historic artifacts, housed in the unique buildings that line each side of the street. One of the most fascinating features about the town is the actual cabins of famous westerners such as Butch Cassidy and his “Hole In The Wall” gang, and famed Crow Indian scout “Curly,” the sole survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Yes, I have actually stood in their cabins, and marveled at the artifacts preserved therein. The Hole In The Wall cabin was built in 1883 on the Buffalo River in the Hole In The Wall country, while Curly’s cabin was built in 1885 near the Crow agency.

 

_DSC4368-1The Rivers Saloon was frequented by such notable outlaws as Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Blind Bill Hoolihan, W.A. Gallagher, and many others. There are three bullet holes in the door of the saloon that beg the question, who made them? It is remarkable to be able to stand in these buildings where these famous and infamous western figures once stood. Want to see an actual livery stable from the 1800s? How about a one-room schoolhouse or a homesteader’s cabin? You will find them all in Old Trail Town. I recommend visiting this western treasure, and allow plenty of time to see it all when you go.

 

I had heard about the Buffalo Bill Historical Center before I arrived in Cody. I was warned to allow at least two days to see it all, but I didn’t believe it. Well, they were right and I was wrong. Allow at least two days to see it all. This place is huge, and filled with thousands of western artifacts. There are five distinct areas making up the center, including an area devoted entirely to Buffalo Bill’s life, one devoted to the natural history of Yellowstone National Park, another to the Plains Indians, and yet another that is exclusively about firearms. Their collection of Western Art is housed in The Whitney Gallery.

 

_DSC4568We did spend an entire day at the center, and only covered three of the areas – the Natural History of Yellowstone, the Plains Indians and the area on Buffalo Bill. The other two will be explored next time. On a positive note, your entrance fee is good for two consecutive days, and covers the entire center. This center is an American treasure, and I encourage everyone to see it.

 

Downtown Cody is reminiscent of the old west, only modernized. There are many gift shops lining the streets – you will find everything from high quality artwork to the tried and true tourist T-shirts and caps. There are also some nice shops specializing in Native American art.

 

One place we had to check out was the Irma Hotel. Built in 1902 by Buffalo Bill Cody, this hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and still operates today. But book your stay early; this is a very popular hotel. You can stay in renovated rooms that hosted some of the most famous personalities the world has ever known, including Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. You can even stay in a private suite used by Buffalo Bill himself, or in one of many other historic and non-historic rooms, all with modern amenities. If you are hungry, the Irma features a restaurant and grill offering some of the best prime rib you will ever taste. The cherry wood bar is spectacular, and I am told it is one of the most photographed places in Cody – I can attest to being guilty of that! The architecture is remarkable. Do not miss the Irma Hotel when you visit.

 

Cody has a lot to offer, and the people are “Oklahoma” friendly. Its close proximity to the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park makes it a great jumping-off point for further wild-west adventures.

Warp Travel, Time Travel and Cinematic Style

By Micah Berg

Sci-Fi television and movies tend to push some explanation of time and space travel.  Everything from Dr. Who to Stargate explains some form of space or time travel method.  Sometimes, the explanations get jumbled, complex or just plain crazy.  Nonetheless, they all relate to some form of existing scientific principle.  For example:

U.S.S. EnterpriseStar Trek

Star Trek covered generation after generation of captains and crews, all aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, a space ship commissioned by the United Federation of Planets.

As a forenote, I should mention that the new(ish) Star Trek movie – though it strayed from the Star Trek storyline – was phenomenal.  It consisted of a brilliant cast, a far-out sci-fi storyline and stunning CGIs, just to pound the awesome a little further into your mind.  Best of all, it continued the Star Trek trend of incorporating Warp Travel and occasionally Time Travel, by use of a Warp Drive.

The Warp Drive

In Star Trek, they discuss a ton of mechanical properties about the infamous Star Trek vessel; the U.S.S. Enterprise.  From arrays of dampeners (needed for Nuclear reaction stability), to a cooling system (most likely needed to maintain a Bose-Einstein Condensate) and some quantum-composed supermaterial that maintains an equal plane of space-time in and around the vessel, but morphs the space and time around it.  In other words, the properties of the U.S.S. Enterprise all center around a type of matter that defies physics to surf the ship forward on a tidal wave of shifting space-time.

The all-time favorite engineer of Star Trek – Scotty – often complains about maintaining power in the engine room, or pushing the ship’s “engine” harder.

“I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!  She can’t take this much longer!”
–Montgomery “Scotty” Scott

Most likely, Star Trek hints at a heavy-usage cooling system and the drain from the ship’s photon firepower.  After all, exotic matter seems more viable than a gigantic battery-operated space Prius, and Scotty wouldn’t really have power problems with the engine if it were a jet-mechanized engine type.

Meanwhile, students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Aerophysics Research Center, along with some big-hats in the aeronautics industry, are developing an impulse engine, complete with dilithium crystals.  It’s expected to function in its prime by 2030.

Semblances of Time Travel

One other factor that heavily supports this engine type in the Star Trek storyline is the constant radiation and time-warp problems.  If  the Enterprise isn’t about to enter a black hole somewhere, then it’s about to erupt into deadly radiation.  Manipulated Exotic Matter would likely exhibit similar problems after continued use.  In the newer Star Trek movie, a couple of other points arrived as well.  Namely, an opposing ship started drilling into a planet with a photon drill, and it “also disrupted the teleport.”  In other words, the ship could not safely transport matter at FTL speeds between two locations while the highly-radioactive particle beam was active.  Much in the same way, you couldn’t drive through a star – even at FTL speeds – due to the radical movement of subatomic particles.  The Enterprise is lucky that their opponents didn’t activate the drill before they returned to normal velocities.

Some of the Star Trek events completely goes over my head, such as the U.S.S. Enterprise of the future showing up to save the past enterprise, or Old Spock’s return to the past to aid his past self.  So far, no conceivable method of travel to the past exists.  Even if one did, it would likely require theories that we yet haven’t discovered.  Star Trek plays off of the unexplained with its time travel occurrences.  Speaking of which:

TARDISDoctor Who

After many years of mediocre fanfare and poor stats (in 1963), the age-old British TV show returned to gather a massive fan base and break a tonne of new barriers for the show.  The always-changing Doctor Who yanks regular-joe folk from the street and parades around space and time, combatting all of the campy sci-fi nemises that you’d expect in a sci-fi show.  Most compelling of all, the Doctor isn’t human, he’s a human lookalike race known as the “Time Lords,” and he dies every season, just to reincarnate in a new body with the same mind.  Needless to say, Doctor Who opens all sorts of doors for time travel discussions.

Unfortunately, the Doctor’s vessel (the TARDIS) is disguised as a Police Call Box, and the interior – along with the controls – consist of items such as an egg beater, arcade game buttons and even a breaker switch.  Needless to say, the Doctor has no means of breaking down the mechanical, physical or even theoretical properties of time travel for the normal person, but he does lay down some interesting ground rules.

The Laws of Time
  • You cannot travel to the past to meet yourself.
  • Time consists of fixed points and they cannot be altered because of their effects on the future.
  • The color mauve infers bad things

Essentially, all of the principles established by Doctor Who refer to moral standards.  He  refers to many of his surrounding responses with scientific claims, but his rules for space and time all directly reflect moral motives.  In other words, Doctor Who – while an excellent programme – doesn’t pursue a strong definition for time travel, mainly to preserve a sense of inclusion between the storyline and the user.  In one of the earlier seasons, the Doctor does speculate on the difficulty of jumping between parallel universes, and he also fights to save a companion of his after she met her past self and time started to dissipate.

Stargate

Stargate

Much like Doctor Who’s time travel, a little explanation goes into Stargate’s Wormhole theory, but the premise of the show revolves around Stargates, which allow blisteringly-fast travel between two set points.

Wormholes and Hyperspace

Most of the relative discussions to wormholes and hyperspace in Stargate revolve around deconstructing matter in one place, blasting it to the next destination, and then reconstructing it.  The transfer takes time, and a wormhole is essentially unstable, dangerous business.  By setting up a wormhole through an obstacle, such as a planet or a sun, you essentially stand the chance to annihilate whatever resides outside of either Stargate.  In other words, rapidly moving you from one location to another is tricky business.

Star WarsTIE Fighter from Star Wars

Star Wars and the notoriously famous George Lucas really landed the limelight with the franchises connected to the Star Wars storylines.  Everybody knows about Star Wars.  Even if you haven’t seen it, you know about it.

While no form of time travel exists in Star Wars, tons of Space Travel explanations do, right along with wild theories relating to planet habitation.  Han Solo and his Millennium Falcon, the Sith Fleet,  Even multiple Jedi Space odysseys opened many doors of speculation for us.

First off, Star Wars heavily insinuates that long-distance space travel is insanely difficult.  Any non-jedi can’t navigate through space without a droid, due to the maneuverability needs to travel through hyperspace.   Better yet, you need an insanely power to travel through Hyperspace.

Hyperspace

From Han Solo’s crack about his ship “making the Kessel Run in less than 12 Parsecs (a measure of distance),” it’s apparent that Star Wars explains the fastest hyperspace travel as the shortest-distanced route.  Essentially, the Kessel Run exists in a few correlated books of the Star Wars Universe as a close cut to a ton of black holes in sequence, which immensely shortens the distance traveled as you pass them.  If you also consider how light bends as the Millenium Falcon enters hyperspace, it’s apparent that the ‘hyperspace’ Star Wars often refers to coincides with hyperspace theories found in other hits, such as Babylon 5 and Dune.

The concept of hyperspace in these movies essentially fall in line with Einstein’s descriptions of absolute and relative time, in which you picture space-time as a blanket.  The distance traveled is always below the speed of light, but as you near the speed of light, time slows around you.  In other words, space-time creates a crease where you are.  Theoretically, if you move fast enough, with enough applied gravity, then you can literally shorten the distance that you travel..thus hyperspace.  If you draw a point onto a napkin and then fold it, the point is still only in one place, but it touches two parts of aplane.  With contact to two points in space-time, you’re in “hyperspace.”

Hybrids from Space Battleship Yamato and Battlestar Galactica

Since – as a good friend of mine pointed out – these two use essentially the same hybrid method of space / time travel, I feel like they’re worth notable mention for their shared theory.

Battlestar GalacticaThese theories often refer to travel through space by skipping over time, as discussed in Tachyonic fields.  The idea behind a Tachyonic Field refers to an instant jump into Faster-Than-Light speed travel.  Right before an object passes into a slowed-state of time (like a black hole), it jettisons itself over the time gap by igniting exotic matter, and firing it ahead of the ship.  When executed at the perfect moment, the object skips over the fluctuations in time, which propels it at speeds “faster than light.”  In other words, the general idea of space travel shared between Space Battleship Yamato and Battlestar Galactica is that you must slingshot yourself over time to travel faster than light.

If this you enjoyed this article, then check out the general principles of warp speed travel.  There’s also a ton happening with the space frontier in our day-to-day lives.  Better yet, Oklahoma has a number of television extraordinaires, such as Devin Derrick, Heather Langenkamp, ESPN’s Skip Bayless, Bill Hader and Lisa Lampanelli.  If you want to stay closer to the government agencies but talk about something other than space, then consider either the global Internet Conference coverage or the Navy’s new Railgun breakthrough.  Come to think of it, James Bond’s gadgetry is pretty magnificent as well.

Ponca City’s Treasure

By Randy C. Anderson

Ponca City LibraryThere are many things to see in Oklahoma: beautiful lakes and streams, a rich mix of arts and cultures, and unsurpassed architectural designs. Look closely, or you could miss some of them. One of my most surprising personal finds is the Ponca City Library. This wonderful library sits quietly tucked away at 516 East Grand in downtown Ponca City. It not only serves the city and surrounding community with traditional library services, it houses a unique and masterful collection of Oriental and Western art. The collection includes oils, charcoals and watercolors, as well as three-dimensional bronze and pottery pieces. This extensive collection is on public display throughout the library during regular business hours.

 

Noted photographer and world traveler Richard Gordon Matzene donated a large portion of his art collection to the Ponca City Library, as well as to the University of Oklahoma. Matzene operated photographic studios in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. So why give his art collection to the Ponca City Library? Because he had made Ponca City his home.

 

Boxer Rebellion Painting            While there are uncertainties regarding Matzene’s early life, it appears he might have been of Danish descent, listing Denmark as his place of birth in the 1910 U.S. census. Or, was it England? In 1918 – on his draft registration and on his naturalization papers – he claimed to be from England. Late in his life, he told friends he was from Hungary. No one is quite sure of his true birthplace.

 

He used the title “Count” while in Chicago and New York City, but stopped using the title when he moved to Los Angeles. The title of “Count” is also suspect, with no proof of such a title ever being bestowed upon him.

 

Maria Martinez Pot            Matzene’s exceptional photographs and his keen eye for art are well known. He traveled the world making portraits, and even had a studio in India for a time. While on a trip to China, he took refuge during the Boxer Rebellion in the basement of a home belonging to a Chinese friend. During this same trip, he acquired several pieces of art from the Imperial Palace. He was able to photograph the Royal Nepal family at a time when the borders of Nepal were closed to outsiders.

 

When several hundred of his photos turned up in a closet at the Marland Grand Home, they were taken to the Ponca City Library. Marcela Sirhandi, a professor of art history at Oklahoma State University, spent many hours researching the people depicted in the photos. Her book, “Royal Nepal Through The Lens of Richard Gordon Matzene,” published in 2009, offers insight into Matzene’s work.

 

Portrait Taos Society

 

Part of the Matzene collection of art displayed at the library includes many works by W. Herbert Dunton, Ernest Blumenschein, Walter Ufer and Ernest Martin Hennings, a few of the artists that formed the Taos Society of Artists in 1912. Many works by Birger Sandzén, who was elected an Associate Member, are also on display. These artists painted mostly Native Americans and landscapes that focused on the unique color and light of the Taos region.

 

Chinese PaintingDisplay cases at the west entrance of the library are filled with Matzene’s small collection of Pueblo pottery, including pieces by famous Native American potter Maria Martinez. The lower level of the library houses works by R. Gordon Matzene, along with oil on canvas landscapes by William Keith, Ralph Davidson Miller and many other artists of the early 20th century.

 

It is still a mystery as to what brought Matzene to Oklahoma, and more specifically, to Ponca City. The best answer I found while researching for this article is this: While on one of his cruises in the late 1920s, he came across an Oklahoma oil baron who told him of all the newly wealthy folks in Ponca City in need of guidance in purchasing art and antiquities. Matzene moved to Ponca City and became a local man of mystery, living well off his art and decorator services. He photographed Native Americans, but abandoned all interest in society portraiture.

 

Boxer Rebellion PaintingNot only is the library full of treasures, but the building itself is also remarkable. In 1904 – three years before statehood – a group of women belonging to the Twentieth Century Club pushed to have a public library in Ponca City. This same group of women asked for and received a grant from the Carnegie Library Fund. The Carnegie Library served the city well, but in 1930, an oil boom quickly increased the population and Ponca City soon became the seventh largest city in the state. The library was often crowded with people; inevitably, a new building was needed, and in 1935 a new public library was dedicated, 25 years after the first public library had opened.

 

A much-needed 10,000-square-foot addition was added in 1989. The architectural style and integrity were kept intact, even to the complete restoration of the original building. The buff colored bricks, terra cotta window details and high ceilings are still present. The south entrance plaza is graced by a bronze sculpture, Through the Eyes of a Child, by Jo Saylors, a renowned Ponca City sculptor. It is fascinating when you grasp all that this library has to offer, especially the art and architecture preserved there.

 

Many people might wonder what is the future relevance of public libraries, given the Internet and mobile computing. I think there will always be libraries, or should always be. The Ponca City Library has embraced technology – they have an excellent website with several interactive tools, database links and audio and e-book downloads. The community also makes use of the library, with summer reading programs for children, book reviews, income tax information and forms, senior outreach programs and much more. The library has one of the largest genealogical sections in the state, plus a large collection of books about Oklahoma, by Oklahoma authors.

 

You will always receive warm smiles and a friendly greeting when you visit – you won’t find that on the Internet! And with so much to see, you will be visiting often.

Cruisin’ in Your Own Backyard

By Rebekah Mercer

Sunsets on the water are something to behold – the water glistens and reflects everything in a warm glow that surrounds you and makes you feel everything is right with the world. There’s something about being on the water at that time of day that seems magical, and if you’re lucky enough to experience it, it’s a memory you won’t soon forget. But for the time challenged, it’s often an experience that’s out of reach, what with the struggle to get away from work and other responsibilities for a week or more. The high price tag involved with airline tickets and booking a cruise is also a tough pill to swallow for those of us on a budget these days. But there is hope yet. More than hope … there is a solution. You don’t have to travel far, and it won’t break the bank. You don’t even have to take off work.

Panoramic of Harkins Theatre and BricktownOklahoma City has two on-the-water experiences that you can enjoy in a weekend that will provide many of those warming memories you’re pining for, and a lot of just plain fun to boot.  Bricktown Water Taxi and Oklahoma River Cruises are both inexpensive and nearby, and they provide options for an afternoon or evening of fun that aren’t easy to duplicate anywhere else.

Here are all the details to plan a mini-cruise vacation that won’t break the bank or eat up your vacation time. Let’s start with something you’ve probably heard about, but maybe never experienced – Bricktown Water Taxis.

Where else but in our own backyard in Oklahoma City can you hop on a water taxi and enjoy a relaxing cruise through the city’s premier entertainment district, learn a bit about your state’s history, and stop off along the way to enjoy a movie theater, bowling alley or winery, along with shopping and restaurants of all kinds? For the price of one ticket and one parking fee, there’s no driving all over town or having to move the car, no long treks back and forth between locations. The water taxis are available every day, and the cost is only $8.50 per person for an all-day pass, with stops and pick-ups anywhere along the route included in the price.

If you aren’t familiar with Bricktown or haven’t ridden the water taxi before, you might want to start early – make one full circuit first, just to see what’s there. You can hop back on the next taxi to get where you’re going once you make up your mind. Harkins Theatres are just a few steps from your water taxi; but If you’re not in the mood for a movie, a game of tenpin bowling at one of the country’s most luxurious bowling alleys might be what floats your boat.

Toby Keith's I love this bar and grillAt RedPin Bowling Alley, you will get a luxury bowling experience. An oxymoron, you say? But at RedPin, it’s definitely not … let’s just say it’s not your average bowling experience. For example, your bowling shoes are delivered to you at your lane, along with personal service from waitstaff, who will take your food and drink orders and make that delivery also. The newly opened Basement Modern Diner offers American classics like handcrafted burgers, pizzas, fried pickles, whoopee pies and milkshakes made from fresh, local ingredients.

If you’re an oenophile (make that a wine connoisseur), then Put A Cork In It will be a fun place to make a stop. Free wine tastings are offered daily, and as they put it, “Every hour is happy hour at Put A Cork In It.” I don’t know about you, but that’s all I need to hear! They also offer handcrafted chardonnays, merlots and a variety of other popular wines.

And of course, you’ll want to stop along the way and do some shopping at retailers like Bass Pro Shop and the Red Dirt Marketplace, where you can find 50 retailers under one roof, including apparel, jewelry, pottery, toys, candles, books and all kinds of artistic creations. Bass Pro offers everything imaginable for the outdoor enthusiast – whether camping, hunting, fishing, archery … whatever your sport.

But you have to eat, right? Some of the city’s best restaurants have locations on the canal. For something new and different, try Bolero Spanish Grill & Tapas Bar. Or if a margarita on a balcony overlooking the canal sounds perfect to you, check out the great margaritas at Chelino’s. Maybe you just want to relax and enjoy a first-class Italian meal. If so, Zio’s Italian Kitchen is your ticket. There’s also a new casual and fun eatery called Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. According to those who have eaten at their Norman location, the tacos here are “to die for.” Other restaurants include Earl’s Rib Palace, Jazmoz Bourbon Street Café, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, Nonna’s Euro-American Ristorante & Bar and many more.

Water TaxiFor a special adventure, take in the Bricktown Blues and BBQ Festival happening June 15 and 16. It’s a free outdoor event at the corner of Sheridan and Oklahoma avenues offering continuous entertainment under the tents, rain or shine. For a list of entertainers and purveyors of food and drink, visit www.brewerentertainment.com/index.php?bricktown-blues.

Whatever you do, be sure to allow yourself time to see all the sights along the canal and sample all you can. For more information, visit See www.bricktownwatertaxi.com or call (405) 234-8263.

For those still thinking about magical sunsets, Oklahoma River Cruises offers Sunset Cruises every Friday night throughout the summer. For a $29 ticket, you get a sunset cruise, great music, free appetizers and sodas, and your choice of adult beverages from their cash bar. The boats offer air-conditioned cabins and are ADA accessible.

Devon Waterboat toursOther themed summer cruises are offered as well, including the Western Waters in June (country music), Disco Nights in July (shake your groove thing to the disco beat), Luau in August (Hawaiian-themed cocktails, appetizers and hula dancing) and Karaoke in September (are you brave enough?). Special Casino Nights and History Comes Alive cruises are listed on their website, with themes including Land Run, Cowboy and Rosie the Riveter. You’ll never experience fireworks like you will with a bird’s-eye view from the Fireworks Cruise on June 30. And for theater buffs, Shakespeare on the River in June and July features none other than William Shakespeare as your cruise guide.

The cruises also offer lots of information about the history of the river and planned improvements courtesy of MAPS funding, some of which include a floating stage, grandstands, rowing courses, a manmade whitewater kayaking venue and river beautification projects. Visit the Oklahoma River Cruise website for all the details at www.okrivercruises.com or call (405) 702-7755.

If you’re looking for a shorter river experience or just need to get from one place to another, transit cruises are also available. They offer access to Stockyards City, the Meridian Corridor and the Boathouse District. You can disembark at any of three landings (Regatta Park, Exchange Landing or Meridian Landing) if you want to do a bit of sightseeing. Other public transit options are available at each landing (trolleys and buses). However, due to all the downtown construction, be sure to check on schedules, times and possible cancellations at www.gometro.org/river-transit.

This summer, plan to make a weekend of exploring some of the great things Oklahoma City has to offer. You’re sure to discover new places and make lasting memories.

When Vikings Paid A Visit To Heavener

 

By Kimberly Thomas

viking helmsVikings roaming the hills of southeastern Oklahoma? Everyone has heard the history of Oklahoma from the Cowboys and Indians perspective, but few have heard the rich history that surrounds the small town of Heavener, Oklahoma. Just outside the tiny town of Poteau and up a winding mountain road lies Heavener Runestone Park, housing one of the biggest little mysteries in the state of Oklahoma.

 

Sitting atop Poteau Mountain, the park is almost three miles northeast of Heavener, off State Highway 59 and U.S. Highway 270. A winding trail descends into a beautiful, shaded valley featuring a small pavilion that encloses a mysterious slab covered with runic letters.

 

Rune Stones of PoteauThis runestone – about 12 feet high, 10 feet wide and 16 inches thick – is an inscribed rock usually left as a monument or as a claim for land. In Viking days, a runestone functioned to explain inheritance, mark territory, bring glory to dead relatives, or to serve as a reminder of important events. In some areas, they appear to also have been social and economic markers. When one group left a marker, it would stand over time to let others know which land belonged to which group. Most of the runestones from the Viking age use the same formula – along with a prayer, the text memorializes the person who raised the runestone, the social status of the dead person and place of death.

 

A Choctaw hunting party first discovered the runestone in the 1830s, but it came to be called “Indian Rock” after being rediscovered by white trappers who assumed that the markings were made by Native American Indians.

 

Carl F. Kemmerer, a local schoolteacher, sent a copy of the inscriptions to the Smithsonian Institution in 1923 on behalf of the Heavener Mason’s Lodge. The Smithsonian quickly responded that the characters were runic, identifying the eight symbols as Scandinavian.

 

They were initially interpreted to read “GNOMEDAL,” roughly translated as Sundial Valley or Monument Valley. The valley where the runestone stands still looks like a place where Vikings would roam, with waterfalls and lush greenery surrounding the large stone formations. It is a place of refuge that would beckon weary travelers, especially on a hot day, with the waterfall calling out to passersby.

 

Gloria Farley, a Heavener resident, first visited the stone with Kemmerer when she was a student, but the stone lay forgotten until she rediscovered it decades later. By then, local natives had been scratching their own names into the rock, thus destroying the original characters.

 

Celtic AccessoriesIn 1953, she led a group that believed the markings were made by Vikings traversing the Mississippi, Arkansas and Poteau rivers. She and her followers realized the importance of the slab of rock with the hidden message, and rescued the monument from obscurity. It was through Farley’s persistent effort that foreign experts studied the runestone and a state park was established.

 

Over the years, various theories have arisen regarding the possibility of Scandinavians passing through present-day Oklahoma around the eleventh century. Some believe that members of LaSalle’s expedition of 1687 made the mark. Others believe a Swedish captain leading a French colonization effort in the Mississippi valley around 1720 made the inscription.

 

Alf Monge, a former U.S. Army cryptographer, asserted the symbols were a runic puzzle indicating the date November 11, 1012 – St. Martin’s day on our calendar. Monge claimed evidence showed that the creator of this puzzle was Erik Gnupsson, who was made Bishop of Greenland in 1112.

 

Dr. Richard Nielson, who obtained his degree at the University of Denmark, decided the markings should be translated as “GLOMEDAL,” meaning Glome’s Valley, which would indicate a land claim. Assertions have also been made that it could be “G. Nomedal,” with Nomedal being a Norwegian family name.

 

Many people believe that Vikings once roamed throughout Oklahoma, leaving their mark across the state long before the days of cowboys and Indians; however, scientists still question the validity of the runestone, pointing out that no verifiable Norse artifacts have been found in Oklahoma. Those who believe in the authenticity of the runestone remind us that other runestones have been found in nearby Poteau, Shawnee and Tulsa.

 

In 2003, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission and Friends of the Heavener Runestone reached an agreement to hire an archeologist to search for a nearby cave rumored to have similar markings. The cave’s existence would support the theory that Vikings were the first Europeans to set foot in Oklahoma, but to date, there has been no report of the cave being found.

 

Whoever left the cryptic message would have thought the land was sacred, and modern Oklahomans agreed. In 1965, the Herbert Ward family of Heavener donated 55 acres to create a park. State Senator Clem Hamilton led the effort to obtain state funding, and Heavener State Park was built around the monument. The park was run by the Department of Tourism from October 25, 1970 until July 2011, when the state gave up the park.

 

“The non-profit group Friends of Heavener Runestone, in alliance with the City of Heavener, took over the park,” says Karry Kofr, park manager and events coordinator.

 

Today, Heavener Runestone Park is visited by tourists from around the world.

 

“Some have come from as far away as Spain and Denmark to see the runestone,” says Kofr. “Of course, there are many tourists from Arkansas, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, all over the United States.” The park makes an ideal vacation destination or day trip from almost anywhere in Oklahoma, offering nature trails, waterfalls, plenty of picnic areas and a paved sidewalk winding down the ravine to the shelter protecting the runestone.

 

For those heartier souls who like to camp, there are campgrounds available. There are also three pavilions that can be used for weddings and reunions, as well as a full-service community building that holds up to 100. In addition to a kids’ playground, an amphitheater is available for those who wish to stage their own shows. The park is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. until dark.

 

Heavener Park now hosts a biannual Viking/Celtic folk festival, held in the spring and fall. The lilting music descends into the valley and combines with the beauty of the landscape for an almost ethereal experience. Visit their website at www.friendsofheavenerrunestone.org for more information on park activities and past festival photos.

 

A student from the University of Arkansas created a class project that does a good job of highlighting the beauty of the autumn landscape at Heavener Park. You can find the nine-minute video by searching “meandmyhdcam” on YouTube.

 

From the top of the hill, you get a full spectrum view of the Winding Stair Mountains and the Tahlimena Drive. From this view, one can easily imagine why whoever marked the area wanted to claim it in all its glory. The runestone was clearly left as a remembrance, and Oklahomans have stepped up to continue to make its location a place to remember. With facilities for family fun and such a beautiful destination in our own backyard, visitors won’t soon forget the charm of Heavener Runestone Park. Oklahomans should make it a point to put Heavener Runestone Park on their must-see list.

Remarkable Fort Reno

By Randy C. Anderson

 

Fort Reno, just a few miles from the Chisholm Trail, is known for many things – it has been the home of the famous 9th and 10th Cavalries (the Buffalo Soldiers), and World War II German and Italian POWs are buried in the post cemetery. Frederick Remington, the well-known western artist, visited Fort Reno and drew many of his Buffalo Soldier, Cheyenne, Arapaho and cavalry drawings while there. Black Jack, the riderless horse used for the funerals of Presidents Hoover, Kennedy and Johnson, as well as General Douglas MacArthur, was raised and trained at Fort Reno. Will Rogers and other notables attended polo matches and horse races held there. Ben Clark, General Phil Sheridan’s favorite scout, lies at rest in the post cemetery, along with his Cheyenne wife, Moka, and five of their children. He is considered by many to be the most notable person buried there. In addition, many of the buildings still standing at the fort are said to be haunted.

 

Water TowerMy first visit to Fort Reno occurred many years ago, and I was looking for birds, not history. Oklahoma birders have compiled an impressive list of species seen on the grounds, so I went to check it out for myself. Fort Reno is an easy drive from Oklahoma City, lying just west of El Reno. While Route 66 passes right by the front gate to the fort, most visitors drive out on I-40. On that first visit, the birding was not so good, but the history of Fort Reno was remarkable.

 

I love Oklahoma history, and Fort Reno has added much to the history of the state. Fort Reno began as a military camp in 1874 at the request of the Darlington Indian Agency for help in protecting the Cheyenne and Arapahos located there. Troops arrived and established a camp on the south side of the Canadian River. The following year, the commander was authorized to make more stable arrangements, marking the beginning of the fort’s permanent structures.

 

The name “Fort Reno” was given by General Phil Sheridan in memory of a friend, Jesse L. Reno, who died in battle during the Civil War. The troops that served at the fort played a vital role during the Indian War era and the transition from being a territory to becoming a state. The most notable engagement between the troops from Fort Reno and the Cheyenne came in September 1878 when members of the Northern Cheyenne, led by Chief Dull Knife, broke out of the reservation and headed north to their homeland in Nebraska. Cavalry troops from Fort Reno pursued them through Kansas before turning back after being relieved. The movie “Cheyenne Autumn” is based on this event.

 

Troops from Fort Reno also had the responsibility to seek out and remove the “boomers” (led by David Payne) before the land run of 1889.

 

BarracksFort Reno operated as a permanent military base from 1874 to 1948. After statehood, the primary function of the base was as a quartermaster’s remount station for mules and horses. Mules were shipped to the Pacific and European theaters during WWII as pack animals.

 

During WWII, Fort Reno served as a POW camp. There are 62 German and 8 Italian POWs buried in the post cemetery. All but one of the prisoners interred at the cemetery came from other POW camps in Oklahoma (of which there were 30) and Texas. Most of the prisoners held in Oklahoma came from General Rommel’s Afrikakorps, brought to the camp by train from the east coast. The German POWs built the fort’s chapel in 1944, which is still a popular location for weddings.

 

Since 1948, Fort Reno has served as a USDA grazing lands research center.

 

There is always something going on at the fort. Weddings take place in the chapel, battle reenactments are held, memorial runs take athletes throughout the grounds, and “Tombstone Tales” are recounted; but the ghost tours are the most unique events. Being intrigued and a bit skeptical, my wife and I attended a ghost tour … and survived. While we did not personally see any ghosts, others claimed they did. The tour guides are experts on the subject, and I would not want to spoil the ghost stories you will hear if you should decide to partake of a ghost tour, so I will leave it to the tour guides to tell those tales. The tour was definitely different – walking the grounds at night with lanterns and flashlights while hearing which buildings are haunted and by whom. Your eyes straining through the darkness to see any type of apparition. I will say this – every time I have gone upstairs in the visitor center, I have gotten a weird feeling, as if someone was there watching me! The ghost tours occur once monthly through November. Dates and times are listed on their website.

 

Visitor Center

Visitor's Center

Do check out the visitor center, filled with lots to see, from artifacts to souvenirs, plus a nice selection of books about Fort Reno, the Cheyenne and Arapahos, the Buffalo Soldiers and more. The staff is always very friendly, helpful and informative.

 

Check out Fort Reno for yourself – it is an easy day trip. For more information on hours of operation, events and history, you can visit their website at www.fortreno.org.

Nature’s Wrath – Up Close and Personal

By Rebekah Mercer

Storm chasing is not for the faint of heart, but if you like being in the center of the action, come along for the thrill of your life!

 

In the middle of tornado alley on a rural road near Oklahoma City, the sky is a threatening sludge of black clouds tinged with brackish green and grey. It’s 6 p.m., or the “witching hour,” as storm spotters call it in tornado country. Tension hovers in the air all around, but it’s momentarily quiet as a band of four seemingly non-descript vans linger on the side of this country road. The air has a trace of something unseen and ominous as the occupants wait and watch. Suddenly, the sky cracks open with a violent barrage of lightning, and a wall cloud lights up from behind. There is a dip on one side, with what looks like a funnel formation taking shape. Engines come to life as the vans pull into the road, headlights streaming in the direction of the threatening weather. This is what they came for. It’s time to move!

This scene is played out all around the city during the spring and summer months as storm chasers and storm tour operators tempt fate, jockeying for position to be the closest to observe nature’s wrath. This relatively new form of adventure experience is fast becoming a popular business in Oklahoma, a state with some of the most severe weather in the country, and Oklahoma City serves as the base for many storm-chasing tours.

Cloud 9 Tours is one of these businesses, and if you’re in one of their vans when a storm like the one above brews up, it’s too late to turn back. You are about to get up close and personal with one of nature’s most violent and dangerous phenomena. And unlike most people (dare we say sane people?), you will not be heading away from the tornado, but toward it. Charles Edwards, owner and storm tracker for Cloud 9, tells me this is a typical scenario for his team and storm tour vacationers as they track storms throughout tornado season.

Massive CycloneBut with a business history going back 15 years and a trained meteorologist as your navigator, you’re probably as safe as you can be while putting yourself near the eye of the storm. In reality, that is what visitors from around the world do every year, many of them repeat customers from as far away as Australia. Surprisingly, most of his clientele are not from the U.S., as one would expect. Edwards reports that two-thirds of them hail from Europe and Australia.

In addition to Edwards, the Cloud 9 team also boasts some other well-known weather phenoms. George Kourounis, driver for Cloud 9, has some pretty amazing stories to tell. Kourounis is famous for his TV show Angry Planet, and for being the first person to film inside a tornado, an active volcano and the eye of a hurricane. It’s hard to imagine how Kourounis could ever run out of stories, based on that background, but if it should ever happen, John Guyton, Mike Theiss and Edwards are all there to back him up, keeping things lively with stories and anecdotes from all their travels.

Cloud 9 is based in Shawnee, Okla., but the team travels as far as the Canadian and Mexican borders in some cases, covering up to 5,000 miles in a typical tour. Although the most intense storms typically take place in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, the crew and storm-chaser guests often travel across numerous state lines chasing the harrowing but elusive storms. Unlike some companies, Cloud 9 does not guarantee that you will see tornadoes on their 15-night tours, but they do report having chased as many as 14 tornadoes on a single tour. With state-of-the-art meteorology and GPS equipment and many years of experience, the company does offer some of the best odds for tracking and finding severe weather.

Edwards stresses, however, that much of their time is spent on the road and at sightseeing stops in-between storms. The Large and Bizarre Tour in Kansas is one of their favorite stops – largest ball of twine in the world, largest prairie dog, etc. – along with stops such as the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo, home of the 72-oz. steak challenge.

“Although there are normally lots of thrills, it’s definitely not the vacation for everyone,” says Edwards. “You don’t see tornadoes every time, and we do a lot of travel tracking storms. But we do like to find those out-of-the way, side-road attractions to break up the trip and make it fun.” Good food is also part of any successful travel experience, and the team scouts out restaurants along their routes, according to Edwards.

Terrible Hail“We make an effort to track down all the good steak places. Once you’ve seen a tornado close-up, you’ve definitely earned a steak!”

Although he focuses on the tour’s safety aspects and their exceptional planning and instrumentation, when pressed, Edwards does admit to some dicey situations. One of them occurred in the Texas panhandle when he watched a tornado change directions and cross the road right in front of the van. Later in the tour, another tornado became hail-wrapped and, because it was pounding the vehicle so hard and fast, it was difficult to see where they were going, especially after the windshield was broken out. There was no place to turn around, and another tornado was right in front of them. But they managed to ride it out unscathed.

In another situation, a tornado was headed straight toward them, coming down the interstate in Kansas. Edwards had to turn around on the interstate and head the wrong way to outrun it.

“There was a semi headed into it, and we saw it get turned over by the storm,” said Edwards. It’s times like these when it really pays off to have guides and drivers who are really experienced.

But not all storm chasers work for tour companies or for local news teams and weather bureaus. There are a number of them who do it just for the adrenaline rush and the educational opportunities. Kyle Whipple calls himself a “recreational storm chaser” and has been involved with the activity since his college days. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a master’s degree in meteorology, Whipple and a number of his friends enjoy chasing storms for the first-hand experience and educational opportunities storm chasing offers.

“You can read about them and study them, but there is nothing like being right there to see it and experience it,” said Whipple. He relies on weather reports from the National Weather Service, which he tracks on his laptop in the car when he’s chasing.

Although he admits to not having the sophisticated systems professional storm chasers utilize, Whipple thinks most storm chasers know enough to stay out of the way of storms. He warns of more mundane risks that are likely to occur when storms are approaching.

“The most dangerous aspect is getting into a wreck. People are looking up at the clouds and the weather, and there are usually other storm chasers around the same area. Sometimes, people drive too fast when they’re in bad weather.” In addition to driving safety, his main safety tip for amateur storm chasers is to keep at least two tires on the road when they pull off to observe a storm.

“People get stuck,” he comments, “and that’s not good when a tornado’s coming.”

Regardless of whether you’re a storm chaser or an armchair weather forecaster, one way to add to your knowledge and experience is to visit the National Weather Center in Norman, on the University of Oklahoma campus. The center houses a number of organizations that work together to provide resources to study and deepen understanding of the world’s weather. The center is a research home for scientists, climatologists, meteorologists and students who are interested in learning more about weather science and about improving weather forecasting.

Chasing StormsTours of the facility are available free to the public and are offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1 p.m. It’s important to note, however, that reservations are required and usually have to be made at least two weeks in advance. Highlights include the Storm Prediction Center and the National Weather Service Forecast Office. Each fall, they host a festival with hourly weather balloon launches, children’s activities and an open house. Call the center at (405) 325-1147 for information. A virtual tour can be accessed by visiting the NOAA website, www.norman.noaa.gov.

With severe weather in the forecast for Oklahoma every spring, storm-chasing vacations are just the ticket for those who are weather obsessed. The list below provides contact information for several tours in the area that should provide you with plenty of springtime weather thrills and chills.

When there are storms, there will be those hearty souls who like to be in the thick of it. If you are one of them, stay safe and send back pictures and videos for the rest of us, safely tucked away in our living rooms!

 

Cloud 9 Tours (405) 323-1145

www.cloud9tours.com

Storm Chasing Adventure Tours (405) 888-6391

www.stormchasing.com

Silver Lining Tours (832) 717-4712

www.silverliningtours.com

TRADD Storm Chasing Tours

www.traddtornadochasingtours.com

Memorable and Unique Valentine’s Day Getaways

By Rebekah Mercer

 

Are you dreaming of a Valentine’s Day gift that will surprise and delight? Do you want to plan something unforgettable so the memories can be cherished for years to come? Are you thinking of something that will take you away from the stresses and cares of daily life and give you time to focus on each other? Then what you’re looking for is a romantic getaway for just the two of you.

 

Distinctly Oklahoma has been scouting some great getaways for you that are just the ticket and are all within a few hours drive from Oklahoma City. Each of them offers unique pleasures, but they will all make you feel as though you’ve stepped into another world.

 

Arcadian Inn, Edmond

Captain's Quarters at the Arcadian

Captain's Quarters at the Arcadian

The Arcadian Inn is a boutique bed-and-breakfast that has won many awards and accolades over the years. Innkeepers Gary and Martha Hall, along with their two sons and Gary’s parents, make the inn a family-owned and operated business.

 

The house that encompasses the original B&B was built in 1908, but has undergone several transformations since then. While living in Edmond during the early years of their marriage in what she calls “their little fixer-upper,” Martha watched the big yellow house as it changed ownership several times. She dreamed of one day owning the three-story home on the corner of First and University, but back then it was all still a dream. After several years and a developer’s failed attempt to convert the house into office space, it was back on the market, but completely gutted and the grounds bulldozed.

 

In 1989, Martha’s dream came true when she and Gary bought the property. In just one year, they transformed it into what they envisioned as the culmination of their dreams for a romantic getaway. Today, the inn houses eight guestrooms in three adjacent buildings, connected by walkways and gardens. Each guestroom has an individual theme and décor, and each has its own double whirlpool Jacuzzi. In addition, one of the special touches is a private breakfast served in-room to preserve the privacy and seclusion of guests, many of whom come for honeymoons and anniversaries.

 

Crown Jewel RoomThe house now attracts travelers from all over, who come to enjoy the special brand of pampering that Martha and Gary envisioned. But it’s not all about the décor and the food, although both are exceptional. It’s the attention to detail and the special touches and packages that are offered to fulfill each couple’s fantasy of the perfect romantic getaway.

 

An obvious choice for Valentine’s Day is the Romantic Persuasion package, which includes champagne, souvenir champagne flutes, strawberries and crème for a special treat, and silk rose petals on the bed sheets.

The inn also offers numerous special touches to make your getaway even more memorable – a couples’ massage, roses by the dozen, spa baskets, or a private candlelit dinner for two. To book your getaway online, visit  www.arcadianinn.com/index.php.

 

Aaron’s Gate, Edmond

Echo Canyon At Aaron's GateIf you’re looking for something a little more secluded, with thoughts of a private getaway all to yourselves, we have you covered there, too. The Aaron’s Gate cottages are light years away from the city, but just a few miles from either Edmond or Guthrie. Each of the unique cottages is designed to be a romantic cabin in the woods, with all the amenities of a B&B but offering complete privacy. Each unit has its own full kitchen, luxurious bathroom, hot tub, sauna, Jacuzzi tub for two, gas fireplace, king-size beds and more.

 

Breakfast is prepped in advance and can be prepared in minutes at the cottage by following the simple instructions provided. Each cottage has a porch or outdoor sitting area to enjoy the woods and wildlife – a perfect spot for morning coffee or an afternoon glass of wine.

 

Valentine's Day Romantic DinnerThe cottages are designed with every detail envisioned to enhance your comfort and enjoyment. The Parrot’s Cove, an island-themed getaway, offers a screened-in porch with hot tub and European-style shower, with palm trees to complete the ambiance. The French Hen offers lavish French furnishings and décor, along with French boudoir amenities. The custom-built copper king-size bed and outdoor hot tub complete the exceptional features. The Meadow Lark Barn is in the style of an English barn – a two-story unit with an upstairs bathroom that is truly unique.

 

Aaron’s Gate is a concept designed and built by Gary and Martha Hall, the sister property of Arcadian Inn. Each cottage has the same attention to detail, and each is a fully envisioned fantasy getaway. If you’re looking for something completely different, one of these cottages is sure to fit the bill. Packages to enhance your getaway include flowers, chocolates, massages, and other special treats. For a virtual tour and all the details about each cottage, visit www.aaronsgate.com/cottages.php.

 

Stardust Inn, Medicine Park

Stardust Inn FrontOur last getaway gets you out of town and, indeed, out of the decade. Medicine Park is a step back in time, back to the 1920s and 30s, to be exact, when it was first developed into a resort. But much of the history and allure of the area hearkens back hundreds of years before that. For centuries, the area was a campground for the Plains Indians, who revered Medicine Creek as “good medicine.” Native American influences are evident everywhere, and the town’s rich history is a large part of its appeal.

 

The town’s incarnation as a resort dates to 1908, when Senator Elmer Thomas envisioned it as a recreational area. He took advantage of the plentiful round red cobblestones to build a resort utilizing that unique and charming element. Virtually every house and shop is built in the simple Prairie style, with these cobblestones front and center.

 

Thousands were soon attracted to the town on weekends; it became a haven for the famous and infamous, including Will Rogers, Wiley Post, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and many others. Today, it still prospers as a weekend getaway, and in 2010 was voted one of America’s Top 10 Coolest Small Towns by Budget Travel Magazine.

 

Stardust Living roomIt is popular with those who enjoy getting out in nature and savoring the feel of a small town resort, while enjoying all the modern conveniences. Located at the entrance of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, it is less than two hours’ drive from Oklahoma City. With the wildlife refuge at your doorstep and lots of quaint shops and restaurants, it’s perfect for a one- or two-night stay.

 

Stardust Inn is the ideal place to enjoy the comforts of a first-class B&B while still maintaining the rustic feel of Medicine Park. Just a few feet from the entrance to the refuge, the inn features private entrances and a wrap-around porch with rocking chairs overlooking the nearby lake and woods. Each room features a two-person Jacuzzi , a coffee maker, WiFi, quality bedding and amenities. Much of the appeal of the inn comes from its décor and works of art, all of which are done by local award-winning artists and craftsmen.

 

Mornings are special at the inn, and a full breakfast is served each day by the owners, Pegi and Clark Brown. They are long-time residents and can arm you with all the information you need to make the most of your stay.

 

Popular with bird watchers and nature lovers, the nearby refuge also provides great hiking and wildlife sightings. Bison, elk, deer and longhorn cattle may be spotted, along with red-tailed hawks and prairie dogs. If you’re the type who prefers to enjoy nature and scenic vistas from the front seat of your car, you will enjoy the three-mile car ride to the top of Mount Scott, the third-highest point in Oklahoma. Be sure to bring your camera and your binoculars for some truly spectacular views along the way. For reservations, visit www.stardustinn.com.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you, and be sure to make your reservations now to enjoy a special day full of romance and memory-making moments!

Seasonal Celebrations in Oklahoma City’s Cultural Districts

By Barbie Elder

 

Oklahoma City residents are seeing wonders being performed right before their eyes – it’s hard even for lifelong residents to imagine when Bricktown was an eyesore and an AAA baseball team was playing in an antiquated ballpark at the fairgrounds. This is the new Oklahoma City, a metro explosion that is the envy of the country. In keeping with these rapid fire changes comes the evolution of cultural districts, found in all your finer destinations.

 

Statue at the Adventure DistrictAnd before going further, it should be mentioned that these highlighted areas are an important economic component to future growth. Over the holidays, keep it local and enjoy shopping, dining and festivities in these exciting cultural neighborhoods.

 

Stockyards City continues to develop new shopping and entertainment options. Offering a true old west experience, visitors from around the world make the stockyards one of their first stops when visiting the city. Along with Cattlemen’s Café and Langston’s Western Wear, the Stockyard’s Mercantile has over 35 vendor booths featuring candles, unique clothing, collectables, jewelry and home décor. Oklahoma Native Art and Jewelry features 68 artists representing 28 tribes, while the Cross Bar Gallery carries the latest in western furniture, art and gift items.

 

Kicking off the holidays on Friday, December 2 is a tree lighting ceremony, followed by an open house to enjoy cookies, cocoa and cider along with special one-night-only sales. A festival holiday concert sponsored by the Stockyards City Main Street at the Rodeo Opry concludes the evening of festivities.

 

Saturday, December 10, the celebration continues at 10 a.m. with the annual Cowboy Christmas Parade, with 100 longhorn steers, rodeo cowboys, antique cars and more. Children are invited to have photos taken with “Cowboy Santa” at the Rodeo Opry.

 

One of the more creative areas in Oklahoma City is the historic Paseo Arts District, located from 28th and N Walker to 30th and N Dewey. This Spanish village dating back to 1929 is full of stucco buildings and tiled roofs. Today, it’s home to 17 galleries and 60 artists, boutiques and gift shops, making the Paseo a unique cultural destination.

 

One of the high points here is the Mariposa Gallery, which represents Jill Brett, Lyn Kopta, Maricel Kuhn, Bob and Bev Landdeck and Rema Imes. Special guest artists are also invited, including nationally known Prix de West artists. Consigned resale art by Richard Schmid, Matt Smith, Curt Walters and Dave Wade are available by appointment.

 

Aledante! Gallery features national award-winning southwest, western and contemporary fine artists, with an emphasis on American and western landscapes. Cynthia Wolf, owner and artist, is a fine art photographer specializing in southwest and western images. The gallery rotates its exhibits monthly and offers painting demonstrations and artist’s talks.

 

One-of-a-kind, handcrafted jewelry by Sheridan Scott is available at A Jeweler’s Art. The a.k.a is a contemporary art gallery and studio of Ashley Griffith, hosting guest artists monthly.

 

In Your Eye Studio represents ten Oklahoma artists working in oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, glass, jewelry and pottery, while Avalon on the Paseo offers recycled and vintage treasures from clothes, jewelry and accessories to house wares and artwork.

 

Asian DistrictOklahoma City’s Asian district, located at NW 23rd and Classen Blvd., is an epicenter of culture and commerce. Many Vietnamese moved into the area during the 1970s and have transformed it into a strong and distinct community.

 

Some of the finest Asian restaurants in Oklahoma City are located here, and include a wide range of authentic Asian cuisine. Pho Lien Hoa, Lido and the Golden Phoenix are just a few of the many popular eateries.

 

Here, shoppers will find home to one of the largest Asian supermarkets in the region. Super Cao Nguyen features fresh products from several Asian countries. The Chinese and Vietnamese New Year celebrations each year offer a chance to take part in the festivities with dragon dances, fireworks and special New Year’s food.

 

One can then cruise, so to speak, over to historic Automobile Alley, located along N Broadway from NW 4th to NW 10th Street. Once home to over 50 car dealerships, this revitalization effort showcases a very creative reuse of existing businesses. Today, the district is thriving with unique restaurants, galleries, shopping and loft apartments.

 

Automobile AlleyIn its third year, Automobile Alley Lights on Broadway features more than 130,000 colorful LED lights draping the historic buildings, making for a magical holiday wonderland. Also on display are more than 2 million LEGOs used to construct OK Cityscape, presented at a kids’ eye view, brought to life with lights, sounds effects and animatronics. This year’s display presents a fun alien invasion, complete with spaceships, extraterrestrials and a host of special effects. Children can build their own creations in the Kids Construction Zone. Proceeds from the exhibit go to Oklahoma City Educare, a flagship early childhood education center.

From the 42nd Street Candy Company to the French Cowgirl, Gil’s and the Learning Tree, Western Avenue offers something for everyone. Restaurants range from local favorite hangouts like Cock ’o the Walk and VZD’s to the upscale Coach House and Bin 73 Wine Bar. Sushi Neko, the Lobby Bar, Musashi’s Japanese Steakhouse, Café Nova and the Metro Wine Bar and Bistro are some of the popular eateries located along Western Avenue.

 

During the holidays, Western Avenue is ablaze with colorful lights, and the Chesapeake Energy campus transforms into a winter wonderland. Trees throughout the campus and along both Western Avenue and NW 63rd have been meticulously wrapped in vivid LED lights, creating a feast for the eyes.

 

BricktownDowntown and the Bricktown districts come alive during the holidays, featuring several special events and destinations for the family, visiting friends and relatives.

 

Feel the wind in your face as you cruise down the slope at thrilling speeds at Chesapeake Energy Snow Tubing at RedHawks Field, or glide across the transformed icy entertainment zone of the Devon Ice Rink, which opens for a new season at the recently renovated Myriad Botanical Gardens. The rink will host a live deejay on Friday nights and a local radio team on Saturdays.

 

Visit the OG&E Garden Lights and free Crystal Bridge Sundays and rediscover the heart of the city. Visitors of all ages are invited to take a magical stroll through the beautifully illuminated Myriad Botanical Gardens each night during Downtown in December. As a special treat, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory will offer free admission each Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. through New Year’s Day (including Christmas). Stroll the decorated Bricktown Canal and enjoy the shopping, dining and entertainment, all lit by OneMain Financial’s Bricktown Canal Lights.

 

Adventure District CasinoOklahoma City’s Adventure District gets into the holiday spirit with several special promotions and festivities.
Watch Santa deliver treats to the animals during the Deck the Zoo at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Visit on December 11 and 18 from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and again from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

 

Several events are offered at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, including the 16th Annual Michael Martin Murphey’s Cowboy Christmas Ball on December 17, which includes a buffet dinner and visit from Santa. The museum store will offer festive holiday touches, including light refreshments, free parking and free gift wrapping, as well as a free gift with every purchase each Sunday in December until Christmas.

Remington Park features a Dodge Charger giveaway courtesy of Bob Moore. Now until December 13, Lucky Circle Card holders will earn entries for the chance at a new car just in time for Christmas.

 

Holidays are a special time for family fun, shopping, dining and entertainment. Oklahoma City’s cultural districts truly offer something for all ages. Oklahomans interested in the betterment of their area should make the effort to get out and explore these unique neighborhoods full of local businesses – keeping shopping local and supporting Oklahoma-owned and operated businesses will help sustain Oklahoma’s economy and support local jobs.

New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

By David Althouse

 

Oklahomans have flocked to New Mexico for decades. Whether for the starlit

skies, draping blue mountains and mesas, the sweet scent of sage after

an afternoon mountain rain, or skiing in the winter, Oklahomans

find reasons to vacation in the Land of Enchantment.

 

But the region of New Mexico that seems to see the most Oklahoma license plates is the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, an area encompassing the towns of Taos, Questa, Red River, Elizabethtown and Eagle Nest.

 

For anyone wanting to drown themselves in the history and romance of the American West, New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle offers a rich and rollicking first start. Fact is, if you make the first step by paying a visit, this veritable land of enchantment will more than likely pull you in for the adventure of a lifetime.

 

Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the Enchanted Circle is an 80-mile-long, high mountain route through New Mexico’s Carson National Forest, offering some of the most scenic and rugged country in the American Southwest.

 

Taos, brightly colored with hollyhocks and warm adobes, is located at the southwestern edge of the Enchanted Circle on New Mexico Highway 522, and is a spectacular place to begin your adventure. Originally referred to as Don Fernando de Taos, after Captain Don Fernando de Chavez, Taos is one of the oldest burgs in the United States. At 6,952 feet above sea level, in an embayment of those blue Sangre de Cristo peaks, Taos was first historically noted by Spaniards on Coronado’s expedition of 1540.

 

What those early Spaniards saw were multi-storied pueblos inhabited by the early Taos people, Native Americans who spoke the Tigua language, a relative of the Shoshonean linguistic family. Almost certainly, the burg was there long before the Spaniards found it, serving as a trading center for the natives of Taos Pueblo who traded with Comanches, Apaches, Utes, Navajos and even Pawnees.

 

Luckily for tourists, the Taos Indian Pueblo, located three miles north of Taos, is still being used as a residence today. Parking and entrance fees are used to operate tribal government as well as fund community events. To take photographs while at the Pueblo, permission from the office of Pueblo governor must be obtained.

 

From 1815 to 1837, Taos was a favorite wintertime destination of America’s storied mountain men. From across the west, mountain men would rendezvous in this sleepy burg, selling their pelts, buying supplies for their next foray into the high country, socializing with mysterious Mexican ladies, and guzzling “Taos Lightening” to help lift their spirits. These mountain men were some of America’s most famous loners, adventurers and frontiersmen, and their names evoke a feeling of freedom and

wanderlust to this day – “Old Bill” Williams, Uncle Dick Wootton, Pegleg Smith, Jim Beckwourth, Jedediah Smith, Jim Baker and Kit Carson.

 

Speaking of Kit Carson, the mountain man loved Taos so much that he decided to make it his permanent home. His residence can still be visited in Taos. The Kit Carson Home and Museum sits east of Taos Plaza on Kit Carson Road, within easy walking distance from the Plaza.

 

You won’t have to be in town long to realize that Taos is a veritable mecca of Southwestern culture, teeming with art galleries, museums and eclectic gift shops. And just because you’re on a journey to explore the entire Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico, don’t be in a big hurry to leave Taos. There’s enough going on here to keep you busy for a week or more – and perhaps even for a lifetime if you, like Kit Carson, decide to stay even longer.

 

If you’re a skier and find yourself in Taos during ski season, then pay a visit to nearby Taos Ski Valley, which hosts an array of lodges, restaurants and plenty of snow.

 

Take State Highway 522 north out of Taos and make the short drive to Questa. On this drive, you will be leaving the sagebrush flats surrounding Taos and entering the high country. As you make the drive north, you gain a bird’s-eye view of the sleepy mesas and distant peaks to the west. At first, you’re amid the great forests of the short pinion pine trees, and then, very soon, you’re among the tall pines, a sure sign you’re gaining altitude.

 

It wasn’t always Questa. Originally, the small town was known as Antonio del Rio Colorado, or St. Anthony of the Red River. In the 1860s, a postmaster took it upon himself to change the name. Perhaps he thought the name was too long and changed it for the sake of efficiency. Regardless, the city is now known as Questa, the Spanish word for large hill or cliff.

 

Two attractions stand out in the Questa area. The first is Cabresto Lake, a perfect place for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping and picnicking. Fishermen take heart – Cabresto Lake is also filled with delicious brook trout. Drive about a mile east of Questa on State Highway 38 and you will see the sign directing you to the lake, located off a well-maintained dirt road.

 

A little further east on State Highway 38, you will see a sign directing you to the Columbine Trail. Your eyes will have a lot to absorb along this trail: steep, rugged cliffs, aspen trees in abundance, butterflies enjoying the moisture from Columbine Creek, and wild mountain flowers galore. The trail is considered by hikers to be an easy to moderate hike.

 

Hugging Columbine Creek most all of the way, the Columbine Trail takes you in a southerly direction for 13 miles, ending up at Twining in the Taos Ski Valley.

 

Heading east on State Highway 38 again – destination Red River, which sits at 8,750 feet above sea level, enjoying summertime highs of 75 degrees and nightly summertime lows in the 40s or even high 30s. Be sure to pack a sweater or jacket for the trip.

 

Red River was founded by a rough-and-tumble lot in 1895 as a gold mining camp, and boasted of such mines as the Golden Treasure, Jay Hawk and Black Copper. The community’s salty crowd socialized in any number of wild and woolly saloons and brothels that were established soon after gold was discovered in the area.

 

Although the many mines have since played out, this is not the case with down-home western hospitality. As you cruise Main Street, you’ll see more than a half dozen lodges and cabins, a variety of gift shops, and catch the wafting aromas from such restaurants as The Lodge at River, the Sundance Restaurant and Capo’s Corner.

 

Upon arriving in Red River, you may want to take the ski lift up to the top of Black Mountain. When you reach the top, you’re at 10,350 feet above sea level. There, you’re afforded an outstanding view not only of Red River below, but also of the magnificent tops of the surrounding peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains – an aerial view of some of the most breathtakingly beautiful country in the American Southwest.

 

Foe skiers, Red River offers a full-service ski area with lessons, rentals and lift tickets, all conveniently located in town.

 

There’s plenty to keep you busy in Red River. Whether you’re fishing, hiking, skiing, camping in the surrounding mountains, shopping at one of the many area gift shops, or eating good food at a restaurant on Main Street, it will be time well spent in this high-mountain, old west atmosphere.

 

Now ask the kids if they want to go to a ghost town – you knew their answer before you asked the question! So, get back on State Highway 38, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, and head east over Bobcat Pass to the old west haunt of Elizabethtown.

 

Not much still stands in present-day Elizabethtown, but the remaining stone walls, foundations and timber pilings tell stories of a once-thriving gold rush town in the wild and raucous American West.

 

Just like Red River, its neighbor to the northwest, Elizabethtown traces its beginnings to the gold rush days of the last half of the 1800s. Beginning in the mid-1860s, Elizabethtown boomed into a genuine frontier gold mining camp complete with stores, saloons, hotels and dance halls. Throw in crusty miners, desperate criminals, con artists and shady ladies, and you get the colorful and lusty burg of Elizabethtown, or E-Town, as the locale was often referred to.

 

After having extracted the available gold from nearly every gulch and stream in the E-Town region by the 1870s, miners began to look for opportunities elsewhere on the frontier.

 

Before the glory days were over, the people of Elizabethtown had a story to tell. They had been bedazzled by the yellow ore dug from beneath their feet; they had enjoyed the foot stomping of Saturday night dances; and they had heard the roar of gunfire from notorious outlaws like Clay Allison and Black Jack Ketchum.

 

The best way to try to experience the sights, sounds and smells of what was once Elizabethtown is to stand where the town once stood. Stand near the rock-walled frame of what was once Remburg’s Store and listen to the story told on the wind, the same wind that blows through the store’s now open windows, across the creeks and gulches, and up and over the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

 

Cap off your tour of the Enchanted Circle in Eagle Nest, a quaint high mountain village located a few miles south of Elizabethtown. Eagle Nest sits at 8,382 feet above sea level, nestled between the two highest peaks in New Mexico – Baldy Mountain at 12,441 feet and Wheeler Peak at 13,161. A newly renovated main street offers numerous restaurants, gift shops and saloons, with year-round lodging available.

 

One of the main summertime attractions is Eagle Nest Lake. Covering 2,200 surface acres, the lake offers skiing, fishing and boating. Fishermen flock from far and wide to catch the lake’s abundant trout. The city of Eagle Nest has also been known to offer a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks display over the lake’s reflective water.

 

There is no better place than the quiet and solitude of Eagle Nest for reflection on one’s tour of the Enchanted Circle, for the village is free from the congestion and noise of larger towns. The only congestion you might find is near one of the local hiking trails, where there are an abundance of trophy elk, deer, mountain lions, mountain cats, bear, beaver, chipmunks and turkey, and even the occasional golden and bald eagle.

 

Once you have toured this cool, high mountain land of Native New Mexicans, mountain men, miners, cowboys, outlaws and adventurers, you will certainly know that northern New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is aptly named.

 

And you’ll understand how generation after generation of Oklahomans became hooked on New Mexico for a lifetime.

For more information about New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, visit www.newmexico.org.