AW

Our Journey Home – Experiencing Oklahoma

In Family, Life, Pursuit of Happiness on June 1, 2011 at 7:57 am

We said Goodbye to our family and Texas, gassed up the cars, and set the GPS for Oklahoma.  I knew that this was going to be a difficult time for my son, who had spent the entire night before playing with his cousin who he has grown very close to since our arrival in Texas.  It was hard for me to watch him hug his cousin goodbye, but I knew that he would feel better once we were doing things on our way back to New York.

Texas is Longhorn country when it comes to college football.  Not a day went by where I didn’t see people sporting the instantly recognizable burnt orange team colors or a Longhorn logo emblazoned on the back of a pick-up truck.  When we arrived in Texas, we didn’t really have an opinion about the Longhorns, but we tired of them quickly because their presence is so ubiquitous.

The Longhorns biggest rival is the Oklahoma Sooners.  Each year, they play against each other in a game called the Red River Rivalry.  Truth be told, I thought that Red River was just the name of a river that flowed between the two states.  I had no idea that it got its name because it actually gives the appearance of red water due to the clay that lines the riverbed.  It was a very cool sight to see.

Unfortunately, by the time that I was able to dial the phone to call my wife and kids in the other car to talk about it, we had already passed it by, and I was the only one who saw it (one of the drawbacks of traveling separately).  Luckily, the Red River isn’t the only river in Oklahoma which appears to flow red, so they did get to see something similar later on.

Because my son was tired of seeing the Longhorns everywhere, and because one of his best friends is a Sooners fan, my son chose to become a Sooner fan.  The Sooners play in Norman, OK, which happened to be on the way to our first stop in Oklahoma City, so we surprised my son by taking him to see the stadium.  He was still kind of sad, and very tired from traveling and a lack of sleep, but he perked up when he saw the stadium.  We walked around a bit and took some pictures.  He read about some of the famous alumni on the statues by the stadium.  By the time that we got back in the car, I could tell that his spirit was already starting to lift.

The drive through Oklahoma was very scenic and peaceful.  Parts of the drive reminded both my wife and me of the Catskill Mountains in New York.  On the way down to Texas a few years ago, we chose the most direct route.  This time, we chose to go another way so that we could see different states, and experience things that we hadn’t already before.  It’s early on in the journey, but so far, driving through Oklahoma has been much nicer than driving through Arkansas (although we did see some strange things along the way).

On a 65mph highway, we saw a guy with a Mohawk haircut riding his bicycle on the shoulder of the road.  Neither my wife nor I had any idea what the guy planned to do when the shoulder ended to allow for merging traffic.  Later on in the drive, we saw another man jogging in the middle lane of a three-lane service road.  I can only conclude that Oklahoma drivers are the polar opposite of New York drivers, because this would never happen in New York.

After checking in to our hotel in Oklahoma City, we set out to an area called Bricktown.  It’s a cool area filled with restaurants, bars, shops and a Minor League Baseball stadium.  As we walked past the stadium, we saw that there was a game going on.  We walked up to the gate, and we were invited in at no cost.  It turned out that we had inadvertently stepped into the Big 12 Championship Game between the Missouri Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies.

It was late in the game when we arrived.  The Aggies held a one-run lead going into the eighth inning.  A throwing error by the Aggies third basemen allowed the Tigers to tie the game and eventually take a lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning.  Since we lived in Texas up until that morning, and we ended up sitting on the Aggies’ side of the field, it seemed appropriate that we would root for Texas A&M.

Trailing by one run, with two outs in the ninth inning, the pinch-hitter for the Aggies hit a high chopper over the third baseman’s head, and the score was tied.  For a game that we just ended up walking into, we were instantly invested in the outcome and thrilled to see the game go into extra innings.  The Tigers didn’t score in the top of the tenth inning, giving the Aggies a chance to seal the victory if they scored.  The crowd rose as it looked like the game was going to end with a home run, but the strong winds kept the ball in the park.

With two outs in the bottom of the tenth, Andrew Collazo (the third baseman who made a throwing error to allow the Tigers to tie the game) stepped up to the plate and ended the game in spectacular fashion by hitting his first home run of the season.  My son’s face lit up with excitement, and we were all high-fiving each other as if we were lifelong Texas A&M fans.

After the game, I bought my son the same championship baseball hat that the team was wearing after they won the game.  He smiled, gave me a hug, and said that it was his new favorite hat.  Suddenly, the kid who was very sad about leaving Texas was as happy as ever.

My little one has had her moments of sadness about leaving her friends in Texas, but those moments are fleeting.  One of the things that we promised her on the trip was the chance to go to a cupcake and candy store called Pinkitzel.  She had been asking about going there nearly every day for a few weeks.  After eating a decadent cupcake called “Birthday Surprise” with a glass of chocolate milk, my little one was very happy.  She talked about which cupcake she was going to get next time, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her first trip to Pinkitzel was also going to be her last.

We ended the night by taking the kids swimming in the hotel pool after a laughter-filled dinner at Denny’s.  By the time that we all went to sleep, the kids were happy and looking forward to the next day.

We spent the next day at Science Museum Oklahoma.  It was filled with fun things to do, and interesting things to see.  My daughter couldn’t get enough of what they call “the world’s biggest slide.”  It is several stories high, and twists all the way down to the ground.  My wife and I both tried it, but quickly realized that this was for kids.  We were both dizzy when we got to the bottom.

My son got called up on stage to be an assistant for a very entertaining program called “Science Live.”  It’s a young, funny chemist who does a show which demonstrates how to blow things up.  We all had a great time watching him on stage, and he got a kick out of being a part of it.

We ended the day by going back to Bricktown for dinner.  We ate at a place called Coach’s, which overlooks the stadium.  The food was great, and the view was awesome.  After dinner, we let the kids buy candy by the pound at Bricktown Candy Co.  Needless to say, this was a good way to end the day.

Our last stop in Oklahoma was the Oklahoma Aquarium (near Tulsa).  Everyone enjoyed themselves, but my little one was the most excited, and very brave.  She touched everything that they allowed her to without so much as a thought.  It was amazing to watch her stick her hand right into the water to pet the stingrays and small sharks.  Since my son got the souvenir at the baseball game, we let my daughter pick something from the aquarium gift shop.  She chose a bracelet with seashells and stars…the perfect gift since she is in a jewelry phase.

Overall, the kids are in great spirits, enjoying the adventure of the journey back to NY.  I guess we’ll see if that lasts today when we take our first extended car ride.  It’s almost time to head out to St. Louis….more updates to follow soon.

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