|Greeting from Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain! And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet.
Hmmm, I just googled the lyrics to that, and I'm suddenly a bit disconcerted because I've already driven across the better part of the state, and I have yet to see even ONE STALK of wheat! Tell me the musicals don't lie. I mean, what's next? Was the Phantom of the Opera, in fact, NOT inside my mind?!
This morning, Otto "Ja, Baby" Mueller and I departed the thriving metropolis of Lonoke, Arkansas, desperately trying to contain our sadness. Will I ever return to that charming town with its Holiday Inn? Its Shell Station? Its McDonalds? Its ... oh, wait, I've already listed everything in the entire town. There's nothing else to miss.
We drove the 15 miles or so into Little Rock to visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Center (http://www.clintonpresidentialcenter.org/). Since it's fairly new, Helena had never heard of it, and tried to take me to somewhere in Shirley, Arkansas, rather than Little Rock. But since I'm on to her and her little games now, she was unsuccessful.
President Clinton asked that the Center be designed to resemble a bridge, to symbolize the fact that his presidency "bridged" the way into the 21st century.
While the outside is frankly a bit sterile-looking in my opinion, I did find the inside exhibits to be much more interesting than I'd expected.
There's an interesting film on his life in Arkansas that had me dabbing at my eyes (I love it when people come from nothing and succeed!), and various displays showcasing his life and terms in office.
It's the only presidential library with full-scale replicas of both the Cabinet Room and Oval Office (which you unfortunately can't enter).
Like I said, I liked it more than expected, and didn't pay attention to the time at all, so that it was almost noon by the time Otto and I got back on the road.
Getting back onto our now-familiar I-40W, we added to our already rather impressive roadkill sightings. The tally so far includes two cats, one dog, various raccoons, a black bear cub (!), and enough armadillos to armor a tank. I remember when I was young, I thought the armadillo was was an imaginary animal that only existed in folklore, like the jackalope. I also thought this about the bison. I guess I was a stupid child.
(Oh, talk of my childhood is reminding me to give a shout-out to my mother: Yes mom, that WAS the Mississippi river I saw a scant four months ago in New Orleans over Christmas. Yes, I should have remembered that. Yes, you're always right.)
Driving west towards Oklahoma, we were attacked by a squall of a rainstorm.
The upside of it was that Otto received a much-needed shower, the downside was that traffic slowed noticeably.
Arriving in Oklahoma City (OKC, if you adopt the local lingo), the National Memorial is fairly easy to find (http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/). I suppose that after the events of September 11th, April 19th, 1995 may have become overshadowed. I didn't really know too much about it myself.
But the museum and memorial are really well done, and extremely moving. Even if I never return to Oklahoma, I'll be happy to have visited it. The museum doesn't allow pictures inside, but is tastefully done, with all the exhibits set up in a "confusing" manner on purpose, to mirror the confusion survivors and rescuers felt after the explosion. Seeing the news feed from that day, and hearing the audio tape of the explosion highlights just how shattering it must have been to witness. It literally shook the entire city, with windows blasting out more than 10 blocks away, and ripping the front third of the nine-story building off. Absolutely shocking and senseless.
The main part of the memorial consists of a reflecting pool bookended by the two "Gates of Time." One side is labeled 9:01, representing the last moments of peace, and the other side is labeled 9:03, representing the first moments of recovery. (The blast occurred at 9:02am.)
Along the reflecting pool is the Field of Empty Chairs, one for each of the 168 people killed in the bombing. I think the most moving part of it all for me was that the 19 children who were killed in the building's daycare center had chairs smaller than those of the adults.
So I left OKC in a much more somber mood than when I'd arrived, but certainly happy to have visited. Heading back onto I-40, I only made it as far as Weatherford, OK, which is bigger than Lonoke ... so, there's that.
I made it to a hotel just in time to see Dancing with the Stars--go, Ty and Chelsie! Weatherford had me limited in my restaurant options: Lucille's Roadhouse, the self-proclaimed "Home of the Mother Road" did nothing to tempt me. Pizza Hut it was!
And now for some much-needed rest. Texas, tomorrow--first time ever! Stay tuned!