Day Three – August 5, 2004
Wichita, KS to Dallas, TX
A major event on the news in Wichita the night we stayed there was a large 6-alarm fire that completely destroyed part of downtown Wichita. After going to a cache near our hotel, and stopping at a grocery store, we drove through downtown to see the spot where the fire took place. There was certainly quite a lot of damage to the building where the fire was located, but, since it was very old and made out of brick, I’m sure it was much worse looking inside the building than out. It was fun to see all the media reporters and news vans parked along the street, though.
After quenching the curiosity I had of seeing where the fire was, we got back on I-335, which later merged into I-35 and the Kansas Turnpike. We once again took a toll ticket. Dallas, TX was our destination for the day.
We stopped at the Belle Plaine Turnpike Service Area in the southern part of Kansas to get some brochures and Kansas bric-a-brac. Let me just tell you how very much I love those Service Areas, both in Kansas and in the eastern states I visited last year. I was kind of disappointed that this would be the only one we would be able to stop at during this trip, since Kansas was the only state we were traveling through on part of a toll road.
After leaving the Service Area, we came to the point where we had to pay the toll for traveling the turnpike from Wichita. From here, which is near Wellington, KS, to the state border 20 miles south, the turnpike turns into a free road. What a deal!
I’ll talk about the scenery for a little bit here. I loved going through the central part of Kansas; that might be the type of scenery I like the most. From Wichita down to the border of Kansas, the landscape really changed from what it looked like in the more central and northern parts of the state. There were quite a few more trees, and more farmland. I still thought it was nice looking, but not as much as the treeless prairie from the day before.
We soon passed the Oklahoma border and came to the state welcome center. A picture of the interesting picnic shelters reminiscent of teepees at this rest area can be found below.
Let’s talk about accents for a bit, here. The people in the parts of Missouri and Kansas I visited largely spoke in the same Midwest accent I am used to here in Minnesota. There were a few words here and there that had a particularly southern quality about them, like “wash,” and Missouri is, of course, pronounced “miz-ur-a,” but, for the most part, there wasn’t much difference in how I speak and how they speak. Crossing the Oklahoma line, however, is equivalent to crossing into an entirely different accent region. The people encountered here definitely spoke a mix between a very Texas-like and (not trying to be mean) hillbilly-like accent. Fortunately, though, we had no trouble in being understood at the Taco Mayo we visited in Perry, OK.
We then drove through the oil country of Oklahoma: the north-central region. There were quite a few oil wells actively drilling along the interstate in this area. These weren’t the only oil wells I had seen on the trip, though, since there were also a few, along with a very large refinery, in the central portion of Kansas we traveled through the day before.
We finally got to Edmond, OK, the beginning of the larger-than-you’d-expect Oklahoma City metropolitan area. While passing through Oklahoma City, I knew I wanted to see the memorial dedicated to the victims of the 1995 terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building as well as the state capital.
Getting off the correct exit on the interstate to see the memorial was pretty easy, thanks to the brown signs that marked which exit to take. However, after leaving the interstate, it became increasingly difficult to navigate the streets of downtown Oklahoma City in order to find the memorial. Luckily, we only had to travel in circles a couple of times before we found where the memorial was. We even found an open parking spot (with meter) near the site of the memorial. What a deal!
I would have liked to have gone into the Oklahoma City Memorial Center Museum, but, such had been the case for the rest of the trip so far, we simply did not have time to do so. I did, however, get to walk around the very tranquil and symbolic memorial dedicated to the 168 people who lost their lives on April 19, 1995.
From the memorial, we somehow found ourselves at the Oklahoma State Capital. I say somehow because the capital is located outside of the primary downtown district, and navigating the roads around downtown Oklahoma City was not such an easy and straightforward matter. Anyway, I was able to walk around the grounds and take some pictures, which you can see below.
We then got back on I-35 and left Oklahoma City, discovering that Oklahoma drivers are neither the politest nor best drivers in the country.
We then got off the interstate near Davis, OK to take a more scenic route into Ardmore by going through the Arbuckle Mountains, a range of low, rolling hills, rising some 700 ft above the prairie.
Stopping to get gas in Ardmore, we realized that, in some areas of the country, even though the ordinary person is allowed to pump their own gas, full service stations are still around. Ardmore apparently has three of them, and it just so happened we stopped at one. That was a nice change from the self-service stations encountered everywhere else.
After taking the scenic route, we then got back on I-35 in Ardmore. 30 miles later, we finally approached the Lone Star State: Texas. The scenery here was a lot like what it looked like in southern Oklahoma, primarily flat with spread out forests, and a lot of
There wasn’t much of a rural feel for that long; I-35 comes up quickly to Sanger, TX, which is really the beginning of the large Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (locals call it just “The Metroplex” for short).
One of the interesting features about Interstate 35 is that it is the only remaining interstate in the system that splits into separate routes distinguished with a “W” and “E.” This happens twice along its route: in Dallas (35E) and Fort Worth (35W) and Minneapolis (35W) and St. Paul (35E).
Well, we took 35E into Dallas, and, after getting – what I felt – hopelessly lost amid the one way streets in downtown Dallas, we finally made it to our hotel: The Hyatt Regency at Reunion. We were put on the 19th floor (out of 24 total) and given a room with a stunning view looking directly into downtown Dallas. I literally sat peering out the window of our room for three hours non-stop that night, mesmerized by all I could see. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s report, however, to see the best pictures from my personal observation deck.
At the Gaslight Creek Cache
Picnic shelters at Oklahoma Welcome Center
Very old Wal-Mart in Perry, OK
Very old and strange stoplight in Perry, OK
Another old (and short) stoplight in Perry, OK (almost all of the stoplights in town looked like this one)
Northern Oklahoma scenery
Entrance of Oklahoma City Memorial
Field of Chairs at Oklahoma City Memorial
9:01 Wall at Oklahoma City Memorial
A mother duck and her babies walk around the Oklahoma City Memorial (they later got into the pool of water)
Close-up of the ducks
9:01 wall from the street
Two chain-link fences that were put up by rescue crews after the bombing are now places for people to leave memorials and personal mementoes
"And Jesus Wept" statue
Close-up of the things people have left on the fences
The entrance to the plaza of the Murrah Building still stands
A sign on the plaza grounds showing pictures before and after the bombing
The Field of Chairs, as seen from the plaza
Downtown Oklahoma City
Front of the Oklahoma State Capital
Another picture of capital, with statue of Native American in front
One more picture of the front of the capital building
A sampling of more to come: downtown Dallas from our hotel room
Entering the turnpike in Wichita: the ticket booth
Yep, we're going there
Welcome to Oklahoma sign
Drilling for oil in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City skyline
Entering the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma
Leaving the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma
Scenery near Ardmore, OK
Welcome to Texas sign
Lone Oak Road sign
"The Auto Ranch" was overflowing with old, rusty automobiles
The big 35E/35W split is right ahead
Reunion Tower and our hotel, as seen from 35E coming into Dallas
Note: to see full-sized versions of any of the photos above, select the download feature above the picture. The photo will then be downloaded to your computer, and you can view the full resolution version of the picture (800 pixels in width).
News coverage of Wichita fire
If you don't want to watch all of the above video, then watch this short clip of one witness's reaction to seeing the fire
Gaslight Creek Cache (spoiler included)
Oklahoma City Memorial Field of Chairs
Click here & here for 2 more newspaper articles about the Wichita fire.