Sometimes, a wonderful American travel adventure doesn’t have to be that far away. This one is a car trip featuring cowboys, Indians and the Pioneer Woman.
The first destination is downtown Oklahoma City. Taking I-35 north you push through Dallas, go up through Denton, over the Red River (passing or stopping at the WinStar Casino) then 100 miles further north to O.U. and then rolling into OKC; a 4-hour, 250 mile drive.
Head downtown (right off I-35) for lunch in Bricktown, OKC’s mini version of San Antonio’s River Walk. If you like Cajun fare or seafood, try Bourbon St. Café, half honk tonk, half sooner chic.
About a mile from Bricktown is the Oklahoma City National Museum, a memorial to the fallen and survivors of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995. It is a chilling reminder of the tragedy of OKC, but a beautiful, peaceful place to visit.
Leaving the memorial, head north toward Tulsa where you will find the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum just of I-44 about 15 minutes from Bricktown. It features more than 28,000 Western and American Indian art works and artifacts, including James Earle Fraser’s stunning sculpture, The End of the Trail.
From the museum you are only a few miles from the Turner Turnpike, the 88-mile connection to Tulsa, a beautiful city at the crest leading to the Ozark Mountains. In the midst of those rugged cliffs which used to be part of tribal land is the magnificent Gilcrease Museum, a truly picturesque place for the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West.
About 60 miles north of Tulsa is Pawhuska, Oklahoma, the home of the country cooking celebrity, Ree Drummond, known as the Pioneer Woman.
Her mercantile location in downtown Pawhuska (pop. 3,500) features a bountiful area for merchandise from rolling pins to cookbooks. Her restaurant on the ground floor (beware of long lines for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and substantial bakery on the second-floor offer vittles from the kitchen of the Pioneer Woman. Her boutique hotel in a 1920 renovated building is now open next to her mercantile.
There are two side trips worth taking, one to Ree Drummond’s ranch to see where her TV show is produced and the other is the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, about 17 miles north of downtown where you enter a winding gravel road snaking through prairie grass and hundreds upon hundreds of wild bison who reluctantly move off the road for your passage.
Just 30 minutes east (highway 60) is Bartlesville, OK, the headquarters town for Phillips 66. From downtown take a 12-mile drive south along highway 123 to another world-renowned western museum, Woolaroc. Set on a 3,700-acre ranch created by Frank Phillips in 1925, winding roads bring you past wildlife from elk to zebras.
The museum has an outstanding collection of western art, plus one of the finest collections of Colt firearms in the world Home is a little more than 300 miles straight south on highway 75, along the beautiful Indian Nations Turnpike, past the Choctaw Casino outside Durant, OK, back over the Red River, linking up with Northcentral Expressway and then I-35E to Ellis County.