Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to Oklahoma

In the 24 years since I graduated college in Norman, Oklahoma, then moved away, I've spent so little time in Oklahoma.

So, in the spring of 2006, I flew to Tulsa to visit my friend David, and hang out in his corner of the Sooner State. This time, no final exams on my shoulders to carry - just a rushed project on my shoulders from an architect, blown off for a few days.

The more things change, the more they stay the same...
Prairie...real prairie. Miles of it, thick grasses busting loose, and that green color we just don't have in the desert.


When I landed, Tulsa's airport had two very nice women working as greeters. Airport greeters are a great concept I've never seen before, but Oklahoma is about heartland hospitality. We talked as I waited for my friend to drive up, and one told me, "You're wearing the wrong shirt for an OU grad!" 

My orange shirt - orange is the color of my alma mater's two bitter talented rival teams. But somehow, there are no photos of my garb... 

David had to show me this southwestern plant collection in the middle of Tulsa...more later. But they average 40" rain / year.

For now, Yucca rostrata, Dasylirion texanum, assorted Agave havardiana and A. parryi, Opuntia engelmannii, and even a Leucophyllum frutescens against the house. A zone-pushing, spiky plant aficionado must be lurking inside.



Cleveland OK - old stone and varied ages of brick architecture abounds, with such a peaceful feel in all these small OK towns.
Looking south, out of town and back towards Tulsa.

Didn't know Oklahoma had so much greenery and trees, did you? It greens up from about the eastern edges of the panhandles to near I-35, and from there east it becomes like this in many areas. Or greener. But that was too far on this trip...heading north.
Funny figurines peeping out of faux windows
But these always creep me out, like clowns or dentists creep others out
Time to get in some outdoorsy things
This is all prairie - from the grasslands in front, to the wooded cross timbers areas in the background. The plant type changes according to soil type, susceptibility to burn from wildfires, and exposure.

More on the Cross Timbers - here

Ttattonka! Or ttse, if a female bison. Either way, imposing, huge, and majestic. (this is Osage country, and I was surprised to read that the Osage are Siouan people, just having their own dialect, hence why that looks like what you may have heard the Lakota people call bison in Dances With Wolves)

We've now climbed onto the Osage Hills, the local name for the southern end of the vast, north-south Flint Hills Region that extends from NE Kansas, into NE Oklahoma. It is late April, so the grasses are growing back but no wildflowers, so far.

No trees. Rocky, upland soils and periodic fires, some man-made controlled burns. Where there are trees, soils are deeper and/or they are 
often in valley areas, where more moisture collects and penetrate more deeply than on the legendary red clay soils. All prairie, but different expressions of it.


Of course - a guy has to eat! More later...probably some great sights at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, some gardens, some art, and some food.

"Bar-B-Q...chocolate for men" - Anthony Bourdain

20 comments:

  1. Parts of your trip photos remind me of when I traveled across country working for Marketing Companies hired by Banks to promote their cards. I diliberately stayed off the Interstates and traveled two lane highways. The scenes remind me of a trip I had to make one time to St Louis Missouri. I left on a Tuesday evening and got there around Noon Thursday. I had to pick up a representative at the airport and drop him off at Carbondale in southern Illinois. I had to book it up north to Bloomington after that. Man I was tired.

    I traveled the backroads, namelt Route 66 which is what I always wanted to do. When I hit Okalhoma where it turns into some Turnpike that I really needed to take to make up the time I found myself hallucinating things around springfield Mo. Had to make a stop and sleep for a few hours. But those roads in your pics remind me of that. Of course they also remind me of the film "Trip to Bountiful".

    Those Yucca and Cactus collection displays remind me of older historical homestead landscape from decades gone by. It's the way they did things back then.

    I also look for what appear to be Mom N' Pop Greasy Spoons where all the locals seem to hang out at. Which reminds me of this one kool looking Bar-B-Q Steak House in Las Crucas New Mex right on the Bataan Memorial Highway 70 leading all points east to Alamogordo - Ruidosa. Went passed there dozens of times and it was always the wrong inconvenient time to stop. Once I had reps in Las Crucas working a Target Store there. I told these Gals about the rustic Adobe walled Steak house with red clay tiled roof and the smell of Pinnacle Peak fired Bar-B-Qs and explained exactly where it was.

    They told me they went there and said it was everything I said it was. But I said, Well I was never ever there. I only imagined it would be that way. You simply conformed my imagination and fantasy about the darn place"

    Oh well.


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    1. I hear you...interstates only when covering vast distances on limited time. The 2 lane roads, especially when they wind up, down and around hills like in that part of OK, are the way to go.

      That was quite a radical desert planting for anywhere I recall in OK, but there were always some elements of that - maybe a Yucca aloifolia or Y. thompsoniana in some side area. I heard he covers some of that in winter, too.

      That steak place on US-70 in Las Cruces - I have never been once, but with a project just E and N of it a couple miles, I will now make it a point to enjoy a good steak there. Las Cruces as the 2nd largest town in NM, is now being covered in chain restaurants. But such places are still plentiful, as they are in Abq. NM and TX are definitely the land of lots of great, cheap food, unless you need Michelin 4-star and up.

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  2. So, ok. I'll begrudgingly admit. Oklahoma has some very pretty areas. The Arbuckle mountains, the plains, the lakes....all nice places to visit.

    I do hope you had on the PROPER shade (burnt) of orange.... :)

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    1. Exactly, not all is ugly there! That's good, since I-40 or I-35 in and out of OKC is not too pretty.

      Just looked - my orange shirt is burnt orange, in fact I just realized I'm wearing a tee shirt of similar color...and even the saltillo tile in this house is almost burnt orange. Next house may have to be deep red brick! :-)))

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  3. I hope you do post more of the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve...I'm dying to see it :-) It's always amazing to me, hearing the annual rainfall of other areas...that's actually more annual precip than Portland gets! Ours just happens to fall much more gradually over a longer period :-)

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    1. I will - I just put some of the photos from there. It was really something, and I hope I can go some June, when more is in bloom and the grass is still super green. Oklahoma seems to get wet springs, off and on storms in summer, and periodic rain and snow late fall into winter.

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  4. wow I never thought I'd be so instantly enamoured by OKlahoma. That southwest garden looks pretty darn impressive for 40' annual precip... that's getting up to my territory with the rain!! There's hope!

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    1. It took me some time to get used to, coming from Denver originally. I think Oklahoma to Nebraska are quite similar, just some minor variations. Pretty conservative in the way of gardens and other ways, yet mostly exceedingly friendly.

      While their 35-40" rain / year comes with long, hot summers like Abq (even hotter at times, but much more humidity), fall through spring are all about constant, sharp swings in cold to warmth, which really stresses out plants. A common feature E of the Rockies to the Appalachians. A plant that takes OK is definitely an encouragement for others!

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  5. "Buf....buffa......boofalow...haha....boofalow..."
    "Yes! Tatonka!" One of my favorite scenes. I always joke about this with friends. Excellent shot of them by the way. What a nice road trip to a greener space. It does look a little hot and HUMID however. Thanks for the pic share!

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    1. I know, that was so funny. Almost every encounter "Dumbear" (Kevin Costner) had with the Lakota started with, "have you seen any buffalo" (washne tatonka)?"

      That movie showed the world something about the great plains, that those of us who lived there learned little or nothing about in our very schools. In spring, much greener...and not even hot...chilly 1st day, mild the next, 80's next, big storms and then cool the last...while Abq was 80F-ish, sunny, windy, and dry every day!

      More to come

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  6. Naturally that desert garden had me drooling...quite impressive.

    Since the husband is from out that way (Nebraska) I love to see images and hear tales of how things are, look forward to more...

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    1. My friend knew that desert garden's owner, so we called him the next evening - seemed a bit reserved, but he obviously gains so much pleasure from his garden. More on it and other OK stuff in a future post:-)

      Wow...your husband is from Nebraska? I was born near Omaha. The plains are a unique place, that so few know anything about, as our mass media is so pathetic. I attended 8th grade thru HS on the western Great Plains in Aurora CO, plus my early years. I crisscrossed it between there and Norman OK countless times, and once it grew on me, it has never left. Though here, I forget what truly severe, changeable weather is.

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  7. Green is so restful on the eyes isn't it?

    You had on the right shirt.

    This business of average rainfall feels like a cosmic joke. 40" a year...but for most of last year areas of OK got less than 12". Some years 55", some years 20", average it over 30 years and the number won't match next year's rainfall either. And yes, I guess I'm still drought-shocked from last year.

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    1. Ouch...out of my 5 or 6 orange shirts, 1 is bright orange and the others are burnt orange. Uh oh...

      Green is restful we can all agree. With that rainfall variability on the prairies you are towards the southern end of, it's a good thing the native plants can mostly handle the crazy extreme swings in moisture; those that don't are often weaker and probably needed thinning, too. Plus, they have deep roots and physiology to go deep and store water.

      I can see why!

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  8. Great tour! Nice to see Ttattonka in the wild! I liked that desert garden with 40 inches of rain. Seems to be doing quite well!
    David/:0)

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    1. I noticed he has good drainage away from the house, plus hot summers that don't hurt. It would be interesting to see what he tried that rotted, froze, or struggled! Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. Its like we also visited Oklahoma just by seeing your photos. But still I would love to visit the self my self. It would be an exciting experience.

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    1. Glad to save you some airfare...for now! Much to see in the US Heartland, for sure...and I want to spend some time in AU one of these days, but it is also vast with so much variation, it might take much time and many trips to get a small overview.

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  10. When I think of Oklahoma, movies and Steinbeck come to mind, dust bowls and such, not such a variety of panoramas.....

    Excelent post.

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    1. Thanks, Officer Paisaje! More coming up on Oklahoma, including some plant and landscape scenes. The NE part of OK, basically N and E of Oklahoma City is called "Green Country".

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