Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 4 - Oklahoma City, OK to Elk City, OK

The Big Slow Down

Our best intentions to make some good time and distance today weren't good enough. I don't know how far we got in terms of miles, but we never managed to leave the state of Oklahoma.

We started in Oklahoma City, where I wanted to see the memorial to the Murrah Federal Building bombing. I'd heard that this was a particularly sensitive and well thought-out memorial and wasn't disappointed by what we saw.

The memorial space is flanked by two large gates. One with the time of 9:01 on it, the other with 9:03. This is because the bomb went off at 9:02, so in effect, the entire installation memorializes that moment in time.

Inside, the memorial is laid out to reflect what was present at the site prior to the destruction. So the reflecting pool indicates where Fifth Street used to run, and the field of empty chairs occupies the area where the Alfred P. Murrah building used to stand.

All in all, the memorial is very thoughtful. Perhaps a little too much so, because you soon start to realize that everything in the memorial is symbolic of something else: an original wall from the building represents the survivors, an orchard represents those who came to the rescue. There's even a section that represents everyone else -- that's actually what the brochure says. Still, it's an incredibly well put-together memorial, and worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in Oklahoma City.

There are Route 66 museums along the way -- boy are there -- and if you're anything like us you can't help but stop at one or two. This one is in Clinton, Oklahoma. It's staffed by a trio of smiling and helpful older women whose hair is "set" and will happily tell you to take all the photos you want. We did. The admission price is fair -- about $3 I think -- and the gift shop is well stocked to satisfy all your Route 66 memorabilia needs.

This is a good indication of what awaits the curious visitor inside. Thank goodness someone has saved and is displaying some of these items, because otherwise all we'd have left of them are photos.

Just a few miles down the road (or maybe it was a couple hundred, it's hard to remember) in Elk City, Oklahoma is another Route 66 museum. This one is much bigger, and incorporates a series of four museums and a large "village" of historical buildings. You can't miss it, because the sign is enormous.

We only toured the village -- partly because we were museumed out and partly because it was free. (Also, because the woman who was in charge wasn't very friendly, didn't do a very good job of explaining what was in the different museums, and seemed to be having a personal crisis on the other end of her cell phone.) It's a charming little complex, complete with a gas station, a grocery, lawyer's and doctor's offices, a schoolhouse, a church, a barbershop, a rooming house and -- for no reason we could determine -- a disturbing number of undertakers.

Here's a look inside one of the undertakers' offices. This is just one of many mannequins that were on display, and all were as lifeless and creepy as this one. My advice is simple here: get rid of them. This is supposed to be a ghost town, not a zombie metropolis.

We spent the night in Elk City, at a place called the Red Carpet Inn. It was cheap in every aspect of the word, and a fair number of the guests were full-time residents, judging from the number of cats we saw looking out from the rooms' windows at the empty pool and courtyard in the center. We stayed in our room, sprayed the place with Febreze, and hoped for the best.

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