Category Archives: Travel

“Every Point on the Map” or Why My Heart Has the Flutters

Have you ever had an idea spark at some point in your brain, move from the incubation stages slowly and deliberately, then continuously remerge in your consciousness until it demands to be reckoned with?

I would imagine those types of ideas are the fabric from which “Bucket Lists” are constructed.  They’re the kinds of ideas that send little currants of electricity down your spine, or through your teeth.  They’re the visions that, when played out in your head, give your heart a little flutter, or awaken the butterflies in your stomach.

They’re the kinds of ideas that aren’t uttered aloud until you can own them.  And, until you can own the results of your utterances.

One such result might be that by uttering your idea aloud, you’ve implied some kind of social contract with the person who heard you.  Or, perhaps a contract with yourself.

Some people blurt their ideas in the early stages, before they’re fully developed.  Others harbor them covertly until they’ve weighed every risk associated and every aspect or contingency.  I fall more into the second camp.  And that’s why it’s not until NOW that I’ve decided to publicly announce a project I’ll be starting in February called, “Every Point on the Map.”

Every Point on the Map will be a ten year journey to visit each one of Oklahoma’s 593 townships or cities and have a meaningful conversation with one person in each place.  My daughter will be traveling with me, documenting the journey through two types of digital video and with two different cameras.  Every Point on the Map is something of a “bucket list-type” idea that has been incubating for a while, and by virtue of writing this beginning post – to me – it’s like forming a social contract with Oklahomans at large.  To me, it’s like the beginning of trying to introduce the idea.  And, to introduce you to the “why” behind the idea. Continue reading “Every Point on the Map” or Why My Heart Has the Flutters

How Do You Say That?

In honor of tonight’s NCAA Men’s basketball final between Louisville and Michigan, don’t you think it’s about time to revisit Southwestern Oklahoma – home to some of the best small school basketball teams – and make sure we know how to pronounce those town names?  Just in case you’re wondering how to pronounce the capital of Kentucky, it is pronounced, “FRANK-fort”.

Red Dirt Kelly gave birth to the Red Dirt Chronicles just a few short years ago. Since that time she has posted Red Dirt trivia questions on Facebook about all things related to Oklahoma. My favorite trivia questions are the ones that focus on Oklahoma places. When it comes to Oklahoma place names, the trivia can include more than just location, it might even pull out the old “how do you pronounce . . .” routine. As Jeff Foxworthy might say: “You might be from Oklahoma if you know how to say ‘Gotebo’, ‘Hobart’, ‘Eufaula’, Oologah, or Skiatook.”

Southwestern Oklahoma has its fair share of names that make you either grin or raise an eyebrow before attempting to say them. Go pack a snack now, and a tall glass of sweet iced tea, and we’ll take us a little road trip around Southwestern Oklahoma and discover some of these places. Leave your GPS devices at home for this trip – just pick up a copy of the free map of Oklahoma that the tourism department provides. It’ll save you a hundred bucks or so, and give you a better idea of where you are going.

Driving along US 62, halfway between Altus and Lawton, there is that sign that says “Gotebo –>”. Gotebo is one of those place names that exposes the non-Oklahoma roots of weather reporters. Very few know that it sounds just the way it is spelled, “go-tee-bo” with all long vowels. Gotebo is located in Kiowa County, at the junction of State Highways 9 and 54. It was founded around 1901 and has a current population of 226.

Northwest of Gotebo is Retrop. Some may wonder where this strange name came from, but it is quite simple, really. Spell it backwards and you have the surname of the first family to settle in Retrop. When the town applied for a post office, they discovered there was a town in Indian Territory named “Porter”. When word came back to Retrop about Porter, the forefathers said, “Let’s just spell it backwards.” Retrop is located on the Washita/Beckham county line, along State Highway 6, not too far down the road from Sentinel.

Up the road a ways from Retrop are two towns located a few miles apart on either side of State Highway 54, and nearly always paired together on the highway signs. Corn and Colony are their names. I’m not sure if they grow corn in Corn, or if any colonists remain in Colony, but I do know that one has family ties to John Denver. Continue reading How Do You Say That?

Barf Bag Throwdown: Delta Delivers, American Airlines Left on the Tarmac

A gracious traveler in the Minnesota airport allowed me to photograph his shirt for this article.

It’s election day, I’m traveling, and all of the sudden competition and sports metaphors are running through my head like Dez Bryant on an 84-yard tear to the end zone.  Here’s one of my favorite by Candy Crowley written about the 2008 presidential candidate, Fred Thompson:

Candy Crowley: “The bass haven’t been biting because Fred Thompson hasn’t been fishing with nightcrawlers. He’s been fishing with gummi worms, and the voters know it.”

Kudos to the Huff Post for putting a great list together about that particular competition.  And speaking of competitions, yesterday I walked into a doozy I didn’t even realize had commenced: the airline Barf Bag Throwdown.  Ever since my last flight to Atlanta, I guess air sickness bags have move up to a higher priority in my gray matter. Click here for 101 Uses for a Delta Airlines Barf-Bag, #93.

The contest made itself known when I decided to visit the “lavatory” (who SAYS that word?) somewhere in the air between Oklahoma City and Chicago yesterday afternoon.  Thankful I have learned to keep my camera with me WHEREVER I go, I spied this little compartment upon entering the “facilities.”

Hmmmm….an “Air Sickness Bag” compartment!

Well, all of the sudden I felt like one of those nosy people on a sitcom who begins trolling through the bathroom cabinets of the protagonist’s abode.  I had to look!  While I expected to be met with a box of bags, or a nice little neat stack of plastic-coated amenities, here’s what I found instead:

Feminine products? Check. Handi-Wipes? Check. Little bags for disposing of feminine products. Check. Barf bags? Nowhere to be found…

Well, first of all. Sympathies all around to any man who feels like he’s going to hurl, runs to the lavatory and finds THAT stack of supplies! Secondly, the air sickness bag subject had just moved to the tip-top of my gray matter and now I was curious.  I headed back to my seat and began digging.  And digging.  Then I removed the magazines and finally found my own personal barf bag in the very bottom of that oh-so-important seat-back compartment we travelers use for many more things than reading materials.  I pulled it out and heard a little deflating, “bummer-like” cartoon noise in my head: “Wah, wah, wahhhh.”

The bag was wrinkled, worn and the built-in twist-tie topper was tearing on both ends.  I thought back to my experience with Delta.  Their bags were visible, sturdy and in my distorted and biased view because I had been saved by them, the leading competitor in Kelly’s private in-her-head Barf Bag Throwdown.

I narrowed my eyes, wrinkled my nose and stuffed the offending bag back into the seat compartment making sure the tattered top was showing for someone who might need it.  Delta had fished with night crawlers, and American Airlines was just out there messing around with gummi worms.  Score one for the Atlanta-based airline, my clear winner in this unseemly battle.

My look of resolve and deep intrigue was not private, however, because as I settled back with into my seat I glanced around the cabin to find my seatmate looking at me with more than a slight air of concern.  I smiled at her, got out my book and began reading.

The Human Tolerance Thresholds for Starbucks Lines in the Morning


As a social researcher, I observe as much of my surroundings as possible.  If I notice a pattern that raises a question in my mind, I start testing it when I have the time.  If my pilot tests begin to pan out, then I spend some intentional time on the same question for a cross-sectional, qualitative investigation.

Such is the case with Starbucks lines in the morning.  Having spent many a day at the back of the line, I’ve been privy to comments such as, “Oh Holy Mother of ____, this line is too long…never mind…” or, “Hey, not bad.  I think I’ve got time to wait.”

Some of the funniest people to me are those whose body language clearly shows conflict between the need for a coffee fix and their next obligation.  I’ve actually seen people almost spin in place – stop, hesitate, mutter to themselves, turn back around…and eventually make a decision.  Sometimes their decision is reversed in the middle of the line.  I’ve even seen a “struggler” decide to stay, then get through half the line, then decide to leave, THEN come back and ask the person she was standing next to if she could have her place back.

Having already observed this line-length tolerance threshold pattern and conducted a few pilot tests, I’ve been using this past two weeks as my actual cross-sectional study.  For this post I’ve included five Starbucks stores in the mornings: 2 in a hotel, 2 in a southern regional airport, and one in a north central regional airport.  Here are my findings:

The range of persons standing in line in these collective sites ranges from 8 to 26.  The shorter lines (8 and 9) were in hotel establishments, the longer lines (15, 19 and 26) were in airport sites.  The tolerance level on length of line seems to be positively correlated with the actual amount of space available.  For example, the areas within the hotels were smaller, one was cramped, and people were in very close proximity.  The line in the Atlanta airport was long, had families and strollers camped out (see my two photos) along the way, and there was no “self-negotiation” going on at the end.  It appeared that people could clearly Continue reading The Human Tolerance Thresholds for Starbucks Lines in the Morning

101 Uses for a Delta Airlines Barf Bag: #93

Ten years ago, I used to get a little freaked out about airplane flights.  Perhaps because my children were younger and my mothering instinct was hyperactively feeding me thoughts prior to take off.  The sequence would go something like this: “I’m sure this plane is safe.  What if it’s not? They don’t even have those little kiosks for plane crash insurance in the airport like they used to…if they did, I would have gotten some.  If the plane starts going down, will I have enough time to write Mick instructions about all the kids’ activities at school and special circumstances regarding our mommy car pool? Why am I thinking this – of COURSE the plane is safe!…But what if it’s not?”

I also used to politely look at the flight attendant providing instructions for a “water landing” when they were giving their schpiel prior to take off.  I used to purchase airport food more often because I didn’t think about eating before I went in or about packing snacks in my purse.  I used to over pack.  I used to check my ticket fifty times each flight and think about what the next step might be when we landed, such as finding the baggage claim area or the bathrooms.

I used to do a lot of things that drained most of my mental energies and kept me from enjoying my trips when I flew somewhere for business.  Not any more.  A combination of grown children, flying three or four places per year over the past decade, and becoming familiar with most of the major U.S. airports has done wonders for my psychological state during business trips.

Yesterday I flew to Atlanta.  I normally allow myself one luxury item per trip and that usually takes the form of some fiction paperback I can finish on the first day.  I had already purchased my copy of John Grisham’s “Ford County Stories” for the flight (you know, Grisham – because I was headed to the South?) and was walking toward the Delta gate when I spied a small Sonic in the fast-food conglomerate past the bookstore.  “Sweet tea.  All I need to top off this delightful reading experience on my way to Atlanta is a Route 44 iced tea from Sonic,” I thought.  I careened left, changing lanes across the packed aisles of walking traffic in the airport and slid into the fast food line safely.

My ½ and ½ tea (I can’t drink straight sweet tea, I ask them to mix it with half unsweetened) was good for having been purchased at a place sporting 90% fried stuff on the menu.  I boarded the plane and began my book.  I don’t remember the flight starting.  I hadn’t really paid attention to the person who was sitting beside me.  I think at one point my right and her left elbows were jockeying for position on the arm rest.  And I was not cognizant of how long the flight would take or even that we had taken off.  I was already deeply entrenched in “Chapter One: Blood Drive;” I was being transported to a scene in a small town where three young men took a detour on their way to give blood for a local friend who had been injured.  I was in fiction heaven.

I was in the middle of “Chapter Three: Fish Files,” page 110 when the plane landed.  I reluctantly closed my book and said hello to the person sitting at my side.  She was from Norman, OK and was headed to Amsterdam to see her son.  I noticed she had a designer bag, perfect make-up and probably dyed her hair based upon the age of her face.  She looked cool and started a conversation with me; she talked cool too.  We chatted for a minute and I reached down to grab my tea.

Having rested in the magazine holder for the entire flight, a film of condensation had begun covering the outside of my Route 44 Sonic Cup and no sooner had I picked it up then it slipped from my fingers and fell to floor of the plane.  I sighed with relief as it landed because the cup remained in an upright position.  “Lucky break of the day,” I thought.  That thought had come too quickly, however, because when I picked the cup up an erratic stream of ½ and ½ tea began to leak out in two different directions.  Huh?  I looked at the bottom of the cup to see my extra long straw had somehow been harpooned right through the bottom of the cup upon impact.  I quickly thought about shoving it into my purse…no! I looked around and decided to put it back on the floor to utilize the pressure of the carpet, somewhat like you would when applying a tourniquet to a bleeding wound.  I turned around to look for any leftover cup the flight attendant missed and was met with a barf bag hovering right in front of my face.

“Barf bag!” my cool seat mate exclaimed, “Try this!”  Perfect.  I slipped the plastic coated bag underneath my Sonic cup and the situation was immediately contained.  I glanced back at my cool seat mate to thank her.  She winked knowingly.  “Those things are really handy,” she said, “For lots of reasons.”

I agreed and made a note to myself to Remember The Barf Bags.  As we headed down the plane aisle I glanced back at my seatmate.  She was reading as she walked in line out the door.

“She must have been flying for TWENTY years,” I thought with admiration.  I saluted her in my head while gripping my barf bag and headed into the airport.


Editor’s Update: 12/7/2010 – make sure and check out our Barf Bag “Throwdown” follow up post written later this fall.

Our Sister to the South Has the Prettiest Blue in April

The Oklahoma wheat is the deepest, most luscious green I have seen in years.

I met a funny goose in the parking lot yesterday whose sparkling white feathers were glistening in the sun.

In April, a rainbow of colors begins to show across the state. The red, red roses. The sunshine yellow daffodils. The pastel colors of Easter eggs.

But yesterday when my parents sent me this photo of the Texas bluebonnets they were gazing at during their annual southern trip, I had to give one up to the Lone Star state.  Their “Bluebonnet Blue” is heart stopping and worth a trip south in order to soak that color into your brains.

This Good Friday morning, Texas, I’m tipping my hat to you. Long live bluebonnets.  Long live our southern border friendship. And thank you, humongous state, for the beauty you share every year.


On the Horizon: What an Experience!

I’ve been a member of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program for the past eighteen months. We have traveled all over Oklahoma and experienced all types of agriculture…from cotton in the Southwest to Mushrooms in the Northeast. Agriculture is still big business here, although only about two percent of the population actually works in the agriculture industry.

At the end of the program, there is an international trip taken to show Oklahomans how agriculture is managed outside of the U.S. It’s held in a different location each time and this year we had the opportunity to go to Scotland and Ireland. I have to say, I was really excited when I found out where we were going. I have always wanted to visit both countries.

I wasn’t disappointed. Both countries are absolutely beautiful! I was afraid that when we went in the later part of February, it would be gray and dreary and not very pretty kind of like it is here in Oklahoma in the Winter. Boy was I mistaken! While it was cold, it wasn’t gray and dreary (okay the weather was a lot of the time but not the scenery). It was quite green. Scotland not as much as Ireland, but green enough.

In this week’s video blog, see what Scotland was like for twenty-five Oklahomans including myself.
Alisa Hines

Requiems Pour un Parfait

In the corner of the Queen’s Lane Coffee House in Oxford, I am only a student.

I relax after a full day of lectures by eating Greek yogurt, honey and fresh strawberries. This scrumptious food of the gods is beautifully arranged in a tall parfait glass.  The bowl of my teaspoon digs to the bottom of the treat and drags bits of each layer up the side of the glass for my next bite.

As I take that perfectly mixed bite into my mouth, my eyes close, and this noise escapes from me: “Mmmmm.”

During the summer I am an instructor with a lighter load, I’m managing a few research projects and writing two papers.

I prepare for the day’s work by eating Greek yogurt, honey and fresh strawberries.  This breakfast created to remind me of Oxford is plopped precariously into my cereal bowl.  I grab bites here and there with a soup spoon as I dry my hair and get dressed for the day.

As I pack the car with my briefcase, purse and grocery list for the evening trip home, I run back into the house, grab my soup spoon and quickly scrape the last of my faux parfait. This noise escapes from me:

“Hm, good!”

During the January semester I am an instructor with a full load, a student who is taking her last statistics course that paralyzes her with fear, and three other things that make me stressed to type so I don’t.

I don’t have time to drag my breakfast around with me.  Rather, I rapidly toss Greek yogurt, honey, fresh strawberries, some ice cubes and a little skim milk into the blender.  I turn it on while I’m zipping up my boots.  As soon as the zipper reaches the top of the boot, I slam a cup down, jerk the blender off the rotors, and pour in my liquid not-anything-like-a-parfait.

I toss everything I think I’ll need for the day into the car and wedge my breakfast into the drink holder.  Half-way to work, I toast the Morning Edition hosts with my liquid breakfast.  I drink in gulps it while listening to the news about Pakistan, the upcoming elections and the economy.

Not really regarding the goodness of what I’m drinking, I don’t say a word.

Strawberry and Greek ygrt smoothie




Thursday Morning Shout Out: The Talimena Drive and Those Who Takes Us Along With Their Eyes

(Note – this is a reprint from last year, retitled.  We hear that NOW is the time to be in the mountains if you want to see the foliage this year.  What do YOU hear?)

Good morning, Red Dirt Country.  We haven’t had a “Friday Morning Shout Out” in a few weeks, so I thought I would provide you with a little treat.  I’m going to take you back, back, back…all the way to November 13th of this year. Was that just one month ago?

It was a beautiful day, and a few members of the Tulsa Digital Photography Group were winding around the hills of Oklahoma’s famous Talimena Drive.  Sometimes they’d wind all the way over to Mena, Arkansas. But, then they would hop right back into our great state once again…shooting the autumn beauty in “God’s Country” all the while.

The borders of Oklahoma and Arkansas get a little fuzzy when there is so much beauty in one place.  And, photographers like Brian Favell did their best to capture all of what the perfect drive for Fall had to offer.  It seems that every year is different; who knows what 2011 has in store for the beholder?  But for this year, and for that day, and for this Shout Out, we’re going to share with you what Brian found – through his eyes, on his journey down the beautiful, twisty, turvy, upsy and downsy Talimena Drive of Eastern Oklahoma.

Thanks Brian, for the tour…and thanks, Oklahoma mountains, for once again showing us what you’ve got!

Continue reading Thursday Morning Shout Out: The Talimena Drive and Those Who Takes Us Along With Their Eyes

People to People in China: Reflection & Video

Dear friends ~ ten days in brand new territory is enough to fill up several photo and video memory cards. And, no matter how much I try, I’ll not really be able to tell the whole story of how my trip touched my heart.  There is much to follow up with, and much to think about over the next months and year.  However, I hope this video provides some sort of window into our time in Beijing and Guiyang.

This week will be a good one at the RDC ~ we’ve got our Tall Tales to publish from our readers, new content from several of our writers, and some happy news to share soon.  I look forward to having a good one, and hope you do too…



People to People in China: “Scorpion”

“Read the menu.  Hey, everybody, read the menu!” Jenny, the youngest delegate, said to the others seated at the famous Peking Duck dinner table.  “We’re going to have some scorpion tonight!”

I looked around the table.  Dishes of food were already being placed on the lazy-Susan and one of them looked strange.  It was a gelatinous slice of something amber with a sliver of roasted duck levitating in the center.  I quickly searched the jelly for any sign of bug pieces. And although I believed my findings were bug free, I avoided that dish all the same.

In cartoons or animated films, one technique of driving home an idea or image is to flash the “negative” onto the TV screen for a second or two.

Example: Daffy Duck gets struck by lightening? A black skeleton against a white background appears coupled with electric-current sound effects.  Seconds later, Daffy appears again – intact, but usually smoke is rising from his body and there are a few hash-mark smudges on his bill, simulating the results of his traumatic experience.  This effect also happens with “light bulb” moments or sometimes with another image those creating the show want to convey being “burned into the character’s brain.”

Why do I bring up this little video trick?  Because that process is the closest thing I can come to when explaining what happens in my own brain when someone so much as mentions the word “scorpion.”  If I were Daffy Duck and had just heard that word, the show directors would immediately zoom into a close-up shot of my bloodshot, terrified eyes, cue the famous “Psycho” movie music and show about two seconds of a black scorpion on a white background, flashing larger each time the violins shreaked their high pitched squeals. Continue reading People to People in China: “Scorpion”

People to People in China: “Ornate”

His straw hat, translucent aging skin, suspenders and slow, jerky pace told the story of a full life already lived.  His eyes blinked frequently as if he were deep in thought, or perhaps his nervous system was firing in unique ways.  His cane was curvy, asymmetrical, and the yellow-tinged wood was accented with walnut-colored blotches.  He later told me that he had been walking along a river one day, noticed the “stick,” picked it up and after returning home had tinkered with stain and varnish until it looked right.

As he approached the large glass turnabout entrance to the hotel, his slow pace came to a halt.  Jim, a psychiatrist, priest and therapist from New York City, who lived only one block from Central Park, took in the grand glass and gilded entrance.

“Dan!” his rough, aged voice beckoned his slightly younger brother who was trailing behind, “Would you look at this lobby!?”

Later that evening at dinner in the restaurant, I sat by Jim and Dan. I smiled as Jim said, “Dan!” leaning back in his chair, his eyes taking in the architectural grandeur of the restaurant ceiling, “Would you look at that ceiling?”

Dan looked.  I looked.  We both responded with impressed comments.  And…the comments or thoughts haven’t yet halted.

The lobby is exquisite. The door handles are like stacks of frosted glass balls.  The hotel is accented with lighted, frosted columns, gilded art, winding staircases, fresh flowers, grand meeting rooms…but “Ornate” certainly isn’t limited to our hotel. Continue reading People to People in China: “Ornate”

People to People in China: “Sardines”

“Do you see how backed up the traffic is outside?” Eighteen delegates and two guests peered dutifully out the tour bus window and nodded.  “It wasn’t until 1997 that Beijing, a city with 22 million people, got its first one million cars.  Then seven years later, in 2003, we reached 2 million.  Four years later we reached three million. Then in just three years we reached four million and two years after that we reached five million cars.  That is why we say we must adjust your schedule if there are traffic problems.”

Wen Tong, or “Wendy,” our People to People guide smiled liberally.  Her name literally meant “warm sunshine.”  She had already told us several jokes to help us relax and was now into the “overview of China” portion of her discussion.  She talked into a microphone as the bus moved deftly around the cars, bicyclists and motor scooters.

“As the economy improves in China and the number of people grow, the number of private cars has become a problem.  So, our president had the idea of only allowing twenty thousand new car licenses each month, beginning in January of this year.”

The bus driver had exited one of the main roads and was now navigating the craft across lanes of inner-city traffic.  The scene reminded me of watching my children play video games. A hundred times I thought we would hear a crash as cars turned in front of the bus with only inches to spare, or cyclists wove in and around obstacles with amazing skill.  One cyclist had a young look; her mauve bicycle was accented with stiletto heels, an iPod and trendy clothes.  Another appeared to be a grandmother and a grandchild.  A third was toting a 12-pack of toilet paper on the luggage bar behind his seat.  A fourth had more baggage than I’ve ever seen balanced on one bicycle.

I glanced over a lane and studied the cars again.  Where were the moderately priced automobiles?  Although I spied a number of smaller, smart cars I couldn’t find one that appeared older.  Most were high end. And many were very high end.  The traffic jam was like a Mercedes Benz parade, with guest stars of BMW, Audi and special appearances by Volkswagon.  I noticed the absence of incessant horn-honking and wondered if the New York City cab drivers needed a field trip to China in order to prove the seemingly impossible: crazy inner city traffic CAN happen without wearing your horn out.

The lack of parking places causes some drivers to park on the sidewalk. Continue reading People to People in China: “Sardines”

People to People in China: “Departure”

They were dressed in fatigues. Three men and one woman chatted casually while their bags were checked in the Military Personnel Line at Will Rogers Airport. The private bringing up the rear was short; his dark buzz cut looked nice against his brown skin, and his posture was more swagger than resolute. The third in line was digging into her bag. My eyebrows raised when, from the depths of all manner of military supplies came a laminated zebra print bag trimmed in hot pink. She found what she was looking for, zipped the zebra print, then zipped the duffle.

When she stood up, my eye immediately focused on two small braids, one at either side of her face, approximately ½” in width, pulled up with the rest of her hair into a bun. The interaction between she and the other three was one of camaraderie. In fact, had I not seen the braids and bun, I’m not sure I would have noticed there were two sexes represented in the line for deployment.

She made a joke, walked through the metal detector, and then she and her zebra print bag were gone. Continue reading People to People in China: “Departure”

“Dad, are we in Neutral?” Reaching the Green Mesa with Fuel to Spare.

Photo curteousy of the Science Photo Library; 2000 UK fuel shortage crisis entry.

Editor’s note: Julie at the Ranch is on vacation for the month of July.  We’ll be filling in her regular Monday morning spot with other contributors’ work.  Today, we hear a vacation tale from Jeff Bingham about running out of gas. Or not. ~ RDK

“Dad, are we in neutral?”    The voice of my teenage son emanated from the back seat of the van.”    More on that shortly.

You ever run out of gas?    Physically (in your car, or in your body), financially, emotionally, spiritually?

I have only “run out” twice in a car.   More on the others in a minute.

The first time in my car was on vacation; the kids were very young, the weather was hot, things were hectic, and it just happened.   Thankfully, a kind gentlemen, a complete stranger, was adjacent to us and quickly assessed the situation and gave me a ride to the closest station.

The second time was mechanical failure in the car; a bad gas gauge. Same story, a kind gentleman, this time a friend, was close by and accessible. Whether by distraction or otherwise, it’s never a fun place to be. Same goes for the physiological, the emotional, and the spiritual. You always want to have plenty “in your tank”.

I said I’ve only “run out” twice. If we consider “almost running out” occassions, I must admit to a close call another time or two. Ironically enough, both were on vacation trips; a time when the tank should be full and the experience rich. Continue reading “Dad, are we in Neutral?” Reaching the Green Mesa with Fuel to Spare.

“Breaking Down” the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System

The I-40 “Crosstown.”    Almost every Central Oklahoman has heard about it, not because of where it goes (across town, duh) but what it is doing.  And that what is falling apart.   Before we get into that, let’s go over some history.

The recent family vacation took the Bings through middle America and the Deep South, mostly courtesy of the interstate highways that crisscross our great land.   We are all familiar with those little blue shield signs, each bearing the trademark large white font number, and a distinctive “East,” “West,” “North,” or “South.”    I heard about the origins of the system that slightly predated my mid 1960’s initial existence and the man who signed them into being, but I had never seen it promoted on location.    But, as our trip brought us closer to home after about 1,500 miles of sojourning, I saw it at the entrance to a beautiful southern rest stop deep into Mississippi:  “Eisenhower Interstate System”.

According to our informative friends at Wikipedia, “The Interstate Highway System was authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The opening of Interstate 70 in Colorado through Glenwood Canyon in 1992 is often cited as the completion of the originally planned system The initial cost estimate for the system was $25 billion over 12 years; it ended up costing $114 billion (adjusted for inflation, $425 billion in 2006 dollars).”

I don’t know about you, but I find both $114 billion and $425 billion to be large sums of money. And yet, it is not enough. Continue reading “Breaking Down” the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System

Silent Sunday: Indian Taco Championship, Pawhuska, OK

Last weekend, my husband and I joined Mark and Cathy Hinderliter on a Northeastern Oklahoma roadtrip to Pawhuska.  The Indian Taco National Championship festival was being held and we decided to check it out.  These photos are shots of downtown Pawhuska, the festival activities, and the people around town.  Have a peaceful Silent Sunday…enjoy! [kelly] Continue reading Silent Sunday: Indian Taco Championship, Pawhuska, OK

A Father-Son Moment on an Ethiopian Balcony

Editor’s note: Five and one-half months ago, Josh submitted this post as a dedication to a turning point in his life of Fatherhood.  Last week we submitted a post on “Five Questions to Ask Yourself” about adopting and/or fostering a child.  We’re re-submitting this piece as a human experience complement to those questions.  ~ RDK

by Josh Bottomly

Staring down at my adopted son’s new visa and passport for the first time, I did a double take when I noticed something very odd.  The bold print read:  Tesfamariam Josh.  I asked Tafesse, our Ethiopian driver, if there had been some kind of misprint or mistake.  Tefesse grinned and then explained:  “In Ethiopia, a child’s last name is his father’s first name,” Tefasse explained.  It’s our tradition.”  I looked over at Amy in confusion.  “So my name would be Josh Roc,” I asked Tafesse, “and Amy’s would be Amy Glen?” Tafesse nodded and said, “In our culture, naming one’s child is a sacred act.  It’s a blood ritual.  It denotes a very special bond.”

Later that night, I woke up around 4:30 a.m. to Silas’ whimper.  Since it was my turn to take the night shift, I gathered Silas up in my arms and took him out onto the hotel patio, the only “cry proof” place in the hotel.

As I scanned my eyes across the city streets hushed under a blanket of fog and mist, I rocked Silas in my arms and sang quietly over him.  Suddenly, an image surfaced and bobbed on the wake of my mind.  It was of a photograph of my father and I, now yellow and faded with time.  In the photo, I was scrunched up close to my dad like a koala bear.  I must have been no older than Silas.  Dad and I were at the beach, both wearing lemon-colored swim shorts.  The sun reflected against our pale white thighs, and because of the sunhat on my tiny head, it was hard to see my freckled face or any of the tufts of my reddish-blond hair.  Dad’s face unforgettably was contorting and howling like a wolf as ten pounds of squirmy flesh scratched up against his chest hairs, sending tickle bumps through his body. Continue reading A Father-Son Moment on an Ethiopian Balcony

Red Dirt Ramblers Stop #4 ~ Vintage Inn B&B, Alva, OK

Vintage Inn Formal Den ~ Photo by Bed & Breakfast Finder, Vintage Inn Link.

Kelly’s perspective ~

So, there we were, see…extremely full from dinner, exhausted from driving all over the state and still had one little eleven mile trip to go.  Julie’s friends were so incredibly nice to us; they really were like ambassadors to the Alva area.  They actually let us follow them down the road from Bulington to Alva and on to the Vintage Inn Bed & Breakfast. They then showed us where to park, helped us find our way inside, and then gave us a personal tour! Brenda was evidently a Realtor and had shown the house several times in the past.  She and Mike led us through the grand entry, showed us the dining room and kitchen, and then up the beautiful staircase we went to the second floor level of rooms…and then on up to the third floor level!  I’ve included two photos from their link above, but there are more if you’d like to check out their site; their bedrooms are each unique, cozy and now are furnished with large flat-screen television sets.  They also have wireless internet access, which helped us that evening because I had a post to edit!

Vintage Inn Foyer, Bed & Breakfast Finder Site - Vintage Inn Link. Ask either Lori or Sherri to tell you about how they refinished the plaster sculpting pattern on the beautiful Victorian ceiling.

What I appreciated about our personal tour provided by Brenda and Mike was the chance to hear voices of the community speak with pride about the Inn.  Every time we turned a corner, another story emerged.  Thank you, Brenda, for setting such a lovely context within which Julie and I could venture forth!

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers Stop #4 ~ Vintage Inn B&B, Alva, OK

Red Dirt Ramblers, Stop #3: The Vintage House Restaurant, Burlington, OK


Kevin (prounced kee-vun) Kraft sits down with our dinner group to tell stories about the Vintage House restaurant development after he and wife, Lori, serenaded the dining room. Kevin runs "the smokehouse," cooks the steaks, and owns the restaurant with his wife.

Julie’s view:

After leaving Dan McGuinness in Edmond, Kelly and I knew we were heading north, but we didn’t really have a set plan.  She suggested that I call Nancy at Cordero Farms.  An answering machine greeted me, so we decided to just head north on I-35.  Our other option was Alva, OK.  By this time, it was getting dark, so we decided we needed to find a place to spend the night.  Earlier in the day when Kelly mentioned we might go to Alva, I decided to call a sorority sister who lived there.  I only mentioned that we might be going that direction and that I would call her if we decided to take that route.  I added that I didn’t want her to hear that I’d been there and her be upset with me if I hadn’t called.  I laughed; she simply said that she’d know if I showed up.  Hmmm.  It turns out she was not kidding.  Kelly called the bed and breakfast that she’d heard so much about, and got us a room. One room…the only one available.  After she made sure it was okay with me that we had to share a room AND a bed after only meeting a few hours earlier we committed to the reservation.  I mean, we were in the middle of nowhere by this time.  I could also tell from Kelly’s end of the conversation that we were being invited to the local restaurant for a late dinner.

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers, Stop #3: The Vintage House Restaurant, Burlington, OK