This is the conclusion to my vacation article, which appeared in yesterday’s Minco Millennium.
Last week I told you about the first part of my vacation in Oklahoma visiting casinos, a National Park, a State Park, and a strange magnetic hill. I continue now with part two about my trip across our beautiful state.
After witnessing the wondrous view of Lake Murray State Park from the top of Tucker Tower we drove to Tishomingo. There we visited the Chickasaw Capitol and Chickasaw Council House Museum. Construction on the Capitol building began in 1898 and was completed in seven months for a total cost of $15,000. It served as the Chickasaw Nation Capitol until 1906. The building was sold to Johnston County in 1910 for $7,500. The Chickasaw Tribe purchased it back in 1992 for a sum of $575,000. The museum chronicles the history of the Chickasaw people and houses thousands of beautiful artifacts. Admission is free.
From Tishomingo we drove to a tiny dot on the map called Reagan, Oklahoma. The winding country roads lead to Sipokni West, an old west themed area that had been used as a movie set years ago. There is no admission fee and you can walk all over the area and go inside the buildings which include a U.S. Marshall office, a saloon, a general store, undertaker, blacksmith and numerous other businesses that one might have found in an old west town. Each building included what might have actually been found in the real thing, as well as photos and news clippings from when different movies were being filmed there. There is also a café where you can get food and drink, and there are public restrooms.
After we had spent enough time walking the streets of Sipokni West in the more than 100 degree weather, we got back into our air conditioned Suburban and drove to Eufaula taking a scenic route. We saw many beautiful sites, but long stretches of roads were old and very dangerous. One section in Pittsburg County took us an hour to travel only 35 miles.
Just west of Eufaula we took a free tour of the Hoepfners’ Kiwi Farm. I had no idea Kiwis could be grown in Oklahoma. The Kiwi plant is a beautiful vine that will drape arbors or climb other structures and trees. An amazing feature of the plant is that bugs, including mosquitoes, hate the plant. The farm had a huge arbor covered by six Kiwi plants that you can sit under in the shade and not be bothered by pesky flying and biting bugs. We learned that the Kiwi fruit contains more nutrients than any other fruit. The Hoepfners sell the plants, as well as soap and perfume made from Kiwis. They are working with a near-by winery and may begin offering Kiwi wine next year. According to a National Geographic article displayed at the farm, Kiwi wine may offer more health benefits than Red wine. They begin harvesting the fruit in mid-August and continue until the first freeze, usually in late October.
Lake Eufaula State Park offers camping and RV hook ups, beautiful swimming beaches, playgrounds, an 18-hole golf course, fishing and much more. Lake Eufaula is the largest manmade lake in Oklahoma.
After eating a delectable dinner over Lake Eufaula at Gator’s Restaurant, we began making our way north through Checotah and up to Muskogee. After a good night’s rest at the Muskogee Hampton, we made our way north to Claremore in Rogers County. We visited the awesome Will Rogers Memorial Museum. It is a remarkably beautiful and educational tribute to Oklahoma’s Favorite Son.
One could spend hours going through the entire museum viewing and reading and learning about the history of one of the most quotable humans to ever walk the earth. The museum includes theatres to watch old Will Rogers movies. The many sections displaying historical artifacts, memorabilia and paintings and sculptures of Will Rogers also provide information via video or audio – such as old news reels, or radio broadcast. The museum is extremely kid friendly and offers an exhibit specifically for children, a tunnel through time in the basement. Admission is free.
From the museum in Claremore we drove to Oologah to visit Will Rogers’ birthplace. The home overlooks Oologah Lake and offers a stunning view. The home and barns are open to the public. There is no tour guide, but inside the home is a recording by Jim Rogers, Will’s son, telling the history of the home. The kids, and kids-at-heart, will love the live goats, donkeys, horses, peacocks and crowing roosters who all roam just about anywhere they choose. Admission is free.
From Oologah we took a wonderfully scenic drive west to Hominy in Osage County. In Hominy we toured the Drummond Home. Fred Drummond moved to Hominy in 1904 and bought out the Hominy Trading Company. He and the family were very successful at expanding to ranching, banking and real estate. Fred and his wife Addie built their three story Victorian style home in 1905. All the furnishings and carpets inside the home are original items owned by the Drummond family. The home was deeded to the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1980 and placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1981. Tours are offered free by very friendly and knowledgeable guides.
Hominy offers 40 murals painted on the sides of city buildings, the restored MKT Depot which serves as a visitors information center, and just west of town is the New Territory sculptures. The twenty-foot steel sculptures sit atop a hill and are the creations of local Blackfoot artist Cha’ Tullis, who also has an art gallery on Main Street.
From Hominy we traveled south on the scenic route to Shawnee, crossing the Arkansas River, Keystone Lake and the Cimarron River. From Shawnee we traveled back west on Highway 9 stopping to visit the Thunderbird Casino and Travel Center and driving around Lake Thunderbird State Park east of Norman. From there we made our way back to Minco.
On our four day trip, we covered just a very small portion of what our magnificent state has to offer and most of it – other than food, lodging and gas – was free. I highly recommend any and all to travel our state to see the astonishing and versatile terrain and learn about the rich history of our people and state.
Lake Eufaula State Park
Hwy 69 & Hwy 150
Checotah, OK 74426
Phone: (918) 689-5311
Toll Free: (800) 654-8240
Will Rogers Museum
1720 West Will Rogers Boulevard
Claremore, OK 74014
Phone: (918) 341-0719
Toll Free: (800) 324-9455
Will Rogers Birthplace
1 mile north of Oolagah, 2 miles east of Hwy 169
Oologah, Oklahoma 74053
Contact information same as Will Rogers Museum.
Fred Drummond Home
305 North Price
Hominy, OK 74035
Phone: (918) 885-2374