Saturday, January 31, 2015


Oklahoma City has a B-grade art museum anchored by an A+ Dale Chihuly collection. I don't know what it is about this area of the country and Chihuly (who hails from Washington State), but on this week-long trip we saw Chihuly's work in each of the three states we visited: The Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas; the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in Oklahoma; and the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA for short) has the most stunning Chihuly piece I have seen to date: the 55-foot-tall Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower, a tribute to one of the founders of the museum.   It is impossible to get the whole thing in a single photo, so I did my best to put two pictures together here to give an idea of its grandiosity:

Thursday, January 29, 2015


At 9:02 a.m. on Wednesday, April 19, 1995, a huge explosion ripped into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. It was one of those days when most Americans were glued to their TVs, much like the day in 1986 when the Challenger exploded or the day in 2001 when terrorists flew two planes into the Twin Towers in New York City. The bomb, originating in a vehicle parked on the street, hit at a time of maximum damage, a time when everyone was likely at work and the daycare center in the building was full. Not only did the blast rip away a full third of the Murrah Building, but it also damaged another 324 buildings in a 16-block radius. In all, 168 people were killed and more than 680 others were injured.

We parked our car across the street from the memorial near this incredibly moving display erected by St. Joseph's Catholic Church. Christ stands with his back to the scene of the devastation, facing a wall with 168 niches representing the voids left by the victims.
Directly behind Him is the entry into the bombing memorial site.
To His left is part of the chain link fence that has become a wall of remembrance, little scraps of paper, toys, knick knacks, and photos tucked into the spaces--an American Wailing Wall.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


It took a while for Bob to convince me that we should take a trip between my last day of school and Christmas so that he could check another state off his States List, and even after I agreed, I ribbed him a lot for making me spend my holiday season in--of all places--Oklahoma (with a little Arkansas and Texas thrown in for good measure).

However, I have to confess that I loved our trip. Every time we add another state to our list, we realize that those who think they have to travel thousands of miles to find something worth their time are missing out on the richness of domestic travel.

English writer and theologian G. K. Chesterton noted that "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." I'm pretty sure he was talking about our trip to Oklahoma, which to me was definitely a foreign land.

Each time we crossed a state border on this trip, I had the appropriate song ready and waiting on my Spotify app. For Oklahoma, it just had to be this one (Fast forward to about 50 seconds):

Oklahoma also helped me to discover the truth of another great theologian's words: "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware"  (Martin Buber, Austrian-Israeli Jewish philosopher).

Like every state we've ever visited, Oklahoma was full of surprises, "secret destinations" just waiting for us to discover them. Our very first stop in Oklahoma City was one of those: St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral.
If ever there were a brave church, this is it.

St. Paul's, built in a Norman Gothic architectural style, held its first service in 1904. On April 19, 1995, the huge explosion that blew apart the Murrah Federal Building just two blocks away caused extensive damage to the church, including breaking many of its stained glass windows, destroying its organ, fracturing the Celtic cross on top of the building, lifting the roof partly off its moorings, and splaying the walls.

Nevertheless, immediately after the bombing, the church became a triage site, provided food for rescue workers and then clean-up crews, and served as a much-needed spiritual touchstone for downtown Oklahoma City.

Friday, January 23, 2015


We ended our trip to Arkansas by visiting a series of very eclectic locations.

In addition to visiting the fifty states, my husband has a goal to summit the highest point in every state (except, perhaps, Alaska's). Prior to this trip, we had been to the highest points in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, New Hampshire, and South Dakota.

My husband has also been to the high points in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Washington.

We planned to check off the Arkansas high point before leaving the state.

We were in a rush to make it to the Mount Magazine State Park before dark. The trail to the highest point in Arkansas is at the top of this road constructed by the CCC in the 1930s. We needed to get to the trail while there was still light, but fog settling on the mountain was slowing us down.
Finally, near the top of the road, we broke through the fog, and shortly after that we entered the park.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Love him or hate him, you have to be intrigued by Bill Clinton, In America, we love our rags to riches stories, and Bill's is a pretty good one.

Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, a small town 112 miles from Little Rock. His father was killed in an accident three months before he was born, so Bill lived in this cute little frame house with his maternal grandparents for the first four years of his life while his mother studied nursing in New Orleans.
When his mother remarried, he moved to another house in Hope before eventually moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he graduated from high school. Clinton went to college at Georgetown University on a scholarship--I'm guessing that was not something that happened often to Hot Springs High School graduates. Upon graduation he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, following which got his JD from Yale University. After graduation he married Hilary, and a few years later he returned to Arkansas, where he was elected governor in 1978 at age 32.

Impressive stuff for a little boy from Hope.

Clinton notes that when it came time to build his library, members of his graduating class at Georgetown offered him $30 million if he would build it in Washington, D.C.  He told them he couldn't do that. "I have to put it in Arkansas, and I have to put in in Little Rock, because I would never have become president without the people of Arkansas," he said.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park is a complex that includes the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, housed in what was once a train depot, followed by a newspaper office, and then--believe it or not--a Spaghetti Factory restaurant. Perfect for a president known for his love of carbs.
In contrast, the building next door, the Clinton Presidential Library, is a somewhat sterile modernist steel and glass building cantilevered over the Arkansas River. (There are those who criticize it for looking like "a trailer on stilts.")

Monday, January 19, 2015


My husband Bob and I have a goal to visit all 50 states, and we are almost there. One of the states neither one of us had been to was Oklahoma, so on a whim we planned a trip for December 2014. We decided to throw in some places in Northern Texas and Western Arkansas to expand the trip.

We flew into the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, picked up a rental car, and headed for Little Rock, Arkansas, a distance of about 300 miles. After a good night's sleep, our first stop was the state capitol building (because we also have a goal to visit all 50 capitol buildings). It was all decked out in its seasonal finery:

Saturday, January 17, 2015


As the name implies, Rapid City was built on the banks of a swiftly flowing river. Like all of South Dakota, the original Lakota inhabitants were pushed out when gold was discovered in the nearby Black Hills.With a population of just over 70,000, Rapid City is about the same size as the city where I live in Southern California, but where my town is just a village by California standards, Rapid City is the second largest city in South Dakota.
Rapid City feels much more like the farming community of 4,500 people that I grew up in than the city I live in now.
I never would have pegged Rapid City as an artsy place. Heck, I would never have linked anywhere in South Dakota with art. Our recent visit showed me that I was wrong about a lot of things regarding South Dakota.

Our first encounter with Rapid City's art was this beautiful bronze statue of a Native American woman braiding her granddaughter's hair:

Thursday, January 15, 2015


South Dakota has personality, no question about that, and it's not just its natural features that make it unique. We spent some time in three of its cities (burroughs? villages? Somehow "cities" doesn't seem quite right.)

Located just south of the Crazy Horse Monument, Custer is the oldest town founded by European-Americans in the region. It gets its name from--who else?--General George Custer, who led a cavalry unit that discovered gold there in 1874. A couple of years later, a bigger strike was found in Deadwood Gulch, and this settlement was all but abandoned. Today it has a population of just over 2,000, and its claim to fame is the painted buffaloes (their term, not mine) that adorn many of its corners, appear in front of businesses, and can even be found guarding homes. Each is painted by a different American artist:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


When I think of the word "Badlands," I think of South Dakota, but I was surprised to learn that it is a common noun as well as a proper noun.  "Badlands" are defined as dry, colorful, sedimentary rock-dominated terrains that have been sculpted by wind and water. They have steep slopes, canyons, ravines, hoodoos, and little vegetation. They are difficult to navigate by foot (but easy by hoof for mountain sheep). In addition to Badlands National Park in South Dakota, there are badlands in North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Outside the United States, there are badlands in Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and Taiwan.  Who knew?

South Dakota's Badlands National Park covers 244,000 acres, or about 380 square miles. About 64,000 acres of the park is protected wilderness area, and it is one of the sites of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America. (The black-footed ferret was declared extinct in 1979, but a small population was discovered in 1981, captured, and bred in captivity from 1987 to 1981 before being released into the wild. Why do I care so much? Because we had a pet ferret--though not a black-footed one--as a pet when we were newlyweds. Nasty-smelling critter.)

Back to our trip.  When we entered the Badlands, it looked like this:
But all of the sudden deep gouges opened up in the rolling prairie to reveal this:

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Custer State Park, named for General George Custer and the first and largest state park in South Dakota, is 71,000 acres of beautiful, pastoral scenery.

The roads are narrow and require slow driving . . .
. . . which is good, because you're never sure what you might encounter, be it a tiny tunnel in a rock . . .
. . . or a wild animal:

Thursday, January 1, 2015


I have a son who likes to do this:
Temple Crag, Eastern Sierras, California
. . . so when I saw this:

 . . . all I could think of was how much fun he would have on this formation known as the Cathedral Spires. We didn't see any climbers, so after we got home I checked online to see if trad climbing is allowed here.  This site and this one say it's one of the best granite climbs in the entire United States.

Looking at my photos again, I did find some photos of climbers on one of the information signs:
Sam, some day you need to go to South Dakota.