Hometown Touristing

When my parents were visiting us from Florida over the Christmas break, we had just a handful of tourist sites locked into the agenda. After the weekend, during which my parents and Matt’s parents met for the first time, most of our days’ plans were figured out on the night before or on the morning of. Those plans usually consisted of where to eat and how to kill time between eating. There was S&B Burgers, Sean Cumming’s Irish Pub, Ann’s Chicken Fry House on Route 66, and Ingrid’s (German) Kitchen where my mom and dad enjoyed reuben sandwiches, a face-sized cream puff, and a handful of thumbprint cookies only hours before their flight home. I never knew my parents could eat like that.

The few sites we all agreed were not to be missed were (in no particular order):

Tinker Air Force Base: I enjoyed Anthony’s Pizza, an AAFES food court staple, for the first time since 1996, and my father was unexpectedly reunited with the aircraft that took him on his first Air Force One security mission to Europe. It’s been awhile since I walked into an Air Force commissary, but I still can’t believe cereal is only $2 a box on the inside! TWO FREAKIN’ DOLLARS! AND NO SALES TAX!

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I still don’t know what surprised me more: Dad’s reunion with his airplane or $2 cereal. I should’ve had my parents buy us more cereal.

Rural(ish) Oklahoma: While driving west on Route 66, we learned the difference between trees that are just plain ugly in the winter and trees that had been made ugly by the El Reno tornado on May 31. My parents exclaimed, “Now THAT’S some wind!” after a cold front moved in that morning with temperatures and wind speeds in the 30s. They saw wind turbines, hay bales, working oil rigs, and Texas longhorns. Overall, I think rural Oklahoma welcomed them good and proper.

A local museum: We wanted to take my parents to the 45th Infantry Museum here in town, but they were closed. So we drove out to El Reno to walk the grounds of Fort Reno, but they were also closed (even though the sign said they’d be open that day, grrr…). Eventually we decided to visit The Ninety-Nines, the international museum of women pilots located near the airport. Our tour guide was a retired Air Force pilot who flew B-52s. The B-52 is my mother’s favorite airplane, so she and the tour guide became instant BFFs. It’s an impressive place!

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The Fort Reno Chapel on the grounds of Fort Reno. Gah. Those doors!

• The Oklahoma City National Memorial was the essential site to visit, however. I had been there once before, back in 2011 when Elle and I visited Matt for Thanksgiving, and we didn’t go inside the museum. That day we simply toured the grounds and enjoyed the freakishly nice 70-degree weather and sunshine. When we took my parents to the memorial, there was a definite wind chill but the sunshine made it bearable. We walked the grounds and met a National Park Service official, who poorly explained to my mom and dad the location of this and the location of that. Now that I have my bearings in the city, or at least to the whereabouts of the old federal building, I feel more comfortable pointing things out.

I was pretty excited about visiting the museum this time, but I was again overruled by my entire family. They all know how I like to take my time reading everything…those facts on the wall are on display for a reason. It’s a piece of information someone wants me to know! (Do you know it took me THREE HOURS just to make it through the top floor – there are four floors, total – of the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.? My parents certainly do. Coincidentally, it’s the last time I ever walked through a museum with them, until we hit The Ninety-Nines where we spent a full two hours. Ha, I win.)

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Overlooking the memorial from the Survivors Tree – the reflecting pool is where 5th Street used to be in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
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Each chair is engraved with the name of a person who died. The smaller chairs represent the children who were killed, including those from the daycare, from inside the social security office, unborn children, and one little girl who was visiting her dad’s new office that morning. The chairs are lit up at night.
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The former Journal-Record building, which sustained quite a bit of damage from the bomb (some of it is still visible). The tree to the right is the Survivors Tree. The building is now home to the museum.

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