Welcome to Part II of what turned out to be an awesome, jam-packed weekend exploring southern Oklahoma! I’m going to do my best to pick up where I left off. Since I opted to use Ardmore as my home base, I had a lot of time to explore the city, and I really enjoyed it! Like many Oklahoma towns, it is clear that Ardmore is putting a lot of effort into making itself a more desirable tourist destination and place to live. One way this town of roughly 25,000 is excelling is in its FOOD options! After a great dinner at Cafe Alley (where the staff went above and beyond to make sure we had a great time, with absolutely no knowledge that I would be talking about them later), we started the following day with an awesome breakfast at Hamburger Inn.
After stuffing our faces, we had a chance to roam around the downtown a bit and see the sights. One of my favorite quirks about Ardmore is that they’ve decided to get creative with their fire hydrants! Each one is decorated colorfully and uniquely. It’s a really great way to do something fun and creative with a generally unexciting city feature.
There is also no shortage of murals to see around town! As a huge fan of urban art, I’m always excited to see this in any city or town I visit. Ardmore didn’t disappoint!
After exploring Ardmore, we traveled back out to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in the hopes of seeing buffalo, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. They were just nowhere to be found. So we set our sights on the next destination, Gene Autry, Oklahoma. Gene Autry was a film and television star and “singing cowboy”, famous from the 1930s to the 1950s. Although born in Texas, his family brought him to Oklahoma when he was just an infant, and here he would grow up. Now, Gene Autry, Oklahoma pays homage to his legacy with a museum and of course, the town bearing his name.
After Gene Autry, we hit the road again, with an eye toward seeing some small town action. One of them ended up being a bigger surprise than I could have imagined! Sometimes I get lucky and end up Googling a town at just the right moment, discovering something I never knew! This was definitely what happened on this trip. But before I got to my big discovery, we had a chance to shoot around a bit in the charming town of Wynnewood!
Next we set sail for Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, one of my favorite small towns in Oklahoma. Pauls Valley has a really charming downtown, and is home to the famed Toy and Action Figure Museum! If you’ve never been here, it will take you right back to your childhood, featuring everything from superheroes to Barbies to GI Joe. Get ready to be a kid again!
If action figures aren’t your thing, don’t worry. There is so much more to see and do in this charming town, from artwork at The Vault to the train depot and park, to strolling the streets of the historic downtown.
As I mentioned, sometimes I hit the Google at just the right moment. While stopping for a bite in Pauls Valley, I took a look at Google Maps to see what towns nearby might be of interest. While doing this, a town called Elmore City caught my eye. What might this small town have to offer? Well, no one knows better than Google, so I typed away to see if there was anything interesting about this particular town. BOY WAS THERE. You might be familiar with a little Kevin Bacon film from the 80s called Footloose?? Well, it turns out Elmore City was the inspiration for that film! According to online sources, Elmore City is the ONLY town in the US to ever ban dancing. But banned it remained, until 1980 when some foot-tapping high school students decided enough was enough, and petitioned the town to have a senior dance. The rest, as they say, is history. The ban was lifted, and just like that, the people of the EC were free to dance their hearts out.
Sometimes the best part about exploring Oklahoma are the surprises you find along the way. In addition to “discovering” Elmore City, I also ran across this little nugget on my way there:
Next, I set my GPS to a spot that I hadn’t seen in years, since years before I had a decent camera or SmartPhone. The Wanette-Byars Bridge. This gorgeous truss bridge crosses the Candian River, and connects the towns of Wanette and Byars, both of which are worth visiting in their own right if you enjoy photography and “lost Americana”. Formerly a rail bridge, the one-lane bridge is now utilized by cars. It’s one of my favorite bridges in Oklahoma, and I was thrilled to get back to it. On this visit, I had the added experience of seeing a gaggle of ATVs and one giant monster truck playing in the river below.
After this, I headed home! But there were a couple more fun finds in store. If you want to see the good stuff in Oklahoma, you have to get out there and explore! You never know what you might see. Until next time, my friends! Keep exploring!