Adventurers of the great northeast (of Oklahoma)!
OKLAHOMA CITY – It was 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, I had off work, my sister was in town, her best friend was with us and we were looking for an adventure.
OK, maybe it was more that I was looking for an adventure because I wanted to show Sophia parts of the state I had never seen, and I made her and Katie pile into the car with me to begin driving northeast of the city. I had a whole itinerary for Sophia’s six day visit to which they not so silently laughed at me for, but played along like the good sports they are.
Thanks to the really awesome site Only In Your State I found some spots I had never heard about in the seven years I’ve lived here. First up on the itinerary – Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park!
We got there at about 4:30 p.m. because we may have missed a turn or two.
The turn into the park off East Highway 28A in Foyil came up quick, but the huge totem poles helped us spot it out.
Upon driving onto the property, it seems a lot like someone’s backyard rather than a public park. We were the only ones in sight and storm clouds were moving in, so we acted fast.
Although the sign on the gift shop said it was open until 5, it was closed up for the day and that was our only hope for learning more information about this park. Luckily, that’s where the internet comes in handy.
According to the National Park Service, Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park is the oldest and largest example of a folk art environment in Oklahoma; its construction lasting from 1937 to 1961. The park contains the original, highly decorated creations of Galloway, one of Oklahoma’s premier folk artists and significant in the “visionary art” movement. All of the art objects are made of stone or concrete, reinforced with steel rebar and wood. Galloway incised and carved the objects in bas-relief and applied paint to decorations that generally include representational and figurative images of birds and Native Americans of Northwest Coast/Alaska and Plains cultures arranged facing the four cardinal directions.
After taking some photos and continuing to laugh at my expense about my very random pick for a destination, we jumped back in the car to head to our next stop.
Being the avid cheese lovers we are I think we were all pretty pumped about getting to the Amish Cheese House before its closing time of 6 p.m. However we were driving right along a very large storm system, and my love for severe weather and Sophia’s love for clouds slowed us down a bit. But Katie’s determination to not see a tornado got us to Chouteau with 45 minutes to spare.
Upon walking in we were greeted by ladies behind a counter that hosted store-made ice cream. Being that an ice creamery was on our itinerary for later, I passed it up.
Moving into another room you’re met with rows of jams, jellies, salsas, spices, handmade noodles, candies, and so much cheese. Another room held a bunch of bakery items.
We tried some of the fudge and cheese they had to sample, and I was so sad that when I turned around they had already taken away the delicious cheeseball I tried which melted in my mouth.
I ended up leaving there with more than I anticipated I would. One jar of pumpkin butter, hot salsa, peach salsa, jalapeno jelly and three blocks of different spicy cheeses.
The peach salsa and jalapeno jelly have already been devoured, the pumpkin butter is halfway gone and I’ve yet to open the casings of the cheeses, but I cannot wait.
Tip if you purchase the jalapeno jelly: pour some over brie cheese, melt in the oven for a bit and scoop up the mixture with Wheat Thins. You won’t be disappointed. (Thanks, Katie!)
Fortunately we had no more soon-to-be closing times to beat, so we took our time getting to the Blue Whale of Catoosa. How random!
Driving up on the parking lot off of Route 66 you can spot the 80 foot long whale beached on a pond.
When walking up to the waterfront you can make out that it once was a waterpark type of location. There are picnic tables along the shore and the whale has slides and a diving area built in to it.
Hugh Davis built the whale in the early 1970s as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife who collected whale figurines. The Blue Whale and its pond became a favored swimming hole for both locals and travelers along Route 66 alike.
Originally, the pond surrounding the massive Blue Whale was spring fed and intended only for family use. However, as many locals began to come to enjoy its waters, Davis brought in tons of sand, built picnic tables, hired life guards, and opened it to the public.
It remained open until 1988 and the park soon fell into disrepair, crumbling from neglect and weather.
After a decade, the people of Catoosa and employees of the Hampton Inn launched a fundraising and volunteer effort to restore the Route 66 landmark. The Blue Whale was restored and repainted to its original brilliant blue.
This comical stop had us giggling at the randomness of it all, and we began to feel the sense of adventure buzz wearing off. But we still had two more destinations!
Twenty minutes later we arrived at the Golden Driller Statue – another quick stop while taking a few photos of the 76 foot tall giant.
At one time, Tulsa sat atop the world's largest-known ocean of oil. Drilling derricks were everywhere, even on the lawn of the state capitol. The city called itself "Oil Capital of the World."
But Tulsa did not build Tulsa's giant oil man. It was built by an oilfield supply company out of Texas, which set him up in 1953 for a trade show at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds. Dubbed "The Golden Driller," the giant roustabout resembled an oversized brass statuette, with a broad grin, a tin helmet tipped back at a rakish skew, and a gloved right hand raised in a kind of limp-wristed OK sign. The statue proved so popular that the Texas company returned six years later with a second temporary giant.
A third giant, tallest of all, took up permanent residence at the fairgrounds on April 8, 1966. This version still stands today. He's very different from the original Golden Driller, with a slender waist, muscles ripped on a bare chest, mustard-colored rather than gold, and a face that's a chiseled mask of Teutonic invincibility. He was designed by George S. Hondronastas (1893-1979), a Greek immigrant to Tulsa who viewed the Driller as his greatest artistic accomplishment.
By 1979 the Texas supply company had abandoned the Golden Driller, which had suffered from years of neglect (and bullet holes). The city of Tulsa adopted the statue, repaired it, and put "Tulsa" on the giant's belt buckle. With that, the statue was declared Oklahoma's official state monument. It was not a universally popular decision. Many Oklahomans at the time viewed the Golden Driller as an artistic eyesore. Some wanted his bare chest covered with a shirt, an idea that was quickly shot down by the protests of angry oilfield workers.
The Golden Driller is still the tallest free-standing statue in the U.S. He's so high that he rests his gloved right hand on a real Oklahoma oil derrick. Built of steel and concrete, he weighs nearly 22 tons and is expected to survive 200 mph tornadoes.
To cap off the adventurous afternoon we made our last stop at the recently opened Boxyard to check out the Rose Rock Microcreamery housed in one of the 39 repurposed shipping containers.
There were so many flavors to try from vanilla lavender to pistachio to cookies and cream.
I settled on Nutella and pistachio, which was my favorite! It perfectly captured the glorious taste of the little nut that I just found out is a member of the cashew family. I requested it in a waffle bowl that was a perfect way to finish out the tasty treat.
We got home just before 9 p.m. and crashed hard from our fun adventures that I highly recommend for anyone looking to enjoy a random getaway like we did!
Photos by Red Dirt Report's Sarah Hussain
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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more