Three cities that changed my ‘Meh’ of the Midwest

When the cheapest plane ticket I could find was $450 for one person, round trip, I decided to take the road less traveled.

More specifically, the two (yes, only twointerstates connecting Pittsburgh, PA with OKC. 70 East and 44 East and I are all best buds.

An idea! is born

I had been on several road-trips with my family growing up. We did a few circles around the country, which

made me love the West and hate Kansas. Seriously. We visited Dodge City because Dad loved his old westerns. We learned why, in those old westerns, everyone said “Get outa Dodge.” Terrible place. Smelled like cows and manure everywhere.

So as the day to drive through the Mid-West came at us, I wondered if this was such a good idea. People I told about the trip confirmed it, saying, “Why would you choose OKC to visit??” And if that wasn’t enough, BW (a.k.a. significant other, a.k.a. Boy Wonder; it’s been a while since I wrote) and I hardly see each other more than on weekends. How, exactly, would 17 hours each way stuck in a car go?

The adventure started off with a harrowing (you know, I-thought-I-was-going-to-die-no-really-I-mean-it) experience.

Somewhere in The Armpit of the U.S., I began to pass a tractor trailer. The tractor trailer began to pass a cop on the side of the road giving someone a ticket. Ever vigilant, Tractor Trailer began to swiftly merge over into the left lane. Thank GOD for the body’s instinct to survive. I look back now and I have to visualize it in slow motion, because he was moving at ~70mph, we at ~75. BW said, “Look out!” and leaned forward. My brain kept thinking, “What? I’m confused. Why is he trying to run us over? He’s not going to hit us. That doesn’t make sense. Why would he do that.

“I can SEE HIS MIRRORS.”

That means he can see me. He’s going to stop.

My body reacted a bit quicker. My feet pressed the breaks with superhuman precision as my hands guided the steering wheel and we, carefully as you can, pulled over across the rumble strips and into the grass.

I’d guess the Trailer missed us by two feet or so. Luckily no one was riding my bumper, and we didn’t cause a pile up or anything.

I might have sobbed out of shock for about a minute after, but all’s well. I don’t think my car would have fit underneath, like in Fast and Furious.

The rest of the day was uneventful. We drove through WV, OH, and IN and slept at a rest area about an hour past St. Louis. Saved us ~$100, and then up with the sun and back on the road around 7am!

Driving by Indianapolis at sunset

Driving by Indianapolis at sunset

Pro tip: gas in MO is about 30 cents cheaper than IN! And gas about an hour before you get to OKC was $2.99/gallon! Ahhh. We filled up in OK twice, and on the way back we made sure to fill up in St. Louis before getting back into $3.59 territory.

City #1

In OKC, we met our CouchSurfing host. This was my first Surfing experience, and Nathan put me right at ease! I just want to give him a shout out and say not only was he amazingly helpful and welcoming, but he also lived a mile from where the wedding would be! We napped and then joined our friends for a 4th of July rehearsal cookout.

There is a lake just northeast of OKC, in Edmond. Arcadia Lake. It’s gorgeous. I’m sad to say I’m not very good at taking pictures, but I could have sat on its shores for the entire night. If I didn’t like sleep so much.

Friday morning. Time to explore! As much as I wanted to visit the Cowboy History Museum, we didn’t have time.

BW and I showed how much of city people we are by heading straight to the Botanical Gardens, followed by walking along Bricktown’s river for the better part of an hour.

Let me tell you, OKC knows how to spruce things up. The outside of the Gardens was free and open to the public.

Baby ducks! And HUGE fish. Obviously very well-fed

Baby ducks! And HUGE fish. Obviously very well-fed

It was impossible to capture in a picture, but after the long drive I could have relaxed here for hours.

It was impossible to capture in a picture, but after the long drive I could have relaxed here for hours. The other half is on the other side of that circular tube of glass. (That’s the part you pay for.)

Pro tip: Peachwave Frozen Yogurt makes a BOMB strawberry-banana smoothie. Just what was needed with all that walking in the sun!

That evening was the wedding. Ahh, I may need to start a separate wedding section on here! I won’t spend too much time, but I will say: I got a little teary-eyed, it was gorgeous, the food was delicious, and the dancing was so much fun. And the bride’s Nan let me borrow her hat.

Mixing a little English fashion with a little Korean posing.

Mixing a little English fashion with a little Korean posing.

Oh, I forgot. We went to this restaurant for breakfast that was, roughly, the second-most-recommended place to get a good old fashioned breakfast in OKC. UrbanSpoon had it at 4.5 stars. Yelp had it at 2. I will now listen to Yelp religiously. I won’t name the place, because to be fair, I am very spoiled by Pamela’s and DeLuca’s!

Saturday morning, up and at ’em. We contemplated driving the ~17 hours straight through, with an ETA of 1am back in the ‘Burgh. But our explorer sides got the better of us, and thank goodness!

City #2

We hit St. Louis at roughly 4pm, walked inside the City Museum, saw that at 5pm the price dropped from $12 to $10, and left to go hunt down dinner. Yelp, oh what would I do without you!, recommended us to Mango, a Peruvian restaurant a few blocks from City Museum.

Yum! We got a 3-course ‘pre-opera’ meal to share for ~$25. We weren’t very hungry–trail mix does that to you–so it was more than enough. And their chips and salsa were plantain chips with a tomatillo verde!! Heaven!

OK, so this City Museum place. Imagine a jungle gym, ~7 stories high, with inside and outside sections, and secret passages and everything connects and after every passage you have 3 or 5 or 10 choices of the next way to go and part of your mission is to find the stairs to the 10-story-slide. (And other random stuff, like a hamster wheel and a craft room with free supplies.)

And then imagine you are a mid-20s female who was wearing a traveling dress that day, but you thank your lucky stars that you forgot to take off your pajama shorts that morning so you aren’t completely indecent in this children’s paradise.

If you like climbing things in general, and don’t plan to ever lose that piece of childhood inside of you, you will waste away an afternoon here easily and not regret a second.

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A dinosaur ate BW.

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Poor guy. Dead dinosaurs run so fast.

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The second half of the climb to the 10-story slide

The beginning of the 7-story outdoor portion

The beginning of the 7-story outdoor portion

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Climbing outside!

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Hamster wheel 1…

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…hamster wheel 2…

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…hamster wheel 3…

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…hamster wheel 4. Man, hamsters are so skilled; we don’t know how they do what they do.

City #3

Saturday morning, we stopped at Long’s Bakery for a few delectable donuts to power us the remaining 7 hours to the ‘Burgh, a.k.a. Gotham.

Final tally: $181.13 in gas, ~$100 in restaurants and attractions, ~$30 in snacks and fruit and sandwiches to eat at other times, and an amazing awesome fantabulous adventure with and for people I love.

> $900-$1,000 in airplane tickets.

Yup.

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