Sunday morning was the Tulsa Route 66 Marathon. It was a cold one as the temperature had dropped into the 30ís. The wind chill made it feel like the 20ís at times. The start of the marathon and half marathon was just a few blocks from our hotel. I did my normal routine of taking a picture of Traci at the beginning of the race and then getting breakfast (at a nearby Holiday Inn this time). I messed up when it came to taking a picture of Traci at the finish line. I had gone back to our hotel to work on my Australia trip report until it was time to walk to the finish line. I'm not sure if it was the time zone difference or absent-mindedness but somehow, I miscalculated Traciís expected finish time. I was thinking she would finish an hour later than her normal half-marathon time. I fast-walked the mile from our hotel to the finish line at Guthrie Green Park. I knew I had no chance of watching her cross the finish line; therefore, I waited at the runners exit to meet her not knowing if she had already left. After about 15 minutes of standing there, I saw her emerge from the exit looking tired and cold. The cold had really taken a toll on her pace. She complained that she never got warm throughout the entire 13.1 miles. Despite arriving at the finish as late as I did, I probably could have photographed her crossing the finish line. I ended up getting an earful when I told her I did not take her finishing picture. There were complimentary shuttles available to take runners and spectators to the various downtown hotels. Traci and I took advantage of this to return to our hotel.
After Traci got cleaned up, we had our hotel shuttle drop us off in the Brady Arts District of Tulsa where we had pizza at Elgin Park Brewery. We almost walked out of this place because of our waiter. We asked for one of the specialty pizzas but with no peppers. Of course, ours arrived with peppers. When we told the server about the mistake, he took the pizza and returned less than 5 minutes later. We could clearly see the indentations in the cheese where the peppers had simply been picked off our pizza. Fearing we would end up with some ďspecial sauceĒ if we demanded a new one be made, we told him to cancel the order. As we started to leave, the manager came over to find out why we were leaving. We explained the situation. He apologized and told us he would personally supervise the making of our new pizza. He also told us he would comp our meal and throw in dessert. He came across as sincere, so we decided to stay. Iím glad we did. That pizza was really good.
We took a detour during our walk back to the hotel thanks to Traciís sweet tooth. We had seen a donut shop during our shuttle ride to the restaurant. I remembered seeing it as we passed the Blue Dome District. We were able to find it without any wrong turns. This was our first experience with Hurts Donuts. It is a chain with shops located mainly throughout the Midwest U.S.. Their donuts are delicious. We did not do much else that day. The dropping temperatures and increasing winds pretty much zapped our motivation to explore the city. Furthermore, at this time of the year (November) the daylight hours are shorter.
Monday was our final day in Tulsa. Traci and I wanted to get in as much sightseeing as we could before our evening flight. We started off using our complimentary breakfast coupons at the hotel. The Aloft Hotel is a member of the Marriott family and thus we were able to use some of our loyalty points for perks such as complimentary breakfast coupons. There was not a dining room. There was just a small kitchenette area with a very limited breakfast menu selection (along the lines of egg breakfast bowl or fruit & yogurt); however, the food was good.
First on our agenda for the day was the Cave House. This quirky attraction had piqued my curiosity when researching Tulsa. Traci had been playing phone tag and text tag with the owner that weekend. Tours are given by reservation only. We took the hotel shuttle to the Cave House which was only a mile away. We met the owner, Linda, who for the next hour told us all about the Cave House and its history.
The Cave House is an odd-shaped stone house that is built into the side of a hill. It kind of brought to mind The Flintstones when I first saw it. Inside, there are odd collections of items such as eclectic furniture, trinkets, old appliances, etc... The Cave House used to be a speakeasy for bootleggers. Linda told us that that she found hidden doors in the Cave House since she has taken ownership but has not found much behind them. She showed us one of these hidden doors that was in the floorboard. She also told us about the business that used to be here that apparently sold really good fried chicken. Linda also told us about some unexplained experiences in the house involving missing keys. Ghosts? Who knows? Nonetheless, they made for some captivating stories. Finally, Linda gave us a tour of the house. There were some interesting items such as a sliding board in the bedroom. Traci and I both went down it.
From the Cave House, we went to the Greenwood Cultural Center to learn a little more about Black Wall Street. The center is not really a museum. Instead, it is a community center. However, there are some plaques and pictures on the wall explaining Black Wall Street. Also at the time of our visit, there was an interesting film playing in which some of the surviving witnesses of Black Wall Street retell their experiences.
Traci and I were still on a mission to see as much of Tulsa as we could before we had to leave for the airport. Therefore, we decided to squeeze in one more stop. Our luck with the complimentary hotel shuttle had run out because of all the airport pick-ups/drop-offs that day. Airport runs get first priority. This time Traci and I used Lyft to take us to a park called the Gathering Place. Ever since we landed in Tulsa, many people had told us about this park. Ordinarily, visiting a city park is pretty low on our sightseeing itinerary when visiting a city for the first time but the Tulsans convinced us that the Gathering Place is a must-see.
The Gathering Place is a massive park that was conceived and built by the George Kaiser Family Foundation as a generous gift to Tulsa. The foundation and other donors put more than $400 million dollars into the project thus making it the largest privately funded park in the United States. I must admit the Gathering Place is like no other park I have ever seen. I knew we were in for something different when we arrived and saw staff directing traffic as if we were attending a grand event. Fear not. Admission is free.
Inside the park reminded me of an amusement park. For the kids (and kids at heart), there is an extensive tree-shaded playground that spans 5 acres. With towers, bridges, counter-levers, acoustic oddities, and other contraptions, the equipment in this playground is almost like amusement park rides but they are all man-powered. Although we did not try any of the equipment, it was fascinating to me to look at all the creative contraptions available for kids. Playgrounds have come a long way since my childhood days.
There are other sections of the Gathering Place such as a skateboard park, BMX park, hiking trails, a man-made beach, a river where you can go for canoe, kayak, or paddle boat rides. There is a lodge where you can relax or purchase food. There is a boathouse containing a children's museum and a restaurant. Traci and I spent about two hours walking around the Gathering Place. There was a decent-sized crowd on this cool Monday afternoon in November. The park had only been opened for two months. Construction was ongoing during our visit. With concerts and other events planned in addition to its permanent activities, I can only imagine how crowded the Gathering Place will become in the summer months. This park is among the most generous gifts to a city that I have ever seen.
The Gathering Place
I spent part of our time exploring the Gathering Place on my own because Traci had to take a phone call for work. She did this from one of the relaxing rustic areas of the lodge. We shared some french fries before we had to call Lyft to take us back to the hotel.
Our time in Tulsa was coming to an end. We gathered our luggage and took the hotel shuttle to the airport. Our flight home was a bit nerve-racking because we had a tight connection at Chicago O'Hare Airport. When we landed in Chicago, our flight to Dulles was already boarding. Of course we landed at Terminal F and had to run to what seem like the opposite side of this huge airport to Terminal B. Fortunately, we made our flight. And with that, Traci finished her 17th state on her quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. As always, I was happy to be along for the journey. Main Page...
Magnet Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)Entire fridge magnet collection...