August 28, 2016

OKC-DFW Road Trip

How I went to explore Oklahoma's capital and the largest metropolitan area in Texas.

This was the first good-sized road trip in the US that I did on my own. Prior to this point, I travelled with friends, and when nobody wanted to join, I stayed at home too. It could be the same situation this time, as the friend who said to be keen cancelled his participation. But since I've already cut on meals a month ago to save some gas-money, I had everything prepared and really wanted to see something new and exciting… I decided to go for it anyway. So on the afternoon a day before the 2013 Thanksgiving, I topped the gas tank of this beauty, a '90 Oldsmobile, and took off.

oldsmobile

While it might not be the ultimate vehicle for exploring the world, I adored that thing. Everything worked like Swiss watches; and if not, one just popped the hood and fixed it – unlike the modern machines powered by a huge plastic box hiding all sorts of electronic witchcraft, which I have no idea how to work with. It was true love; it got me reliably through canyons, deserts, hills, and now I was about to take it into an urban jungle for a solid highway spin. Unfortunately, this was its last vacation, as a few months later, one girl missed a stop sign and rammed her Explorer into me… Breaks my heart every time I’m thinking about it. Oh, back to the story.

I was hoping to catch the OKC at sunset. Well, the evening light was nice as always…

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…but when I finally arrived in the city, it was dark already. This didn’t discourage me from marking some of the places I wanted to visit off the list. The first was the Devon Tower - the tallest building in Oklahoma (850ft /259m).

While the tower is impressive inside-out, the main reason why I went here was the view from its 49th floor, where's a fancy restaurant.

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View from the Devon Tower.

When I am traveling, I like to blend with the environment, act like I belong there for ages. This approach is entertaining and opens many otherwise closed doors. But here at the restaurant, I struggled to apply this. The community was too far from my world – all the conversations around covered stuff like: “Remember how I made that $700,000 investment last month? It’s already profitable as hell!” Feeling like a fish out of water, I didn’t spend much time up there. Maybe the next time. Moreover, other places to see were awaiting me.

At the time, OKC was in the middle of a massive redevelopment, creating space for many attractive projects. One of them is this, SkyDance Pedestrian Bridge - my next stop.

SkyDance Pedestrian Bridge

Then I strolled across the downtown..

Oklahoma City

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..and some hours later, I was ready to get some sleep. I wanted to take some cheap motel in the suburbs, but I couldn’t find any for a while. When one finally appeared, I pulled over. Alas, they asked around $80 per night. Too tired to search for an alternative, I stayed there.

The next morning I went to see sculptures in the downtown..

..checked out the well-executed OKC National Memorial..

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"May all who leave here know the impact of violence."

..and soaked up the general emptiness all around.

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Seriously, not a single human. None.

Then I visited the waterfront with some interesting structures..

And sometime in the afternoon, I joined the I35, to continue straight south.

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I entered Fort Worth around three hours later, driving directly to its modern art museum, housed in this super cool building.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

At this time, I was interested in large cities and their architecture more than anything. That said, I was about to make the most of it, and for the next few hours, I was browsing the streets of the city centre, photographing what it offered and having a blast.

Fort Worth

Just as in OKC, FW's downtown formed a ghost town, without anybody around.

Fort Worth (2)

Bass Performance Hall

I was looking forward to seeing the city's water gardens, a park with artificial waterfalls and such, but I found it already drained due to the dropping temperatures. Oh well. In the end, I discovered another interesting place with water, on the opposite side of the area:

Tarrant County College's urban campus.

Tarrant County College's urban campus.

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After I had enough, I went back to my car to soak a bit of the Thanksgiving spirit - I got myself a turkey sandwich for supper. At least, that's how they called it. Its taste had nothing to do with a turkey. Nevertheless, I couldn't stop smiling because I was doing what I love: traveling and enjoying the world in general.

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That night I didn't plan to sleep in a hotel. Instead, my idea was to car camp in the park next to Echo Lake, south of FW downtown. There were two reasons for this: I wanted to balance the budget after that $80 night yesterday, and that right next to the park stands an abandoned municipal incinerator with two radial-bricks smokestacks.

Back then, I was excited about industrial architecture, and I used to climb industrial smokestacks for fun. I know, it is an odd hobby, but when compared to some other weirdness people like, climbing structures isn't doing any harm.  Anyway; when I planned the trip, I wanted to include some industrial too, and the incinerator fitted the bill. The Internet said that the facility was built in '40-'50s but closed already in '60-'70s due to new eco rules. During the '80s, the place turned into a well-known drug hole, adding stories about unsolved deaths and so on. Nowadays was supposed to be empty but often visited by taggers and other individuals. "Could be an experience either way," I thought while driving down there. The park nearby is – or could be – quite pretty; however, I found out injection needles and other not-so-welcoming objects around. Dogs in the backyards around barked like if someone ate them alive, making me question the neighborhood. But I kept calm, and once a long freight train passed, I went to check out the incinerator. The object had many paths all over, proving it like a favorite place. But on thanksgiving eve, the only living thing I met there was a horse. How, and why, I have no idea.

Echo Lake

An atmospheric location for sure.

Once back in the car park, I searched my trunk for a bag with my toothbrush when a white truck arrived, passed close to me at high speed, turned around, and stopped. We played the staring contest for a couple of seconds. Glad I had three jackets on me at the time, together with my height 6'6", it worked, and the truck left. However, it surely did not add any confidence to the place. Suddenly, the truck returned with a convoy of five more cars, passing me fast again, meanwhile honking like crazy. All of them disappeared as quickly as they showed up, but I got the message. So I left to Dallas.

Waking up in Dallas downtown, I continued my tour of modern architecture...

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

..as the area boasts many notable representatives in this aspect.

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Just as in OKC, I enjoyed the sculptures around..

..and as it has been my habit, I went somewhere with a good elevation to observe the surroundings from above.

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Arteries close to the heart. Here is a good place to add that even many warned me that DFW is one colossal traffic mayhem, all I saw were wide, empty streets and abundant parking places. Maybe it was the Thanksgiving timing.

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Scoring birds eye views = joys of life.

Needs to be said, Dallas offers many neat perspectives from the street level, too.

Dallas Highrises

Exploring the city's corners and curves was entertaining at best. I felt at home here.

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Later, after using more or less conventional paths..

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I discovered this concrete sanctuary..

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It is a parking garage, which exterior looks like a basic concrete cube with no hints of what's inside. But man, it is so worthy of visiting.

Making my way towards the west tip of the central business district, I found a place which was, unlike the rest, filled with people: The Dealey Plaza.

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This spot was the scene of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. As it was almost exactly 50 years ago, it prompted people to pay a visit to the memorial.

Kennedy was on his way to deliver a speech about, among others, how we better use our strengths and wisdom to establish, preserve, and promote peace. Well, it escalated quickly... My favorite part of the scheduled speech is:

"If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help." (JFK)

Yep, sounds good.. Only if the rhetoric would truly reflect the driving forces and actions of politicians. I couldn't dodge some thoughts about the power of public relations, mainly in the context of the current day and age. Oh anyway.

After some time spent learning about the local history and the struggles of freedom, I moved on and went towards the last place I had marked within the Dallas downtown area: the Reunion Hotel and Tower.

Reunion Tower

The tower was freshly after a reconstruction, so all the equipment was new and shiny. I cared more about the view, tho. It lived up to expectations. Good stuff.

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A part of my planning of the trip, I browsed a map to search for places where could be a nice view. I found a bridge above a freeway from where I hoped to see the Dallas skyline, and that was where I went next. It was then when I took the featured picture of this post:

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It is one of my favorite photos of a US city I took, and it looks fantastic in print. If you'd be interested in decorating some wall with one, shoot me a message.

It's truly rewarding when you plan a view just based on looking at the map, then you arrive, and it is as good as you hoped.

Back when I was looking at the maps, another thing that caught my eye were stacked interchanges around the area. Being here, I went to see them too...

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Watching streams of red and white lights flowing like regulated rivers on multiple levels, accompanied by an occasional light trail from an airplane, was very cool. I stayed for a while, thinking of the different stories boxed in every car that passed this engineering marvel, and then about civilization's achievements in general. In the end, I just relaxed with the visuals, and happy, I began my way back home.

In my eyes, the road trip was a massive success, so it wasn't the last time I went on my own.


If you liked this article, you might enjoy other posts about my road trips in the USA, such as:

Rays in the woods

"St Louis"

beech forest

"Arkansas"

To stay in touch for the upcoming articles, follow me on Facebook, IG, or Twitter.

Thanks for reading.

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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