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2004 Travelogue # 15 Claremore, OK
Hawthorn Bluff Campground
Oologah Lake, Oklahoma
Places of Interest:
Oologah Lake, Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, Will Rogers Ranch
Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Memorial Center
6/23 We were up, packed and ready to leave Janie and Scott's home in Marshfield, MO by 9:30. However, it took another hour to negotiate turns, tree limbs, flowerbeds and drainage ditches, before we finally pulled out of their circular drive. It seemed a lot easier docking this 40' "mother-ship" on arrival than it was to leave.
We started our journey west, taking I-44 to Big Cabin, turning north to US 66, and west again to Claremore, OK. We planned to follow Historical Route 66 into New Mexico and see the sights along the way.
About 198 miles later, we arrived at Hawthorn Bluff Campground on Oologah Lake, a Corps of Engineers (COE) Park off Hwy 88, northeast of Claremore. Due to recent heavy rain, we called ahead to see if the campground was open, and could accommodate a large rig. Helen, the gate attendant, assured us the park was not flooded and they had room for us.
Oologah campground is on a rocky, wooded bluff with dense trees, making it difficult to see the lake. There is a large electric generating plant, a couple of miles to the west, which generates continuously and sounds like a train moving down the tracks.
We checked in; Helen gave us some available site numbers to inspect before parking. We selected a site that was level but surrounded by many small trees. It took us 30 minutes plus to back into the site; no telling how long it will take to get out of here?
Helen recommended a BBQ joint down the road for dinner. Afterwards, we drove into the little town of Oologah, which is close to the old home of Will Rogers. The original home place was moved to higher ground when the lake was inundated. When asked about his home, Rogers would say, "I was born in my father's ranch house halfway between Claremore and Oologah. However, for convenience, I usually say I was born in Claremore, because nobody but an Indian can pronounce Oologah."(Oo-La-gah)
In the center of Main Street is a bronze statue\fountain of Rogers and his horse, standing at a pump-handle well as water flows from the spout. Helen, our gate attendant, told us about the statue and its artist, Sandra Van Zandt. Helen said she helped the locally renowned artist with the original waxwork of the mold and with numerous other castings.
We made a quick stop for dessert at Sonic's, and then back to the Park. Pausing at the gate, we chatted with Helen, telling her we enjoyed seeing the statue and we planned a return trip to town to see the museum.
It was such a nice evening for a walk and time to explore the Park. The trees, mostly hickory and oaks, provide a large green canopy, which lets in very little sunlight. Our walk took us down by the lake to a small floating fishing pier, where a couple sat in their lawn chairs fishing for catfish. While visiting with them, another gentleman, who was camped across the street from us, joined the conversation. Ironically, both families lived on farms within 15 miles of the Park but come here nearly every weekend.
6/24 Touring the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore is our goal today. I remembered coming here when I was a kid and how stately the grounds and building were, high on a hill overlooking the city. The building is made of Oklahoma sandstone and, upon entering; there is a large rotunda with a large bronze statue of Will Rogers. An interesting point about the statue is the bronze tips of his shoes; they are very shiny because people, including me, have rubbed them over the years.
The Museum holds many artifacts of Rogers's life, from birth to death. One comment I read said, "That about once every 50 years someone comes along and makes a big impact." This could be said about "The Cherokee Kid". Rogers was ¼ Cherokee.
There was a good film in the auditorium on the life of Will Rogers, narrated by Bob Hope, which highlighted several aspects of Rogers's life that I found of interest, i.e.
I didn't realize how good he was with a lariat. I thought all he did was twirl the lariat while he did his monologue, but he could rope riders with multiple lariats as they rode past him at full gallop.
On his way to New York by train, he met Charles Russell, the Western artist and they remained friends throughout their lives.
Will Rogers brought a sense of "down home, Oklahoma humor" to the Zigfield Follies. His wife, Betty, suggested he talk to the audience while he was doing his rope tricks and the audience loved him. He not only was good with a rope but he was also a humorist that even the sophisticated New York audiences loved. After Zigfield, he became the Nation's humorist and took his humor to Hollywood for the first "talkies".
Roger's was a great believer in the future of aviation and a supporter of General Billy Mitchell's efforts to get the Defense Department to accept the use of aircraft. Roger's said, "The Department won't wake up until someone drops something from an airplane." Rogers and his good friend Wiley Post, a world record pilot, took off from Point Barrow, Alaska in 1935 and crashed shortly thereafter. There was a National outpouring of sympathy at the loss of this citizen. Truly, he did make a difference.
The grounds of the Museum are enjoyable to walk. The view from the double wide polished bronze front doors down to the burial plot is a walkway of Oklahoma sandstone.
After the museum, we grocery shopped before returning to Hawthorn Bluff. Peggy's brother, Jeff, who lived in Tulsa, was coming to dinner and we needed supplies.
6/25 We drove to the Will Rogers Ranch, which is up the highway from our camp. Clem and Mary Rogers built this home in 1879 and Will was born in its front bedroom. The house had to be moved to this higher elevation before Lake Oologah was completed. Clem Rogers eventually owned 60,000 acres and ran over 10,000 head of cattle. Young Will was a cowboy from the "get-go", his humor and philosophizing were natural instincts. His dad was one of the largest landowners in the Cherokee Nation. The county was named for him, and once Oklahoma became a State, Clem Rogers became its Senator.
6/26 We went to Tulsa today with our first stop being the home of Sandra and Darrell Sullenger. They were clients of mine and have been friends for a number of years and it was time for catching up. After our visit, we stopped at the Panera Bread Company for a quick soup and sandwich lunch. Then off to Sam's and Best Buy to look for a digital camera, since our current one is in route to California for repairs.
After shopping, we drove to Jenks, a suburb of Tulsa, to checkout the Farmers market on the square but we were too late, the square was empty. We drove back across the Arkansas River to Peggy's brother Jeff's home. That evening, Jeff took us to one of his favorite little restaurants Bodean Seafood and Market (www.bodean.net ) which was excellent. The Rock shrimp with pasta in a creamy sauce were wonderful and the Chocolate dome dessert was a great way to end the meal. We had a good visit then headed toward home, which was an hour-long drive north, back to the lake.
6/27 Today we planned the next phase of our travels. I want to follow, where possible, Historic Route 66 into New Mexico but with the July 4th weekend coming up; it's always hard to find available places to stay. Our thoughts drifted from going to Roman Nose State Park, northwest of Oklahoma City for the week or to follow Rte 66 and stay wherever we can. We opted for the latter so, we shall see.
Helen Harper, the COE gate-attendant mentioned earlier, stopped by for a nice long visit this afternoon. The rest of the time was spent packing and cleaning for tomorrow's move. We did, however, have a good long walk before the day was over.
6/28 We were up by 6 am, typed a few notes and were ready to begin our trek west. The weather report looked good for today. As we expected, getting out of this site was hard. It took about 20 minutes to maneuver around the trees lining both sides of the coach. I don't think I will park amidst so many trees again. It's a good thing we have two-way radios or I would never get out!
We drove the freeways to and through Tulsa, and then picked up I-40, dropping off at Sapulpa, OK onto Historic Route 66. Driving through the quaint downtown area, we passed the café where we had breakfast last year, when we stayed at Keystone State Park. We continued on Rte. 66 into Bristow, OK where the main street was a little too tight for comfort. The scenery along the old highway was enjoyable but the road was too narrow, especially through the small towns. Driving a bit farther into Chandler, OK, we decided to return to the Turnpike. The entrance, located at the back of a truck stop, was an old narrow shoot with a toll box for depositing quarters based on the vehicle's number of axels. We dug out the quarters from the laundry "kitty" and tossed them into the collection bin. Cautiously, we proceeded through the gate and into the parking lot of a bustling turnpike truck stop. It was another tight squeeze but we made it unscratched.
Once back on the Turnpike, we quickly made time through Oklahoma City and picked up I-40 on the west side of town to Rockwell RV Park, on the south side of the freeway, at Rockwell St. (Exit 143). The Park is an older park, with paved interior roads, gravel pads, FHU, cable, 50 amps, pool, laundry, and good access to a Sam's and Wal-Mart Super Center. This was our stopping place for the next few days.
After setting up, we drove to Sam's Wholesale Club to look for a camera, but not finding what I wanted, we decided to sightsee. We saw the County Fair Grounds, which is one of the largest in the country. An Appaloosa Horse Show was currently in the arena and there were many horse trailers around the area.
We continued our sightseeing, driving into the downtown area. We saw the Oklahoma Memorial Center where the Federal Building once stood. We then drove to Bricktown, which reminded us of the West End in Dallas. Many of the old brick buildings in this warehouse district have been renovated into nice shops and trendy places to eat. They even have a Riverwalk in the center of the district. It looked charming and appeared to be a fun place but there was no time today to stop.
After making the loop of the downtown area we headed back home and selected the Cimarron Steak House, which was similar to the Trail Dust Steak House, in Mesquite, TX for dinner. After dinner, we drove home in gently falling rain.
Bob & Peggy Woodall