Thursday, December 6, 2012

From snow to sunshine and 198 chairs.

Monday morning at 4.45am and I was up out and gone before 5. I left Buffty sleeping and jumped into my pre-ordered taxi for the short drive down to Winnipeg Airport. I would have got a bus, but the bus airport doesn’t start running till after 6am and my flight was at 7. It was a lovely warm morning – about 3 degrees above freezing and the streets of Winnipeg were quiet as a City fan in court, so we arrived in plenty of time for me to check in and make my way through the security checks.  This didn’t prove to be as simple as normal though......

Firstly, Winnipeg Airport has a new security checking area for those going to the USA, so I ended up going to the wrong place as I hadn’t seen the new signs. It wasn’t a problem though as Winnipeg Airport is small and it was just a 50 metre walk back to where the new USA security and customs check area is. I took off my shoes, grabbed my laptop out of by backpack and passed through the x-ray, but the security officers started to point at the screen as my bag passed through and took me to one side – bugar – I couldn’t even get out of Winnipeg without any hassle today! 

Crystal Bridge

City Centre Oklahoma

A huuuuge Bauble!

This was my own fault though as I had left my Leatherman Super tool in the side pouch of my carry on back pack. I had two choices – lose my Leatherman for ever (This wasn’t a choice as I have had it since 1996 in Bosnia and it has proved to be one of my most useful bits of kit) or go back out of the security area and check in my tiny backpack. I took the second choice and paid $36 extra for the 3Kg bag to be put into the hold. I am in the wrong business – I should start an airline and charge people for this kind of shit!! Anyway, the 3nd time I found the USA security area and eventually made my way through and into the customs area, which is designed to allow you to pass into the USA before you fly instead of after – saving a hell of a wait at Chicago for me.  I’m now sat in the USA (Actually I am still in Winnipeg, but I have already passed a sign welcoming me to the states) and have about 40 minutes before my flight takes off. Just enough time to sort out all the shit I have in my pockets from my bag!!

The rest of the travelling was spent snoozing and chatting with the passengers who sat next to me. A nice day travelling and all too easy after the hassle with my bags earlier. I arrived at my first stop of the week just after 3pm – Oklahoma City.

Reflecting pool in the day time

The damaged fire escape

Oklahoma City – what is there to do?

Well the main thing to do in Oklahoma City is the memorial for the bombing that occurred in 1995. The whole site where the old building stood has been transformed into a beautiful garden with a reflecting pool and a field of empty chairs to symbolize the 198 victims of the bombing. It is really nicely done and I was surprised to see that there are still card and teddies attached to the 200ft of the original fence that was erected around the area after the bombing. The most unusual part of the area is the Journal Record Building which faced the Murrah Federal Building that was blown up. This Journal building has been left unpainted and with the scars of the bombing still showing. You can see gaps in the brickwork where the bricks were lifted up by the explosion and settled back down in place. There is even a half destroyed fire escape left at the end of the building, just as it was left after the bombing. 

The Journal Record building also holds the museum inside it which I spent 3 good hours inside. The museum starts with what was a normal morning in Oklahoma and takes you through the bombing, including listening to a sound recording of court case taking part in the nearby courthouse on the morning of the attack which suddenly erupts in terror as the explosion is heard and chaos breaks out.
You are then taken through the rest of the day itself, the realisation that it was indeed a bombing and the search for survivors. It also shows you how they police discovered parts of the truck that was used by Timothy Mcveigh, the bomber and how he was luckily arrested a couple of hours after the explosion because he didn’t have number plates on his getaway car. It’s a very interesting and informative experience. As the museum is housed inside the Journal Record building that was opposite the bomb itself, there is even an area that was left exactly as it was after the explosion and you can walk past it to see the destruction that was caused. 
The fence has been left as a sign of remembrance

A chair for every victim - small ones mark the children

The Birds!

Crystal bridge at night

The rest of Oklahoma City is really quite nice. I have seen some shitholes of places in America and especially the deserted city centres. Oklahoma is a little different though with a lovely little botanical garden, with a stunning lit up Crystal Bridge which is actually a cylinder shaped greenhouse. It’s a lovely place to wander around on a warm afternoon in December – although the owners of the winter Ice Rink aren’t so happy as the ice there has melted!
Even TV was reporting on the melting ice rinks!

Night time in the Remembrance garden

198 chairs

 Just down the road from this is the ‘Bricktown area’, which has been developed as an entertainment area complete with bars, cinema and restaurants. There is also a lovely little canal that flows through the area and has water taxis that carry you along the waterway. It’s a nice little area and a really nice place to wander along as the sun goes down as I did tonight. It actually feels like a mini Las Vegas with all the neon lights and the canal! 

Whats left of the walls of the destroyed building

There are also thousands of birds just around the corner sitting atop poles, on cables and along the rooftops. If you make a loud enough noise, it’s easy to get them all to fly off and darken the sky for a moment or two.

Oklahoma isn’t a big city, but it’s worth stopping here for a day or two if you are in the area and if you ever get to drive Route 66, it passes close by the city, so this would be a great place to stop for a day. I’m leaving now and heading east – a couple of hours drive to Arkansas and another state to tick off my list!

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