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Oklahoma City

Business has brought me this week to Oklahoma City, square in the middle of the Sooner state. I’ve been to the Tulsa area many times (my grandparents having lived in Collinsville for twenty years), but while I’ve driven through OKC on I-35 a multitude of times, I don’t recall ever having stopped; certainly I’ve never stayed here overnight. So it’s like visiting a new place, which I really enjoy – a chance for observations, to learn a new city.

My first impression of OKC was at the airport. I like the OKC airport. It appears to be fairly new, is large, open, airy, and bright. It’s a fair bit larger than my home port of Cedar Rapids, but not immense; twenty-some gates and a three-story parking garage. It was only a short walk through the terminal to the Hertz desk to pick up my key, then a short stroll to the parking structure to my car (a Toyota Corolla, very nice). The Hertz #1 Club Gold, letting me skip the paperwork and head straight to the car, is worth every penny.

Shortly after leaving the airport, I ran into the seemingly inevitable road construction. In this case, the construction is on Meridian Ave, the main drag that heads north out of the airport and up to I-44 and my hotel. This trimmed a four-lane highway down to two rather narrow lanes, and made the waits at traffic lights frustratingly long. Still, the trusty Never-Lost GPS system in the car got me within visual distance of the hotel before announcing “You have arrived.”, and I could handle it from there.

My next impression of OKC came from the hotel that the Federal Aviation Administration selected for our training this week: the Clarion Meridian Hotel and Convention Center. The hotel seems to be a microcosm of the city as a whole, trying to move forward from the dusty, tired, and worn trappings of the old oil and ranch business into the technology of the twenty-first century. The hotel dates to probably the 1970’s. It was originally all exterior-entry rooms, but some time later in an attempt to upgrade an additional hallway was built outside the room doors, allowing for climate-controlled access to the hotel lobby from the rooms. The room itself has had fresh paint and sports two 25-inch televisions with local cable, but it’s still obviously a remodel and the layout just isn’t quite right.

Driving through the city the past couple of nights I have seen the same contrasts; on one side, dusty, dated businesses feeling like the older southwest of the 70’s and 80’s; on the other side, a trendy, new city whose Dell Computer campus gives you another reason to compare it to Austin, TX. My restaurant choices thus far have been limited to the “new” side of things; I ate at a “grill and brewhouse” on the north side of town tonight that was very tasty. I might still be tempted to try an older steakhouse tomorrow night… I guess I’ll see what sounds good when my class has wrapped up.

The instructor at our class today told us he’s lived in Oklahoma for most of his life. He described OKC as “a great place to live, and an OK place to visit.” Now, when the Oklahoma tourism folks originally created the “Oklahoma is OK” slogan, I’m guessing they weren’t intending the suggestion of mediocrity that our instructor gave us, but after being here two days I’m thinking he’s closer to the truth. In many ways, the situation that OKC finds itself in reminds me of my home state of Iowa; a good, solid midwestern state, a good place to raise a family, a place struggling to find its way beyond its agricultural roots into technological opportunities. Not a super-exciting place to visit, but that’s OK. It’s a lot less hassle than the more exotic destinations, too. For this traveler, this week, Oklahoma is, indeed, OK.

3 Comments

  1. Mike Escutia Mike Escutia

    Wait… was it the room the class was in that had the two TVs or the room you stayed in?

  2. The room I’m staying in. I guess it’s officially a “suite”, two rooms with a door between them. Two TVs. The room the training was in is just a basic convention center room.

  3. Mike Escutia Mike Escutia

    So you have two TVs to yourself? Not bad for the company dime. 😉

    Oh, and what year is the Corolla? I drive a ’00 Corolla and was hoping for one when I flew down to NC for a friend’s wedding back in August, but Enterprise gave me something sportier. Maybe I should’ve gone with Hertz.

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