Tag Archive for 'Oklahoma'

Uncle visiting from Poland

This past weekend, my uncle from Poland visited me in Dallas. He is retired and has been in the U.S. for a couple of months now visiting family. He decided to make a short tour of the South and Midwest by taking Greyhound bus from Tulsa to Dallas, and then the Amtrak train to Chicago, and back to Tulsa, his home base while in the U.S., by plane. Being very well traveled, the bus and train were modes of transportation my uncle was experiencing for the first time on this continent, and he enjoyed comparing these modes to their counterparts in our native Poland.*
Google map with numbered markers starting from Tulsa, Dallas, and Chicago

The trip from Tulsa to Dallas

To my surprise, my uncle is quite well versed in navigating the Tulsa Transit system and has been leveraging the system to transverse the city. Luckily, a bus line runs directly in front of the apartment complex where my parents are living while they are migrating back to Poland and where he is staying during most of his visit in the U.S., so he conveniently caught a bus to the Greyhound station in downtown Tulsa (marker A) for the 10:45 bus to Dallas (marker D). At that moment, the trip already got delayed as the Greyhound bus waited 45 minutes for another Greyhound bus that was delayed and carrying a transfer passenger. The route was essentially down Hi-way 75, the typical route I take to Dallas, but the bus first stopped in Muskogee (marker B). He tried to send me an SMS about the delay, but due to a much unfounded miscommunication, he sent the messages to an old cell number of mine. I understood he did not have a cell in the U.S., but in fact, he is roaming on his Polish cell service in America, and each SMS text message costs roughly 60¢; nevertheless, it is a worthwhile cost for such critical communiqué.

Google Map of Oklahoma and Texas region with markers on Tulsa, Muskogee, Richardson, and Texas.

By around 17:00, Friday the 9th, I left my home for the Greyhound bus station in Dallas for my uncle’s planned arrival time of 17:25; however, his bus further encountered a second delay due to lane-closure and traffic congestion before Richardson (yellow marker C) resulting in, to the lack of my knowledge, a total of hour delay, about which he texted me again to the wrong number with an updated time. Naturally, first I pulled over in my car in front of the station hoping he would come out and see me, as he is familiar with my car. I noticed a dozen or so passengers exit the station, shortly after which security shooed away since they just stood in front of the station.

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

After ten minutes, I decided to circle the block and eventually parked and went inside. Inside, first I noticed a mucky smell of cheap deodorant in the very crowded terminal and that there was no time table board anywhere, and the only person who could help me, after a short investigation, was the gentleman whose job was to help passengers between the bus and terminal and who updated me about a 26 minute delay, which turned out to be obsolete information but better than nothing. Thirty minutes came and went, and rush-hour traffic got heavier outside the station as I decided return to my car thinking it was wiser to stay with my car. This resulted in me accidentally cutting off a pedestrian as I made a right turn in front of a police car, so I got pulled over but only given a warning. I circled the one way streets to find a parking meter somewhat in front of the station where I ultimately parked.

Finally, around 18:30, I noticed my uncle enter the terminal a little bit disoriented, so I yelled out to him, greeted him, and we walked back to my car. I was happy to learn he had the privilege to ride on one of the new Greyhound buses. First order of business was to acquire dinner to bring home, so we drove straight to Szechuan Chinese Restaurant on Lemmon Avenue where at 18:53, we ordered egg-drop soup to split between him and me, garlic pork for himself, chicken & shrimp fried rice for Monica, and sweet & sour chicken for me. Monica was very hungry by the time we got home after 19:00. We had plans to visit the NorthPark mall that evening to avoid the tax-free weekend rush the next day, but the travel delays postponed that plan. We spent most of what was left of the evening planning the following day.

New Greyhound bus

New Greyhound bus

A Saturday with my Uncle

We all woke up around 7:00. One of my uncle’s quests on this trip was to go native and share our normal routine in a condensed format. At 8:24, we got a couple of good and inexpensive breakfast burritos to go from La Victoria, a nice little restaurant in our neighborhood.

After breakfast, as we were loading my car, Monica noticed some desperate meowing, which turned out to be one of our cats crying on our balcony where we were spraying sunscreen on ourselves earlier. So, Monica ran back upstairs to let the cat back in. Fortunately, a mother always hears her baby’s cry because it was too hot to leave any animal outside, especially once the direct sun would hit.

We parked at my work parking lot downtown about 9:45, and went inside of my office to see the 360-degree view of the city from the 28th floor. Then, we walked over to the new Klyde Warren Park where we admired the surroundings and started a mission to find ice cream for Monica. By 10:45, we were ready to get out of the sun and go inside the Dallas Museum of Art to which admission is now free as of this year, but since the museum opened at 11:00 as did all the food trucks at the park, we waited in the shade of a tree on the west corner of Woodall Rodgers Fwy and St. Paul until opening time.

To our dismay, we had to throw away our water bottles to enter the museum, which was a bitter but fair trade for the nice, cool museum. We viewed the Hotel Texas exhibit of the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy that reunited “works that were installed in the president’s suite at the Hotel Texas during his fateful trip in 1963”.* For Monica to warm up again, we then viewed the sculpture installations in the museum’s garden, and then went back inside to view several more floors and sections of the museum. We saw art from almost every old continent, but we enjoyed the European Art the most.

Finished with the museum, we walked to the Pyramid restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel where at 12:42 my uncle ordered the salmon I recommended, Monica ordered the lobster bisque soup, and I ordered a deli turkey on pita bread. My meal was refreshing, but Monica was quite disappointed of her soup due to comparing it a similar dish from Bodean Seafood Restaurant in Tulsa, so after the fact, the manager gave her a free desert, an apple crumble, to go, which, although good, turned out to be more apple than crumble. The salmon was good, but my uncle was not as thrilled by it as I typically have been, though the dish was different than it used to be.

After lunch, we walked a block and caught the free M-line tram to Uptown at 14:00, and unfortunately, the air-conditioning on it was not working. We rode to West Village in Uptown to get some dessert, gelato from Paciugo at 14:27. The gelato was quite fulfilling. We took the next tram at 14:57 back to the my parked car.

At home, we freshened up and rested a bit to leave for dinner and the mall. We chose to eat at Velvet Taco, which was received very well by everyone mostly due to its originality and freshness. Afterwards, we went to NorthPark mall where we were on a mission to find my uncle a postcard, from Texas Treasures, and a bucket hat for his photographic expeditions. At the store Texas Treasures, he also purchased a personalized keychain which flashed his name on one side and had the Texas flag on the other. I also purchased for him a gift set from the Art of Shaving store. We circled the entire mall observing the art from the Nasher collection, and despite visiting several department stores, we only really found one bucket hat, which was by Lacoste but in a bad color at Macy’s. It was Monica’s keen sense that directed us to stop in the Lacoste boutique on the way back to the car where a white hat in the same style was on sale. The clerk had to pull it out of storage, it was the last one, and it was marked down, a remarkable find. Then, we drove home, drank some blueberry tea and called it a night.

Sunday with my uncle

True to my uncle’s tradition while in America, he and I went for a run Sunday morning, though we walked most of the time during our run due to talking. I let him use my heart rate monitor, and he put me to shame with it because he is in such great shape, for any age, that he barely entered into the aerobic zones. He had a top BPM of 133 with an average of 98 over 35 minutes. I could tell my BMP was hitting 150s sometimes, but he runs every day.

"Breakfast #2" with ham from Allgood Cafe .

“Breakfast #2” with ham

Afterwards, he wrote his post card, I stamped it for Poland, and we dropped it in the mailbox on the way to our favorite breakfast place, Allgood Café in Deep Ellum. There was a thirty minute wait at the diner and was quite warm inside, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the food and each others’ company. Each of us ordered renditions of their “Breakfast #2”, which is scrambled eggs, short stack of pancakes with fruit, and sausage though he ordered the ham. The coffee was excellent too.

On the way home, my uncle summarized his dining experience, as this was his last one with us, to that he enjoyed all by the Pyramid very much because all of the food was original. The Pyramid did not seem worth the money we paid, but it was not bad but nothing special in his opinion, to which Monica concurred. We all agreed the old menu from the previous chef at the Pyramid was better than the new one.

From the moment we got back home, it was a brief time until the train. My uncle finished packing; we had some tea and talked for a while. Soon, 15:00 came, so we all got in the car to drive to Union Station for his 15:40 train. The parking there was less than optimal as there is practically no short-term parking, and I reluctantly paid $5 for parking at 15:33. The train was about 10 minutes late; it was supposed to arrive 15:20 but arrived around 15:40. We waited inside the station for a short while, too short for me to take in the historic element of the place. We moved with the crowd to the platform—in the heat. An attendant scanned my uncle’s ticket and direct him to the last car on the train. There, we listened to another attendant explain a few things about the train. My uncle stepped inside to drop off his luggage, and then came back out to take final photos with us and say good-bye.

We began to miss him immediately. The following day, my uncle sent me an SMS that he arrived to Chicago and went looking for the metro to the airport, and I queried the Amtrak website to learn that his train arrived to Chicago 6 minutes early. Late that evening, I received an SMS from my mother that he was back in Tulsa safe and sound.
* He noted that on Greyhound, the bus driver announces all of the stops, including listing all stops at the top of the trip, and knows exactly how many passengers to expect at each stop. In Poland, the PKS bus drivers do not know how many passengers will board at subsequent stops.
Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013. Print.

Pedestrian Errand to Wal-Mart in 2011 Blizzard Aftermath

We just got back from Wal-Mart to stalk up on some groceries, a two mile trek round-trip. This is fourth day after the onset of the Blizzard of 2011, which hit Tulsa late night of January 31 and broke many records. We decided to walk to the nearest Wal-Mart because we wanted the exercise and the roads were bad enough that all the bad drivers in hurry to get home in rush-hour posed a threat to my car. We left the apartment at 15:56. The weather was 23&#176 F (-3.3&#176 C), 5 mph SSW wind, and light snow.


We dressed a little too warm for the walk there, but on the way back, it was just about right. I wore:

  • Sleeveless wicking running tee
  • Long-sleeved wicking thermal tee
  • Heavy long-sleeved sweater/tee (not really a sweater, not really a tee, somewhere heavy in between)
  • Leather winter coat with inner lining zipped in
  • Balaclava
  • Knit-wool winter cap
  • Underwear
  • Two layers of long underwear
  • Three pairs of socks
  • Boots, which I purchased just last weekend

It was easy to say that we could have drove, but that required removing snow from my car first, after which we could have walked at least half the distance to the store. We saw drivers, some with good traction but impatient of drivers with poor traction, and some with poor traction and poor skills of accelerating in slick conditions. It was obvious that people were in a hurry to get home.

The store was not as bare as I thought it was since I overheard a lady in front of the store complaining, “Everything is gone. Milk. Grapes.” Although many shelves were bare, everything, but eggs, we needed was available. Also, it was interesting to notice that all of the cheapest items were mostly gone while the more expensive items were still available. That is how I acquired some jasmine rice.

The checkout lines were very long, but moved faster than I expected. Very few check-out lanes were open. While in line, we heard the overhead announcement state that the store will close at 6PM, which was in one hour from now. When it was our turn to pay, I thanked the cashier for working. She remarked that probably many people are thankful. Further inquiring exposed that no one received any incentive to drive in to work in the horrible weather, while most of the managers did not even show up for work. Some of the checkers were not real checkers but were put on that post. I feel compelled to write Wal-Mart a letter to express my feelings of injustice for their employees in this remarkable situation.

We carefully packed everything into two backpacks and the rest was held in two plastic sacks. Before the cart was completely empty, some already asked if she could have that cart. I was definitely ready to get out of there, so much so that I was about to walk out without fully dressing.

As we walked across the slightly more than usually busy parking lot, we heard a man yell at his spouse, “Push!” as he pulled the cart over the very bumpy ice. I checked to see how much she was pushing. She barely had on hand on the cart as her other hand held her large ice coffee drink. “Push! Are you pushing?” as the cart started to tip over to one side. “No you’re not pushing.” We kept walking trying to ignore the spectacle, but I secretly wanted to learn from how this domestic dispute play out. As we were almost on the sidewalk, I could hear her yelling back at him, “…yes you were! You talk to me …this way…everyone was ….” was all I could make out.

We carefully treaded home, fortunately, in the light. The snow had stopped falling by the time we went outside, but I did not notice that until we were on the sidewalk. The temperatures dropped noticeably since early, but that was probably wind-chill because records show it was only about one degree colder than during the walk there. We held hands over the rougher parts. We arrived home sound and dry, and hungry.

Trip to the Past

Yesterday, I took my car into a wheel alignment shop on 11th & Utica to get a better wheel alignment on than normal tire shops have been able to provide me. I’ve had a chronic camber problem that could not be corrected by normal aligning methods on my car; and furthermore, I actually required a new part to correct the issue.
I’ve been putting off going there for days although it’s right down the street from where I work with a very convenient bus connection to and from work. I realized there was only one day this week that worked for me to do this and that would work in my schedule between work meetings and personal engagements. The entire experience was nice.

The experience of this shop surprised me. It was like visiting the past. First of all, as I walked into the shop around 7:45, there was an older man with a very long grey beard in a mechanic’s shirt sitting in the waiting lounge smoking a cigarette. He said hello to me, but I was still taken aback by his indoor smoking as I replied hello to him because he was smoking. I thought he is a customer or just someone who likes to hang out at the shop, but no, he was a mechanic. There was no one behind the desk, and he told me that the lady is not in yet but will be shortly. So, I looked around as I waited. Behind me, there was a glass counter with two antique mechanical typewriters. Inside the case were old Coca-cola memorabilia and other relics.

Then, one of the other mechanics, who was just as old, with an even longer beard came into the office to help me. I told him what I wanted, and he said that the young guy will need to come help me. He called him over, and then a clean-shaven 50-something man walked into the office. I guess 50 is younger than 70-something. They took down my name, numbers, and key. I left for the bus and admired the historically decorated sidewalk with route 66 markings.
An few hours later, the lady from the office called me with the quote and told me that they needed to order a part, which would take the rest of the day to fix my car. I agreed to the quote and was later called around 4pm that my car was ready.

There was only one more bus left before the shop closed, which I was going to take regardless whether they called me or not. When I got back to the shop, the lady behind the counter was smoking. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that for these smokers, this must be a paradise job because they can smoke not just during work hours, but while actually working. As I looked for other antiques that complement these old ideas, I noticed there was a “no smoking” sign leaning against the wall behind a large plant. Funny world! I guess it makes sense to some degree because the shop sits on historic route 66. They did have a computer, actually, and my receipt was printed, not handwritten..

The nice mechanic, the “young” guy, told me to keep the PSI higher than what’s recommended on the inside of the door for my particular type of tires to get much longer tread life. On the way home, I was very impressed how straight my car drove. It used to be a challenge to keep it straight, now it’s a challenge to turn it. I didn’t know a car could drive so straight. What an experience because it’s hard for me to imagine how some people continue to live like little has changed over the last few decades.

Drive to Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, we went to Monica’s family who live near Tahlequah. The food is phenomenal and the people are lovely. I like the drive there because the last leg of the trip, from Tahlequah to their house, is a road so twisty that it always makes me feel like I’m a driver in a car commercial. It’s a stretch of road on Oklahoma State Highway 100 and 82 starting from junction at U.S. Route 62, heading south for about 21 miles. The road continues further, but we only travel the first 21 miles of it.

This time, we drove through freezing rain, which made the trip feel significantly more dangerous. My car displayed an outside temperature between 34 and 33 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 C and 0.5 C). Most of the time, the rain was liquid, but every now and then, a few frozen crystals fell between the liquid droplets. This stretch of the trip took 24 minutes, with a maximum elevation of 989 feet and a minimum elevation of 649 feet (301.4m and 197.8m, respectively). My ears popped a few times. I drove the that entire stretch in manual shifting mode. I’ve never shifted gears on any stretch of road, or even have needed to shift as much, as much as I did on this road. It was fun.

View 2010 Thanksgiving hi-way 82 and 100 in a larger map

On the way home, we took a route that was previously untraveled by us but was suggested by the GPS, as well as, Google Maps in the past. The fact that the maps were completely accurate, as well as, the navigation AI logic was sound, gave me much more trust into my GPS unit. The route home took us through a long part of I-40, which has much construction prior to getting onto the Muskogee Turnpike, which also had some construction. If I knew about the construction, I probably would have chosen to return the same way we came, through Tahlequah. This was yet another reminder of just how neglectful I’ve been of doing my homework prior to trips. It’s something that I can do while I’m at work. I can check the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for all construction and check my gas card’s website for all the gas stations on any possible route. I really must raise the priority on completing this research before any trip outside of my metro area. With all the stimulus money spend on roads, the construction situation changes faster than word of mouth travels in my circles regarding this topic.