Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Discover Central Oklahoma: Where the Wind Goes Sweeping ‘Cross the Plains

When my husband received orders to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, I admit I wasn’t thrilled...like not even a little.  I imagined flat, barren, boring stretches of dry, dusty land filled with cowboys on horses driving cattle in dirty clothing, wiping sweat from their brows.  For a city girl, this was too country and western for me!

Wow, was I pleasantly surprised when, just about an hour or so as we drove south of Oklahoma City, my eyes caught a glimpse of shadowy mountains in the distance with cottony soft clouds floating at their peaks.  We lived at Fort Sill for two and a half years and truly enjoyed our time there.  Do take note though, the famous theme song to the movie, Oklahoma, definitely has one thing right, it sure is windy there!  So hold onto yer hats, folks!

Fort Sill
When you arrive at the gates of Fort Sill, you’ll be greeted with, “Welcome! Team Sill, Oklahoma Pride!” Located about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City,  I was pleasantly surprised by this Army post, surrounded by the Wichita Mountain range.  Just do a brief study about this installation’s rich history, and you will soon learn why it is the pride of Oklahoma.  

 McNair Hall, Fort Sill Installation Headquarters

Built in 1869 during the Indian Wars, and named after Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill, who was killed during the American Civil War, Fort Sill is designated as a National Historic Landmark.  It is home to approximately 20,000 military and civilian personnel, encompassing Field Artillery, Air Defense Artillery, Army and Marine Corp’s Field Artillery Schools, and one of four Army Basic Combat Training Centers.

 Cannon Outside Historic Comanche House, Fort Sill

Interestingly, Fort Sill is also home to the gravesite of Geronimo, leader of the band of Chirachuahua Apache who were prisoners of war, detained by the War Department for many years.  According to Geronimo at Fort Sill located on the Army’s Fort Sill webpage, Geronimo refused release by the Army when it was offered to him in 1901, because he felt that “as prisoner, he still had his freedom, drew $15 monthly as a government scout, and would lose that salary if he accepted the offer.”

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Within just about a 15 minute drive from north Fort Sill, is the Wichita Wildlife Refuge based in the beautiful Wichita Mountains.  A native Kansan myself, growing up just over the state line, I was surprised to learn that Oklahoma isn’t all flat.  Mount Scott, the highest peak of the Wichita Mountain range, is a majestic 2,464 feet in height, with a paved road that winds around the side of the mountain to its summit.

 Wichita Mountains

The wildlife refuge offers a natural habitat for native animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer, and Texas longhorn cattle, which freely roam the refuge.

 Texas Longhorn

The Holy City of the Wichitas
Located within the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, is the Holy City of the Wichitas, set to look much like ancient Israel during the Biblical era.  Every Easter, the Holy City hosts an Easter passion play at sunrise.  Other things to see while at the Holy City, is the World Chapel, a memorial for the Oklahoma City bombing victims, and a Veterans Walkway.  All completely free to the public.

Medicine Park
While in the area, be sure to take some time to explore the picturesque Medicine Park, set in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains.  This little town grew up around an idyllic creek, and is worth taking a day to enjoy the scenery, do some swimming or fishing, hike the trail, or do some shopping in the roadside shops.

 Waterfall at Medicine Park

Are you looking for some big city fun?

Oklahoma City
Located in the heart of Oklahoma sits the state’s capital city, Oklahoma City, ranking 27th among US cities in population.  OKC not only offers shopping galore, but many other family-friendly attractions.

A large area of the city called, Bricktown, boasts of “fun the whole family can enjoy,” with a whole host of attractions, including a zoo, the Omniplex Science Museum, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Myriad Botanical Garden, a ballpark on Mickey Mantle Drive that is home for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Oklahoma History Center, an art museum, and a full calendar of  live events.

And food….pretty much any type of cuisine you could want, Bricktown has got it.

The Melting Pot is one of my favorites!  This restaurant is more than just a place to eat, it’s an experience with fondue made right at your table and an entire four-course meal, including a sweet fondue dessert course!  Yum!

Not in the mood for fondue?  No worries!  Try these equally delicious dining experiences:
Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grille
Pearl's Crab Town
Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy
Bourbon Street Cafe
Earl's Rib Palace
Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse
And gobs more!

After you are finished dining, take a stroll along the gorgeous river walk to walk off those calories, or ride the Water Taxi.

While there, OKC has also erected a beautiful and poignant memorial to the victims of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Building.  

 Oklahoma City Memorial

Before you leave, don’t miss out on the western-themed Frontier City Amusement Park!  With rides named the Tumbleweed, Silver Bullet, Diamondback, and Brain Drain, you know it will be an adventure!  Plus, Frontier City hosts numerous live shows and concerts, with big names, such as: Hunter Hayes, Kansas, Night Ranger and Kellie Pickler.

All duty-stations have their ups and downs.  Through my years as an Army wife, I’m learning that duty-stations are what you make of them.  If you arrive at a new place determined you won’t like it, you probably won’t.  However, if you decide to explore and find something you love about it, you almost certainly will!

Crystal Niehoff, Owner & “Commander” of Army Wife Network and Army Wife Talk Radio
Crystal is married to her best friend, Army Chaplain (MAJ) Kevin Niehoff; and is the proud work-at-home mom of Aricka and Seth, two fur babies, and three grown children with families of their own.  

Formerly a child welfare worker, Crystal additionally holds certifications as a doula, and birth and bereavement chaplain.  In 2014, she founded Heartstrings Ministries, providing grief support for military families enduring pregnancy loss in any trimester.  Her e-book, Dads & Bereavement, can be obtained through Still Birth Day.  Also an avid writer, Crystal has written extensively for non-profit organizations, including TFI Family Services, Inc., CASA for Children, Bethany Christian Services, and Rainbow Kids Adoption & Welfare Advocacy, through which she shares her expertise on parenting, foster care, and adoption.  Crystal is a contributing author of From Reveille to Retreat, the Journey of a Lifetime:  A Handbook for the Army Chaplain’s Spouse, published by the U.S. Army in 2015.

In her not-so-spare time, Crystal enjoys reading, researching, traveling, and photography.  She and her family currently live in Fort Hood, Texas.


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