Day 5 - Monday 14th September 2015

Written by Kev

I wake and see the clock says 4.16am. This jet lag lark is no fun. It isn’t helped by a rather large thunderstorm outside. We get up at 7.00am and I write up my trip report and get ready for the day ahead.
Breakfast at The Cedar Rock is served at 8.30am today. It’s not like a normal hotel in that there is no choice of food, they serve a different fresh cooked menu each day. We start with fresh fruit, pineapple and blueberries, followed by cinnamon toast with maple syrup and raspberry sauce. Finally there is biscuits and gravy with bacon. It tastes as good as it sounds and we all leave absolutely stuffed. By the way, Susan has joined us for breakfast and will do for each day we are here.

After breakfast we clamber into The Beast and I drive us into Tulsa. Matt and I are sharing driving duties, alternating driving days.
Susan has booked us a tunnel tour with a local guide, Karen. This tour takes us into a few of the buildings downtown, which are connected underground by tunnels so that people can move between the buildings without going up to street level. Many of the buildings are in an art deco style and are very reminiscent of the entry lobby of the Empire State Building in New York. At one point we arrive in the basement of one of the banks where there is a huge vault with an enormous round door just like you see in the heist movies. The door is open and a lady is inside opening her safe deposit box. I’ll bet she got a bit nervous when a bunch of strangers turned up to stare at her.
We all enjoy the tour. Susan had won it in a sort of lottery, but she insists on tipping the guide, who has been very good.


Back in The Beast we drive to Muskogee. This is Susan’s hometown and she explains all about the place as we drive through.
We arrive at Harmony House, a sort of family home turned into a restaurant, at midday. Here we meet up with Shelly and her daughter Gabi. They are having lunch before Gabi returns to dance school, where she is dancing and teaching dance for 6 hours today. Oh to have the energy of youth.

We drive to Shelly’s house to drop off her car and she clambers into The Beast with us to tour for the rest of the day. Don’t worry about being cramped, there’s still enough room for a string quartet and half a football team in the back.
I drive us to Honor Heights, a park that starts at the highest point in Muskogee, and we drive down through lawns, flower beds, ponds and fountains, which are all very pretty.

Our next stop is a sobering experience. We drive to Fort Gibson Cemetery to visit Shelly’s husbands grave. Mark died tragically suddenly last October at the age of 47. Deb and Matt were good friends with Mark, so it is inevitably an emotional time. Thank you to Shelly for allowing us to pay our respects as well.
Back in The Beast we drive just up the road to the fort in Fort Gibson. Matt and I wonder if that makes it Fort Fort Gibson, but are told not to be so silly – a regular event. The fort is closed so we just take a look at the outside before moving on to Talahequah, where we get out to look at the university where Susan went to school. It’s a pretty old brick campus.

The next stop is Tenkiller Lake. Both Tam and I like this place a lot. It’s very secluded with just a few RV’s dotted about. We take a few photos and enjoy the peace and quiet for a while. It’s also got a great name.

I like this photo, it doessn't look too staged.

This was Tam's go at a timed photo to get us all in the shot. Unfortunately her spider camera stand isn't strong enough for her camera, hence we aren't really in the centre of the photo.

We still have a little time before our restaurant reservation this evening, so Shelly takes us to watch Gabi in her dance class. It involves practising ballet techniques and all the pupils look very graceful, but Gabi is the best, of course. We leave with Matt and I agreeing that we could have got up to bust a few moves. By ‘bust’ I mean break or destroy, which is probably what we would have done to our muscles had we tried some of that stretching.

Back in The Beast I drive us out into the countryside to the restaurant we are eating at tonight. When I say we drive into the countryside, I really mean it. It’s 7 miles from the highway down a narrow road and Susan warns me not to drive too fast as there is a danger that deer may jump out in front of us. The Beast pricks up his ears at this news and anticipates a decent sized road kill.
We arrive at Jincy’s just after 6.00pm. This place is run by two ladies, Debbie and Diana and doesn’t look like it has changed for many years. It used to be a country store and still has bric-a-brac covering every inch of wall space. You sit at long wooden tables to eat and the choice of drink is either water or iced tea served in large jars. I choose water as I would only use iced tea to put out a fire, horrible stuff.

At Jincy’s we meet Sally (Susan’s sister, remember) and a gaggle of her friends. I say ‘gaggle’ in a totally respectful and friendly way – they are all so much fun. They chat away with us and are so interested in our British way of life and accents. Laughter abounds as we talk.
I also talk to Rhys and his fiancée Sam. Rhys is a keen amateur photographer and very interested in Route 66. He spends time travelling to remote areas taking photos of anything that takes his fancy and Susan has given us a calendar made from his photographs.

The food is being prepared by Debbie and Diana. It includes Chicken Fried Chicken (the best I’ve ever tasted), fried catfish with homemade tartar sauce, mashed potatoes, hush puppies, chicken dumplings, vegetables, biscuits and gravy and other things too numerous to mention. All of it is just wonderful. My only complaint is that my stomach is not large enough to eat more.

It’s now getting dark and the place gets even more atmospheric. It really is a throwback in time and Debbie and Diana make you so welcome it feels like you are eating in their house.
You think we are finished? Oh no. It’s the dessert next. Coconut Cream Pie, Pecan Pie, Banana Cream Pie and Huckleberry Cobbler. Huge, freshly baked pies that look fantastic and taste even better. I only have room for the Coconut Cream Pie, but the general agreement is that all are wonderful.

It’s getting later on in the evening now and the ladies are getting even more frisky. That’s quite an achievement as there’s no alcohol involved here, they are just all having a good time. They remind me of a group of college girls out to have fun together.

A fine looking bunch of ladies - and me and Matt. Poor old Rhys got stuck with camera duties.

It’s time to leave too soon and everyone bids farewell to us like we are family members. That’s the thing about Americans, they get a bad reputation abroad, but I’ve never understood it. They are so friendly and out-going, you feel welcomed and involved at all times.
The ladies are all riding back with Sally in a sort of mini Beast. They pile into the vehicle (Shelly goes with them as well), hanging out the windows and laughing as they drive off. I won’t forget you quickly ladies. Oh and we all check our jewellery as they leave, especially our rings. Don’t worry, it’s an ‘in’ joke.
After thanking Debbie and Diana we start the 90-minute drive back to Tulsa as The Beast gurgles happily as he’s allowed to trundle along at 80mph on the Turnpike.

Back at Cedar Rock we say goodnight to Susan and have a couple of drinks – alcohol only, no iced tea here. Tam gets a bit of a shock when she finds an e-mail from the company we are renting the log cabin from (we are going there after Tulsa) to say we have not paid the balance and our reservation may get cancelled! She shows her usual customary aplomb she reserves for such situations by running around shouting ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’. A good slap brings her round and a phone call sorts it all out.

Bed at midnight.