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Terry & Dave Taylor

Oklahoma!

FRIDAY: First of all, I must say we had a blast. It all went by so fast, much of it was a blur... and I didn't keep a journal... so hopefully not too many intimate details are left out of my report. This was a surprise trip for Steve, for his birthday and was he! Mary told him the night before the trip that she was taking him to Las Vegas for his birthday. He was so excited and was packing his bag. Meanwhile, Mary was sneaking his game-day gear into her suitcase!

Our flight left at 7a and we stopped by to pick up Kathy and Woody on our way to the airport. There was a multi-car pile-up on the freeway and we were worried we would be late, but all was well and we were parked, checked-in and at the gate in no time. However, Steve and Mary were backed-up behind the ever-growing traffic jam behind the accident. Mary was frantically text-messaging me on her phone - she hid it inside her purse so Steve wouldn't be suspicious as to whom she could be text-messaging at 5:30 o'clock in the morning. (Well, I suppose I shouldn't worry about Steve since he never questioned why Mary had booked them on a flight to Las Vegas at 7a.) Mary's last message was, "Don't get on that plane without us!", so we dutifully waited until Steve and Mary came running down the terminal. We were the last passengers on the flight and I can tell you Steve was SO SURPRISED when the agent asked "what is your final destination today" and Mary answered "Oklahoma City"!

Probably 90% of the passengers on our American Airline flights (through Dallas, Texas) were Ducks. It is certainly true what they say about ducks flocking together! The flight attendant was so moved by our sportsmanship she wrote a funny little poem and read it to us as we landed in Oklahoma City. Mary had arranged for a mini-van so we could all ride together. It was even kinda green and Mary decorated the van with Duck magnets, pompoms and flags. We had arrived!
 
Our hotel was on the edge of a parking lot in a big mall, with restaurants and several other hotels - half-way between Oklahoma City and Norman, Oklahoma. Perfect location. The hotel was one of those long-term stay places with a full kitchen, living area, high-speed wireless internet, bedroom and bath. Breakfast was included and it was nice and new and clean and we had a lovely view of the interstate. (Interesting side note to pet owners: There is a notice stating all hotels in Oklahoma are required to accept domesticated pets!)


Kathy, Mary and Woody at Hooters

After settling-in, we met downstairs and drove into Oklahoma City. We parked in the historical Brick Town district and walked around exploring this fun restaurant, entertainment and nightlife area. It was 90 degrees! So, we stopped into Hooters for a cold drink and then Steve took us all out to Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse for steaks for his Birthday Bash. (It is our custom that the celebrant takes everyone out to the restaurant of his/her choice and picks up the tab. Strange custom, but it works for us.) The restaurant was packed with Ducks! We had so much fun, enjoyed the live jazz band, and the food was so good. Woody had a special steak - it was delicious - but it came with some sort of strange sweet potato mash. It was flavored with butter, cinnamon and cloves and was more like a dessert than a side-dish. There was no room for birthday cake tonight! After dinner we walked over to the official Duck Hotel and just missed the team arriving. The Ducks had practiced in Eugene this morning before catching their chartered flight to Oklahoma City. They were given a police escort to the hotel - complete with sirens and flashing lights. As we heard later: "Hey, this is all we have, so we do it up big." There are no professional sports in Oklahoma City - college football rules. Actually Sooner Football rules. Their big rival is Texas and their other rival is Oklahoma State. Their OSU is also black and orange, so there is one thing the Ducks and the Sooners have in common.
 
Before heading back to our hotel, we drove up to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The site is very pretty and moving at night. Walking along the reflecting pool we found a mother duck and three little ducklings. We thought it was a good sign.


Beautiful Oklahoma City

Saturday:  We were up early. We had breakfast at the hotel and drove over to the Oklahoma University campus in Norman, Oklahoma to find a place to park. (Note about the school name. It is officially the University of Oklahoma, but it is always called OU.) OU was playing UO. Long-time readers of my website will recall our visit to Norman in May.

We parked and started walking towards the stadium. Our eyes just became wider and wider and wider with each step. These people really know how to tailgate! The scene is completely different from a Duck home game. Sooner Stadium is in the middle of campus; Autzen Stadium is in the middle of a gigantic parking lot. People set up party awnings in the lawn, beer vendors set up stands in parking lots, and people actually tailgate from the tailgate of their trucks. They party in restaurants. They party on the street. No cars are allowed on game day for blocks around the stadium, so it is a street party.
 
On the way towards the stadium we met many Sooners. Every one of them had a pleasant comment for us. Welcome to Norman, y'all. Thank y'all for coming. Y'all sure brought a lot of fans. Y'all sure do travel well. Is everyone treating y'all well? Would y'all like a beer? It was absolutely the most wonderful welcome we had ever witnessed. (Completely puts the 70 year old Cougar lady flipping us off in Pullman, Washington a few years ago to shame.) We met two Sooner freshman who had their own Outdoor Life Network television show on huntin' and fishin' - On the Water In the Woods with Cory and Cory. They offered us elk off their grill! We also saw the most fabulous school bus converted into a perfect Sooner tailgate dream.
 


Would y'all like some elk?


Serious tailgating, Sooner style
 

Dave with the Crimson & Cream Tailgate Machine...


... a view of the interior


Setting-up beer stands, pre-game


The crowds begin to gather

On the corner where we eventually "parked" ourselves were two huge beer delivery trucks. The driver told us they can't keep the stores around campus stocked, so on game days they just bring in semi-trucks filled with beer! The stands set up metal horse/cow watering troughs, fill them with ice and beer and sell beer for $3 per can! They sell out! We looked into several bars and restaurants, but they were too crowded to sit down, so we walked around. We found a shady area near the stadium where the Ruf/Neks were preparing for the game. The Ruf/Neks are some sort of club and they have a Sooner Schooner drawn by two pretty ponies that does a spin around the stadium every time OU scores a touchdown. They also shoot guns when there is a score. They are a noisy bunch and quite serious. The barrels on the guns are so huge, Mary asked them if they used them to shoot tee-shirts into the stands and they replied - completely dead-pan - "No, Maam. Black powder." Just at that moment, they shot off a few guns and Steve and I jumped 10 feet!  Now I don't care who you are, that's funny.


The Ruf/Neks

We met-up with a group of our friends and enjoyed the most delicious smoked chicken wings EVER under the shade of a tree outside of the stadium. I can't even begin to recall all of the wonderful Sooners who stopped by to say hello. We even met a few people from Oregon who were die-hard Sooners now. For example, this fun lady below with the "Duck U" hat went to Reynolds High in Portland! The group of boys are juniors and were so friendly, funny, and welcoming to The Ducks.

 
Oregonian Sooner


Frat Sooners


The shirt says it all - Mary chats up the frat brothers
- photo by Steve


Steve, Lynn, Lee, Guy and Roger
 

Wow, do they hate Texas!

In case you don't know - Sooners have this distinctive name because there was a huge land rush one day in Oklahoma. A gun was going to sound and you were supposed to get on your horse, wagon or feet and get to the land you wished to stake as your own. A few gnarly folk hid in the woods near the land they wished to occupy, so they could claim it sooner, and they became known as "Sooners". Is that more than you wanted to know about Oklahoma? (Well, get over it. As friendly as these folks are, anyone with any sense kept going until they were in Oregon.) But I cannot tell you enough how nice everyone was to us in Oklahoma! Not even ONE rude comment! Maybe it was a combination of friendly Oklahomans and friendly Oregonians!! I think they were truly surprised at how many Ducks came down for the game. There were 4,000 Duck fans! Sounds like so many doesn't it - until you know the stadium holds nearly 80,000 people. We must have looked like a little dot in the stands - but after the game people kept telling us they could hear us and hear our duck call whistles. (Though the newspaper did comment, "Were we supposed to be scared by a duck call?")
 
No. You were supposed to be scared by our Defense and our Offense.
 
Didn't happen.


Go Ducks - a little duck in a sea of crimson and cream

We could not get over the huge stadium! The Sooners are a classy bunch too. Right after the national anthem had finished, they officially welcomed the University of Oregon to their stadium and then played the Oregon Fight Song! Now, that shows style! After this gracious gesture, they proceeded to run all over us and whip our sorry offense into a sloppy mess. As if the stands were not hot enough - in the 90s - we heard the temperature on the field was over 105 degrees! I listened to the game on local radio with a headset in one ear - very interesting commentary. My favorite quote after the Ducks had claimed several yards on the Sooners: "That was some poe-poe tacklin'."


Sooner Stadium


Sooner Band pre-game


Terry, Dave, Woody, Kathy, Mary & Steve in Sooner Stadium
 

Ducks celebrate at our only score


Ducks are on the board!
 

Merrit and her son enjoy the game


The Duck "section" in the end zone

The final score was 31-7, but Mary thinks it should have been 24-14, so we will go with that. After the game we walked around to the other side of the stadium. There were even more restaurants and food and beer stands on the north side of the campus! Several local TV and radio programs were airing live from temporary booths on the street. After the game the fans no longer welcomed us to Norman. Now the comments were "Thank you for coming." "Y'all sure made a lot of noise." "Y'all sure travel well." "Y'all played a good game." "Y'all sure have a good team." "Y'all travel safe now." It was like they were Stepford Sooners or something. Every Duck we spoke with said they were treated the same - like an old friend. The people from Oklahoma are just the nicest folks you could care to meet.


Dave, Kathy, Woody and Mary check-out a Sooner motorhome

Finally, traffic was clearing enough we decided to try and make our way back up the freeway to our hotel, where we enjoyed another delicious meal at a local steakhouse chain situated across the parking lot from our hotel. The Texas Roadhouse is a fun place with barrels of peanuts all over. They encourage you to throw your peanut shells on the floor. They serve ribs that absolutely fall off the bone. The brag that they take 3 days to prepare and cook the ribs and Bobbie Jo told us they have a meat cutter working 10 hours per day. The Texas Roadhouse offers "loaded" sweet potatoes... complete with marshmallows. My. We didn’t indulge. We were exhausted. I know some of us went back to our rooms and watched the replay of the game, while others watched different football games. I went to sleep.
 
Sunday:  We had enough time to visit the National Cowboy Museum, the National Softball Hall of Fame, and then back to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, so we could see it during the day. Our final stop was to the Bass Pro Shop (we don't have this shop in Oregon) - a lot of jerky was purchased.

Except for the final score, it was a perfect weekend. Our travel companions are most congenial! The first thing I did after arriving home was fire off a fax to the President of the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Athletic Director congratulating them for putting on a fabulous event and thanking them for the wonderful hospitality. Did you know that in a few years Oklahoma is coming to Oregon to play? That should be a great event and I only hope we are as welcoming to the Crimson and Cream!

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