“Oh my gosh, this was a terrible idea. What if it’s awkward? What DO I DO?!”
My best friend, Beth, is usually pretty good at calming me down when I’m worrying about life, love, or yet another pair of shoes I’ve managed to ruin. This time, though, she had her work cut out for her.
“Well,” reasoned Beth, “Is it too late to turn around?”
No, I’m already in Oklahoma.
My thoughts exactly.
Having returned from my summer in Morocco and slowly adjusted back to life in the States, I was already on the lookout for my next big adventure – or just really any decent excuse to get in the car and go somewhere I had never been before.
It didn’t take me long to stumble across a decent excuse.
Earlier this fall, I blogged about my spring break 2012 cruise to Mexico, and all the shenanigans that entailed. In that series of three posts (read the first one here), I also wrote about a boy I met, an accounting major named Dillon.
Dillon happens to live and go to school in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Dillon and I had jokingly talked this summer about visiting each other in our respective college towns, as we had often disagreed about whose university had the better bar district or campus or what-have-you and felt obligated to prove each other wrong.
This August, I decided to turn that joke into reality, which is how I found myself having a minor panic attack at a Love’s gas station in the middle of nowhere in northern central Oklahoma on a windy August Friday night.
Like seriously, what if he’s like a serial killer or obsessed with something weird, like bunnies? I only spent like 4 days with this guy! I don’t even know him!
“I highly doubt he has a bunny obsession,” reasoned Beth, “and if it’s awkward, you can just leave! I mean, my cat can die or something. I’ll totally need you to come home right away if that happens, clearly.”
Valid point. Nothing gets a girl out of bad situation as fast as claiming the death of a pet or fake relative. Believe me, I know. During one particularly awkward experience at the bars earlier this year, my roommate’s grandma died, our other roommate fainted, and her boyfriend cheated on her again! Crazy. Obviously, I had to go home right away and deal with that crisis.
So, after filling up my tank and putting my fears to ease with the help of some jumping jacks (endorphins make people happy. Happy people can totally handle potentially hanging out with a bunny-obsessed serial killer for the weekend), I headed on towards Stillwater.
Stillwater, Oklahoma is an interesting town. Famous for Red Dirt country music, it is where various greats, including Garth Brooks, got their start. With only 45,000 residents as of the most recent census, it’s not a big city, but it definitely has character. Home to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, a children’s museum called the WONDERtorium, and the oldest pizza place in the state of Oklahoma, Hideaway Pizzeria, it sounded like somewhere I needed to explore.
To prepare myself for this trip, I started doing some research into Stillwater and the surrounding area. Pioneers founded Stillwater during the land boom of the 1880s. Legend has it that the town got its name because local Native American tribes called the nearby creek “Still Water” because the water was almost always still. Others argue that cattle drivers passing through on their way from Texas to cattle yards out east always came back through the area to find the water in the creek “still there.”
Oklahoma State University, the state’s land-grant university, is arguably the town’s biggest attraction. OSU is known nationwide for its research opportunities, an extravagant homecoming celebration, and being the alma mater of billionaire philanthropist T. Boone Pickens.
Stillwater may have grown more cosmopolitan since its days as a shantytown on a non-moving (and therefore probably smelly) creek, but the small town feel and the Wild West pride still remain. The Tumbleweed Calf Fry, quaintly referred to as the “testicle festival” (I’m not kidding. Read about it here), is held every spring. The OSU mascot is Pistol Pete, a slightly scary-looking cowboy who fires off his pistols on a regular basis and clanks around in orange cowboy boots and spurs. Cowboy boots and big trucks are a common sight, and country music is a way of life around these parts.
Despite my paranoid fears, I was ready for a weekend of country music, Oklahoma-style hospitality, and seeing an oddity of touristy sites around the area. Stillwater did not disappoint.
[To be continued]