Family Fun in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, Part 8: Oklahoma City

This is the eighth post about our family's visit to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I suggest starting with the first
secondthirdfourthfifth, sixth, and seventh posts from the trip. Because I blog about educational travel, some of the places mentioned below gave me free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits. Other locations we toured are free for everyone. We paid full price for the rest. None of that has any bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend to you without hesitation. If there are gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, hotel, or restaurant enough to recommend it, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

When I left off telling you about The Day with Not Enough Time, we had just arrived at the Oklahoma State Capitol.  

Oklahoma's is the only capitol in the world with an oil well underneath it. 


We have a routine when we visit Capitols: pose for pictures outside, go inside and get Trevor's Capitol Connection stamped, photograph the rotunda, and then pop in and out of everything else that is open to the public. 

Another map of Sequoyah. Imagine how different things would be now if Oklahoma and Sequoyah had joined the US as two separate states. 

We usually spend 30-45 minutes at a Capitol unless they have an elaborate museum on site or we take a guided tour. I was counting on us getting in and out of the Capitol in less than 45 minutes to allow time to drive to our next destination. This was going to be tight, so we did something we never do: we took the elevator from the ground floor to the highest public floor, instead of taking the stairs. In the elevator, I got to talking with a nice man who followed us over to the rotunda viewing area. Steve went around to take photos while we continued to chat. 

And then the man told us to follow him. He led us past a big STAFF ONLY sign and into the House chambers. 

There, he told us all about the ugly drop ceiling that was removed during a renovation. They discovered this gorgeousness underneath. 

Our new friend (who, as you've now figured out, was a congressman) was eager to show us more of the beautiful Capitol and it killed me to have to excuse ourselves and leave. I would have loved to see more. But I was super excited to head to our next destination. 

The American Pigeon Museum is only open two days a week, none of which were days we'd be in Oklahoma. But, they will open for a private showing for a group of any size. If you're going to be in Oklahoma City but the museum isn't open when you're in town, contact Lauren. It's totally worth the visit. 

If you'd asked me to name three pigeon facts before arriving, I would have come up with the following:
1) The passenger pigeon is extinct. 
2) Doves are pigeons.
3) Bert's dance Doin' the Pigeon is one of the best things ever.  

OK, #3 might technically be an opinion and not a fact, but the point is that I didn't know much about pigeons. If, like me, you don't know nearly enough about pigeons, boy do I have a place you need to go. 

The American Pigeon Museum has three main sections. The first, pictured above, is all about the types of pigeons. Homing pigeons are the ones used as messengers and for racing, while fancy pigeons are specialized breeds kept by hobbyists. Some owners keep fancy pigeons as pets, while others show them in competitions. 

This part of the museum also has a nice children's area with pigeon-themed artwork, stuffed animals, books, coloring pages, and more. 

The second part of the museum covers the role pigeons have played during wartime. During WWI and WWII,  pigeons were used by the military to transport messages. I had never heard of the Dickin Medal of Honor, awarded to animals for their military service. Pigeons were the first to receive this award in 1943. Since then, a total of 32 pigeons have been honored. 

The third section of the American Pigeon Museum is all about racing. 

I knew pigeon racing was a thing, but I had no idea how it worked. It's been called "the sport with a single starting gate and a thousand finish lines." Since a pigeon will only fly to its own home, how can you race two pigeons without the same home? Pigeon racing clocks. 

The distance and time are measured. The winning bird is the one with the fastest rate of travel, which is not necessarily the first one to get home. Races, which can cover 600+ miles, are won and lost by seconds. Modern electronic timing devices (RFID-chipped pigeon rings) worn by the pigeon make determining a winner a lot easier. 

There's also a type of racing known as one-loft. For this type of race, breeders send their newborn chicks to a single trainer so they can imprint on that location as their home. After several months, the owners gather at that location. The birds are driven to a common spot and released, then they fly back to their home as the onlookers cheer. It sounds festive and fun and super quirky.  

One-loft racing is considered the best way to prove the value of a bird's bloodline and often has the highest prize money. Didn't know that pigeon pedigrees are a thing? Me neither. But they totally are. 

This pigeon knows far more about his family tree than I do about mine. And he's about a million times more likely to win a race than I am. 

Want to learn more about pigeon racing and everything else pigeon? This is the place. I doubt you'll find anywhere with as many books about pigeons. 

As fantastic as the American Pigeon Museum is inside, my favorite part was out back. Lauren (and her charming 5-year old son) introduced us to 12 of the many (MANY) pigeons they care for. I've never petted a pigeon before. 

They are the caretakers for their own pigeons, plus those of other pigeon enthusiasts. When the museum is open, 12 of the fancy pigeons are on display in the small cages you see in these photos. The rest of the time they are in huge enclosures. Homing pigeons don't need to kept in cages since they know their way back home. 

The fancy pigeons were absolutely fascinating. This one's feathers pretty much completely block its vision, which seems like a very poor bird design and obviously is achieved by selective breeding and not natural selection. 

I love this curly pigeon. I had no idea that curly feathers are a thing!

We learned so much at the American Pigeon Museum! You should definitely visit. Admission is free, but they depend on donations to stay open, so buy something from their gift collection or leave a donation. We did both. 

Our final stop for the day was dinner. I'd been told we HAD to try Tucker's Onion Burgers, so that's where we went. To make their signature burger, they start by caramelizing onions, which they add to the ground beef. The burgers are cooked to order and they are spectacular. 

They take orders in a way I've never seen before. Regardless of whether you are eating in or taking out, the bag your food comes in is the order form. The person taking your order makes a stack of bags that equals the number of people eating. They circle the relevant toppings on the bag, then move on to the next person. You can't see my whole bag, but you can see that I got a single burger with cheese and mayo. (Lettuce and tomato too.) 

Their fries are tasty (we shared the pile you see) and their homemade lemonade and cherry-limeade are to die for. Everything at Tucker's was fantastic. Best of all, we didn't need to hurry! Finally, a place where we could linger on the Day with Not Enough Time!

We packed a lot into our final day in Oklahoma City, but it wasn't nearly as hectic as this day had been. I'll tell you all about it on Monday. 

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