7/9/11 – We started the morning in a Vietnamese mall drinking sweet coffee and being amazed at seeing this culture in this state. Old men were outside smoking, drinking coffee and enjoying the company of their fellow Vietnamese. Oklahoma City surprised us by being so cosmopolitan. I then photograph the interior of the Main Library. It is both architecturally beautiful and filled with people on this Saturday morning. The Oklahoma Room and the separate tribal rooms are especially nice. We begin to appreciate the rich diversity of the region. The Oklahoma National Memorial is another well done shire to the national tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing. This attack was the most extreme anti-government hate crime in our history and still has a resonance here. Much of the area around the bombing was affected and the attacked help spur redevelopment of the downtown. The reflecting pool and the hand made memorials are very moving. The temperature is rising and we photograph and film the libraries in Chandler and Tulsa. The Brookside branch in Tulsa has an odd curvy roof that reflects some of the interesting architecture in the area. Frank Lloyd Wright built several buildings in the area. We stopped at an another excellent Vietnamese restaurant in Tulsa for a small lunch and iced coffee to go. The fat, pompous, drug-addict Rush Limbaugh entertains and outrages us on the radio as we cruise the Turnpike. His selective grasp of history was interesting as he attacked President Carter but never mentioned President Nixon. As we pulled into Muskogee I thought of Merle Haggard. We zoomed by the Main Library which we had dismissed in our earlier research. I spotted something and quickly pulled into the parking lot. A beautiful sculpture of a white guitar was above the Muskogee Public Library sign. Painted on one side of the guitar is a collection of faces of many races. The other side was the face of a traditional Native American. We’ve come a long way from “Okie from Muskogee”. Today, Muskogee is one of the most diverse places in the United States. The old Carnegie library in Muskogee is now the Ark of Faith. This was an interesting conversion from the public commons to a Christian charity. We drove through beautiful winding hills and farms before coming to our last library in Hulbert, a Cherokee majority town. It was the first town we saw the Cherokee script. We spend the night in Tahlequah, the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokees have the largest population of any Native tribe in the US. The area here was the end of the Trail of Tears which was the forced migration of many of the Native tribes from the eastern part of the US to the “Indian Territory” of Oklahoma. This is now considered a national tragedy.
7/10/11 – Tahlequah has one of the few Carnegie libraries built in Oklahoma. A large library was connected to it bridging the old and the new. We drove into Arkansas and immediately leave Native America and enter the South. We had decided to change our route and spend more time in the Ozarks. We headed north to the home of Walmart in Bentonville. Its eclectic library has been replaced with one that has a wide veranda with comfortable chairs that felt very Southern. Walker calls this area “corporations, God and guns”. We were dangerously close to the Missouri border and decided to include it in the project. Seligman, MO has a Museum and Library as part of a government center. Although closed on Sunday, it had a wonderful mural of books on the outside. After driving through the Mark Twain State Forest we came to the town of Eagle Rock, MO. Its library also doubled as a government center and community meeting place. Back into Arkansas we drove to the amazing town of Eureka Springs. The old Carnegie library there was carved into a rock cliff as is much of this hilly town. It is one of only four Carnegie libraries built in the state and is stunningly beautiful. Eureka Springs is touristy but deserves the attention. It ranks as one of the most interesting and beautiful towns we have seen so far. The Ozark Mountains are green and breath-taking. Being up higher in elevation we actually cool down below 100 degrees for the first time since the mountains of New Mexico. We decide to be nice to our old Toyota’s engine by not using the AC today. I have a peak driving experience through the Ozarks blasted by the wind from the open windows and Credence on the CD. Like our first evening coming into Needles, we dropped down out of the Ozarks and the temperature once again climbs over 100 degrees. The Carnegie library in Morrolton is a beautiful building with a spectacular sky at sunset. After driving for 12 hours through the curvy roads with no AC we collapse into our motel room in Little Rock. Exhausted, we still do our usual routine of dinner, changing film and working on Nick’s vlog (video blog for those of us over 25). We have been up for 18 hours. Whew! This pace is both exhilarating and exhausting.