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HERB BENHAM: Lure of Oklahoma and the open road

Oklahoma has fans. So do road trips. The first is worth seeing, the second, doing. As Dad used to say, "If not now, when?"

Reader Janet Martin writes:

"Dear Herb,

My mom was born in Pawhuska, OK but the family moved to Tehachapi in 1938.

Every few years we would vacation in OK or MO where my dad is from. Your description of the OKC Memorial brought tears to my heart. You also mentioned how friendly the people are.

In 1965 when I was 16, we visited my great-grandfather's farm in Hominy. My siblings and I walked to a park where a softball game was being played. Within a few minutes of sitting down, kids moved closer to us and finally asked who we were. They were excited to hear we were from CA. The kids were so sweet and welcoming."


"I enjoyed your article about your trip to Oklahoma. I'm a hybrid: Born and raised in Chino, CA, and then we moved to NE Oklahoma (Bartlesville) when I was about 14," wrote David Brown.

"I lived the 'Friday Night Lights' life there, with four years of varsity football, and then I went to OU in Norman for college. Met my wife there, started raising a family, but then moved back to SoCal as an adult back in 1988.

Yes, it's the people! They are more polite, acknowledge you, wave to you, and treat you with respect. I miss that. You also mentioned how the landscape softened and greened up once you left Texas — spot on! I love the rolling hills and the beautiful country. And you gotta love the food, the down-home places like Inola.

I love San Diego, where I live now, and I'll always be a Californian. But I am for sure part Okie!"


"Wanted to thank you for all the nice things you said about my home state, Oklahoma," Janice Rogers wrote. "So often the people of OK are described as redneck hillbillies. It was refreshing to read your article."


"Thank you. I am an Oklahoman, or Okie, and am proud of the state in which I live," wrote Richard Pasutti.

"I have traveled to many places and have always wondered why people are not as friendly as they are here. Granted, we have jerks, but those are in the minority. I am glad you enjoyed your visit and hope y'all come back soon!"


"We are glad that you liked Oklahoma. We have lived here almost eight years and think it is great.

Best wishes, Warren Newbury"


"I spent time in OK a few years ago. The people in the South are so much more friendly, helpful, gracious and easy-going than what we were used to in Cali," wrote Bruce Blythe.

"Look me up if you ever get to Dixie."


"I am a lifelong Okie and I wear that like a badge of honor. When asked, 'What is the best thing about Oklahoma?' I always answer it is the people.

I am happy that you enjoyed your time in our great state.

Dustin Gregory"


"On Route 66 at Baxter Springs, Kansas there is an incredible dining experience, Cafe on the Route, on the old road to Joplin, Mo. With any luck the soup of the day will be cream of potato!

Enjoy, Pete Parson"


"On your way to Oklahoma City, pull off I-40, get on Route 66 and go to Sid's in El Reno, OK, and have an Oklahoma onion burger.

Paul Boatman"


"We've taken that trip several times and one of our distractions is counting the dead armadillos. One year we tallied 264. Enjoy your ride.

Judy Kelly"


"Your article about the music you were listening to on your road trip brought back memories. In 1977, I visited, by car, from Pennsylvania. After I left Bakersfield, I headed east, fortified with a rack of some dozen eight-track tapes and very little money.

I stopped in Barstow and bought a bucket of chicken, coleslaw and mashed potatoes from Kentucky Fried Chicken — this was in the day when the interstate went straight through town — and headed on my merry way.

Two hours later, I started on the coleslaw and saw that the juice had leaked into the eight-track rack, totally ruining all the eight-track tapes except the one in the player. In the seventies, radio range was much shorter than today, so for the next 3,000 miles all I listened to was the Creedence Clearwater Revival eight-track tape.

My wife has never really understood why to this day I can barely listen to CCR and why I held a grudge against KFC and would not go to one for years. I believe I heard that tape over a hundred times, many of those times through Kansas, which seemed endless.

I have since relented and again eat at KFC.

Kelly Richers"

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.