As L and I make our way out of the airport to the highway (and her getting slightly frustrated with the “dangum” lady in the GPS) we decide we needed some snacks for the ride, and made our way to the Food Network Man v. Food recommended Ann’s Bakery in Tulsa.
We were hoping for a piece of pie, but seeing no pie on the shelves we opted for a peach turnover and delectable looking cannoli to go.
“So what’s next?” L asked.
“Well, I thought we were going to Pawhuska,” she said in her thick Southern drawl and smile that I had missed so much.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“We’ve got the day,” she said, plugging Pawhuska into the GPS. And with that, a decision was made and we were on our way. According to the GPS we’ll be in Pawhuska in 1 hour and 10 minutes.
L and I talked, while I took timeouts in the conversation to Tweet or Instagram something for my followers. I answered texts and phone calls from the kids back home in Massachusetts and one worried phone call from The Grinch (Thing 1 has had a tough day) in which I assured him that he handled it like a pro and that I’d talk to her later.
The first “landmark” we came across about 35 minutes into our trip is the town of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. This is where Ree grew up, I told L.
“Really?” L said. “I thought she was a city girl.”
The Pioneer Woman expert that I have become informed her that Ree grew up on a golf course here, and went to college at USC. She was making plans to start a new life in Chicago when she met her Marlboro Man at the J-Bar in town. L seemed impressed by my Pioneer Woman knowledge, and as we drove through the streets of Bartlesville I shared some more PW trivia from Ree’s book “From Heels to Tractor Wheels.”
“I’m hungry,” L interrupted.
My grumbling stomach agreed. So I started searching the Internet for an “authentic” Oklahoma restaurant. No chains on this trip. I found something that sounded good and set the GPS on my iPhone to the destination, but then we decided to try and find the J-Bar, to no avail (Ree has it disappeared?).
We decided to wait until we got to Pawhuska and try the Midway Café in town, recommended by the “I hate the Pioneer Woman” website (I’m not a fan, just looking for Pawhuska recommendations).
Deep into Osage County, we once again reset the GPS on my phone for the Midway and travelled on.
“Is this where they filmed August Osage County?” I asked, making more travel small talk.
“Actually,” L said. “I think it was filmed here in Bartlesville.”
Hmm, you learn something new every day.
As we got closer to Pawhuska I began to get a little fidgety. I was actually here in Oklahoma following the route I’m sure Ree Drummond had driven thousands of times. I’d see where she shopped (when she wasn’t stocking up in Tulsa)). I was going to see the building she and Ladd were rehabbing that I’ve seen on her blog and on her TV show. I’m not one to get starstruck, but I just thought this little side trip was equivalent to pouring that great big glass of wine at the end of a busy work day — Ahh, we’re home.
Soon we entered Pawhuska, and the GPS alerted us that we had just passed the Midway Cafe.
Except there was no Midway Café. Crap.
We parked the car and decided to head into the only store on the very deserted block, right next door to what was obviously the Drummond’s rehabilitation project.
The woman behind the counter at Sister’s Attic looked up from the friendly conversation she was having with some man, greeted us politely and then continues on with chit-chatting with the man.
“Is the Midway Café around anymore?” L asked.
“No, that’s been gone forever,” she replied. “Bought and sold a couple times. I don’t know where the last guy who owned it went.”
“Oh, well is there somewhere else around here to eat,” L inquired.
The man and the counter woman threw out a number of suggestions — Sally’s or the hot dog place around the corner, Bad Brad’s.
We thanked them both and began to browse the store, filled with local consignment items ranging from crafts and clothing to furniture and antiques.
“Ask her about Ree,” L prodded as she admired a pitcher. “She’s gotta know something.”
“I don’t know,” I replied, picking up a country sign with a message on it encouraging me to drink more wine (as if I needed that). “You ask.”
“Tell her about your blog.”
“I don’t want to seem creepy or stalker-ish.”
“Come on, I’m sure she’ll tell you something,” L prodded.
This banter between us went back and forth for about 10 minutes and finally upon returning to the counter L asked …
“So that Drummond lady from the television lives around here, right? Isn’t the building she and her husband are rehabbing around here.
Smooth L. Real smooth. As if she couldn’t hear us bantering in the other room about Ree. Not to mention the Tyvek and myriad construction worker trucks we saw as we drove in that were definitely dead giveaway as to where the Drummond’s building was located. But … maybe she was smoother than I thought.
It seemed L had hit on the one thing that would get this local woman talking. I even think I saw her take and deep breathe and puff up her peacock feathers as she started to talk this time. I could hear the change in her voice. Yup, there it was. I hear the same thing in the voices of longtime residents of my hometown when they talk about former Red Sox player Jeff Reardon; The famous musical Guthrie family (Woody, Arlo and the kids); or the several Olympic athletes this year with Berkshire ties, including the coach of the woman’s Nordic team who graduated from my high school. Yes, this woman started talking with a passion that could only be hometown pride. And she was ready to start talking.
She pointed us in the direction of a newspaper article on the wall that talked about the Drummond’s renovation next door, and then went on to tell us about the filming of Oscar-nominated “August Osage County” right up the road (another article hung up the road). She told us about the townsfolk view of Julia Roberts (eh) and George Clooney (Yeehaw!) and about the crew members who had stopped by her store for props during the filming of “some Ben Affleck movie that I don’t even think made it to theaters.”
Feeling as if we had a little kinship forming with this woman who was touting the famous residents and visitors to her hometown, L took a chance.
“Do you know where the entrance to the Drummond ranch is by any chance?”
And then … “I really don’t know. I think it may be on the way to Ponca City or something.”
And with that she clammed right up.
Hmmm. This woman seemed to know a whole lot about her little town, except where the famed Ree Drummond spends her time cooking at the lodge and taking photos of wild horses and cattle. Ree, you’ve got a friend in this woman.
We were headed to Sally’s Cafe. According to our now silent Pawhuska history teacher, Sally and her café were depicted in the book “August Osage County” by … and when the movie was filmed, although her café was too small to film in, they gave Sally a cameo in the film and made Bad Brad’s up the road the movie-version of Sally’s Café.
But at 1:30 p.m. Sally’s was closed. And with only The Prairie Dog and its hotdogs on the block of abandoned storefronts and windowless brick buildings, we decided to give Bad Brad’s up the road a try, but not before stopping at the Gun and Pawn Shop that had amazing antiques and a Frankoma bowl and platter I wish I had snapped up and peeking in the windows at the renovation inside the Drummond’s building …
I also sent out a Tweet to @thepioneerwoman before heading to Bad Brad’s, maybe she knew a secret eatery we hadn’t heard about.
But our tummies were grumbly and we had no time to wait and hope for a response from The Pioneer Woman herself. So we jumped in the car to find us some BBQ at Bad Brad’s.
And it was DEVINE!
To be continued …