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Abandoned Tulsa Speedway

I have spent my winter traveling around northeast Oklahoma looking for abandonment. We have had a very mild season this year so I tried to take advantage of it by doing more photographing than writing.  Not that I was ever really good about writing a lot of posts!  Ha!  But, now that the Bradford Pear trees are bursting with white blooms, the grass is getting greener, the ranchers are burning off pastures, the weatherman is predicting thunderstorms and the trees are beginning to leaf out, it will be hard to access, let alone see, some of Oklahoma’s abandoned places that I have taken an interest in photographing.  Like the old Tulsa Speedway that sits empty and decaying along Highway 75, just north of the city.

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Entrance to the abandoned Tulsa Speedway on 66th Street.

I had no idea this place even existed until I saw someone post a picture on the Abandoned Oklahoma Group Facebook page.  This group is an excellent resource for history, directions, photos and just general information when I am looking for new places to explore.  Anyway, I had to check it out.  Had to see if it was still there as the posted photo was several years old.  Saturday was beautiful!  Sunny, warm and low winds.  Perfect weather for exploration and photography.  I found the speedway with no problem, but wasn’t sure how much of it I would be able to actually explore.  To my delight, there were no signs posted and just one gate that I could easily climb over.  I adhere to the rule, “take only photos and leave only footprints”.  And if there are signs posted, I don’t enter at all.

 

I wandered down the old beaten path to the buildings and found the concession stand, the ticket booth, the press box and just beyond that, the track.  Long forgotten and neglected, littered with old tires and race programs, it looked like something straight out of a movie set.  Once the movie was made, everyone just packed up and left.  But, if I stopped long enough, I could almost hear the roar of the engines and the smell of gasoline in the air.

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An old sign leans broken and forgotten against the fence separating the track from the long gone grandstand.

 

 

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One of many tire graveyards at the old Tulsa Speedway.

I poked around this place for over an hour, loving every minute of new discovery.  There was graffiti in the pressbox and old tires everywhere.  An old desk stood on one end  at the first turn.  How strange, I thought, that this desk was out here.  Piles of old race programs and a tattered phone book fluttered in the breeze coming from the open door of one of the empty buildings.  O’Riley  Auto Parts must have been a huge sponsor as their logo was everywhere.  Kind of ironic that this sponsor lives on while the racetrack died, what seems a sudden death.

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Get your tickets here.

 

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The infield of the old Tulsa Speedway.

 

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The abandoned press box.

It was getting late in the morning and I had a lot of miles yet to cover on this day, so I packed up the camera and headed back to the car, with  the echoes of past races still ringing in my head.  I  don’t know what will happen to this grand ol’ track.  Maybe nothing. After all, it has been here, empty, for years.  But, it sure would be nice if someone could fix it up and let the next generation of dirt track racers experience this piece of our past.

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The Old Schoolhouse

In an earlier post I had included a couple of images of an old schoolhouse that my other half had stumbled upon while delivering feed to a customer.  I have re-visited that old school several times since to see how it changes (if at all) through the seasons.  On one visit, the grass had died down enough that I was able to venture all the way up to the front entrance and step inside, hoping to glimpse a piece of “undiscovered” history.  An old desk or two, a textbook or even an old blackboard clinging to the old, sagging walls.  Man, was I disappointed!  The current owner was using it for storage and it was packed from front to back with old junk.  Bed frames, shelving, chairs and the like filled this old schoolhouse.  The chalkboards were long gone and nothing resembling a school existed on the inside.

At least the outside was still a joy to look at and photograph.  I was able to get up close and personal with the merry-go-round and teeter totter.

The old merry-go-round sits in a field of late summer wildflowers.
The old merry-go-round sits in a field of late summer wildflowers.
The teeter totter still has one seat left, but I don't think I would trust it.
The teeter totter still has one seat left, but I don’t think I would trust it.
The fence in late summer lined with pretty lavender wildflowers.
The fence in late summer lined with pretty lavender wildflowers.

This fall I returned again.  I was hoping to capture the fall colors behind the building.  No such luck.  The trees had turned all right, but to a dirty brown.  I did find one red tree by the road and managed to photograph the schoolhouse with it.

Schoolhouse in fall.
Schoolhouse in fall.

This winter I am hoping for a light covering of white snow.  Just enough to cover the ground and blanket the old tin roof.  I want to be able to drive the red dirt roads that lead to this old beauty without ending up in the ditch (they don’t plow the back roads down here).  Wish me luck!

Just a note about the history I haven’t been able to find on this school.  On one of the more recent visits, I ran into the owner and talked to him.  He had the name of the school on the tip of his tongue, but couldn’t get it to come out of his mouth.  The school is still unknown to me.  He did tell me that classes were held in the building up until the mid 60’s and that a folding door ran the length of the building creating two class rooms.  I gave the guy one of my business cards and told him to call me (or email) with the name of the school.  I still haven’t heard from him.

Bird Creek School

Wow!  It’s been quite some time since my last post and I apologize.  I have changed the name of this blog to reflect the types of photos I love to take, but the content will remain the same. I’m back and ready to tell you about my latest adventures!  I’ve already got a few short road trips under the 2015 belt that I have been meaning to tell about.  Here is one of them.

The old Bird Creek School is in Osage County, way back in the middle of nowhere, behind Bluestem Lake, near Pawhuska.  It is old, abandoned, decrepit and full of mystery.  Just what this back roads photographer is always looking for.  This one room schoolhouse was built in the early 1900’s for Native American children.  It is rumored to be haunted.  It has been said if you enter and write your name on the blackboard then leave that when you come back, your name will have been scratched off the board.

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The day I was there, was warm and sunny.  I saw no one around and it was obvious that others had gone inside so I climbed over the bent wire fence and cautiously entered the building.  I will admit, it was creepy.  The wind rustled through the broken windows sending the dirty, torn curtains a flutter.  The only sound I heard was the steady buzz of a hundred million wasps flying around the ceiling where they had made their nests.  No laughter of children playing, no scraping of chairs against the hardwood and no voice of a teacher lecturing her class.  Just that constant buzz.

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I didn’t leave my name on the blackboard this day.  It seemed to me that the rumor was just that, a rumor.  There were tons of names on that board and I doubted that any of them were very fresh.  But, it was fun thinking that the possibility of ghosts erasing the present to preserve the past was swirling around that board.  Maybe next time.

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Before I stepped back out into the warm Oklahoma sunshine, I took one last look around.  It saddened me that some of the graffiti on the walls was so graphic that I had to watch my composition so as not to include it in my final image.  Why can’t people just let things be?  I shook my head and carefully made my way back to my car, where I started it up and drove off down the dirt road and up onto the wide open prairie where another photographic adventure awaited me.

Happy and safe travels!

Gary’s Garage

My other half drives a truck for Mid-America Feed. He delivers grain to farmers and ranchers in northeast Oklahoma and southern Kansas. My other half likes cars. Old cars. Old restored cars. On one of his feed runs to southern Kansas, he goes through the small town of Caney, where there is a garage dolled up with automobile memorabilia and restored classic cars. He never gets to stop and look. It drives him crazy. He has been telling me for almost a year now that we need to drive up there and check it out so I can take some pictures. (The ones he has taken with his phone while driving bumpily by at 35mph aren’t good enough apparently.) So, a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday, he got what he had been begging for. We packed up the teenagers and my camera and away we went up highway 169 to highway 10 to highway 75 and into Caney, Kansas.

Before getting to highway 75, we drove through the tiny town of Wann, Oklahoma. I was taking in all the sights and my keen eye spotted an old, decrepit and vacant school. “Stop the car!” I figured I ought to be able to get some photographs of things I liked on this trip, too. My other half obliged and pulled over as far as he could on the narrow street. I got out and grabbed my camera. This crumbling old schoolhouse did not disappoint. I shot off a couple of wide shots of the whole building and then went in for the kill.  Old peeling paint on a knobless door.  Perfect!  An abstract.  More shots were fired off.  Then I rounded the corner of the building and found a pink wall with more peeling paint.  A bright green vine snaked upwards and an old forgotten workbench sat next to it.  Beautiful!

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I really love the way these shots turned out.  I think I will have a couple of them blown up.  On canvas.  Then hang them on my walls.  I have lots of empty white walls in my house.  This probably seems strange, me proclaiming to be a photographer and all and not having my own art hanging in my home.  Yeah.  Let’s just say that large art is expensive and my other half’s taste clashes with mine.  We both like empty white walls, I guess.

Back to the roadtrip.  It was getting hot.  My other half and the teenagers were getting impatient.  I went back to the car and we headed up the road into Kansas.

Gary’s Garage sits on a corner right on Highway 75.  You can’t miss it.  Old cars and gas pumps litter the lawn.  We turned onto the side street and pulled into the parking lot.  The museum (yes, it’s referred to as a museum) entrance is in the rear.  We walked in and my other half’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.  He was in muscle car heaven!

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There were four restored cars inside along with a plethora of antiques, including license plates, washing machines, tools, toys and these old glass oil cans that I thought were pretty cool.

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We were greeted by a friendly old man who knew everything there was to know about the stuff inside that museum.  It wasn’t long before a couple of his buddies joined him.  They would have talked to us all day if we had stayed that long.  The teenagers wanted a souvenir.  The old man gave each of them an old Kansas license plate.  They were happy.  We went outside and did some more looking.  There was a restored 1950 Chevy truck in the yard with painted flames coming off the hood.  My other half was in love!  I will admit, it was pretty sweet.  I took more pictures.

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Even though I love this shot, I have decided that I need a polarizing filter.  And a tripod.  And a new camera body.  Oh, sorry.  Off track again.  Back to the road trip.

We were getting hungry so finally said our goodbyes to the old men and thanked them for the tour.  We got in our car and drove back into Oklahoma where we stopped in Dewey for lunch.  If you are ever in Dewey, OK, eat at the Ahava Cafe.  They have some awesome sandwiches!  Dewey looks like another town I would like to explore when I have more time.  I’ll probably leave the other half and the teenagers at home.  Well, maybe I’ll take the teenagers.  They don’t get out much.

I hope you have enjoyed your short visit to Gary’s Garage in Caney, Kansas.  If you are ever in these parts, you really should stop in and look around.  Gary adds new things to the decor all the time.  And the good ol’ boys will make sure you have a good ol’ time!

Happy travels!

Sunflower Fields Forever

I love sunflowers! Towards the end of August, the wild sunflowers start popping up along the highways and byways of Oklahoma. They aren’t real big, like the giant sunflowers I planted many years ago while living in Kentucky, but they are just as beautiful. And tall! The wild ones grow to well over 6 feet and one plant will have more than one head.  The photos in this post were all taken on the same day in the mid-morning hours along the railroad tracks across from my kids school.

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My photography bucket list includes a day spent in a commercial sunflower field.  We don’t have those in Oklahoma, so a trip to neighboring Kansas is on tap for next weekend. For several weeks now, I have been keeping tabs on a farm near Lawrence, Grinter’s Sunflower Farm, www.krisgrinter.blogspot.com.  I have done some research and this one seems to be the only one left in the whole state of Kansas.  Most of the farmers have gone with soybeans, a more profitable crop.  Anyway, I am super excited about making the 3 1/2 hour trip up from Oklahoma.  I plan on getting up before the butt crack of dawn, like 4:30am to be on the road by 5am.  I want to get there before the sun gets too high in the sky.  Yes, the sun will be shining that day.  I have faith.  And will be keeping my fingers crossed.   And my toes.  Dull, gray skies and sunflower fields don’t make for beautiful pics, although I could get some very good shots of just the flowers themselves.  But, I want bright blue skies to showcase those deep yellow petals.

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In the meantime, I will have to just enjoy the wild sunflowers found in my own state.  There are several plants along the route I take to work and every time I pass by them, I smile.  They are such a happy flower!  How could they not make my day that much better?  Even the view from the backside of one of these beauties is interesting.

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I will share my experiences and photos of Grinter’s Sunflower Farm next month.  I can’t wait for that road trip and to see that huge field of sunny glory!

Have a sunny day and safe and happy travels!

Osage County, Oklahoma

Every once in awhile I get the urge to get in the car and go.  Because I don’t have a lot of money, I can’t go far, but a good day trip away does wonders for my soul.  A few weeks ago, I got that urge and I knew the only place that would calm that urge down was the Tallgrass Prairie in Osage County.  I know that I have written a previous post on this place, but it’s worth another trip, thus another blog post.  I just love the wide open spaces and the quietness of the place.  I can see for miles, get back to nature and be at peace for just a little while.  Oh, and let’s not forget the photographs that I anticipate taking while I am there soaking up all that solitude.

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The photograph above is actually Oklahoma ranch land that butts up against the preserve, but that view is breathtaking and makes me pull over, get the camera out and start shooting photos every single time I drive by a place like this.

 

I decided that on this trip I would stop in Osage Hills State Park.  A little side trip to start the day, nestled between Bartlesville and Pawhuska.  I pass by the entrance whenever I make this road trip, but have never pulled in to see what it has to offer.  I’m glad I did.  Old rock building remains, hiking trails, a small waterfall and a lake were all included, just waiting for me to photograph it.  I had done a little research on the park and learned that the park was built in the 1930″s by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  A group that was founded during the Great Depression to hire unemployed, inexperienced men in order to teach them job skills.  Their handiwork is still evident in many of the structures  that remain in the park.

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Driving further into the park, I found nature trails leading to Sand Creek and its small but wonderful waterfalls.  The creek was low enough, thanks to the drought we are having, that I was able to walk out to the middle of the creek without getting my feet wet and get a few shots.

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I had one last thing to check out before checking out of the park.  The lake.  After following the signs, parking the car and climbing a small embankment, the lake came into full view.  It was glorious!  A couple of people were in boats fishing and seemed to be having a bit of luck.  I left them to fish as I had found three row boats tied to the shore, just waiting for someone to rent them and take them out to the middle of that pristine water or in my case, photograph them as they patiently waited.  The clouds and bright blue sky reflected on the sparkling ripples as I sat down to frame up my shot.  As I photographed the boats, I kept thinking that this park would be a great place to bring the family for a weekend getaway.  Ah, maybe next summer.

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The day was ticking by so I knew I needed to wrap things up here and get to the Tallgrass Prairie.  I wanted to get some sunset photos and needed some time to scope out the best location for getting those shots.

 

I didn’t have to drive too far into the preserve before I was met with the infamous herd of bison that live and graze on the prairie.  To my delight, a mama and her baby were standing right next to the road.  I parked my car and against most people’s better judgement, opened my door and got out, keeping the vehicle between me and mama.  It was a hot day and the herd seemed pretty content to let me do my thing.

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On this trip, I decided to take the road that I had never taken and found myself headed for the very small town of Foraker.  It’s considered a ghost town by some, but when I arrived, I found it to be well inhabited.  No stores, but lots of houses.  I headed back to the prairie preserve to get my sunset shots.  Along this road, I came across a pipeline.  I had no idea that one of these ran through the Tallgrass Prairie, but there were working rigs lined up as far as the eye could see.  These are big, loud and just butt ugly, but set against the expansive Oklahoma plains, they seemed to fit right in.

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As I was shooting these shots, I realized that the clouds were thickening and the sky was getting dark.  I looked to the west and it was black.  Looks like sunset photos would have to wait for another day.  Instead I would be taking pictures of an approaching storm.  Pretty cool – but wasn’t ready to mark a photo of a tornado off my bucket list just yet.  I could see some lightning and heard rumbles of thunder in the distance so I decided to head back toward the entrance of the preserve and head home.  I passed a truck load of teenage boys that had parked on top of a hill and were out watching the clouds roll in.  They were going to get wet, was my prediction.  I drove a little further and parked the car.  I got out and watched them watch the storm.  Pretty amazing!  And I was right.  As I took these photos, it started to rain – heavily.  I retreated to my car but the crazy teenagers stood out in the great wide open, cheering on the much needed rain.

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So ended my day to Osage County.  Another great trip and several “keepers” for my portfolio.  Here’s a couple more of my favorites from this shoot.  Hope you enjoy them and as always,

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Safe and happy travels!

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Redbud Bokeh

Redbud Bokeh

Spring is in full swing here in Oklahoma. Everything is green, we’ve started the relentless task of mowing the lawn and we’ve experienced a couple of thunderstorms. My Redbud trees have started their downward spiral as far as blooming goes. They are now a deep purple and will soon turn into green leaves , where just last week, the blooms were a bright, beautiful pink, like this one pictured.

This bloom decided to sprout from the trunk. The pretty pinks in the background are the branches full of blooms thrown out of focus, creating what is known in the photography world as bokeh. Weird word – beautiful results!

I wish my Redbuds would create pink bokeh all Spring long, instead of just a couple of short weeks in April. But, thanks to photography, I can enjoy it any time I want to!

Hope you can get out and enjoy the colors of Spring before they fade away. Happy travels!

Spring Has Sprung

Hooray!  Spring in Oklahoma has finally arrived!  Aside from the occasional daffodil, flowers are blooming and trees are budding, bringing lots of color to this sometimes dry, drab state I call home.  Here, see for yourself……

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I found this fully bloomed Forsythia bush in Claremore as I traveled to work.  The lavender porch behind it gives it a nice contrast.  Here is another shot.  I wanted to showcase the contrasting colors and I believe I succeeded.  I really love this one!

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And finally, this is a shot of Oklahoma’s state tree, the Redbud.  I have 3 of these in my backyard and right now they are gorgeous!  I’ve been trying to take some nice shots of the 3 of them without all the neighborhood clutter in the background.  And once the wind dies down (which is a rarity around these parts) I will get some photos taken and posted.  But, for now, this is one I took the other evening, showing the buds up close and personal.

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I hope all of you can get out with your cameras and enjoy the Springtime colors before they disappear into Summer.  I know I’m going to!

Happy travels!

 

Afton, OK

The following photos were taken last weekend while visiting the “almost” ghost town of Afton.  I toured the Packard Museum and wandered the streets photographing the dying and decaying storefronts.

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This boarded up window set in a rock wall really popped with the green paint.

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Headlight of a restored Packard housed in the old DX gas station.

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Flags on grill of an old restored Packard.

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Empty chairs in front of what I thought to be an abandoned building.  What I thought was interesting, if you look closely, you can see that one of the chairs is tied up.  Did the owner think someone would take this old beat up chair for their own or were they afraid the Oklahoma winds would carry it away? 

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A broken window in a forgotten building.  I thought the dried up vines growing on the inside were ironic.  I also loved the way the blue sky reflected on the old beveled glass panes.

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Another ironic photo – a padlock on a door with no glass.

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This was an old motel along Historic Route 66.  The roof was gone – all that remained were the rafters, which made an interesting shadow on the wall.  The window looks out on the woods behind the building.

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And finally, these daffodils representing Spring and renewal were growing in a yard with a barn in dire need of a new coat of paint.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of Afton, OK, – the “almost” ghost town.  Stay tuned – I’ll be taking another road trip in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, I would urge all of you to get out there with your camera and do some exploring of your own.  You never know what kind of treasures you’ll find along the highways and byways of your great state.  Happy Travels!