The Woodward News

Local News

June 19, 2014

Border to border on Oklahoma 3

Highway runs over 600 miles

Woodward, Okla. — If you drive along certain portions of Oklahoma Highway 3, the gentle ca-thunk, ca-thunk as the road surface connects with your car tires and the sing-song whistle of wind through the car window can do more than take you on a trip somewhere in Oklahoma.

It can change how you feel about what's important in life. It can show you how being connected with each other, even if it is by a simple road, weaves tightly the fabric that is Oklahoma, said Oklahoma Today Managing Editor Nathan Gunter.

Early this year, Gunter and his photographer with Oklahoma Today, James Pratt, became interested in the possibility of traveling the expanse of Oklahoma's 75 year old State Highway 3.

It started out as a way to better understand the rural and outlying areas in the state and to reveal what makes Oklahomans different than people from other states, Gunter said.

And the trip has answered that question and more.

Gunter and Pratt's journey has taken them from as far north as the Colorado line just north of Boise City right through the middle of Oklahoma City,  as far southeast as the highway goes and to all points, and there are many, in between.

"We started in Oklahoma City last week and drove all the way down to the Arkansas line southeast of Idabel," Gunter said. "This week we have been doing the western portion."

The two are taking notes, having long sit down chats with locals along the way and soaking in just what it is about the route that holds, in its many layers of asphalt and concrete, the secrets of the real people who define Oklahoma, they said.

Gunter, who is journaling about his experience, will write a story of the journey and share his experiences and conversations with those he met along the way in an upcoming Oklahoma Today issue, which should be published sometime early in 2015, he said.

"We've been doing a lot of, 'That looks neat, let's stop there,'" he said. "And so we just go around looking for interesting places and talking to people."

Oklahoma Highway 3, as it currently runs was designated by the state in 1939, according to Oklahoma Department of Transportation documents. The highway is the longest stretch of continuously running stretch of road (covering over 600 miles) in the state, Gunter said.

And yet, not a lot has been written about it.

So since the second week of June, Gunter and Pratt have been slowly winding their way, in Gunter's red Jeep Wrangler, along SH-3, stopping at anything that looks interesting.

And the beauty of the trip is, speed is not the objective here, Gunter said.

"For instance, on Highway 3, just as we got into Beaver County Monday, we saw on the GPS that there were some loops of road and we noticed the trees in the area were more green than anything else around so we thought we go see if there was a town there."

Turns out, the two had found their way to a ranch family, Harold and Judy Ellis, who are still producing on the same land their families had homesteaded in the late 1800s, Gunter said. They also learned the couple had become well known for a confection well appreciated on a hot summer day in the Oklahoma Panhandle, he said.

"They talked to us for a long time about their long family histories in the panhandle farming and ranching," Gunter said. "We are sitting there for a little bit and the guy says 'Would you like some homemade ice cream,' and we said 'Of course we want some homemade ice cream.'"

Simple story, perhaps, but stories like it from many along their way were shared. Stories of struggle, happiness, tragedy, conflicts among towns members and just simple humble lives were shared with Gunter and Pratt.

As the two sojourners weave their way along the sometimes busy and sometimes desolate strips of Oklahoma Highway 3, they agree that the trip has transformed them in some ways that surprise them both.

"There's just a deep goodness that we found here," Gunter said and then Pratt mirrored the thought, but added his own take.

"I have always been an real upbeat person and this trip has reinforced my belief that I was right, there are still some great people in the world," Pratt said.

To follow Pratt and Gunter, log onto https://www.facebook.com/oklahomatoday

 

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