Oklahoma. I know what you’re thinking…cowboys, dust storms, tornadoes. And you’re right for the most part. But it wasn’t until I moved to Oklahoma City for our family’s PCS orders to Tinker Air Force Base that I really learned how dynamic and unique Oklahoma really is.
Within the state of Oklahoma are quite a few military installations—Vance AFB, Fort Sill Army Base, Altus AFB, and even Oklahoma Air National Guard and Army National Guard. And yes, even a few Coast Guard hot spots, to name a few.
As a native Floridian, the first state I ever moved outside of Florida was Oklahoma, and I quickly learned there were 6 things that everyone needed to know about to enjoy life in the Midwest:
The weather. In Oklahoma City, no weather type is strange (except a hurricane). This is tornado alley, and hearing tornado sirens for the first time can be alarming. Hearing and seeing golf ball sized hail pummel your house is eye opening, and is the main reason most people park their cars under a carport or in a garage. Tip: when the sky turns green, take shelter. When it’s not peak tornado season, you’re likely to experience a heat wave, or even a blizzard. Roads ice over and some businesses close down ASAP to avoid traveling in sleet (#dangerous). Thought earthquakes only happen in California? Nope. Oklahoma City lies near a bed of fault lines that are increasingly more active, seismologists say. Nothing to worry about, for the most part, just get into your nearest doorway for safety.
Grocery stores are scarce. One of the first things I noticed as a new Oklahoman was that it was really hard to find a grocery store near my house. Gone were the days of running to the local Publix, HEB, Wegmans, Safeway, or Kroger. Instead, my options seemed to be only Walmart or the commissary, and neither were particularly fun to shop at near payday.
Learn to love sports, or stick out like a sore thumb. I’m mostly kidding about the odd-man-out part, but Oklahomans live for sports, especially their beloved University of Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State University Cowboys. College football reigns, and the Oklahoma/Texas rivalry is one of the greats to be a part of…next to Bedlam. Ask any Oklahoman for a lesson on Bedlam. Professional basketball in Oklahoma City is still relatively new, but people love the Thunder. You’ll quickly learn when your favorite team comes to town, your spirit isn’t welcome unless it’s for the home teams. (I got this email from coworkers after my Florida State Seminoles were defeated by the Sooners)
Catfish is king. Oklahoma is a fisher’s paradise, but most love the waters for the thrill of catching catfish. Fisherman use all measures to catch catfish—like fishing poles or nets—but on a whim, I headed down to Pauls Valley, OK for the annual Okie Noodling Tournament, where the rules are “No hooks. No bait. No fear.” (Translation: catch the catfish with only your hands!) Whatever way catfish is caught, it’s your duty as a new Oklahoman to try cooked catfish. In Oklahoma City, locals enjoy the Steak & Catfish Barn, seen in all its hole-in-the-wall glory on the Travel Channel’s show “Man vs. Food.” Try the Catfish Challenge and see how many pieces you can eat. At last check, the record stood at 90 pieces in two hours.
There’s all kinds of natural beauty. Within the state, there are landscapes of all kinds for the viewing, from grassy prairies, to desert-like flatlands, to mountains ranges. From Oklahoma City, travel in any direction for a different experience. Oklahoma boasts 41 state parks, 2 national protected forests, and an array of conservation areas and wildlife preserves. Also within close driving distance is Branson, Missouri and Dallas, Texas.
Real estate is cheap. Most homes in Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs Moore, Norman, Edmond, Nichols Hills, and Bethany are relatively more affordable than most states. According to Zillow, the median price of homes listed in Oklahoma City is $179,900, and median rent ranges from $990-$1100 for a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. For military families stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, homes in Cleveland County are mostly new builds with great schools. And the drive to base isn’t bad, either.
Getting orders to the landlocked Midwest can be a big shock for military families coming from the east and west coasts, but once you get the lay of the land, and learn these 6 key tips, life in the Sooner state is definitely a set of military orders to remember.
Has your family been stationed in Oklahoma City? What was your favorite part?
Posted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager