Shelly and I like road trips. We went to Waco last year to the Magnolia Market. This year, we planned a trip to Pawkuska, OK. We wanted to see what Ree Drummond had happening at her Merchantile, or the Merc as she calls it.
I’ve been a long-time fan of the Pioneer Woman blog. I don’t remember who told me about her website years ago, but I was hooked by her marketing genius. I admired her ability to combine several aspects of her life into one website. She gave us a peek into her daily happenings, provided photography tips, and made throwing together a meal look easy. I admit I’m more of a Hello Fresh gal, but I have tried several of her recipes. I even admit to having a couple of her cookbooks. I’m a big fan of the olive bread and apple dumplings.
Originally our plan was to make the 12.5-hour (one-way) trip from home. It took us the same amount of time to get to Waco last year. Our plans changed when the week of our trip coordinated with another trip to Omaha, NE. We checked the distance and decided we could rent a car in Omaha, drive the 6 hours to Pawhuska, and fly out of Tulsa. That’s exactly what we did.
There’s not a lot to see between Omaha and Pawhuska, but the landscape is calming. There’s lots of blue sky. We were surprised to see gardens already flourishing and corn growing in the field. They must have got a jump on us with drier weather. We made a stop in Auburn, NE for gas and coffee. We stopped at a little place that served tacos for lunch and coffee all day. My latte was awesome.
We reached Pawhuska around 2 on Thursday afternoon. Although we heard the horror stories of long lines and crowds, we were pleasantly surprised to find parking in front of the Merc and no lines. Lodge tours were the day before. I’m guessing there’s more people on those days. It would have been OK to see the lodge, but it’s not on my bucket list. I imagine if you’re a fan of her show, the lodge where it’s filmed is a must see. If you go, be sure to check the schedule.
The shopping area is smaller than I expected. Most of the square footage is taken by the restaurant and upstairs bakery. Kitchen items and Ree’s (I don’t know her personally. Is it ok to call her Ree?) cookbooks are the main items of the Merc’s inventory. There are T-shirts and her signature tunics. The colors of the cookware and tunics are gorgeous. Since I just finished a renovation, I was flying out of Tulsa, and don’t look like her in a tunic, I wasn’t looking to make big purchases. I longingly admired a beautiful leather purse and a turquoise bread box. I left them behind. My suitcase was full. There’s always online ordering.
What you can’t get online is the eats. There was no waiting for the restaurant. Shelly and I halved an order of the olive bread. Yum! I had tomato soup and grilled cheese. Shelly ordered chicken parmesan. There was a lot of it. It made a nice dinner back at the hotel. Shelly shared.
After eating lunch and more browsing, we made our way upstairs to the bakery. I bought a blonde brownie. It gave me the sugar shivers. Shelly had a truffle. We both ordered the spicy cowgirl coffee. I found it a little too spicy for this old farmgirl with occasional hot flashes. It’s probably better on a cooler day. Shelly drank every drop of hers, cayenne pepper and all. Show off!
There’s no comparison between Waco and Pawkuska regarding the population and size of towns. In Waco, you can spend much of the day at Magnolia, but then visit many nearby stores and shops. Pawhuska stands more on its own. Unless you’re standing in long lines, making your way through the Mercantile might take an hour. Add eating time, without the lines, and you spend three. If going to the lodge, I imagine it turns into a longer day. You can spend more time browsing through additional shops or driving through Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. The entrance is right around the corner.
What is comparable between Waco and Pawkuska are the long-term effects being made possible with the revitalization of a specific area. As a marketing person, I admire the vision. Their own business initiatives plus the ones that spin off contribute so much to their communities. New job potential, additional tax revenue, and tourist dollars. Small towns need it for survival.
I’m hesitate to recommend making a 24-hour (home and back) road trip to Pawhuska unless you’re a much bigger fan than me, or you plan to make other stops. A plane ticket may be in order. I will say that however you choose to get there, it’s certainly worth the destination experience.