A month ago, I was standing in Ree Drummond’s (aka The Pioneer Woman’s) kitchen. Now, it feels like it was a dream. So, how did I get there?
I’ve been a big fan of Ree Drummond for awhile now. Her show on Food Network (also called The Pioneer Woman) is one of my many guilty pleasures on the weekends so when she announced last year that she was renovating a building in their hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma into a mercantile (a store, restaurant and bakery), I could only dream of going, especially since I live, according to Google Maps, a whopping 3300 kilometers (2100 miles) away. Thirty-three hours of driving…one way!
Fast forward to October of 2016, the Mercantile opens and my Instagram is flooded with pictures of this amazing renovation. I casually mention to my husband what a dream it would be to visit, but only a dream since it is so far away. However, I am married to a man who loves a challenge, who is very spontaneous and who loves a good road trip so we started planning just for fun.
We mapped out the route and quickly realised that 10 days would give us ample time to get there and back while making a few other fun stops along the way. We found decently priced hotels with continental breakfasts to help with the cost and brought a cooler with us which we loaded with snacks, bread and a jar of peanut butter. We were set to leave on August 13th. I was beyond excited.
Now to top it all off, Ree posted on her Facebook page and Instagram on July 31st that they had opened up their lodge (where she films her show) a few times in July to offer free tours to visitors and that they were contemplating doing the same thing in August. The dates were to be announced the following day, August 1st. When I read that, I could only hope and pray that the dates for August would correspond to the time that we’d be there, a mere 48 hour window. Sure enough, the dates were posted the next morning and as fate would have it, the dates coincided! I felt like a child on Christmas morning! I was going to visit the Pioneer Woman’s lodge!
We left bright and early on Sunday, August 13th and drove 12 hours to visit friends in Gatineau, Quebec for two days. Afterwards, we headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario for one night since I’d never seen the falls and my husband had only seen them once when he was eight years old. The falls were breathtaking and I’m so happy we decided to go even if it was only for one night. We’ll be back!
On the following morning, we crossed into the United States and drove from Buffalo, NY to Terre Haute, Indiana, eating at Cracker Barrel for breakfast in Pennsylvania and again for supper in Terre Haute. You can’t beat the price!
The next day, we drove from Indiana to Bartlesville, Oklahoma (approximately 8 and a half hours), but made a pit stop in St Louis, Missouri to visit and climb up the Gateway Arch, a remarkable structure. From the top, we were able to see the entire city and the mighty Mississippi River.
Once in Oklahoma, we’d reserved a room at the Hilton Garden Inn and were not disappointed in the least! The hotel was beautiful and the room was large, but best of all, the people were incredibly friendly. And the breakfast, which was included in the cost of our room, was amazing.
My husband offered to drive out to Pawhuska that night so we could see The Mercantile, but I wanted to wait until the following morning. We walked to a cute little restaurant named Frank and Lola’s where we filled our bellies with delicious food. I had the penne pesto pasta with chicken and my husband had the burger. Both our plates were delicious and plentiful. I could’ve eaten from mine for three days!
That night, we went to bed early since I wanted to head out early the next morning in order to take full advantage of the day. This was, after all, THE reason for the trip in the first place. We headed out around 8am the next morning and were in Pawhuska by 8:30am.
The restaurant was slightly busy, but the store was still quiet so we walked around and made a mental tally of what we wanted to buy later. When we asked the cashier for the instructions to get to the lodge, she kindly pointed out that it only opened at 9am and suggested that we head upstairs to the bakery for some treats.
The second level of the Mercantile is absolutely gorgeous! In the far back is the actual bakery (show case, counter and candy display) and there are many tables available to sit to enjoy your treats. There is also an area with couches and a large television which is very comfortable.
Windows surround the entire floor letting in a lot of natural light. We ordered a few treats, a caramel iced latte for me and a sweet tea for my husband and had a seat next to a window. When we travel, we’ve taken on the habit of “grounding” ourselves at certain times to truly appreciate the present moment. This was one of those times. It was quiet and we were so far from home, yet it felt so warm and cosy.
Once the clock struck 9am, we were off! I couldn’t wait a minute longer to visit the lodge….but you will have to haha! I’ll post soon, I promise! In the meantime, here is a picture of Walter to keep you company while you wait 😉