For What it’s Worth: An Amtrak Adventure from OKC to Texas

I may be a few years removed from being a college student, but I am still as cheap. That’s why when my sister was planning our yearly trip, I was hella stoked when she booked us tickets aboard Amtrak’s “Heartland Flyer.” The train travels back and forth between OKC and Fort Worth and will set you back around $62 roundtrip, which is more than worth it for 1. not having to drive yourself and 2. feeling like an Indiana Jones-esque explorer ready for an excursion.

That’s an adventurous lady right there. 

For those of you who have never ridden the Heartland Flyer, you are missing out on OKC’s best public transit options. Unlike the OKC streetcar, google did not reveal any instances of this particular Amtrak train committing a hit and run. The Heartland Flyer may not be the quickest way to get form point A to point B. But it’s the only way you can get there with an open container, as once the train departs passengers are able to leave their ridiculously comfortable seats to seek booze and snack service from the dining car.

Being that there are fewer instances of security theater, boarding the train Friday was much different than boarding an airplane. The conductor scanned our tickets and let us aboard without requiring shoes to come off or yelling at me for trying to sneak a 5-ounce container of hairspray in my backpack (don’t tell the terrorists).

Once we boarded, the train was off! With wide windows and plenty of legroom, we lounged in comfort as subsections of the metro passed by our view. To pass the time, I used my knowledge of living in “the city” for the last 7 years to point out fun factoids to my sister about the suburbs.

There was so much to say about Valley Brook.

Even though the final destination for the day was Fort Worth, the train made many other stops along the way. For example, taking the train from OKC to Purcell is going to set you back a cool $18 round trip, while an excursion to Ardmore will cost around $34. Next time you want to go to a football game in Norman but don’t want to sit in gridlocked traffic on I-35 for the first quarter, I’d recommend taking the train. You’ll only be spending $12 (round trip) and 26 minutes (one way) on the ride.

I know I am short, but look at that leg room.

We also stopped at the Pauls Valley and Gainesville stations. My sister, being the mom that she is, came prepared with a bag of snacks and a fully charged iPad complete with 4 hours of Netflix murder shows downloaded. Even if she didn’t, our seating area had plenty of wall plug ins to make sure we millennials had enough electronic devices charged to keep from having idle hands that do the devil’s work.

Though the train travels south near I-35, the tracks are actually in a more scenic area. We saw plenty of green fields, farm animals, and the occasional abandoned single-wide trailer along the trip. After 4 hours, we had arrived in Forth Worth, America! For this leg of the journey, we walked a few blocks to Sundance Square. There, you’ll find millennium-era buildings juxtaposed with century-old structures, beautiful murals, and a homage to Marilyn Monroe’s ex-boyfriend.

You wouldn’t think being a vegan in Cowtown would be easy, but it was surprisingly easy to find something to graze on. While my sister enjoyed the beef and other cute little animal friends Forth Worth restaurants like to serve with butter, throughout the trip I enjoyed cauliflower hot wings, big salads, and magnificent tofu scrambles along my journey.

Only exception was Riscky’s Steakhouse in the Stockyards. But even if I happened to have been unhappy with my plain baked potato, the Texas-style Long Island Iced Tea made up for it.

We meandered about for a few hours, checking out cigar shops and the occasional museum, before taking a Lyft to our Air BnB in Crockett Row. The evening was spent exploring the local beer scene culture of the district, but we retired around 8:00 to binge some episodes of Antiques Roadshow and plan our only full day in Fort Worth.

After waking up bright and early Saturday morning, we walked a few blocks to have breakfast at the hip chain, Snooze, before enjoying more of the culture and public transportation Forth Worth had to offer. The city has multiple bus routes that circle around the district, but we were caffeinated and motivated for a little more adventure. For a cool $8, you too could have 24 hours access to the city’s bike sharing service. With bike ports stationed throughout the city, it was easy to get around the Cultural District from museum to museum without worrying about parking or my 30-year-old knees wearing out.

We got cultured AF at the Modern Art Museum and then took a Lyft to the historic Stockyards. We made it just in time to see the cattle drive and checked out some other Texas-centric forms of public transportation.

People were paying $5 to sit on a cow. I repeat. People were paying $5 to sit on a cow.

After brainstorming with my sister about the logistics of borrowing one of grandpa’s heifers for the weekend, the rest of the day was spent between historic saloons and the John Wayne Museum in the Stockyards, followed by the Kimbell Art Museum and Crockett Row shops. Though I learned a lot about Texas history and culture over the weekend, some displays brought about more questions than understanding.

Am I the only one who finds this stuffed actual stunt dog disturbing? What the hell does that sign mean? And what exactly does John Wayne have to do with Texas? He was born in Iowa and died in California. Plus only 2 of his 140 movies were filmed in Texas

Our final day was spent exploring a few more blocks of the Cultural and Arts Districts before loading the 5:25 Amtrak train to Oklahoma City. We were exhausted from a weekend of adventuring, so it was nice to have a reclining chair to greet us upon boarding. My sister and I were already reminiscing about our three-day excursion before the train even began moving north on the tracks.

Our train arrived in OKC around 9:30 Sunday night. Unfortunately, there were no buses, horse drawn carriages, or saddled cattle to take us home, so my sweet husband as waiting in the parking lot to pick us up. If it weren’t for getting stuck behind what appeared to be two inebriated dudes on those goddang Lime scooters riding in the middle of the road for half a mile, our car trip home wouldn’t have been long enough for him to hear the story of our Fort Worth adventures.

Taking the Heartland Flyer down south has always been an enjoyable experience, but the fun doesn’t stop there. My sweetie and I have also taken connecting train “The Texas Eagle” even further down to Austin. The trip took nearly the whole day, but that whole day was spent playing board games in the dining car while enjoying the golden view of the Brazos River outside of our windows. The train may be slower than taking an airplane, but sometimes you need to slow down just a little bit to enjoy life a little more.

Hayley’s life is on the right track. Follow her on twitter @squirrellygeek and become a contributing member of TLO here.

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13 Responses

  1. What a great idea! Sounds possible you actually came back more rested than when you left. Unusual for vacations these days.

  2. This reminds me of my own sister and me taking the AMTRAK down to Brenham, TX back in the day. The big difference between the early 70s and now is we didn’t have smart phones or tablets. But it wouldn’t have mattered – my head would still be stuck to the glass enjoying America’s beauty!

  3. THIRTY year old knees? Oh puh-leeze Hailey, I have WRINKLES older than you! LOL

  4. Old person here. Bullet was Roy Roger’s dog. When his museum went broke, they auctioned off most of the memorabilia. Somewhere in the world there is a similar Trigger and Trigger Jr.

  5. wouldn’t be so quick to claim Wayne as an honorary citizen, read excerpts of his 1971 Playboy interview, yikes, straight up bigot

    1. Not to excuse bigotry but John Wayne is best known for films directed by John Ford. The latter was scarcely a liberal. On the other hand, Ford had a change of heart in later films about the conquest of the West. Witness Wayne in the Searchers or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

      Question is whether Ford let Wayne know what direction he was going? Did Wayne just pick up the check on his most powerful portraits?

  6. Several years ago, we made the mistake of taking the train from LA to San Francisco. The first 2 or 3 hours were interesting because of views of the ocean and other non-Okie sights. The next 9 hours were the slowest in human history. Plus, we ate a couple of meals in the dining car and altho the food was not bad, the prices were way too high for the quality of the food. All that said, I’ve heard other folks talk about the OKC to Ft. Worth trip and most enjoyed it.

  7. 3 words: Joe T. Garcia’s!

  8. Thanks for the review of the Heartland Flyer and Texas Eagle. I have always wanted to do the trip, and now may have too.

  9. may possibly be worth noting that if you have a subscription to the OKC bike share (Spokies) that you would be able to use the bike share in Fort Worth (along with many, many other places) for free.

    I have my (many) complaints about the OKC bike share, but given the prices of most other rentals around the country it paid for itself if you did a decent amount of traveling.

  10. I’m glad you wrote this. My partner and I like making that trip on the Flyer once and awhile. There are several good hotels within a 5 minute walk of the station in Ft Worth. It’s a great way to take a trip and slooooow down.

  11. In 2019 we did a “circle the west” trip on Amtrak. Heartland Flyer from here to Ft Worth, then the Texas Eagle to L.A. with a stopover. On up the California Coast on the Coast Starlight and over to Glacier National Park with another stopover. Continuing on the Empire Builder to a family reunion in Minneapolis, and then back to OKC on the Eagle/Flyer. Great fun. We paid for a Sleepette (bunk beds) and it included all the dining car meals. For about $3k we had all our transportation, accommodation, and meals. Next time, I will book a Handicapped sleepette, as it’s 3 times the size and comes with an ensuite toilet for the same price. We met lots of interesting folks & made wonderful memories!

    1. I should have said that the $3k was total for two, and did include some sightseeing as well.

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