Grand Lake ready to come alive for season
BY BRANDI BALL World Scene Writer
Sunday, May 22, 2011
6/06/11 at 1:04 PM
GROVE - At the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Grand Lake sparkles as the crown jewel among Oklahoma's 55,646 miles of shoreline.
"She's a beaut," said Grove's Adam Pulley as he looked out across Honey Creek Marina, just off Main Street in Grove. "I moved here because of vacations we took when I was a kid. For years, I'd sit and think of how cool it would be for my kids to grow up as lake rats. The lifestyle is one that I won't ever give up."
The scenery lives up to its lauding from the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
As No. 7 on the agency's list of "Top 10 most beautiful places in Oklahoma," Grand Lake comes alive when the lake season unofficially opens Memorial Day weekend.
It has nearly 1,300 miles of shoreline, but when most talk about Grand Lake, Grove rules the conversation.
With resorts, award-winning golf courses, museums, marinas and waterfront restaurants, thousands flock to Grove, the biggest city along the lake's shores.
But Grand isn't just for the sailboat crowd.
Travel to the south end, and there's a deep contrast to the private developments on Monkey Island and Patricia Island.
A whole other island
In Disney and Langley, you'll see more tea-sipping porch-rockers than wine-sipping boat-dockers.
"People come here to camp and really just have a peaceful time," said Thenya Morton, who works at Frosty and Edna's Cafe on Oklahoma 28. "Our lakers are pretty quiet, simple people."
Frosty and Edna's, a stone's throw from the water and operated by the family's third generation, has a constant buzz. At the old-fashioned lunch counter, complete with red bar stools, men rustle newspapers and tell tales.
Somebody says they caught the biggest catfish in the county. Somebody else thinks the Sooners will go undefeated in football this year. Somebody else shows off a picture of his new granddaughter.
After being told the baby was beautiful, Charley Mears smiles and gives Bob Goodwin an ornery jab with his elbow.
"Yeah, she looks more like me every day," Mears said.
Goodwin and his teenage grandson, Cade, are from Jay, but the family owns farmland near Langley. They took a break on Wednesday from building fences to head to Frosty and Edna's.
"(The breeze) is cool out there when you're standing still," Goodwin said. "But we don't much have time for that. The air conditioning is what I was looking for. Well, that and some good hash browns. Their breakfast is great - even better than my wife's."
Frosty and Edna's has been operating since the 1960s and is a gathering spot in the small town. Its cafe atmosphere is straight off a movie set, and the menu - hand-breaded chicken fried chicken and anything on the all-day breakfast are best-sellers - is full of classic diner eats.
The slow lane
Ketchum, Langley and Disney are separated by just a few miles and have a combined population of fewer than 1,500 people.
Small waterfront cottages with bright windowboxes line the highway as it passes through Disney, which is connected to Langley by the Pensacola Dam.
It's a quaint area of Oklahoma that at first glance may seem more deserted than desirable.
But give it a chance. It will warm up to you, just like the locals warmed up to the "lakers" who invade the area.
"There's not a better reward than hitting the lake for some fishing after a day brush hogging," Goodwin said. "I don't view the lakers as tourists, because they try to just blend in."
There aren't any hot spots around Langley and Disney. That's because visitors there - RVers, campers and anglers - are there for the water, not for fine dining and four-star hotels.
"If you want that, you go up to Grove, and that's OK," Goodwin said as he motioned for the waitress at the cafe to bring him some more gravy.
"That's just not my speed. The out-of-towners around here aren't wanting to be seen, they want to be in the water or at the campground."
Back in Grove, Adam Pulley says he thinks lake life should be a little more luxurious.
"See those houses up there?" Pulley asks as he nods past a small yacht at Honey Creek Marina and toward massive homes overlooking the water. "That's why you come to Grand Lake."
No matter the reason that draws you in, Grand Lake's options are as varied as its breathtaking sunsets.
When you aren't relaxing on land or on the water, here are a few can't-miss attractions along Grand Lake's shores:
Cherokee Queen Dinner Cruises
Docked at 11368 U.S. 59 Grove at Sailboat Bridge, Grove
The twin-decked Cherokee Queen I has been one of Grand Lake's most popular and unique attractions since it was built in 1945. The Cherokee Queen II, also a paddle-wheel riverboat, boasts three decks and two dance floors. The ships are reminiscent of the romance and adventure of the old Mississippi riverboats. Cruises glide past beautiful homes along Grand Lake, Monkey Island, Shangri-La Resort and Har-Ber Village.
4404 W. 20th St., Grove
Tucked away in a quiet cove, Har-Ber Village had 32,000 visitors last summer. It is one of the largest antique museums in the U.S. with 112 buildings housing antiques collections. At Har-Ber, you'll also find a replicated 1800s-era town. Admission is $7.50 for adults (ages 14-62), $5 for seniors and free for kids 14 and under. Group discounts available. Route 66 cruisers will come through on Memorial Day weekend.
Ugly John's Bar and Grill
450780 Thunder Bay Road, Afton
Full-service marina with bar and grill. Open-air, laid-back restaurant right on the water. Live music after dark on Saturdays. Every Sunday of the summer, Ugly's hosts "Rock the Dock" on its floating stage, where boaters can jam from the comfort of their boats. Ugly's is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays that fall on Monday. Kitchen opens at noon and closes at 9 p.m. Bar is open Fridays until midnight and 2 a.m. on Saturdays, holidays.
The National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame Museum
55251 E. Highway 85A, Afton
The 40,000-square-foot facility houses more than 50 custom-built exotic vehicles by world-renowned custom car builder and designer Darryl Starbird, as well as many other famous hot rod and custom car builders.
Disney-Blue State Park and the Pensacola Dam
Two blocks east of Disney on Oklahoma 28, between flood gates.
Disney-Blue State Park sits on 32 acres of Grand Lake frontage with 40 campsites. The park is situated between the flood gates of Pensacola Dam, which is the largest multiple-arch dam in the world, spanning 5,145 feet with 51 arches. The dam has 42 floodgates on the spillways. Bass-fishing is abundant near the park.
Original Print Headline: Lake love
Brandi Ball 918-581-8369
A view along Main Street in Grove shows the period buildings at Har-Ber Village, a popular tourist attraction. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
A regular settles down at the counter for lunch at Frosty and Edna’s Restaurant on Thursday inLangley. The diner has been operating since the 1960s and is a gathering spot in the small town. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
A statue of Christ is seen outside the small church at Har-Ber Village. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
A patron eats lunch in a booth at Frosty and Edna’s Restaurantin Langley. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Mannequins with other items depicting the “Roaring ’20s” are displayedin one of the cabins at Har-Ber Village in Grove. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Patrons enjoy lunch with a view of the Honey Creek Marina at the Lazy Parrot Steakhousein Grove. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World