Ardmore, Oklahoma is proof that it is almost always worth it to exit when you feel compelled to exit the freeway. Located just a mile or so off of Interstate 35, it is a city that was clearly once "something" - blessed with rich architecture that proves it; and not just pre-war but post-war as well.
The city proper is about 25,000, Carter County (which makes up the micropolitan area) is about 55,000. The radio stations in the area are mostly based out of here; the unemployment rate is a fairly respectable 5.8%.
It was a Sunday afternoon and early evening, to be fair, but even considering the time of the week, Ardmore's downtown seemed like a museum, an artifact or exhibit.
I really liked this town. For me, there is a kind of 'reverse evangelism' about small cities like this, deeply conservative and removed from the metroplitan zeitgeist. It may not be the place for me, I may never live there, the people who live there might not like me or who I am, but that doesn't prevent me from loving it back - loving its architecture and history despite its citizens' own indifference to the riches contained within.
Bonus: Ardmore's quite close to some scenic beauty, a real surprise for highway-goers expecting nothing but flatness from Dallas to OKC. Many of these trees are ashe juniper, i.e. the same "cedar" tree species that covers most of Austin, Texas. I think this is prettier than most of the Texas hill country, but maybe that's because I've been around the hill country most of my life and am *sick of it*.
Turner Falls is the biggest attraction in the area:
OK by ME
And that was... Ardmore. I will be posting more photo series shortly, featuring Oklahoma City, Dallas, and a special small-town-Texas tour that will feature a half dozen off the beaten track railroad towns between Austin and DFW.