After driving from New Orleans, Louisiana through Texas via Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, we now enter the Great Plains in the Oklahoma state to reach Oklahoma City. This is our last stretch of the trip before we roll onto legendary Route 66… If Texas was the kingdom of pickup trucks, their proportion in the overall traffic is actually even higher in Oklahoma, with sales statistics to prove it – along with a surprise state sales leader… These, my Oklahoma impressions and a review of my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel (“Albert”) interior ergonomics below.
First let’s start with a bit of trivia about the Oklahoma state, one of the country’s fastest growing thanks to natural gas, oil and agriculture among other things. It gets its name from the Choctaw phrase “okla humma”, meaning “red people” and used to describe Native American people. 39 Native American tribes are located here and more than 25 Native American languages are spoken in Oklahoma, second only to California. Oklahoma was originally used to label a project to create an all-Indian state that failed, along with a later similar attempt named Sequoyah.
Oklahoma has the second-highest number of Native Americans of any state (around 330.000), and at 8.6% of the population compared to just 2.4% in 1950, Oklahoma ranks third highest in the country below only New Mexico at 9.4% (6.2% in 1950) and South Dakota at 8.8% (3.6% in 1950). It is also one of only 7 states where the share of Native Americans in the population is above 1.5%, along with Montana (6.3%), North Dakota (5.4%), Arizona (4.6%) and Wyoming (2.4%). Oklahoma is nicknamed the Sooner State, in reference to the non-Native settlers (“sooners”) who staked their claims on the choicest pieces of land prior to the official opening date, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which opened the door for white settlement in America’s Indian Territory.
Oklahoma is home to 3.8 million “Okies” including almost 600,000 in its capital Oklahoma City, and its second largest city, Tulsa, was considered the Oil Capital of the World for most of the 20th century. Last bits of trivia: 1. Cimarron County in Oklahoma’s panhandle is the only county in the United States that touches four other states: New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Kansas. 2. An Oklahoman business man, Cyrus Avery, began the campaign to create U.S. Route 66 using the stretch of road from Amarillo, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma. But this is another story that I will cover in my next Report…
As I mentioned at the start of this article, the proportion of pickup trucks in the overall traffic is even higher than in Texas, even though the latter is considered the kingdom of pickup trucks. This is due to the relative rurality of the state, with Oklahoma City and Tulsa being pretty much the only sizeable urban centres. This observation translates into official sales statistics in a very striking way: the Top 5 best-selling light vehicles in Oklahoma over the Full Year 2013 are all pickup trucks, making it the first state to achieve this feat so far in my trip. But wait there are more surprises…
Best-selling new light vehicles in Oklahoma – Full Year 2013:
|4||Ford F-250 Super Duty||4,932|
Also for the first time in this Coast to Coast trip so far, the Chevrolet Silverado outsells the Ford F-150 to claim the Oklahoma crown, and not by a tiny margin: almost 1,500 units separate it from Ford’s best-seller… The Ram Pickup rounds up the podium, and after making its first appearance of the trip in any Top 5 in Texas, the Ford F-250 Super Duty is up one notch to a fantastic 4th place in Oklahoma thanks to just under 5,000 sales in 2013. The GMC Sierra makes a comeback into the Top 5 (it ranked 4th in Louisiana) thanks to 4,700 sales.
Note prior data from other sources (including MSN Autos) claim the Nissan Altima is the best-seller in Oklahoma. I will interpret this as being the best-selling passenger car, continuing a trend we have seen in Tennessee and Mississippi, because the clear dominance of pickup trucks excludes all possibility the Altima could threaten any of the pickups mentioned above in the overall Oklahoma sales charts.
A must see in Oklahoma City is the National Memorial for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, America’s worst incident of domestic terrorism. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial rests between two twin Gates of Time, framing the moment of destruction (9:02 am on April 19, 1995). The East Gate has graved into it 9:01 and represents the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate has 9:03 in it, the moment Oklahoma City was changed forever. The Memorial has 168 empty chair sculptures for each of the people killed in the attack, including 19 small ones for the children. A beautiful, moving and humbling experience. There is a real feel in this place that the event will mark the city for the rest of its existence. This, combined with the fact that this National Memorial is widely considered as the single location in Oklahoma most worthy of a visit (and I agree), was a bit of a wake up call for me. After having visited the National September 11 Memorial in New York City and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, this was the time I truly took stock of the horror that terrorism has inflicted on America.
Now that we are well into this Coast to Coast trip at over 3000 miles since our starting point in New York City, it is time for me to update you on my ride Albert, my valiant Ram 1500 ecoDiesel, and today I’ll go into its day-to-day controls ergonomics. Hundreds of routine commands and adjustments all through the trip so far are a fast-track way of testing how natural and intuitive Albert is to drive. Firstly my overall impression, and if you have read my coverage of the last Beijingand Paris Auto Shows you will now I am very picky as far as interiors are concerned: Albert does not know the word flimsiness. All instruments inside are and feel sturdy and robust, day after day, thousand miles after thousand miles. Albert is tough and made for work.
I have said this before and I will say it again, I love the gearbox transformed into a simple dashboard knob, freeing leg space for a potential third person in the front row. Once you train your brain to not use that knob to adjust air con – located just next to it, all is good and well in the best of worlds.
Overall, the dashboard of this Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Tradesman is simple but functional, with no superfluous buttons. Is a navigation system superfluous? When you use this truck to and from work yes, but on a Coast to Coast trip no. Oh well, my iPhone and the Google Maps app are now best mates, and the centre dashboard console screen is content just telling me what song I’m listening to. The three cup holders accommodate every size of Starbucks coffee or watered down McDonalds to-go Coke thanks to flexible rubber padding, and the USB port hidden inside the large container in-between the two front seats enables to both play all the music on my iPhone and keep the latter hidden from view.
A few tidbits are a little less intuitive on this Ram 1500 ecoDiesel, starting from the controls on the steering wheel. Keep in mind this is the base model so all controls have been kept to their most pragmatic selves, however I would have liked to avoid fiddling with the radio commands right in the middle of the dashboard every time I wanted to adjust volume or skip to the next song, in the process looking away from the road for a little too long for my liking. There is no right control bar next to the steering wheel, only a left one that controls wipers, on-off headlights and (very feeble) high beams.
The steering wheel controls are for (right) cruise control and gears and (left) onboard computer navigation to access things like fuel economy or change the speed measures from mph to km/h. The navigation buttons pictured above somehow required me to always check I was using the correct arrow, forcing me to successively look at the road, the commands, the computer screen, the commands, the screen and back to the road. An arrangement in a cross would remove that need. Also, a simple right control bar just under my right hand on the wheel letting me adjust volume and ‘next’ or ‘prev’ song would be a welcome improvement.
I’ll finish on a favourite of mine: the coin dispenser located inside the central container next to the USB port, keeping Albert in touch with its Tradesman label, roots and target market. I haven’t used it much while driving as all tolls can be paid with bills or card, more as a way to keep my change in eyesight, helping me making sure I spend it all before leaving the country!
The next Report will be dedicated to the Old Route 66, so stay tuned!
Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars
Thanks to David Curry for all the pictures in this report