We were on a road trip out west a few years back, cutting across Kansas and dropping down into Oklahoma. Since we were in the neighborhood, Kim wanted to take a quick detour off of State Highway 75 and swing over to Pawhuska, OK.
If you are even remotely familiar with the Food Network, you will know the name Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman). Ree, her husband Ladd (aka Marlboro Man) and their family live on their massive 433,000-acre cattle ranch in Osage County just to the southwest of Bartlesville and northwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
We had been pretty regular viewers of the Pioneer Woman’s Food Network TV cooking show over the years and had a decent collection of the Pioneer Woman cookbooks. Our daughter is a huge fan of the show and is very much a living spinoff of that “out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere lifestyle” living in a remote area of the California.
Kim convinced me to take the detour, promising that we would zip through town and see what all the hubbub was all about, then resume our route west.
As you can imagine, the once sleepy town of Pawhuska is sleepy no more. Because of the massive popularity of The Pioneer Woman, Pawhuska has become a tourist mecca for fans of the TV show and the cowboy way of life.
Because of the Drummonds, the decaying city has been revitalized and the downtown area rebuilt featuring thriving shops, a hotel, restaurants and, of course, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
Finding a nearby place to park was a challenge even in the middle of the week. But the walk to downtown gave us a much-needed opportunity to stretch our legs after long hours of driving.
As we rounded the corner onto Kihekah Ave. we were greeted with a block-long line of people standing on the sidewalk.
If you can’t beat them, join them. So, we got in line.
We guessed all these people were waiting to get into the popular Mercantile, since the shop is known to attract upwards of 6,000 visitors a day! Upon further questioning of fellow PW (Pioneer Woman) fans, we discovered most of these folks were waiting for a table in the popular Pioneer Woman restaurant right next door to the Mercantile.
At first, it felt like being in a line for a Disney World attraction. To make sure her fans were not bored while waiting, (attention to detail is one of Ree Drummond’s strong suits) strolling Pioneer Woman staff members helped make the time go faster by entertaining the crowd with trivia questions about Pioneer Woman and the Drummond Ranch.
Our hostess was brightly dressed and offered genuine Pioneer Woman merchandise from her basket to whoever could get the most trivia questions correct.
Now stepping up to the trivia plate, Kim!
Kim has always told me she is awful at trivia. She cringes at the mere mention of playing a round of Trivia Pursuit. But as each question was asked that afternoon, Kim spouted out the correct answers.
After the live round of sidewalk trivia, Kim was awarded a Super Fan prize of a cut glass water PW goblet from the gift basket our hostess was carrying. I never knew Kim was such a Pioneer Woman trivia expert! She surprised herself as well.
As we continued to stand in line, we could see the pointed top of a lightly dusty, grey-colored cowboy hat making its way through the crowd. “My goodness, it’s Ladd Drummond!”
The “Marlboro Man” himself was working the crowd that afternoon. Definitely a surprise knowing how demanding ranching and television work can be. Of course, he was more than willing to quickly pose for a souvenir picture. Kim was definitely “twitterpatted” afterwards.
We finally made it to the door of the Mercantile and did a quick scan of the store before the start of any serious shopping. We headed to the second floor to take a look around and spotted the red-haired mom, TV star, and noted blogger. The Pioneer Woman herself standing at a small table off to the side surrounded by adorning fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
Unfortunately, we would have to be happy we captured Ladd on film, since Ree’s assistants told us she was just wrapping up for the day and had to leave for another appointment. Thanks to a telephoto lens, we were able to snap a few candid shots of her before she was whisked off.
Of course, the Mercantile was everything a Pioneer Woman fanboy and fangirl could imagine. Clothes, dishes, linens, jewelry, kitchen gadgets, clothing, cowboy and ranching themed goods, cookbooks and every kind of logo PW merchandise you could want.
We quickly texted our daughter to ask if there was anything she wanted from the actual Pioneer Woman store since we were right there inside. Of course, she gave us lots of suggestions that we could bring out to her when we arrived out west.
Since our visit, Pawhuska has continued to grow. Ree and Ladd have well documented their restoration and revitalization efforts over the years on her TV show, holiday specials and in her cookbooks.
The Drummonds have also opened P-Town Pizza, Charlie’s Sweet Shop and the Pioneer Woman Boarding House, a “cowboy luxury,” multi-themed eight-room boutique inn located in the former J.C. Penney department store building. https://www.pwboardinghouse.com/
A number of new businesses have also taken up roots in town, capitalizing on the Pioneer Woman enduring popularity.
Guided tours of the Lodge on Drummond Ranch are also offered. The Lodge is their family guest house, which also serves as the production location for Ree’s Food Network show. The tours are free, but tickets are required for Lodge tours and must be picked up at the Mercantile the day of the tour. No advanced tickets are issued.
If you are traveling in your RV, here are several RV campgrounds to try in the Pawhuska and Bartlesville, OK area. We didn’t stay at any during this trip, so we won’t be able to give a personal recommendation, but here some good options to check out.
According to RV Life https://campgrounds.rvlife.com/regions/oklahoma/pawhuska there are 11 campgrounds to choose from.
There are two Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds in Copan, OK to investigate: The Wah-Sha-She Park and the Post Oak Park. https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/233591?utm_source=campgrounds.rvlife.com&utm_campaign=RVLife_Campgrounds&utm_medium=referral.
Osage Hill State Park is nearby and offers 55 RV sites with water and electricity hookups, as well as tent sites. Reservations for all tent and RV sites must be made online. The park also offers a waste dump station for RVs. https://www.travelok.com/state-parks/osage-hills-state-park?utm_source=campgrounds.rvlife.com&utm_campaign=RVLife_Campgrounds&utm_medium=referral
The Settle Inn RV Park is a couple of miles south of Pawhuska, OK and has a few camper cabins and 19 RV sites – 17 with full hookups and two sites with electric and water only. The campground is pet friendly. Their website is sparse, with few details but they do have a phone number to call for more information. https://settleinnrvpark.com/
Be sure to call ahead or register online for any campsite availability and required reservations.