A Troubling Past, A Promising Present

Our Tulsa stay (May 31 – June 1) coincided with the 95th annniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot, in which a prosperous neighborhood built by freed slaves and their descendants was destroyed, and up to 300 Tulsans were killed.  If that was the “good old days,” we prefer the modern era, in which people in Oklahoma and the USA more or less get along.

Today we pedaled 72 miles to Chandler.


These three had a long and friendly chat in Chandler where Jeffrey ate dinner.  Something about road repair; the accents and lack of context made it hard for Jeffrey to follow.


This newspaper clipping in the motel office shows 2013’s top local high school students—among them a Patel.  In 1923, two years after the Tulsa Riot, the Supreme Court ruled that people from India were ineligible for U.S. citizenship, and from 1924-65, their immigration was prohibited.  Things today are better indeed!

We got a late start in Tulsa.  Jeffrey awoke to a flat rear tire.  A bit of gravel had penetrated the tire and tube; evidently we arrived with a slow leak.  Jeffrey put in a new tube, reinforced the weakened spot on the tire, kept the old tube for later repair and reuse, and away we went.

The delay meant we encountered Kerry and Darren, a happy accident.

A serious illness cost Kerry his balance and some of his ability to move.  As his aide Darren was driving Kerry to physical therapy, Kerry called out from their truck, asked Jeffrey about the Ride, and said he no longer was able to bicycle.  Jeffrey invited Kerry to take a spin on the Sprint 26.  Kerry loved it!  Kerry and Darren (a successful salesman who started a second career as a home health aide and massage therapist) are very supportive of refugee rights; Kerry correctly observed that the U.S. immigration system is broken.

Our new friends returned to their truck, and we crossed the Arkansas River, here seen from the east bank and from the middle of a bridge.

On the far bank, Jeff rode up alongside.


Jeff is a cycling enthusiast.  A relatively recent transplant to Tulsa, he shared some great insights into local culture.  Jeff spent 20 years in the Navy, most of it as a submariner.  Now he studies and teaches nonviolence—not just as a philosophy, but as a way of life, a way of dealing with others—which he says makes him a bit unusual in Oklahoma.  He said the government has expressed interest in having him teach nonviolence in public schools, but there are bureaucratic hurdles.  Of course Jeff thinks people should extend a hand to those fleeing violence.  He gave us route advice and good wishes on the Ride.

Some sights of the day, between thunderstorms:


Hills!  This one continued around the bend.

Wildlife statues!


It’s in Sapulpa.  It isn’t a joke.


We took a 3-mile detour over this old bridge onto part of the original narrow concrete Route 66.


Much of the old road was in bone-rattlingly terrible condition.  This 2-D photo only hints at how hard it was to ride on this surface.


This abandoned drive-in movie theater on old Route 66 is for sale.

Some of the wildflowers we passed:

Oklahoma did not become a state until 1907.  Signs still reflect territories assigned to tribes before Oklahoma was reorganized after the 1861-65 Civil War.  Some US-tribal treaties were forever broken in retaliation for tribal support of the Confederacy, which seems fair enough until one remembers that the rebel states themselves were “punished” through Reconstruction for only 12 years.

What we saw of several small towns looked neo-nostalgic, evoking Western movie sets in the wide streets and false-front building facades.  Some looked prosperous.  Some did not.

This Baptist church building is enormous.  A significant number of churches have signs in Spanish, more evidence that this is not your great-grandfather’s Oklahoma.


Vigorous Christianity seems at odds with gun culture (guns and concealed-carry classes are offered everywhere).  What some locals say is widespread suspicion of government seems at odds with the locals’ worshipful respect for the military.  We don’t get it.  But we do get that, when the issue is presented gently and as a matter of fairness, everyone we’ve met so far agrees that America should protect asylum seekers and provide lawyers to help applicants make the best case they can under the law.

We’ll keep talking and listening and see whether this observation holds.