After an unprovoked assault on a rural road in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, I need four stitches in my lip and return to Tulsa by vehicle. I stay put the next day to rest and catch up on thanking Okies for their support. It’s unfortunate this happened in my favorite state to date, but leaves me liking Oklahoma even more than before.

First order of business is to try Weber’s, famous for their homemade root beer. I pedal down the sidewalk of South Peoria Avenue, a heavy-volume road. It’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk, but I’m feeling fragile and I encounter no pedestrians—only other cyclists doing the same thing because the road is so busy and has no shoulder.

Painted retro orange, Weber’s is easy to find. Tulsans apparently voted it best burger in town, but I’d like to try the runner up because the patty is limp and bland. However, their homemade onion rings are excellent as is their root beer freeze, which I sip through a straw into my sensitive mouth.

I eat outside in the shade with the blue bike parked visibly in front.

“Countri Bike!” shouts a man coming at me with his hand extended. Nice to get a handshake instead of a fist. It’s Jay with whom I’ve been messaging on Facebook. He reached out with this:

Jeff, I’d be happy to give you an armed escort to the Oklahoma border. I’m sorry you were assaulted in my State. I can trail behind you with hazards and offer jokes when needed.

The offer is genuine and he’s ready to go. Jay owns a medical billing business and can work remotely. I jokingly ask if he knows someone in Texas who can take over from there.

I interrupt the conversation when my phone flashes a number from Sapulpa. I don’t know anyone there except for Creek County sheriff’s deputies. A detective is on the line and wants to meet me. They have a suspect.

Support and hospitality
Also wanting to meet me is Samuel, a 21-year-old coffee shop worker who likes riding bikes and taking photographs. He’s from Tulsa but dreams about living in Brooklyn. He reaches out over Instagram asking, "Can we meet? I'd love to shake your hand." Sure, bud. I’ve got time so we arrange a meeting place through Instagram comments, which have been 100% positive.

On the way to R Bar up the street, a motorist slows to a roll and apologizes for what happened. Two shopkeepers come outside to wish me well. One is the Brooklyn-born owner of Blue Moon Cafe where I would have met Samuel had they not just closed for the day.

While locking the bike outside R Bar, a patron comes over to see how I’m doing and pays for the first round. Everybody in Tulsa is talking about this story.

The detective calls back to get my location and finds me and Samuel sitting on a shaded patio. He arrives in a pink shirt with a handgun fastened to his belt. The shirt color, not the gun, is more unusual in Oklahoma.

The lineup
It’s an excitingly nervous moment similar to hearing back after a job interview. Did you get the job or not? Did they find the right guy or not?

A white guy in a pickup truck in Oklahoma is like describing a business man in a yellow NYC taxi. I don’t know the make or model of pickup trucks. To me they all look the same just like yellow taxis. I recall the color, that it had two doors and was in terrible shape. A real beater. I didn’t get the plate number because in Oklahoma vehicles don’t have front tags; the back one was obscured by wood hanging out of the truck.

I look at the lineup of 8 guys in orange jumpsuits. I scan all faces in one wide-eyed second, register disappointment, and then look more closely at each one.

“No, no, no, no, no, no….”

I’m crushed.

Then the detective pulls out a second printout with 8 more faces. Play again! One of them looks familiar, but I’m not sure. Like a multiple choice test, I begin crossing out the easy wrong answers. I’m left with one guy.

My gut tightens, but my mind still isn’t 100% sure. I stare more at the picture and imagine him with a shaved head and no goatee.

“Him. This one is it.”

“What about it makes you think that?” the detective asks.

The mugshot comes to life. Inside in the driver’s seat spewing aggression at me. Those angry eyes, that evil mouth. I don't hear words, only hatred.

“The hairline, the nose, the eyes, the curvature of lines around the mouth….” I’m shaking now.

“I need you to make a mark showing your choice and sign an affirmation,” the detective says.

I circle the guy’s face and write underneath “This man strongly resembles who assaulted me on 10/20/15.” I sign and date the paper.

One step ahead
“This man is now in jail,” the detective says.

Stunned silence. I’m absorbing his every word.

“Last night he tried to kill his two friends and got picked up in Bristow. He resembled the man you described to deputies yesterday and we asked him, ‘Did you meet a cyclist from New York going across country to California,’ and he said ‘Yeah and I punched him in the face and knocked his bike into the ditch.’”

Soooo the guy I circled admitted he hit me?

The detective explains why. Good ole Franklin wanted to go back to jail to rejoin his prison gang. His resume includes assault and battery of a police officer, kidnapping, possession of a dangerous weapon and burglary. He was on the warpath and wanted to get arrested.

Turns out I was a mid-day table snack. For his blood-thirsty dinner at 8 PM he assaulted a couple, two friends he was living with near where I was attacked. This is where the details get gruesome: with a baseball bat Franklin smacks the woman in the face. She runs to her neighbor’s house for help while he bashes his guy buddy so hard the bat breaks in three pieces. Three pieces! Not finished, he finds a double-sided axe to finish the job, beating him into a bloody pulp.

When the neighbor arrives, Franklin points a handgun at him and threatens to kill him—according to the interview below (also on YouTube)—multiple times, a speech pattern consistent with how he bullied me.

Franklin flees in the same pickup I saw and gets picked up a few towns down Route 66. The detective says Franklin was actually disappointed he didn’t kill his friend. When asked if he met a cross-country cyclist from New York earlier in the day, he readily confessed.

I’m baffled yet grateful because now I don’t need to show up for a court hearing. This animal is off the streets and I celebrate with a trip to Tulsa’s Oktoberfest. A good day for me, a good day for society.