Getting into Tulsa was tough: I caught my first flat. Leaving Tulsa was tougher: I caught a fist in the face from a lunatic pickup driver.
I’m unable to keep pace with all of the supportive encounters and marvelous landscapes. Therefore, while the bike is in Oklahoma, my latest Road Report is in Indiana, 800 miles east.
I skip ahead because on Tuesday, October 20 I was the lead story on Channel 6 News in Tulsa, a privately owned network. It was not the coverage I was hoping for.
The day started out well enough. At 10 AM under sunny skies I left my host’s home in Tulsa. I crossed the Arkansas River and turned onto Route 66, which parallels more modern I-244 that absorbs the bulk of traffic. Few vehicles pass through 66 on this industrial stretch. I pedaled by waste management, salvage/recycling, auto repair and an historic-looking Goodwill donation center.
My ambitious goal is Stroud, 57 miles from my starting point and halfway to Oklahoma City. That’s the farthest ride of my trip, and strong headwinds force me expend twice the energy for half the mileage. I’m going 6 mph… I can almost walk the bike faster. It’s not even noon and I feel like I’m at the end of a 50-mile day. Knees are already sore and I’m worried I won’t make it before nightfall.
Beginning of the end
I enter the town of Sapulpa about 17 miles later. At a rail crossing I try to hop off my bike and walk it on foot, but botch the dismount and topple over onto the tracks, scrapping my knee and palm. I shake off my clumsiness and ride on, turning onto the West Ozark Trail, which looks like it’s part of the original Route 66 and hasn’t been repaired since 1966.
I see few vehicles and no lines painted on the road. I find a desolate stretch with no houses visible and stop to pee. I look both ways and let loose. I keep looking left and right even though I hear no vehicles approaching from either direction. There’s just something I’m worried about, I don’t know what. I walk back to the bike and prepare an Instagram post. It’s just before 1 PM.
Wrong place at the wrong time
A dark blue pickup slows down behind me. The bike is still parked on the edge of the road. Expecting a friendly question, I’m stricken by unadulterated hatred.
“Get the f*#@ off the road, you f*#@in’ bikers think you own the road, I f*#@in’ hate you bikers,” spews a white guy with shaved head and tattoos up and down both arms. He reminds of Merle in the Walk Dead with his backwoods accent and cold eyes that flash with anger.
“I’m sorry, sir. I just stopped on the side of this quiet road, I’m not trying to be in the way,” I say to diffuse the situation.
He’s not listening. Reason is useless. Anger is seething into a rage. He’s almost foaming at the mouth. He barks more things that I can’t remember because I’m already in shock. And I am alone.
He squeals his tires, engulfing me in acrid smoke. He tattoos the road with a jet black tire trail and speeds off.
Did that just happen?
I’m stunned. Were it not for the tire marks I would think I had just imagined all that. In almost 1,800 miles I’ve barely had a car honk at me. I get supportive waves from pickup drivers who lift a finger or palm off the steering wheel as if to signal, “Hey man, happy trails.” In Indiana I had great road vibes from drivers and have finally gotten confident about riding across unknown roads with vehicles in size from simple sedans to gigantic farm equipment.
I'm walking off the shakes when minutes later a vehicle in the opposite direction comes screeching around the bend. It’s the same pickup and it’s gunning right for me.
A second pass
I’m frozen, watching it come closer. Is this really happening? Why is this happening? What’s going to happen?
The truck doesn’t hit me, but pulls up alongside the parked bike, which is between us.
“I told you to get the f#*@ off the road. You’re in the same damn place, I told you f#@*er to get out of here you f#*@ing idiot.”
I don’t remember if I say something. I don’t remember what else he says. He opens the door and emerges from the truck. He’s tall and wiry and coming right for me.
It’s like a bad dream where your feet move too slowly and you can’t escape danger. I’m turning my body away from him, but his go-go gadget arms reach over the bike to bash me. His knuckles smack my lip into my teeth.
My mouth gushes blood as I stumble away from his truck with my phone in my hand, too shocked to take a video or call for help.
A couple on their way to Walmart is approaching the scene and sees the guy take off in the opposite direction. They hand me napkins to staunch the streaming blood and call 911. The couple relays my location but I decline an ambulance. The 911 dispatcher is asking me questions and I’m stuttering over each answer.
“He’s shaking like a leaf,” says the woman in the truck.
I do need medical attention and the couple agrees to transport me and my gear to St. John’s emergency room in Sapulpa. I can’t even say the name of the town with my busted lip. Two sheriff’s deputies meet me in the emergency room where a doctor sews four stitches.
Jason, my host the previous night, kindly leaves his law office in downtown Tulsa to pick me up. Before heading home, we stop in Guthrie Green outside Channel 6 News where I meet with a reporter and ex-New Yorker, Meagan, for an interview that was the video at the beginning of this post.
After picking up antibiotics at a pharmacy, Channel 2 wants to talk with me as well. Darcy the reporter meets me in the parking lot of the shopping center as night is falling.
As I was leaving town that morning I was thinking how Tulsa was my favorite stop yet. Turns out I'll be spending more time here than expected.
UPDATE 10/21/15: guy was arrested and the story gets even more bizarre.
UPDATE 2/10/16: guy was sentenced to 10 years in jail (I think?) for his rampage later in the day: "GUILTY TO COUNT 1. COURT ACCEPTS PLEA AND ENTERS FINDING OF GUILT. PSI WAIVED. BOND EXONERATED. DEFENDANT ADVISED OF APPELLATE AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. DEFENDANT SENTENCED AS FOLLOWS: COUNT 1: 10 YEARS DOC SUSPENDED EXCEPT 1ST 2 YEARS (2 IN AND 8 OUT)...TO BE TRANSPORTED TO DOC AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. DEFENDANT ADVISED COUNT 1 IS A 45% CRIME." Anyone know what all this means?