20 On De Road Again! Tulsa to Claremore

Finally, June 25 and we’re back at it. Out early, we cycled through local residential neighborhoods to beat the traffic. Then on to 31st and into moderate traffic. A left at the county line then past the HUGE Hard Rock Cafe.Casino. Then it was Historic Route 66 and onward to Claremore. The route is bicycle friendly.

Once Busy Riverfront

Double Arch Bridge

Classic Mail Box

Iconic Blue Whale

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19 Tulsa and a Final Attempt

A little more searching then we were off to Tulsa. We did a little test drive of Historic Route 66, our chosen route out of town and on toward Missouri. I spent time trying to contact the Newspaper and TV Station to see if they could help in our search for Melvin. No response. I also called all 15 Rapers listed in the telephone directory. My Uncle Roland had lived here but had only 3 daughters. Two of the calls were answered. Joe felt they had no Melvin or any of the others. Diane was excited and checked her research then called back and said, “We don’t think we’re related or at least closely related but we’ll keep searching.” Nice people trying to help.

I had tried to find info on my Mother after 1920 but ran into a blank wall. Then my Sister Joan said, “Try Portrey, they used that name after Grandma married Grandpa Portrey.” Voila, There they were. Each of my Mother’s sisters and brothers in clucing step brothers Clyde and Glen are listed and her twin bro & sis, Boyce and Joyce were 3 years old.


Portrey Family 1930

 Interesting, Grandpa Portrey changed all the birth places form Indian Territory to Oklahoma. How could he do that? He was the Census Taker in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1930. Nice handwriting, huh?

Here are a few details I’ve garnered. Melvin B. Raper was probably sent to McAlister State Penetentury. Grandma divorced him in the ealry 1920s. She had 5 children. They were scattered among relatives. Somehow, somewhere she met a fellow, Pence Irvin Portrey. He had 2 sons, Clyde and Glen. They combined families and soon had a son, Tulsa Rosco. He died soon after birth. In 1926 they had twins, Joyce and Boyce. Later, in 1932 they had Glora Dean, my aunt who conspires to details unkown to me. What a difficult life Grandma had, 9 children born, 2 died and she helped raise Grandpa’s 2. WOW.     


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18 Backtracking & Another Strange Encounter

 Cat is the most understanding person I’ve ever met. After thinking about long lost grandfather Melvin I wanted to drive halfway back across Oklahoma to visit the Cemetery at Maud, his home town. We, Cat mostly, drove to Seminole, OK. Checked in to a Motel then went searching for the Cemetery. We found Maud and stopped at a Service Station/Cafe. Inside there was no clerk only 3 locals sitting, talking. One said, “What y’all need?” I told them we were looking for the Cemetery. They gave directions to Cumming’s Cemetery then one asked, “Who’s your relative?” When I told them it was Melvin Raper he said, “Y’ know, my grandma was a Raper, her name was Caledonia.” I said, “My God man, we’re cousins!” Geez! Another STRANGE ENCOUNTER WITH THE PAST!


Cousin Kenneth

Cousin Kenneth told us that he thought my grandpa Melvin had been hit by a car while walking across the road to get his mail. At the cemetery the sun was hot and chiggers bit our legs but we walked through every row of stones. Alas, not Melvin but we dd find the stones of his parents, my Great Grandmother, Mary J. Raper, May 7, 1847 – February 1, 1909 and Grandfather, Joseph A. Raper, 1842 – 1909. Not the result we’d hoped for but a worthwhile result.

Cumming's Cemetery


Mary J. Raper

Joseph A. Raper

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17 A Quick Dip into Arkansas

Time is fleeting, we decided that we wouldn’t have time to cycle into Arkansas so, we drove in. We left the family in mid afternoon and drove to Fort Smith, Arkansas. The next morning we did al little research at Miss Laura’s Social Club, the local Information Center, formerly a Brothel. That led to a quick tour of the old Fort Smith.

In To Arkansas

Fort Smith was not very photogenic. We walked around in the heat as most of the displays are outside. They did have the old hanging Judge’s gallows that were being observed by a bunch of giggling kids. We looked without any success for Arkansas stickers to put on the bikes. Then a decision and back onto the highway.  

Miss Laura's Brothel

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16 New Cousins and Hershel

More family talk and photo albums. Boyce’s Sister Carole and husband Dooley joined us. She remembers lots of details but little about Melvin. Hershel arrived about noon. We reminisced about his days at Jiminny Market. He started sweeping the floors then sorting bottle returns and bagging groceries. He is already retired from Law Enforcement. He and his wife Jan live in Riverdale, California. He’s here to help Boyce and Betty drive back out for a vacation and to convince them to move back, buy a mobile home and live on his 10 acres. Hersh and Jan have twin boys age 34 and they have kids that want to get to know their Grandma and Grandpa. Sound like it’s becoming a plan?

Hershel & Pat

Boyce invited Carole and Dooley and his brother, Sid and sis-in-law to lunch at Pruett’s Grocery Store. Family operated it reminded us of Jiminny Market in Boron. They had a counter with salad and cooked food. We truly enjoyed watching, listening and talking with them. Great family fun with a GREAT FAMILY! 

Cousins, Cousins, Cousins

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15 Cousins, Family and the Boron Connection

We arrived about 4:00 PM. Betty and Boyce insisted that we stay with them. They looked great, especially considering the aforementioned rumor from Brother Bob. We had dinner at Able’s Bar-B-Q, a place already highly rated by our new friends in McAlester. Great fun remembering our pasts together in Boron, Cailfornia. At age 25 I moved my family to Boron and bought a little grocery store. There we found that I had two 3rd cousins, Boyce and Betty Couch and Jack and Lee Neal. I spent 7 years selling food in that little town. Boyce gave me a ride in the giant ElectaHaul truck down into the open pit. Their son, Hershel worked for us in the store form age 12 to 16. Hershel worked for US Borax for several years then became a Prison Guard. A tough job that required a tough guy. He is driving toward us from California and we will see him tomorrow.

Dinner at Ables Barbeque

After dinner we drove out to the cemetery and learned a few more family history tid-bits. Boyce’s aunt, Minerva was born Minerva Raper. She was my grandfather Melvin’s older sister. She and her husband George Neal took my grandmother in at age 12 when her parents died. It was then that my grandmother Rebecca met and married Melvin. Later when they divorced Minerva or Aunt Nervy, took my mother in at age 3 and she lived there for several years. We didn’t get all the details about Melvin but do know that he was a BOOT LEGGER and probably went to prison? Another little sister of my mother, Hester, only lived 1 1/2 years. She is buried near Uncle George and Aunt Nervy.We also learned that Reba McIntyre of Country Western and TV fame is related. Her grandmother was also a Raper.

Uncle George & Aunt Nervy

Baby Hester Raper

Reba's Grandma

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14 A Wondrous Life Moment

There is something about the way that we meet people along the road that is almost surreal! We met Becki, mother of Kendall who works out with Cat back home, at Harbor Mountain Coffee House in McAlester, OK for a sandwich. She is perky, like Kendall. We began getting acquainted when another woman came in with her daughter. Becki jumped up and they hugged and talked, hadn’t seen each other in a while. Then Becki turned toward us and said, “These are my friends from California, Pat & Cat.”

The gal said, “I used to live in CAlifornia, I went to school in Fullerton.”

Cat said, “My best friend, Ann Smith went to school in Fullerton.”

The gal said, “Anne smith was my best friend”. Then she took off her sun glasses and said, “Kathy, is that you Kathy Welch?”

OMG, these two were Sorority Sisters at San Diego State University. It was hugs, tears and memories as Ann had succombed to Colon Cancer in 2009. More stories of times past and more tears.  WOW, hard to believe.

Becki gave us a tour of McAlester that included the house where Kendall grew up. Becki and her husband, Ken, own Willburton National Bank. He’s hard at work but did help direct the tour via cell phone. What nice people.


Tears of Joy

Sorority Sisters

Becki, Ryan, Cat & Pat

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13 Okie’ From Muskogee

A call to brother Bob led us to believe that 3rd cousin Boyce had died and his son, Hershel still worked at US Borax in California. Disappointed I decided to try for Betty, Boyce’s wife and Hershel’s mom. Voila, Boyce and Betty were on YellowPages.com. Expecting to hear only Betty’s voice I was shocked to hear Boyce answer. The news of his death was definitely premature. So, we were off to Antlers, OK, way south of Tulsa. Since we were going that way we called and connected with Cat’s friend, Kendall’s Mom, Becki in McAlster. She invited us to join her for lunch.

Passing through Muskogee we enjoyed a moment of Country Music History. Merle Haggard was born near here and made the place famous with his song, “I’m Proud to be an Okie from Muskogee”.


Just an Okie form Muskogee

Cowboy with Bull Dog

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12 New Friends and Big Prayers

The car adds a new dimension of mobility. We’d heard of Utica Square, an upscale shopping area here in Tulsa. Cruising around and getting acquainted, we found it and were hungry. We pulled in to Queenie’s Restaurant for a bite. They were crowded and closing, soon. Wanting the AC, we stepped inside and were told that they were full. Outside a couple, Ed and Cynthia looked like they were leaving soon so Cat asked. They invited us to sit with them. We had a wonderful conversation. He’s a Pediatrician, she a Psychologist. He loves to cycle even though he spends much of his time in a wheel chair. A terrible car crash led to loss of most of his hip muscles. He maintains his practice AND still cycles often.

Ed & Cynthia

We asked what we should see in Tulsa. They gazed at each other then sort of smiled as they suggested, You’ve gotta see the Praying Hands. With explicit directions we found them on the Campus of Oral Robert’s University. Well, poor ol’ Oral put his son, Richard, in charge. By late October, 2007 he was removed. For details just Google but suffice it to say, it’s pretty juicy. The campus is visually impressive and there were lots of young people running and playing on the sports field. AND, my Grandma, Rebecca Yell-Raper-Portrey was a Pentecostal, too.   

Cat and the Praying Hands

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11 Bristow to Tulsa

Up early and ready to get this leg of the journey behind us, we decided to to cycle back in and have breakfast at the Big Mac. Damn, I had a flat tire, rear tire, too boot. So, while I fixed Cat rode to Big Mac and brought back breakfast. The only good thing about this flat, I was able to fix it in the air conditioned room. We finally hit the road at 8:30.

I was starving, we stipped for dirnks and I had a fish sandwich. Cat passed thinking we were almost finished. The road had been fairly good and flat and we were enjoying the sights of old Highway 66. Then we found that the only way to cross the Arkansas River was to get on Hwy 44. Wow, small shoulderof the road that was full of junk. Cars and trucks flashing past without a care for a couple of sweaty cyclists.

Cat, The Pole Cat


Gettin' Our Kicks!

An Official Welcome to Tulsa!

 Pedalling hard, we came upon a Tulsa Police Car, lights twirling. He had a car stopped and the driver was inide his car in the passenger seat. We pulled up to the window, he rolled it down. I tried to ask if it was okay to cycle on the Turnpike but he interupted, “Get on your bicycle and ride!” I tried again but he just said, “I said RIDE, get going, goodbye!” then he rolled up the window. WOW, Welcome to TULSA! 

The Arkansas River

Riding across the bridge was tight. Traffic was thick, fast and uncaring or unseeing two crazy people on bikes. The good news, we got down off and onto the Riverside Bike Path. A few miles of comfort, well, plenty of heat but comfort when compared. Then off to the east on 31st Street and into HOT ups and downs and traffic.

Riverside Bike Path

Lost, we picked up a cyclist who led us and informed us. Chris is a College Professor who has been car free for 10 years. He travels only onhis bike and public transportation. He led us along the right lane and said, “It took us years but  bicycles now have the right to ride side by side, traffic has to move left to pass. It’s safer for cyclist but you will run into a Bubba or two that don’ like it. He led us almost to our hotel.

Our friendly Comfort Suites Hotel gave us a ride to the airport to rent a car. (All city rental offices closed at noon.) First stop, the Wine Store. (They don’t allow alcohol sales here on Sundays.) We wanted a genuine Oklahoma Steak dinner. The desk clerk recommended Jamel’s Steak House, local and great. We used his directions, drove back and forth thengave up and ate at LoneStar. It’s a national chain and we’ve eaten in two others. You know, our steak was perfect! Perfect ending to an otherwise up and down day!

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