After leaving Wal-Mart, my next stop would be Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. In order to get from Bentonville to Bartlesville on a bike, I had to head up north to Missouri and then hang a left. The worst section of road I'd encountered on my trip so far was two-lane, Highway 71 into Missouri. There was absolutely no shoulder and there was a constant stream of 18-wheel tractor-trailer trucks going both ways. I prided myself on being able to ride in heavy traffic, lousy weather, and poor roads but, this road took the cake. It is truly scary! I finally gave up trying to compete with the trucks blowing me off the road and started walking my bike. A car stopped and Steve McReynolds, a staff writer for the Joplin Globe newspaper, got out and wanted to know what I was doing. He told me the road was indeed very dangerous and his paper was working on trying to get something done about it. I ended up talking to the reporter for several hours. I liked the fact he was nosy enough to stop and find out where I was going or what I was up to.
Passing through the town of Fairland, Oklahoma (population 500), I stopped at a place called, "Boyd's Dairy Snack." Boyd's wife had just made some cinnamon maple rolls and they were absolutely incredibly delicious! On the outskirts of Fairland I came across an ostrich ranch. I had been travelling for miles and miles and had been seeing nothing but desert and cattle and all of a sudden, ostriches! I found out the owner of the ranch also raises pygmy goats. Even though the terrain going into Bartlesville was mostly desert-like and desolate, there was a beauty to the countryside. Must have seen about a hundred chicken hawks. I was told they hunt in pairs, which explains why I always saw two.
Phillips Petroleum is headquartered in downtown Bartlesville in a company-owned, 19-story building that was built in 1964. I was met and given a tour by Dan Harrison, Director, Public Information. The second floor of the building is called the "Exhibit Hall" and, as you probably guessed, it was filled with a variety of exhibits on the oil industry and company memorabilia. The 200,000-square foot building had the 60's look to it. About 5000 employees work in the headquarters and surrounding buildings. Bartlesville is definitely a "company town." Executive Vice-Presidents, on up, get reserved parking spots. Considering their location, I was surprised to find Phillips Petroleum has only five corporate aircraft. Was taken across the street to see the company's 2000-seat basketball gymnasium. There is also a swimming pool and bowling alley. Harrison scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale. Company's annual shareholders meeting is held in the basketball gymnasium.
Tulsa is about 45 miles due south of Bartlesville. When I got within 25 miles of Tulsa, I could see the downtown skyline. I spent a couple of nights in downtown Tulsa at the Westin Hotel. The hotel is connected to the Williams Center, a huge building complex and headquarters for the Williams Companys, one of the companies on my list.
Williams Companys, a pipeline and natural gas producer, is headquartered in a 52-story structure which is part of a company-owned complex called, "Williams Center." Built in 1978, Bank of Oklahoma is the major tenant in the building. Executive Offices for Williams Companys are on the 47th and 48th floors. The top two floors are executive dining rooms and the boardroom with half the space being shared with the Bank of Oklahoma. What a magnificent view from the boardroom! Even though there isn't much to see, you can see for a hundred miles. I was met and shown around by Graham Sudbury, Staff Vice President, Corporate Communications. The art collection is rotated and is mostly Americana. There is over a million and a half square feet of space in the building and the CEO smokes a pipe. Thirteen hundred employees work at corporate headquarters. The company has four corporate aircraft. Sudbury scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Mapco, an oil and gas company, is located about five miles from downtown in a dumpy-looking, 10-story building which looked to be about 30 years old. I was told the first time I stopped by, "The Public Relations person is gone." I went back the next day and was told the lady I was to talk to was, "...out getting things for the Christmas Party." Here's this billion dollar company with over 5000 employees and there's only one person who could talk to me? If she calls in sick, then I guess the company can't talk to anyone? Very disappointed in Mapco's lack of flexibility.
Tulsa, with about 400,000 people, has an impressive skyline for such a small city. One of the biggest tourist attractions in Tulsa is Oral Roberts University and the adjoining City of Faith Medical Center; both places had gaudy-looking buildings and didn't seem to fit in the area. Checked out the homes near Utica Avenue, a couple of miles from downtown, which I was told is where the wealthy of Tulsa live. Nice big homes with well-kept yards. Found the people in Tulsa to be friendly.
Arrived in Oklahoma City on Saturday, December 6, 1986. The weather was cold and rainy. I spent the day making a dry run to each of the three companies I was in town to visit. Tulsa was cosmopolitan compared to Oklahoma City. The place seemed to have no life. I checked out the State Capital and out in front of the building is an actual oil well. Rode around Nichols Hills, one of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the country and wasn't impressed at all. THE car to drive in Nichols Hills is the big Lincoln Towne car. Some of the houses were gaudy and looked out of place.
Kerr-McGee, an oil and gas company, is located downtown in a building 25-30 stories tall. Building looked to be about 20 years old.
Wilson Foods, food processors and meatpackers, is located about five miles from downtown in a two-story complex with other tenants. An employee working on a Saturday told me the company leases space. Not located in a nice part of town and the offices and furnishings looked very functional-no frills.
Fleming Companys, food wholesalers, are located in a new 6-story, red brick building about five miles from downtown and not very far from Nichols Hills. The building is in an office park and after knocking on the front door, I was told by someone leaving that they lease space. Right across the street from their building is a brand new red brick hotel (Waterford Hotel).
My original plan was to fly home Monday night after visiting the three companies but, considering there was a possibility of snow on Sunday and the fact none of the three companies had interesting-looking headquarters, I made the decision to fly home to San Diego Saturday night.
On the road in Arizona
December 23, 1986, I flew into Phoenix, Arizona, to visit Greyhound and Circle K Corporation. Of all the days to pick to visit Greyhound, why did I have to show up the day they announced the sale of Greyhound Bus Lines? The building housing corporate offices seemed to be about 20-stories tall and, near street level is a sign which reads, "Greyhound Tower", with a picture of a greyhound dog (their logo) below the sign. The building looked to be about twenty years old and there was a huge, fake Christmas tree in the plaza area. I went inside the lobby and was connected by a security guard/receptionist to Dorothy Lorant (title unknown), who informed me of the just announced sale of their bus line and that she was busy dealing with the major media and wouldn't be able to talk to me. Boy, she sure made me feel like a nobody but, I could understand her predicament.
Circle K, which is the nation's second largest convenience store chain, is in a company-owned, 4-story structure built in 1985. Out front is a street level sign, clearly visible from the street which reads, "International Headquarters" and atop the sign is the company's logo; the letter "K", inside a circle. What sticks out at the sandy-gold colored headquarters building is the full-sized Circle K store to the front right of the headquarters structure. The red, white and orange-colored convenience store even has self-service gas pumps out front. Went inside and was met by Lindsey Michaels. There is a helipad on top of the building but, I was told they hadn't as yet received a permit to use it. Headquarters is about a mile from downtown. Smoking is not allowed anywhere in the building. There is a fitness center with a fitness instructor. Saw a couple of interesting signs in the boardroom; first one said, "Talk Back to the Boss", and the other, "Our Meetings Should Be A Harmonious Clash Of Ideas." Ms. Michaels scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale. Karl Eller, the CEO, has an oceanfront home in La Jolla (where I rent a tiny studio apartment about a block from his home), and Eller also went to the same university as I did (University of Arizona). Months earlier, when I came up with the idea for this project, I wrote to several corporations asking if they would be interested in sponsoring my project. Never received a reply or acknowledgment of my letter from Eller or Circle K.
I spent most of January and the first half of February, 1987, writing to various corporations for sponsorship/funding of my trek. Many of the companies I wrote to were ones I had already visited. I figured the ones already visited had gotten a chance to meet me first-hand and would have more of a feel of what I was doing. My biggest expense by far, was lodging accommodations and, I was having very little luck in writing to the various hotel chains and getting any kind of positive responses.