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July 31, 2013

Local banker hits all 50 states

CHICKASHA — It was a quest so big, Bill Graves had to use both hands.

Posing for a picture in front of a Pennsylvania sign, Graves holds up a hand with five fingers splayed and another creating a zero, signifying that he had finally completed his quest to see all 50 United States.

That picture was taken on July 12, 2013.

Graves worked at Chickasha Bank for 31 years and retired in March 2013. After his wife became ill and passed away, Graves said that he and his children decided that they might as well travel.

Graves already had a good start. A military man, Graves was in the Air Force for 24 years. He was stationed in seven states, but spent most time in Alaska. He also saw Korea and Japan during his time in the military.

By the time Graves started his journey this summer with his son and daughter in tow, he had already visited 40 states.

Their route is impressive. The trio flew 3,600 miles and drove about 2,700 miles on the trip … in six days.

Their itinerary looked like this:

They flew to Albany, New York where they rented a car and drove across the state to Niagara Falls, to Canada and then back to Albany. The next day, they traveled from Albany to Boston via Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont then back to Albany. The following day they drove from Albany to New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and pen the night in Falling Waters, West Virginia. The day after that, they traveled to Pennsylvania through Lancaster to visit the Amish community. They then drove back to Albany and took a late flight to Dallas. Stayed a night at the daughters house then drove back to Chickasha.

The traveling bug runs in the family. Graves daughter, Charlotte Townzen is a teacher in Texas. Her husband is in the military and she travels with him when school is not going on.

"She's been to more countries than I have by now," Graves said.

His son, Gregory Graves, has a business in Colorado but also travels to Alaska every few weeks to work.

Townzen put together a scrapbook showcasing their adventures titled "Lifetime Goal Completed." The scrapbook is comprised of file folders, photos, decorative paper, tags, paper signs and other decorative bits that make up a tribute to the journey.

In it, Townzen documented details such as the markers they picked up at the Albany two-story Walmart to plan their route. They even met a few locals. In the customs car line while waiting to enter Canada, they met a man who graduated from Verden High School. Appropriately, the lyrics to "This Land is Your Land" are pasted on the last page.

Graves said one of his favorite things that he has seen during his travels is the Grand Canyon.

Some people travel to see mountains, trees or beaches, but Graves said he is partial to farming landscapes. Though he is not a farmer, Graves said he appreciates how the farmers in Pennsylvanian organize their crops into terraced, manicured rows.

Graves said that he's often asked what his favorite state is. Graves replies, "Oklahoma, of course." The proud Okie wore his Oklahoma shirt a lot during his travels because he wanted people to know where he was from, Graves said.

"There's a lot more to see in Oklahoma than people realize. We don't have a Grand Canyon, but we have a lot of things that are interesting."

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