WICHITA FALLS, Texas —
Riders choose marked routes between 10 kilometers and 100 miles. Rest stops along the way provide water, sports drinks, fruit, cookies and cold pickle juice, the desired drink of many distance cyclists.
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Norman had a good contingent of riders represented. Bicycle League of Norman jerseys could be spotted in the sea of brightly colored shirts.
Besides local riders, the community turns out in force for the annual event, now in its 31st year. More than 4,500 volunteers help make the ride successful. They bake cookies, staff the 15 rest stops, check-in riders, treat those who have medical or equipment needs and drive the “sag” wagons hauling riders who decide they’ve had enough.
In 2011, temperatures peaked at 109 degrees and medical personnel were overwhelmed for a time. When they ran out of ambulances with real gurneys, ailing riders were hauled on flat bed farm trailers, strapped down with their bikes.
In the small towns like Iowa Park, Kamay, Electra and Burkburnett, residents line the roads, wave and shout encouragement to the riders. Traffic is limited and most intersections are controlled by law enforcement.
This year’s route took riders by historic cemeteries, pump jacks, longhorn cattle, horses and fracking trucks.
We also were sent through a working Texas ranch, complete with cattle guards that aren’t always friendly to skinny bicycle tires. My favorite sign: Warning: Loose Cattle Ahead. Judging by the obstacles on the road, they were right.
Andy Rieger firstname.lastname@example.org 366-3543