What do you do with an extra week of Christmas break prior to the start of the Spring semester? If you have a track record of long-distance bicycle rides and a new bike-rack trailer, you plan a winter bicycle ride across Texas. And if you have family and connections to people who suffered and had homes and property damaged by Hurricane Harvey, you use your long-distance ride to remind people along the route about the continuing relief and rebuilding needs along the Texas Gulf Coast.
A team of five students, two faculty members, and one alumnus recently made a cold-weather bicycle ride from Texico, New Mexico to Surfside Beach, Texas to raise awareness and funds for Hurricane Harvey Relief. As the sixth bicycle ride organized and executed by students in the Leadership Studies Program at Hardin-Simmons University, the ride was the fourth across Texas for HSU Leadership students—and followed on the heels of two rides from Mexico to Canada.
BRAT6 music recap video.
Alumni, friends, and families provided lodging and meals for the team members along the route and 100% of the funds raised during the ride went to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The ride included many firsts for the team. It was the first to take place in cold weather, the first from north to south, the first to be planned and executed in one semester, the first composed of a team of volunteer riders (who did not receive course credit for participation), the first to include a new custom-built trailer for bicycles and gear, and the first to (almost) take place without a flat tire—one of the faculty members had a flat tire in the final seven miles of a century ride on the last full day of cycling.
The team loaded up bicycles and gear on Tuesday, January 2 and drove from Abilene to the parsonage house at First Baptist Church in Earth, Texas. On the morning of January 3rd, the first day of cycling, we woke up to temperatures in the low-20s and quickly put on our warmest cycling apparel. We loaded up bikes and gear and drove to the starting point on the western-most part of Farwell, Texas to begin cycling. By crossing the train tracks in Farwell, we actually started cycling in Texico, New Mexico. It was 22 degrees with a “feels like” 17 temperature as we prepared to set off from Texico. A quick visit with a reporter from the Farwell newspaper had us ready to begin the 100-mile day to Lockney through Muleshoe, Earth, and Plainview. In Lockney, we were met by HSU alumni who arranged lodging for us at First Baptist Church and provided us with meals in the evening and morning before heading out. A tour of a local cotton gin provided a fun and educational end to the first day on bikes.
The ride from Lockney to Jayton on the following day was the toughest of the trip. Strong winds from the south made for a long, hard, and cold day on the bikes. The winds, when combined with temperatures that barely made it above freezing, had the team ready for a rest, warm showers, and hot taco soup at our stop in Jayton at the First Baptist Church. Our accommodations and meals were provided by former students from HSU.
The ride to from Jayton to Abilene was our shortest day on bikes—about 85 miles. During our ride back to Abilene, temperatures finally rose enough to shed our warmest cycling clothes. We arrived back on campus at 2:30 p.m. and had the remainder of the afternoon and evening to wash clothes, secure needed supplies, and enjoy a short rest before heading to Comanche on the following day. On the way into Abilene, we stopped at Abilene Trailer Sales to show them our custom-built trailer (that they made for us) in action. After five previous long-distance rides without such a trailer, we felt spoiled by the ease of loading and unloading our equipment each day.
Compilation of daily video blogs. We used video blogs to keep friends
and supporters up to date on our progress throughout the ride.
At 8 a.m. the following morning, we met on campus to load up and begin riding to Comanche. David and Nancy Bridges, friends and HSU alumni, hosted and fed us in their home in Comanche. David, an avid cyclist, met us on our way to Comanche near Rising Star and rode with us into town and 20 miles beyond. Unfavorable winds were forecasted for the following day, so we decided to ride past Comanche toward Goldthwaite to steal some miles from the next day. That turned out to be a really good decision.
From our starting point the following morning near Priddy, Texas to our overnight destination in Briggs, the mileage for the day was roughly 75 miles. The winds on that day, while unpleasant, were not as strong as originally predicted. We fought mainly cross winds of 15-20 mph instead of the 30 mph headwinds that had been predicted. Narrow shoulders and steady automobile traffic on 183 into Briggs caused anxiety for the drivers of the support vehicles that followed the cyclists—much more so than it did for those out on the bikes. Warm showers and a tremendous spread of food provided by family and friends at First Baptist Church made for a restful stop in Briggs.
From Briggs the following day, we rolled through Florence, Bartlett, Elgin, and Bastrop before reaching La Grange for the night. Extended family members of two of our cyclists hosted us in their homes in Giddings for the night. Good food, good conversation, and watching the Crimson Tide win the NCAA football national championship (Roll Tide!) capped off wonderful day on bikes—one with pleasant temperatures and a consistent tailwind.
The ride from Briggs to West Columbia was our last full day on bikes. After passing through Fayetteville and Columbus, the terrain flattened out a great deal and we began to feel like we were getting close the coast. After a long and uneventful day riding to West Columbia, we drove to host homes in and near Angleton. Dinner at a Mexican restaurant and another night going to bed early had us ready to tackle the final 30 miles to the coast on the final morning.
After an early start, we put our feet in the Gulf of Mexico at Surfside Beach at 10:20 a.m. on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. We met and talked with a local newspaper reporter at the endpoint and quickly returned to Angleton to speak in chapel with students at Angleton Christian School. We enjoyed lunch with students at ACS and later went for a visit to Crocodile Encounter in Angleton (highly recommended!). An evening full of food, conversation, and sightseeing had us ready to drive back to Abilene the following day to prepare for the start of a new semester.
GoPro music video recap from ride.
At 718 miles, this Hurricane Harvey Relief Ride was the shortest of our long-distance rides to date—it was also one of the toughest. Extended cold temperatures, mostly unfavorable winds, and shortened hours of daylight made for some hard days on the bikes. The challenges faced on the road also led to a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of each day and at the completion of the ride. Knowing that we helped remind people of continuing hurricane relief needs made the experience even more meaningful.
As with each of our previous rides, we were completely overwhelmed by the kindness and graciousness of the people we met along the way. The support and encouragement that we received from friends and supporters during the ride helped provide the motivation to get up and go each day. The extreme hospitality provided to us by our hosts each day was amazing and humbling.
To learn more about this and previous bike rides, visit our website at: http://bikerideacrosstexas.com/
To learn more about the many different ways that we study leadership, teamwork, and organization through the Leadership Studies Program at Hardin-Simmons University, visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HSULeadership/
– Coleman Patterson, Director of Leadership Studies, Hardin-Simmons University