Route 66 is going to be overrun this weekend by hundreds of bikers in tight spandex. This is not some bizarre splinter group of the Hells Angels, but rather participants in the state's largest fund-raiser for multiple sclerosis, where herds of philanthropists will grab their bicycles and hit the Mother Road on Saturday, finishing at the state Capitol on Sunday.
Ray Mack, chairman of the bike ride, estimated the total distance as 135 to 140 miles, but added that the event is designed to be approachable for riders of all levels.
"I've labeled it as '10 miles of fun' because every 8 to 12 miles, we will have a rest stop with food, supplies, medical support, porta-potties " everything you need to get off the bike, rest a bit and then get back on to ride another 10 miles."
Various civic groups and businesses along the ride will be providing food and entertainment. Mack said all riders will be fed in the morning, at lunch and at dinner before the Saturday overnight in Chandler.
"So, it's not like a 70-mile continuous ride to Chandler where it's, 'Oh, my gosh, it's hot, this is horrible!' It is 10 miles of fun," he said.
This is the 24th year for the MS ride, and Mack said that 80 percent of the riders last year were from Tulsa, which is why organizers decided to link it and Oklahoma City together into one event. He acknowledged that exhausted riders rolling into Oklahoma City on Sunday, but with their cars back in Tulsa, could create problems.
"We are offering free bus rides through Red Carpet," Mack said. "On Friday night, we are offering a free shuttle from the Jim Thorpe Building, and we will take them to Tulsa for free, and we've got discounted hotel rate at the Crowne Plaza. On Sunday, we will have a shuttle that will bring the riders from Tulsa back. The buses will be running a loop from Oklahoma City to Tulsa."
To ensure the safety of the riders, 25 support vehicles will be used throughout the ride, the roadways will be marked, and sheriff and police departments will lend a hand to keep things under control. The event is just a ride, not a race, so there is no pressure for leisure riders to keep pace with more motivated participants.
"I have riders, like Team Tortoise out of the Claremore area, that ride in denim skirts and a campus cruiser-type bike," Mack said. "Last year, they stopped at every rest stop and chatted. To do the 70 miles each day, it took them 11 and a half hours, but they made a whole day of it and had a good time. I have another lady and gentleman who rode the 70 miles in three and a half hours. They get on the bike and don't stop; they are the Lance Armstrong wannabes."
He said the event's September date, rather than a more traditional summertime schedule, caters to those affected by MS, a disease that targets the nervous system. It is hard for those with MS to deal with the heat, and organizers want to make the event as accessible as possible.
"One year, we had a client come out who had MS and he really wanted to ride, but wasn't able to," Mack said. "So, we got a special carrier for him and one of our captains pulled him the entire 150 miles." "Charles Martin