JOPLIN, Mo. —
A Saturday bicycle ride gave Donna Cole her first glimpses into a part of Americana that she hadn’t yet experienced, despite having been a cyclist for about 15 years.
“I’d never been on the old Route 66 — parts of it — and it was amazing,” she said after wrapping up a 33-mile journey along the historic road.
Cole, of Joplin, was one of more than 100 cyclists who rode the third annual Route 66 Mother Road Bicycle Tour on Saturday. Cyclists traveled lengths of up to 100 miles along the historic route through portions of Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The tour was held in conjunction with Sunday’s annual Mother Road Marathon at the Joplin Athletic Complex.
Proceeds from the bike tour went to the Joplin Trails Coalition, which creates and maintains walking and biking trails in the Joplin metro area.
That was one of the primary reasons that Jim Gering, of Miami, Okla., signed up for the ride.
“In Miami, we don’t have any place to ride,” he said. “In Joplin, they’re more bike-friendly. They put the effort into their trails.”
Gering, who identified himself as a cycling beginner, completed the 33 miles — his longest ride to date — in about two hours and 41 minutes. He said he enjoyed the friendliness of the participants and volunteers, the rest stops with snacks and drinks, and the chance to get some exercise.
He said he was less than thrilled with the breeze, which hit the cyclists head-on as they made their way east back into Joplin.
“It went great on the way out (of Joplin),” he said. “At the turnaround at the Oklahoma border, when we were fighting the wind, it wasn’t so great.”
Also fighting the wind during their ride were John and Melissa Beckwith, of Monett. Keeping track with an app on their phones, they said they cycled 35 miles to and from Joplin through Galena and Baxter Springs, Kan., in three hours, three minutes and 53 seconds, averaging 11.5 miles per hour.
In addition to cycling for enjoyment and exercise, the couple signed up to participate in support of the Joplin Trails Coalition and its projects, John said.
“We’ve ridden the trails in the Joplin area before, so it would be nice to see more of those completed,” he said.
Joplin native Jim Grafmiller, of Senoia, Ga., called his 33-mile ride “excellent,” despite the tricky wind. An avid cyclist for about 15 years, he said he took Saturday’s ride easy, stopping often along the route to chat with people and take pictures.
“It was more of a sightseeing tour,” he said.
Grafmiller said he began cycling years ago because it was easier on the knees than basketball, which he previously played. He keeps it up because of the interesting places it takes him, he said.
“It keeps you seeing the countryside, and you’d never believe what you’d find on the back roads,” he said.
THE JOPLIN TRAILS COALITION maintains two trail projects: the Frisco Greenway Trail that runs through Joplin and Webb City, and the Ruby Jack Trail that runs from Carthage to the Kansas state line through Oronogo and Carl Junction.