Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tour de Meers 2014: Bison and bicycles

"... do not ride into herds of bison and longhorns that can charge you..." -- Tour de Meers disclaimer. 

^ uhm, ok. I gotta try this! :)

Tour de Meers is a non-competitive benefit bicycle ride held during the Memorial Day weekend in southwestern Oklahoma. 

This event is an annual fundraiser for the community of Meers VFD, and this year's ride was the 25th anniversary since debuting in 1989.

You can choose from five routes ranging from 10 to 62 miles. All distances begin and end at the fire department.

Phil Parks and I cycled the 57 miler route... it's gorgeous! This distance offers three distinct sections:

1) mountains and wildlife refuge,
2) flat lands,

3) wind farm and rocks.

Most of the climbing and all the steepest climbs (which aren't very steep) occur in the first third of the course.

This was one of the most unique rides I've done for several reasons: 

- You cycle thru a wildlife refuge.

- You cycle over 4 cattle guards.

- The peaks of the Wichita Mountains provide unique scenery.

- You rest stop in Cooperton, OK which is a ghost town. 

- A wind farm offers an atypical backdrop.

- Zero to little auto traffic.

The weather was perfect for cycling! Cloudy, light wind and temperatures in the upper 60s at start time. Some light rain barely developed about an hour into the ride, and it felt refreshing! Cool water on your face :) 

The mass start was unusual: the two longest rides begin heading south while the shortest routes head north. This looks strange as the cyclists in the middle are pointed in opposite directions. Once this minor confusion ends, everything seems normal.

On the 57 and 62, I really like how you immediately get into the heart of the ride.

An immediate downhill in the first quarter mile accelerates you to 30mph. You zoom and twist downhill into "downtown" Meers. You cycle past the
famous Meers Store.

Moderate climbing begins after that with mountain tops lining the right side of the road. You feel like you're on a volcanic Hawaiian Island when you look straight up at the peaks-- it's that pretty.

The first third of the ride is the most interesting with the mountains, rock formations, trees and wildlife preserve.

Several dozen longhorn stare you down in the preserve. They could charge you if so inclined, but they didn't seem to care. 

One of the coolest things was watching bison in full gallop! No one was threatened by them.

The second section of the route turns north then east out of the preserve and into the flatlands.

 The wind was light on this day. Wind would be an issue on most other days. Very few cars could be found. We zoomed along near 20mph heading north.

The scenery becomes more colorful and rocky again during the last third of the ride. You also cut thru a wind farm while bicycling past the occasional farm and ranch.

Counting our long stops (which is part of the fun!), it took Phil Parks and me about four hours to complete 57 miles. Our final moving average was 17 mph. 

After the ride, Phil and me along with a few other cyclists gobbled up Meersburgers and onion rings at the Meers Store-- well worth the 30 minute wait!


- There are many volunteers at the Meers VFD and along the course. 

- Parking is actually organized! Parking attendants point you to specific spots in a grassy lot next to the fire department. 

- If you ride this event, I recommend the 57 mile route as it's the prettiest. (The 62 mile route steers you along a straight highway after mile 40, while the 57 cuts thru the wind farm with rock formations and rollers.) Thanks Cary McKaughan for the tip!

 - I do NOT recommend the 36 mile or shorter routes as you completely bypass the wildlife preserve and best scenery.

 - I saw several dozen longhorns and two to three bison in the preserve. One of the bison was in full gallop, and he crossed the road 100 yards away! None of the livestock seemed threatened by our bright colored cycling jerseys... probably not a good idea to look like a matador... 

- Volunteers are stationed near the cattle guards to warn you. Small wooden bridges overlay the cattle guards if you choose. 

- Very few cars are on the course as you ride thru the wildlife preserve and sparsely traveled state highways. There is no trash. You are passed by one car every 5 minutes.

- First event in which I didn't see anyone get a flat! No bad gravel, no broken glass on the road.

- You don't actually climb any mountains, you pass along the bottom of them. 

- Optional... If you choose (which some do!) you can climb Mt. Scott on your bike after you complete the ride. It's about a 1,000 foot ascent along a 3 mile trek circling up the mountain. It's not considered a part of Tour de Meers... you are on your own. 

- Meers is in the country. There are no places to stop and get last minute cycling stuff. 

- It took exactly 3 hours to drive to Meers from Tulsa. 


- Tour de Meers. Annual bicycle ride, last Saturday in May. 

- Mass start: departs 7:30am.

- Location: about 30 min NW of Lawton (the nearest "big" town) .

- Entry: only $25! 

- On site/late registration available.

- You are guaranteed an event t-shirt if you pre-register. 

- Routes: from 10 miles to 62 miles.

- Best route: 57 miles.

- Difficulty: easy to moderate. 

- Course type: rolling hills.

- Course markings: paint and occasional road signs.

- Car traffic: little to none!

- Roads: mostly smooth asphalt.

- Biggest climb: nothing stood out. A few long, mildly slow climbs. Steepest is about 4-6% grade. 

- Total climbing/ascent: 1100 feet on the 57 miler.

- Rest stops: about every 10 miles after mile 18. 

- Timing/chipping: no.

- Offered at rest stops: water, gatorade, crackers, cookies, bananas, orange juice, pickle juice, and popsicles! 

- Bathrooms: one or two porta-johns per rest stop.

A huge bonus on this day was the weather: temperature was only 79 degrees by the end of the ride. Cloudy skies blocked out the heat, and the wind was fairly light by Oklahoma standards.

What could have been better? Nothing! I'll be back next year. :) George