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Tour de Meers preps for 29th event

You could just hear the excitement in the voice of Cindy Rowe Zelbst as she talked about Saturday's 29th Annual Tour de Meers bike ride and the great forecast for this year's event.

"Oh my, the weather forecast is just amazing with a high of 93 and clear skies expected," the Meers native said. "Our number of pre-registered riders is really great and we're hoping the response today will be just as good. And we always expect with great weather that the number who just show up Saturday will also be large. We're excited."

That pre-registration deadline will be at 5 p.m. today and there is an easy way to register online at www.bikereg.com. If you want to get one of the special ride shirts like the one pictured below, you MUST beat that deadline today.

If the shirt isn't a big deal, then registration on the day of the ride will begin at 6 a.m., and the ride will start at 7:30 a.m. 

Registration is $25 for regular riders and $40 for tandem teams if paid by today at 5 p.m. Starting Thursday, cost to register is $30 for regular riders and $45 for tandem bikes. Children under 10 ride free with registered parent. For additional information, visit www.tourdemeers.org. 

There are no refunds, the ride will be held rain or shine, but this year that doesn't seem to be an issue. And, all riders must sign a liability waiver.  

It's not that Zelbst, Bill Cunningham and the many other volunteers haven't had to deal with bad weather in the past and always found a way to reroute some of the rides to avoid debris. It's just something they'd rather avoid even though the rain will hopefully make sure the sponsoring Meers Fire Department won't be out making calls during the ride.

The volunteers have already started working at their assigned jobs.

"Crews are out mowing the parking area and the other areas around the start/finish line, others are out marking the routes, we're showing up Friday to clean up the fire station and then start handing out the supplies to the volunteers," Zelbst said. "There's plenty of jobs that have to be finished before race time but we've done it long enough that everyone pretty much knows their role."

Once again there are four routes that Tour de Meers participants can choose from. There is a 10-mile route designed to accommodate beginning riders and younger riders; and there is a 22-mile route that goes around Lake Lawtonka, through Medicine Park, then passing through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge on the return trip back to the fire department.

For the more accomplished riders, there is a challenging 36-mile route that is an out and back to the Job Corps area, which goes through the heart of the refuge; and for those who really like a challenge there is a 60-mile route, which the majority of this route is through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

All of these routes will allow for stunning views of the beautiful Wichita Mountains.

To help insure the safety of the riders, members of the department's force will have their EMT's on hand, as well as the valuable assistance of the Lawton-Fort Sill Amateur Radio Club which will be providing SAG Wagon support for the riders who have mechanical trouble or just can't make that last climb.

"Ron Grossman is my contact with the radio club and they are a very valuable tool in this effort," Zelbst said. "They help with the road crossings and they have members who go out on each route to pick up stragglers or help those with trouble.

"Also, the sheriff (Comanche County's Kenny Stradley) and his deputies do an amazing job each year helping us direct traffic and making sure the roads are blocked off where needed."

And, Zelbst shared valuable information that all those attending need to know. The best route to the parking area is to go up Highway 58 to Wolf Road, which is a mile north of Anne's Country Kitchen, then turn left and head to the Meers Fire Department Building where the parking entrance is located.

If you are coming from Altus, Snyder, Frederick or any of those areas, take the Highway 115 exit at Cache and enter the Wichita Mountains Refuge south entrance. 

The Lawton Constitution

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