There is no more scenic area in Southwest Oklahoma than the northern slopes of the Wichita Mountains and the Slicks Hills to the north and each and every day the members of the Meers Volunteer Fire Department are there just in case they are needed, which over the last five or six months has been often.
Keeping those trucks maintained, buying fuel and keeping gear for the volunteers is a never-ending issue when it comes to funding and that’s why the 2023 Tour de Meers is going to be one of the most important in the history of the group.
This year’s ride will be Saturday, May 27, at 7:30 a.m. and officials are gearing up for another huge field of around 700 riders.
In recent years the popular ride has drawn entries from Wichita Falls, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, DFW, Kansas City and many other metro areas, and from other locations both near and far. Normally our entry list includes riders from faraway states who join us as a bucket list ride. This year we already have pre-registered riders coming from St. Louis, Albuquerque, Midland, Lubbock, Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas.
Participants can pre-register on bikereg.com or by mail. About half of the participants choose to register on-site the day of the ride, so we have large areas set aside for both groups — it’s a busy scene! To get more information or register, go to the group’s Website, tourdemeers.org or go to Facebook and search for Tour de Meers Bicycle Ride.
This fundraising event began in 1989, making it one of the oldest established rides in the region. Bill Cunningham and Cindy (Rowe) Zelbst work together to chair the massive effort.
The ride features various distances in and around the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, consisting of 10, 22, 36 and 60-mile distances, all on pavement.
However, this year the group has added two gravel road routes in the Saddle Mountain vicinity, one 36 miles and the other 100k.
“Those new gravel routes will go past some beautiful scenery past several ranches and then swing back to the finish line,” Zelbst said.
While there will be those riders who want to start at the front and be the first ones to finish, that’s not the goal.
“We promote it as a ride not a race,” Cunningham said. “The beauty of Spring in the Wichita Mountains adds to the allure when wildflowers are in full blossom. It takes about 100 volunteers to pull off this large event. The Lawton-Fort Sill Amatuer Radio Club follows each route along with onsite Comanche County Memorial Ambulance and Comanche County Sheriff Deputies also support our effort. We provide rest stops about every 20 miles so that riders may rest with a variety of drinks and foods as well as restrooms.”
Everything begins and ends at the Meers Volunteer Fire Department located at 26362 State Highway 115, 73507.
On-site registration begins at 6 p.m. and around 7:30 the National Anthem will be sung by Lawton sporano Deb Flores of Pro Musica as she sings it acapella, last-minute announcements given and the riders will then begin the race.
Growing up in that area this writer has often seen the work of the Meers Volunteer Fire Department. Last August one of the worst wildfires we’ve seen in the Slick Hills burned an estimated 4,300 acres, most of that on our family farm/ranch and the flames were within 100 yards of my sister’s home.
But the Meers Fire Department had two trucks there to bulk up the fire lines and guys like Brian and Steve DeMarcus and even John Zelbst stayed out there until they were able to finally save that home and stop the wind-whipped fire.
So, if you love to ride your bike and see some amazing scenery, don’t miss out, get you entries turned in now to make sure you get one of those high-demand shirts and do your part to help these volunteer fire fighters who have endured a couple of tough years with many call-outs each month.