Nearly 500 bikes and bicyclists came together Saturday morning for the 23rd annual Pineywoods Purgatory bike ride over some “hellish” hills through the “heavenly” East Texas countryside.
“It’s been exciting,” said Resa Tullos, office manager of the George H. Henderson, Jr. Exposition Center. “We’ve been getting ready for this since June.”
Mayor Bob Brown kicked off the race with a welcome to the contestants, a special thanks to various law enforcement agencies and the Lufkin Fire Department, and a surprise grand drawing.
Lynn Wang was the winner, and the prize was a diamond ring, presented to her on one knee from her now fiance, Kyle Steward.
“OK guys, someone out there has one year to think up something better than that,” Brown said.
A rifle shot signaled the start, and a horde of helmets took to the highway. Contestants could choose from four different routes — a 25-mile route, 52-mile route, 72-mile route or 102-mile route — that ranged from Central to north of Douglass.
“It was awesome. The hills were intense, but I feel like I achieved my goal,” said first-time contestant Casey Adams, of Lufkin, who rode the 72-mile trek. “I plan on doing the 102-mile route next year.”
Along the way, contestants could stop at any one of the 10 rest stops to recover and refuel. These rest stops also were involved in their own competition for best presentation, decoration, theme and hospitality. At the event closing, the judges named Fuel City as the winner for showing off its Panther spirit with the help of Lufkin High School cheerleaders, football players and the 2014 homecoming queen Tayla Mullins.
Many were willing to help, but one group in particular went above and beyond its volunteer duties — the Deep East Texas Amateur Radio Club, according to Burt Hairgrove, director for the George H. Henderson, Jr. Exposition Center.
“We had some last-minute cancellations with some volunteers that weren’t able to make it out here, and the radio club in short stood in the gap and came together as a group,” Hairgrove said. “They really did help us out. This year they became an integral part of the Pineywoods Purgatory.”
The Pineywoods Purgatory originally began with Garland “Bubba” Parise, an avid cyclist, and his dream to have a bike ride that measured up to other well-known rides in Texas.
Parise succeeded in making that dream come true in 1992, but he died unexpectedly at age 40, a year later. However, his memory lives on with “the ultimate cycling experience in the Pineywoods of East Texas,” according to the Pineywoods Purgatory website.
“This ride’s got a bright future. Our goal is to get to 1,000 riders,” Hairgrove said. “This is one of the prettiest parts of the state, so the potential growth for this event is great.”
Next year Hairgrove is already looking ahead to a strategic alliance between the expo center’s Pineywoods Purgatory and The Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Downtown Bistro.
“We think it would be a nice offering for the people coming from out of town in general to be able to ride during the day and then go enjoy some nightlife in downtown Lufkin,” Hairgrove said.
This year marks the second time the expo center has hosted the event since the Lufkin Host Lions Club turned over the management. All proceeds from the event go to the Beth and Horace Stubblefield Learning Center.
Posted: Sunday, October 5, 2014 1:00 am
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