Airmen provide cyclists home on the range

USAF photo: Greg Allen University of Texas at Austin students travel near Clovis where they spent the evening June 10 with Cannon Air Force Base airmen in town. The students are members of Texas 4000, an organization that raises money to fight cancer. Each student pledged $4,500 in a trek that will take them to Anchorage, Alaska. See story on pg. 13.

By Greg Allen: 27th SOW Public Affairs

When 25 riders pulled into Clovis on June 10, they looked forward to the hospitality from Cannon’s Air Commandos who lived in town. They had begun a trip in Cedar Park, Texas, that would ultimately take them to Anchorage, Alaska, 4,500 miles away.

As they turned off Norris Street onto 21st Street, some of the bicyclists said they could smell the chicken on the grill waiting for them two blocks away at the home of Maj. Rick Wageman, 33rd Special Operations Squadron, and his wife Michelle.

The Wageman’s home for the weary group of students was the first of many Cannon airmen’s doors in town that opened to them, as groups of two and three college students from the University of Texas found respite from the west Texas and eastern New Mexico dust and wind.

Their lodgings, according to Rick Wageman, were a far cry from what the Texas 4000 riders encountered in previous years in Clovis.

“I heard about their program at my church and learned they were sleeping on a gym floor and eating at fast food restaurants when they got here,” said Rick Wageman. “We (he and Michelle) decided to do something.”

“Rick and I looked at each other and said, ‘We can make it better for them,’” added Michelle Wageman.

The Sense Corps Texas 4000 is the world’s longest annual charity bike ride, according to its website. Its mission is to fight cancer by raising funds for research. Each rider pledges to raise $4,500, $1 for each mile. Each rider has also been personally affected by cancer, either through experiencing the disease personally or by having a loved one who has.

Michelle herself is a cancer survivor and said the bicyclists’ efforts were very inspiring to her. With that personal involvement, the Wagemans garnered the support of base personnel to provide the riders a bed to sleep in before they climbed aboard their bicycles to continue their journey.

Maj. Tim Palmer of the 33 SOS learned about the program from Rick Wageman and offered to grill pounds upon pounds of chicken for the ravenous riders. Family member Cheryl Jimenez said “yes” when Michelle Wageman asked her to help and handed moist paper towels to the riders as they walked into the back yard.

Many riders are blogging about their experience. Will Ragan wrote, “Texas 4000 for Cancer spends one to two semesters recruiting and picking the best candidates to ride from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska to raise money for cancer research. … I have wanted nothing more since I stepped foot onto the University of Texas at Austin than to learn and change the world. I see Texas 4000 as the pinnacle of all the great opportunities.”

“None of the students had ridden bicycles much beyond childhood,” said Alex Herzog, from Katy, Texas. “The training, 1,500 miles of it, didn’t begin in earnest until January.”

The group continued its trek the following morning and will wind its way up the Pacific Coast Highway, Canada, and finally, Alaska. A second group of riders will take a more mountainous route. Both groups plan to arrive in Anchorage on August 13.