Texas 4000: Cyclists make stop in Clovis

USAF: Airman 1st Class Jette Carr Cyclists from the Texas 4000 walk toward their host families, many of which are airmen from Cannon, after a 94-mile ride June 9 from Lubbock. The Texas 4000 is the world’s longest charity ride, with a route leading from Texas to Alaska, roughly 4,500 miles. Clovis is an annual stop this group makes.

By Airman 1st Class Jette Carr: 27th SOW Public Affairs

They came as the sun went down, June 9. Many sponsors, brought together by Maj. Richard Wageman, 33rd Special Operations Squadron, and his wife Michelle, had been excitedly waiting for the cyclists from the Texas 4000 coastal team to arrive. The 22 riders pulled up to the Wageman’s yard and received popsicles, washcloths, as well as food and drink. After a 94-mile day that started in Lubbock and ended just after they crossed the border into New Mexico, this was a warm and anticipated welcome.

The Texas 4000 is the longest charity bike ride in the world, with over 4,500 miles covered in a route that starts in Texas and ends in Alaska. For eight years now, students from the University of Texas have participated in this ride as a way to raise funds for cancer research, increase awareness, and give hope to people who have been affected by this disease. Since its inception, the group has raised $2.5 million in the fight against cancer over the years with 350 riders cycling more than 1.8 million miles.

For Michelle, a breast cancer survivor, the cause hits close to home. The Wagemans first discovered the Texas 4000 in 2006 when they made a dinner for “a group of riders coming from Lubbock” — a meal their pastor had signed them up for. After hearing stories from the group, they decided to become sponsors for the Texas 4000 each year following.

Many of the stops these riders make each night have them bedding down in a school gym, church floor, or even camping outside. This is something that the Wagemans hope to prevent by finding homes for them to stay in each year.

“As soon as we hear from the new team I send out an e-mail to last year’s volunteers,” said Michelle. “This year they contacted us in November. By the time January rolled around I was talking to people at squadron socials about the Texas 4000 and asking airmen to get involved. This is pretty much all I talk about for months until I have enough volunteers.”

It is clear that the Wageman’s support for the program has made an impact each year. Texas 4000 program director, Lance Pyburn, said he still recalls his stay in Clovis and the Wageman’s amazing hospitality from when he was a cyclist with the 2009 team.

“We rolled up late after an extremely long and tough day of riding to smiling faces and a ‘Welcome Texas 4000’ sign,” said Pyburn. “Rick, Michelle, and their friends had a large amount of delicious food waiting for us and a pool to relax in. It was a great opportunity to meet many different people in the community and hear their stories as we shared ours.”

“Riding a bike across the continent isn’t easy,” he said. “In fact, there are many days on the ride where you think that it is impossible, and everyone had fooled you into believing you could do it. However, the kindness and hospitality of hosts like those in Clovis are what make the summer bearable.”

The generosity of the strangers, who open up their houses to these riders, helps them to realize they are not alone, said Pyburn. Even though these cyclists dedicate their rides to those who are fighting or have fought cancer, they need support as well to make it through their days.

The cyclists, however, are not the only ones impacted by this exchange. First time hosts, Capt. Mark Smith, 16th Special Operations Squadron, and his wife Megan found the experience inspiring and plan to be a part of this event for however long they remain stationed at Cannon Air Force Base.

“These students are warriors of a different kind and wear a uniform different from those we are accustomed to seeing,” said Megan. “They ride to empower, inform, and support those in a battle against cancer — a battle that is not just being fought in remote areas overseas, but one that is being fought everyday in towns large and small across the world.”