By Steve Hansen
Special to the Quay County Sun
When cycling groups pass through Tucumcari on cross-country journeys, you can usually count on trim young people on the sleekest of rolling hardware.
But the cyclists-for-a-cause who stopped in Tucumcari on Sunday before heading east were an exception.
The “Bike for the Cure for Huntington’s Disease XVII” team that received a welcome and a spaghetti dinner at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Tucumcari was made up of riders in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
The bicycles they rode were also of earlier vintage, like “Fred,” Gary Heiman’s 21-speed Schwinn road bike, which he has ridden for 20 years.
The bike’s odometer reads 45,000 miles.
This year’s ride is the fifth Bike for the Cure journey for Heiman, 76, of West Jefferson, Ohio.
Charlotte Reicks, 79, of Grand Junction, Colorado, has participated in 16 of the group’s 17 rides on a bicycle she calls “Annie.” She missed only one ride, she said, as she recovered from a cycling accident a few years ago.
The Rev. Mark Lake, pastor of St. Michael’s, said his congregation’s hospitality to the cycling team was in keeping with the church’s mission to reach out to Christians of all denominations.
Members of the riding group include Catholics, Methodists and members of the Evangelical Free Christian Church, they said.
On Monday morning, the riders and their two support vans headed toward their next overnight stay in Vega, Texas, at 6 a.m. after gathering outside their lodgings at the Historic Route 66 Motel in a “prayer circle,” Heiman said.
This is the 17th year that Bike for the Cure team has made a long-distance fund-raising ride to the site of the annual Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s annual convention.
This year, the six riders and their driver, Joseph Ziegler, 63, of Galloway, Ohio, started from Albuquerque on Friday and plan to be in Dallas, the site of this year’s convention, on June 26.
This year’s ride has raised $21,600 to fight the disease, according to Marie Nemec, 71, of Grand Junction, Colorado, who has organized and participated in all 17 of the Bike for the Cure journeys.
Over 17 years, she said, the rides have raised $600,000.
This year’s riders had enjoyed uncommonly good luck with weather through Sunday, considering last week’s storms, Reicks said.
“The raindrops started hitting right after we got to Santa Rosa,” she said on Sunday, after two days of torrential rains in Santa Rosa and Tucumcari.
On their Saturday ride, which started from Clines Corners, Heiman said, “We could see black clouds in front of us, but as we rode, we saw the clouds split so it was clear where we were, but there were black clouds north and south of us.”
All of the riders have been affected in some way by Huntington’s Disease, a crippling inherited disease that can strike at any age.
Alina del Rio, 51, a Brooklyn, New York, native living in Mexico, carries the Huntington’s gene. Sherri Kole, 59, of Lewiston, Idaho, has a 41-year-old son who has recently started showing symptoms of Huntington’s, and her 6-year-old grandson also carries the gene.
Kole’s sister, Mary Ann Taylor, 61, who lives in the California cities of Truckee and Hemet, has a nephew with the disease.
Other riders know people who have cared for Huntington’s victims, they said.
Details about the progress of this year’s Bike for the Cure ride are available at: www.bikeforthecure.org