Lake Highlands’ biking group, the Oddfellows, will participate in this weekend’s Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred, a 100-mile bike race known for its 100-degree weather and more than 10,000 annual participants. I asked how the group got started and what on Earth makes rides such as that sound like fun.
“This group of cyclists was born out of two neighbors,” says Sam Finklea. “Jack Norman and I realized back in 2005 that we had something in common besides the longtime friendship shared through our children – we enjoyed cycling. We saw each other out riding and we decided to take a spin around White Rock Lake together. This one-time spin became a ritual for us, and we used it as an excuse to get out of chores and errands that [wives] Robin and Pam had planned for us.
“Gradually we added several more willing riders such as Mike Dutcher, Phil Farrish, John Dean and Jon Alspaw. Suddenly four grew into six, and six grew into ten.”
“It began with a few people starting to ride for exercise,” adds Alspaw, who joined in 2011. “We’ve now grown to more than 30 riders, and last December we hosted our first annual Christmas party and included our wives.”
“I wanted to be motivated to ride my bike vigorously at least once a week for the health benefit, and I thought I would enjoy it more if I did it with some folks I know,” says Bob VanAmburgh. “The toughest part is not always being able to keep up with riders who, for the most part, ride faster than me, but that is a good motivator as well.”
“I was a complete novice when I started,” admits John Dean, “riding a bike someone loaned me that was literally falling apart.
“My father was a huge golfer, and he played at least three times a week. I’m not much of a golfer, and I always wondered why he was so intent on getting out there with the same foursome, week after week. After riding with these guys for so many years, I now know. The exercise, the fresh air, the Lake and the stories are all great, but it’s the unique bond each of us has together – to be committed to show up each Saturday morning, to ride safely and keep an eye out for each other, to coerce someone into buying all the coffee, and to ‘gently’ push each other to ride harder. Though there’s usually 10-15 of us riding every Saturday, this is my ‘Foursome,’ and I now understand that ‘spirit’ my Dad had about golf.”
Many of the riders found time to participate when their kids graduated from Lake Highlands High School and went off to college.
“Before my son, Geoff, was born,” says Bill Dunham, “I was doing triathlons and century rides (100 milers) and I wanted to get back into it. I forgot how much I really enjoy cycling. You are exposed to some really beautiful scenery and environs that you would never see driving around DFW in a car.”
Newest member Carlin Volkmer admits he’s still learning from the guys, most a decade (or two) his senior.
“We have a great group of riders with a wide array of goals for coming out to a ride,” says Volkmer. “Some are in serious training, some simply want exercise, and some are just out for fun and camaraderie. I learned how much fun it can be to float between those different roles and enjoy a bike ride in different ways than I ever did before.”
Other members include Larry Salmon, Mitch Williams, Chris McAdam, Jeff Forbes, Jeff Blanton, David Littleton, Galen Busse, David Brown, Tommy Bailey, Art Villasana, Fielder Nelms, Paul Watler, Doug Rabe, Steve Moon, Barney Inman, Chuck Curtiss, David Henry, Rick Kopf, Dave Littleton and Nino Papadopolous.
“Now the group is truly organized,” says Finklea, “with a name and matching jerseys sporting a logo designed by our own Bill Dunham.”
And the name?
“The name has multiple meanings,” explains Mike Dutcher. “Oddfellows refers to the Bishop Arts coffee shop at our halfway point where we catch up and BS.” It also, he says, refers to friendly societies and fraternal organizations in the United Kingdom dating back to the 18th century designed to support and aid members when they need it.
And the heat? The worst part has to be the heat, right?
“For us, maybe,” jokes Jack Norman, “but for our spouses and children it’s the total embarrassment whenever we post a picture on Facebook in our spandex biker shorts.”