By Alex Byington
Despite the possible threat of poor weather on Saturday, the second annual Tour d' Hood went off without a hitch.
With 132 cyclists taking advantage of the overcast morning, the recreational cycling event was deemed a success because of the outpouring of support for the Fort Hood Fisher House. The house benefited from more than $800 in donations thanks to the collaborative effort of Team Army Cycling, Fort Hood's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Band of Angels.
"It just helps a lot, and that's what we're here for," said Julianne Shenk, president of Band of Angels, the prime support agency. "... Overall, the whole day was a success. Even if we had gotten $100, that would help."
Five routes of differing lengths began and ended at Abrams Physical Fitness Center. The cyclists had the option of a nine- or 16-mile fun routes or the more challenging 18-, 24- or 45-mile routes to the outer reaches of Fort Hood.
One of those who decided to accept the strenuous 45-mile route was Col. Bill Hill, Fort Hood's garrison commander.
"You've got some really nice hills (on post), and they're challenging because when you're riding with a pack of people, you can take turns drafting," Hill said. "So as long as you're with a group, you can rotate. But once you break away, you're on your own. So the last quarter of the route, I was all by myself, and I had to push on through."
An event for the whole family
Joining Hill in the event, though preferring the more family-friendly 16-mile route, were his wife, Kathleen, and 18-year-old daughter, Caroline, a senior at Killeen High.
"I would have never got my daughter out there if it hadn't been for the event," Hill said. "And we came out ourselves to support her. So I'm always looking for events that you can do as a family, that motivates you to get out and do (something)."
Fisher House provides free food and lodging for families of wounded soldiers receiving medical care at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
"That's the basic thing, (the wounded soldiers) don't have to worry about where their family will stay, because here at Fort Hood, we do have a lot of soldiers who aren't here," Shenks said. "It just gives them a home to come stay at."
But while the Tour d'Hood ultimately will benefit many Fort Hood soldiers, most who attended the event just wanted a chance to get out and ride.
"It was just getting out with the other soldiers and having a good time," said Sgt. Reginald Ross, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
For several cyclists, it was their first experience on long-distance bike ride, which made even the shorter routes difficult.
"For me it's challenging, because this is the first time I've ever done a bike ride," said Spc. Frances Ramirez, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 553rd Supply and Services Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade. "So I'm huffing and puffing, but I'm getting there.
"Tomorrow I'm going to be hurting, but it's all worth it."
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or at (254) 501-7566.