Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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Bernie and Pauline Loisette saw to the unloading of bicycles for the Tropic Star Bicycle Bunch group that came for the GAO Bike Tour at Bensten State Park.

There were bikes ranging from 18-speed to a few three-wheelers and everything in between, including mountain, 3-speed, balloon-tired cruisers, recumbents and folding types, in use by some 275 cyclists taking part in the Golden Age Olympics Bike Tour last month at Bentsen State Park in Mission.

The skies featured dark clouds, but no rain as the riders unloaded bikes in the parking lots and then moved to the staging area at the park entrance. Genial chatter along with some picture-taking marked the wait among the cyclists, almost all from Mid-Valley RV resorts, until the moment came to ride out across the levee and onto the park’s three-mile loop.

The cyclists ranged from the serious, like Gary and Sharon Branson from Tip O’ Texas RV Resort in Pharr, to the occasional rider in Roy Hansen, from Winter Ranch RV Resort in Alamo.

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Winter Ranch Resort is ready to roll at the GAO Bike Tour. Nearing the entrance of Bentsen State Park are, from left, Roy Hansen, Flo and Doug Reed, who lead Friday trips at the resort, and Lois and Leon Green, who lead the Tuesday riders.

Gary Branson estimates he and his wife have clocked about 50,000 miles on their bikes over the years. In fact, his wife’s foldup bike speedometers are up to 25,000 miles, which included a ride across the state of Kansas last year. The bike comes from an Eugene, Oregon, company, one of the few manufacturers left in the U.S., he said. Gary, who is a resident of Ozawkie, Kansas, has biked across his home state 16 times in addition to doing the popular across Iowa Rag Ride three times.

Their park is big into biking, according to Phyll Thackery, a full-time Tip O’ Texas resident who is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. She coordinates all the senior Olympics events for the residents in the park. The park’s Roadrunners have taken the gold in the GAO bike tour for the last five years. Biking medal awards are based on the percentage of park residents participating.

“We have tremendous participation,” Thackery said. “Have had a strong program for years.” She said the resorts’ residents do most everything in Olympics, which means at least two-thirds of all events.

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Some of approximate 275 cyclists headed for the three-mile loop at Bentsen State Park in Mission at the start of the annual Golden Age Olympics Bike Tour.

Besides the annual tour ride, a group of Roadrunners use every Friday morning to bike four or five miles to a local restaurant. Tony Chos, from Cook, Minnesota, laughed when he noted the Roadrunners have also been called “the Breakfast Club.”

Hansen, who summers in northwestern Wisconsin, occasionally goes with one of two groups of Winter Ranch “breakfast riders” on Tuesdays. However, that day is reserved more for his golfing. The Tuesday riders bike between five and 10 miles, while another group will travel around 25 miles on Fridays.

Flo Reed and her husband, Doug, have been organizing rides at Winter Ranch since 1998. They lead the Friday group, which used to include trips to Mexico, like riding to and taking the Los Ebanos Ferry and Nuevo Progreso as well as Falcon Dam on the border. Now the bikes get carted to South Padre Island for an outing or ridden to Bentsen State Park, she said. A few of those doing the three-mile loop at the state park, one or more times, considered cycling back to Winter Ranch, which is about 24 miles away, but that depended upon the weather.

The Reeds, who have been full-time RVers since 1996, travel much of the year. Flo commented that “we go looking for bike trails all over the country.”

Tropic Star Bicycle Bunch

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Gary, on left, and Sharon Branson, with help from Tony Chos help coordinate the Tip O' Texas Resort Roadrunners, who came to be part of the Golden Age Olympics Bike Tour at Bentsen State Park.

Also, the Tropic Star Bicycle Bunch came to ride. It is another group that likes to stop for something to eat during weekly rides. Every Tuesday a couple of groups of between 30 and 40 will bicycle three or four miles to one of seven restaurants included on their circuit, led by Bernie and Pauline Loiselle and assisted by Leon and Eleanor Morrisette, both couples from the Winnipeg, Manitoba area.

About 60 Bicycle Bunch riders came to the state park, with most doing the loop once, according to the Loiselles, who took up biking after arriving in the RGV 11 years ago. They figured three or four would ride the loop several times, racking up nine to 12 miles. The Loiselles have come for the ride every year. In the past, the riders have won gold and finished second several times, Bernie said, proud of the group’s achievement.

The smiles on the faces of most riders heading into the state park spoke well of the fun and exercise they were getting out of cycling, whether it was total dedication to the sport or just an occasional ride to have brunch.

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