Cold Bike Tour kicks off Maple Leaf week

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Debbie Johnson and Michelle Demery, both of Carl Junction, talk in front of a foggy Kellogg Lake before Demery leaves on the Maple Leaf Bike Tour on Saturday. The air temperature was about 35 degrees, but Kellogg Lake’s waters were still warm from the summer, creating thick fog on the lake’s surface. John Hacker

October is the time for transitions and a rather sudden weather transition greeted bicyclists as they prepared for the annual Maple Leaf 100 Bicycle Tour early Saturday morning, Oct. 12, 2019, at Kellogg Lake Park.

Jason Shelfer, Carthage, piled on the layers to fight off the cold for the Maple Leaf Bicycle Tour on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. John Hacker

Organizers said more than 200 bicyclists left the park at 8 a.m. for a tour that could take them as far as 100 miles. Those wanting shorter trips had four other rides to choose from ranging in distances of 15 miles to 80 miles.

The riders kicked off on the coldest morning so far this fall with temperatures hovering just above freezing and thick fog wafting off the warm waters of Kellogg Lake and Spring River.

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Some riders said they preferred the cooler weather, but John Messick, 72, Joplin, wasn’t one of them.

“It is cold this morning, I’d rather it were 100 degrees instead of 35,” Messick said. “The problem I have is keeping my feet and hands warm. I have chemical handwarmers in my gloves so that will help a little. It is going to warm up though so I expect by noon I’ll be pretty comfortable.”

Bryan Lawler, Joplin, unloads his family’s bicycles as they get ready for the Maple Leaf Bicycle Tour on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. John Hacker

Messick said he signed up for the 100-mile ride.

“We’ll see, I may wimp out and do the 66-mile or the 80-mile route,” Messick said. “I was always a runner, but I have some arthritis now and that pretty much shut down my running. I still kind of shuffle along and walk, but riding a bicycle, my knees can tolerate that much better.”

Alexis Lawler, 11, Joplin, said this was her first ride of more than 14 miles. She and her family signed up for the 15-mile route.

Lawler said she preferred the cooler weather.

“I feel like it will be easier in the cold because I’d rather be cold than really hot,” Lawler said. “When I run, it’s really easy to run in the cold.”

Brian McKee came from Tulsa, Okla., to ride with the Lawler family.

He said the cold isn’t a big challenge.

“If you plan ahead and layer yourself up, just enjoy the weather it’s not so bad,” McKee said. “It’s better than riding in the heat because you won’t dehydrate as fast. I’m just looking forward to seeing other parts of Route 66.”

The Joplin Trails Coalition, which maintains and improves the Ruby Jack Trail from Carthage to Carl Junction, Frisco Greenway Trail in Joplin, and other trails, has sponsored the Maple Leaf Bicycle Tour for the past several years.

A crowd of bikers prepares for the start of the Maple Leaf Bike Tour at Kellogg Lake Park on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The tour featured five different routes with distances ranging from 15 miles to 100 miles through northern Jasper County. John Hacker

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