The Cowboy game was on the radio in the garage. City Councilmember at Large Dalton Gregory was at his lathe, crafting spoons from different woods when I arrived last weekend. Fishing and hiking gear were organized neatly along the walls among tools. Hanging from the ceiling above our heads were a red kayak and three bicycles. Altogether, the picture was one of an active guy engaged in a variety of interests.
I honed in on the bikes, because that’s why I was there. Dalton is readying to ride in the Denton Breakfast Kiwanis 2016 Turkey Roll Bicycle Rally.
“I started riding, like everybody, when I was a kid. I rode my bike to school, had a paper route, and rode between my apartment and classes in college,” he said.
“I like asking people to remember when they got their first bicycle and learned how to ride,” he went on. “Invariably, big grins come on their faces because they think about how fun it was and how it meant freedom, zipping around the neighborhood and getting further away from the house faster than you ever could before. You’d ride hard, come back exhausted, then jump on your bike and do it again.”
“I took an old mountain bike that I had and rebuilt it,” he shows me. “I put a different stem on it and different handle bars so I can sit up straighter, more like the bikes we rode when we were kids. Sitting up straighter, I can look around and see traffic easier. It’s the bike I normally ride around town. I have the mountain bike for riding on the Greenbelt or off-road. And then I have the road bike.”
I’m thinking Dalton’s cycling interest may be more avid than hobbyist. Not so, he says. When I asked if he considers himself a cyclist or someone who rides a bike, he answered without a moment’s hesitation. “Somebody who rides a bike.”
He quit riding almost completely after college when real life got underway. That was until his 30s when daughter Laura signed up for the Texas 4000, a 70-day bike rally raising money for cancer research that started in Austin and finished in Anchorage, Alaska. He rode the first leg of the journey with her, from Austin to Lampasas, about 72 miles and the longest ride he’s ever done.
That ride took some getting-ready-for, and he prepped by riding with buddies around the North Texas Horse Country. “There are some great hills,” he said. “Good exercise going up and terrifically fun going down. It must be what birds feels like when they’re soaring, because it’s like, whoosh!” he laughed.
The Turkey Roll follows much the same route today that Dalton was riding then.
Joe Holland, Denton Breakfast Kiwanian, Denton Bicycle Shop owner and Turkey Roll founder, says, “Depending on the course you choose, you’ll either go to Lake Ray Roberts and back, or if you opt for the longest course, you’ll actually cross the lake five times. It’s a pretty course, on farm-to-market and county roads in Denton and Cooke counties.”
Like Dalton, Joe has been cycling all his life, but more avidly than Dalton. He participates in rides all over. He got the idea to start the Turkey Roll on the Saturday before Thanksgiving 34 years ago as a Denton Breakfast Kiwanis event to raise money for their mission to “serve the children of the world.” It is now one of the longest-continuously-running cycling rallies in Texas.
“It’s not necessarily the guy that bares his teeth and goes out and rides 100 miles by himself,” Joe says of Turkey Roll riders. “It’s a supported ride that gives the opportunity to ride a distance people maybe wouldn’t do otherwise.”
The Turkey Roll offers five different routes that begin in a mass send-off from the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church: 8, 29, 39, 52 and 68. “That’s miles, not feet,” Joe joked of the route distances.
A supported ride means there is police support at major intersections and rest stops about every 10 miles along the routes where friendly encouragers, hydrating and energy-boosting refreshments and port-a-lets await riders. “Sag wagons” patrol the routes, too, in case of bicycle mechanical issues or worn-out riders.
“Everybody, all riding levels and experience, are welcome,” Joe said. “And after the ride, we’ll enjoy sausage sandwiches while we celebrate. It supposed to be great fall weather this year.”
Dalton will choose his route come Turkey Roll day. “If it’s as nice as the weatherman promises, I’ll pick a long route.”
Dalton’s advice for the 2016 Turkey Roll?
“Have fun. Ride your bicycle!”
The Denton Turkey Roll is on Saturday, November 19 at 9 a.m. For details or to register, visit their website.