Miami will be the final overnight stop for the cross-state Oklahoma FreeWheel 2010.
Approximately 1,100 bicycle riders will spend the night here on Friday with Northeastern A&M will be the camping location.
“It’s like a big family reunion,” Oklahoma FreeWheel director Ellen Proctor said by phone. “Everybody takes care of everybody. It’s not a race. You have all day to go from town to town.”
This is the first time the ride has passed through Miami since the 1990s.
The 2010 FreeWheel began Saturday with a 24-mile ride from Hugo to the Oklahoma-Texas state line and back.
In addition to Miami, overnight stops along the way will be at Clayton, Heavener, Muldrow, Tahlequah and Pryor.
An end-of-the-trail celebration will include dinner for the riders at Northeastern A&M and a show at the Coleman Theatre featuring the Byron Berline Band.
According to ride organizers, Berline is widely considered one of the world’s preeminent fiddle players and is also one of the most significant figures in contemporary bluegrass music.
His “Fiddle & A Song” was nominated for two Grammy awards in 1996.
The 436-mile trek will wrap up Saturday in Joplin.
Riders will have access to the football and soccer practice fields on the east side of the NEO campus as well as the Rotary Centennial Park on the south for camping.
Participants also will be able to stay overnight in the Student Activity Center for a nominal fee.
Some riders also will be in local motels and will stay in RVs.
“The past couple of years, on Friday night we have provided their dinner and a concert for the riders,” Proctor said. “College campuses really seem to work out well for us in this situation. It’s going to be great.”
“This is a good community relations opportunity for Miami and the college to be able to host between 1,100 and 1,200 people,” said NEO President Dr. Jeff Hale — who participated in FreeWheel in 1982-83 while teaching at Mustang.
“Several students and teachers (who were members of the Mustang High School Bike Club) went on the trip,” Hale said. “It’s a big deal for the host communities to have those caravans roll in.”
Proctor, who has been director of the event for five years, said riders from as many as 26 states have participated in the past.
“We’ve even got one girl from Denmark,” she said.
Dr. Tom Campbell of Tulsa has participated in the ride all 32 years.
Proctor said this will be the second year that Campbell’s son and grandson will ride part of the week with him.
Miamian Tim Ingram participated in the ride three times in the 1990s.
“It’s a lot of fun and you meet a lot of neat people,” he said. “It’s a challenge. It’s also great for the cities that it goes through.”
Riders will arrive in Miami anywhere from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“There are people who ride to get from Point A to Point B,” Proctor said. “They are on the road before daylight and they will be in camp by 9:30 (a.m.). Then there are people who will get in at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. They will trickle in all day long. The majority of the people will be in camp by 2 or 3 o’clock.”
The FreeWheel originally was sponsored by the Tulsa World but has been self-sustaining for about the past decade, Proctor said.
“We are a not-for-profit organization,” she said. “We are one of the cheapest rides in the nation. The money, after the bills are paid, goes into next year’s ride.”
Most of the rides have been staged in the eastern half of the state. But recently, some routes out west have been featured.
“When the World was in charge, we would go no further west than I-35 — because that was as far as their circulation area went,” Proctor said. “But over the last eight to 10 years, we’ve headed west. There is some beautiful scenery out there. It’s so different from the east side of the state.”
Riders will be traveling mostly on back roads, but they will use U.S. 59-66-69 for about 8 miles as they head into Miami.
They will turn right onto 20th Ave. SW then turn back north on E St. SW.
Riders will come up Main Street to East Central, turning east and going on to the college.
Saturday’s departure will be through the NEO campus to Rockdale Boulevard and then on out of town.
Riders will go through Peoria and on into Missouri. Plans are to ride past the Downstream Casino, with Schifferdecker Park the finish line.