In the basking glow of the Pilot Truck Stop lights on Old Dennis Road, several members of the Westwood Christian Fellowship, and others that love to straddle a “bike,” set out in the wee hours Saturday morning on a mission for a mission.The objective was two-fold - paramount was fund-raising for the church’s mission program, which plans on sending a group to El Salvador in the coming year. While fund-raising efforts were top-of-mind, some in the church thought what better way to do that than on the back of their motorcycles and participating in their first-ever “Iron Butt” ride. I snickered a little when I first heard the phrase, “Iron Butt.” The idea was for cyclists to ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours to succeed in showing they have both the endurance and determination to complete the task. “It’s going to be fantastic,” organizer Allen Beadle said. “We’re going to have a lot of fun on the ride, but the fact we’re contributing to the Mission Trip is a great feeling.”It wasn’t by happen stance that I became aware of the church’s endeavor. County Judge Mark Riley, a man that knows a lot about “cruising” himself in his convertible Mustang, was traveling with the group in his car as support. Anyone who knows the judge knows of his love for traveling the back roads of Texas discovering what’s unique to the Lone Star State. When he asked if I would like to tag along, I jumped at the chance.The route, which included fuel stops and meal breaks, was plotted and shortly after 6 a.m. we were ready to take off. The judge, however, in keeping with what the riders were going to be experiencing on the journey, thought it would further bolster support if we drove with the top down. Pulling away, it took little time for me to realize my thick Rotary Club sweatshirt wasn’t going to be enough to stay warm. Thankfully, the judge thought ahead a brought some extra blankets to cover up with to stay warm - something I would take a lot of ridicule for later. • First post to Twitter @Lancewinter8:05 a.m.: “Just made our first stop in Abilene on the Iron Butt drive. Everyone is pretty cold - myself included.”Everything seemed to be going well although some of the riders were experiencing difficulty with the fuel pumps. The judge thought it might be because it was so cold. Nevertheless, we headed to the adjacent station to finish fueling.Leaving Abilene, we headed to our next destination, Big Springs, before we stopped again. Along the way, the judge and I listened to an eclectic music selection he said was “just right for cruising,” and he was right. After a sampling of ZZ Top, Willie Nelson and others, we rolled into Big Spring later in the morning• Twitter post:10:10 a.m.: “Second stop on the Iron Butt in Big Springs. Still cool but spirits high.”We left Big Springs and headed for our next stop - Wickett. I thought I had been in every small town in Texas but I was wrong. After leaving Wickett, it seemed to me that the tempo picked up. Maybe it’s because hungry riders knew we would be stopping for lunch at our next break; I think it was because they knew Van Horn, our next destination, was just a little short of 60 miles from the halfway point - the place where we could turn around and head home.• Twitter post:3:08 p.m. “Quick break for lunch just a few miles from being half way. Stop 4 - Van Horn.”We rolled into Van Horn just a little after 3 p.m. for lunch at the golden arches - McDonald’s. It was here that I had my first chance to speak to the riders individually, several whom I did not know.“I think this is really cool to get to do this,” rider B.J. Sharp said. “It’s something that I think everyone who has a motorcycle wants to do at least once in their life. So to be able to do this is great, but to do this with a bunch of people you like to ride with is even better.”Randall Gurley echoed similar sentiments, calling it “cool.” “At first, I thought I must already have an iron butt, because my butt wasn’t hurting - until about 30 minutes ago,” he said with laughter in his voice. “It something different I have never done before.”Steve Arredondo called it “significant” to be able to ride in the challenge because it’s a world-renowned event.“[The Iron Butt] scrutinizes you like the IRS,” he said. “I’m also on the mission team and we’ll be making the trip to El Salvador and bringing the love of Christ there - it’s all about the glory of God.”Unfortunately, Arrendondo was unable to finish the challenge when the motorcycle he was riding developed a problem with the push rod, rendering it inoperable shortly after leaving Van Horn.• Twitter post:4:11 p.m. “Not good. Just short of the halfway mark one of the motorcycles has broken down. Side of the road.”With a fresh camaraderie that just formed following lunch, it was gut wrenching seeing one of our friends stranded on the road. After doing everything possible to repair the motorcycle, we were fortunate to find a local mechanic who took it back to his shop to look at it.After an extended stay by the roadside we left our friend, temporarily, to continue on the journey. • Twitter post:5:19 p.m. “On our way again. One rider down.”One hour later, in Fort Hancock, we made it to the halfway point and turned around. The judge and I were joking that we gained an hour, albeit it temporarily, when we crossed over into a different time zone. On our way back to Van Horn, we were greeted by Border Patrol Agents at a check point. Riley jokingly said they were looking at me strangely...I thought it was because of all the blankets I had around me.• Twitter post:7:50 p.m. “Made it to Van Horn for a quick fill up. Judge Riley said we’re about to let the hammer down. Weatherford, here we come.”After getting back to Van Horn, we found out the prognosis of Steve’s motorcycle. Suffice it to say, the motorcycle had to stay and the judge and I got a new traveling partner.It was at this point, nearly 8 p.m., that we were concerned whether we would have enough steam to make it home ourselves so we took the lead and pushed home.We drove hard until we made stops in Midland and Abilene before arriving back in Weatherford at 2:50 CST.John Holman and Lake Alexander each said the ride was for the sheer enjoyment and fellowship behind it both saying it was a “bucket list” adventure they could check off. David Streif and wife, Loretta, said the same thing adding that it was for a good cause.James Plowman said too it was a “bucket list” item but that the bonus was for the funds raised to benefit the church’s mission program.Riley said it was a fun trip and a great time.“I’ve been on a lot of cruises and every one is a bucket list to me because every trip is a little different,” he said. “Bucket lists are what you make them and create for life; there’s an experience at every stop.”Before the trip ever began, Westwood Christian Fellowship Pastor Curtis Tucker blessed the trip. He told me he was very excited about the Iron Butt Motorcycle ride. “It's a 1.000 mile ride sponsored by the HonorBound Motorcycle Ministry of Westwood Christian Fellowship,” Tucker said. “HonorBound is a fantastic ministry that involves men and women who have two primary passions: motorcycles and Jesus Christ.”He said the ministry also reaches way beyond motorcycles and the four walls of the church building. “The HonorBound team has sponsored several toy runs for needy kids; they have raised money for missions projects; they have helped serve with the Fort Worth Metro ministry team which reaches out to kids and families in the inner city areas of Fort Worth,” he added. “Most of our HonorBound team serves in leadership roles within Westwood and set a wonderful Christian example for the kids and youth of our church and our community. They are also able to set a positive Christian example in the bike-rider culture.”He said the Iron Butt Motorcycle Ride is designed to give motorcycle enthusiasts an opportunity to be challenged and have a good time with other motorcyclists. All the proceeds from the ride are going toward Westwood's summer missions trip to El Salvador. While in El Salvador, the group will be working with an orphanage, King's Castle. They will also be doing humanitarian outreach in the city of San Salvador and helping missionaries with various service projects.“I am extremely blessed to get to serve as the pastor to such wonderful people as those involved with HonorBound Motorcycle Ministries,” Tucker said. “You can find more information about the ministry at our website www.wcffamily.com or by emailing email@example.com.”As for me, it is about the fellowship. The judge, who I thought I knew pretty well, I got to know even better after our 20-hour excursion. I hope fortune will find me again driving across Texas with the man I call friend “cruising” with the top down.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancewinter