BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Mena/Polk County Rotary held their 4th Annual Wheel A’ Mena Tour to the Top last Saturday and by all accounts, was a great success. Cyclists truly enjoyed the challenge and were well pleased with the Rotary’s setup of the event.
The event brought in 81 participants from six states, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, and Kansas. A 50-mile route was added this year to the 30-mile and 70-mile treks. All three routes began and ended in Janssen Park and the ride took cyclists through Mena, Acorn, some into Oklahoma, and all came climbing over Rich Mountain, Arkansas’ second highest peak.
“The views were incredible,” said several of the riders. Rotarian Sonya Maye said that the club advertised that the event could be a great warmup to the Big Dam Bridge 100 that is coming up. However, Maye said that in the end, cyclists who have completed the Big Dam in the past said the Tour to the Top was a far more challenging course. Some of the cyclists pointed out that mile 30, where the 10-mile climb to Rich Mountain began, was one of the hardest climbs they have ever endured.
The youngest rider was the first finisher of the 70-mile rally. Timothy Palyuch, of Dallas, Texas, finished in 3 hours and 37 minutes. Palyuch said he was impressed with the Rotary and “There were so many rest stops for us. After every challenging climb, there was a rest stop there; that was really nice. There was not a lot of traffic and the course was super bike friendly.”
Coming in first in the 50-mile course was Scott Burns, of Louisiana, who finished in 2 hours and 31 minutes. Mike Boyd, from Texas, was the first to finish the 30-mile trek in 1 hour and 49 minutes.
Maye said, “We had so many wonderful volunteers for the rest stops throughout the tour. The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Mighty Oaks 4-H, Mountain Valley 4-H, and Rotarian volunteers, manned the rest stops where restrooms and snacks were provided.” Maye credited First Responder and Polk County Emergency Management Director James Reeves with providing trailers and radios for communication and Southwest EMS who followed the entire event to ensure the safety of all riders.
Maye also said that many of the cyclists bring their families in for the weekend where they spend money on lodging, eating, and shopping, bringing important revenue into the community. “We enjoyed hearing so many wonderful comments about what all our community has to offer and how beautiful the area is,” Maye said.
The annual event is the Rotary’s signature fundraiser and also their largest of the year. Maye explained that all the money raised stays within the county for programs such as their Dictionary Drive where all county 3rd graders are given their own dictionary.
“Rotarians believe very strongly in Commitment to Service above Self. Our local chapter has approximately 30 members who volunteer in our local community as well as internationally to support education and job training, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio. Worldwide, there are 1.2 million Rotarians with more than 34,000 clubs,” said Maye.