For about a week each summer you can usually find cyclists making their way along Highway 54 as they pass through Camdenton and the Lake area.
These riders are not out for just a friendly stroll, though. They are part of a challenging event known as Race Across America (RAAM) and are looking to traverse a 3,000-mile journey across the continental United States, passing through 12 states while climbing over 170,000 vertical feet. Highway 54 and the city of Camdenton just happen to be part of that route that which is 30 percent longer than the Tour de France, according to the organization’s website.
That is where you will find a tent next to the Signal Gas Station in Camdenton that serves as one of 55 time stations along the way.
“It is important for us because not only does it generate economic activity in our community, it also puts Camdenton on the map for the world,” said Trish Creach who serves as the Executive Director of the Camdenton Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It is a nice way to welcome them and also show them a little bit of Midwest hospitality.”
According to the RAAM organization, the race that began in 1982 has seen over 35 countries represented across six continents and at least 20 countries are represented each year with about 50 percent of the field coming from outside the United States. Racers, who are made up of both amateurs and professionals, range in age from 13 to 75 and some compete individually while others compete in two to eight-man teams. The teams have a maximum of nine days to complete the race and it has been completed in as little over five. Meanwhile, individuals get 12 days to accomplish the feat and the fastest have done it in just under eight.
Cyclists are tasked with making different time stations by a certain point and the first started arriving on Sunday. Creach expects things to wrap up by Friday.
“It is so amazing meeting people throughout the world. Many of them, if not almost all, have never even been through Camdenton,” said Creach who noted that cyclists had been taking pictures by the Camdenton sign and uploading it to social media. “So, if they can leave here and feel Camdenton was very friendly and a place they can remember when they turn home, that is what we want to do. We just strive to make it that friendly time station.”
But it is not only an opportunity to get exposure to different cultures and customs. Many cyclists choose to participate for a cause whether it is fundraising for medical conditions or supporting certain charities or other types of organizations. Creach noted that one team that passed through town on Wednesday was a support team for K-9 units in the state of California.
“It is just amazing to hear their stories because they are so diverse,” she remarked. “Sometimes we have a language barrier, which we do our best to overcome. It is just a way of sharing our culture with cultures throughout the world.”
When cyclists reach the Camdenton time station, which is the 32nd along the way, there are approximately 1,172 miles left to go. The Camdenton Area Chamber of Commerce started getting involved with the race about seven years ago and there is quite a bit that goes towards ensuring that the city leaves a good impression. It began with just maps and tourist information guides and now there is a quite a few more resources on hand.
“We started talking with some of the resources in our community. Lake Regional had this ideal tent they use for sites that possibly need medical services, we work with Emergency Management and they provide cots as well as fans, the hospital provides sheets for us and Mid-County Fire Department provides tables and they put up the tent,” Creach pointed out. “Signal (gas station) here is phenomenal providing free ice and a variety of services for the riders. We provide them popsicles and watermelon on their journey and just help them get set to take off and continue on.”
It is the least that could be provided for one of the toughest endurance races in the world.
“By the time they get to us they are feeling the race. By providing this station it provides a little time to regroup, get back on their feet and get replenished with supplies,” Creach said. “It is just a nice way to give back and showcase the best of what our community has to offer.”
And as long as the route does not change, Creach would like to see Camdenton continue to be an integral part of the 3,000-mile journey. In addition to what is already provided, she would like to see a few enhancements in the future as well like portable showers and providing more resources on the RAAM website for laundromats and RV pumpout stations, to name a few.
“As long as we have that support from the community, we will continue to be a time station,” she said.