The first Saturday in May. Name the big event. You likely answered The Kentucky Derby— the Run for the Roses—the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. It is odd that such a renowned event lasts only two minutes. But really it’s not the event itself, is it? It’s the pomp, the show, the hats, the juleps, the parties and all that jazz that make the Derby an event. Otherwise, it would just be a race. A mile-and-a- quarter run to determine who has the fastest (on that day) three year-old thoroughbred. I understand that the pomp and pretense has even made its way to Duncan Park in Jacksonville. My, Oh, My (is that a horse’s name?) Well, dish me up some Hot Brown, finish it off with Derby Pie and call me to the gates.

No, No. This is not an article about the Derby or Kentucky or horses, or bourbon. I’m into bicycling. And the BIG EVENT on the first Saturday in May is the annual Tour de Stooges. For seventeen years, this cycling event has taken place in Southern Illinois, first in Lebanon, now in Highland and has attracted as many as 650 riders in a single day, riders mostly from St. Louis and Southern Illinois, but also from as far away as Hawaii, Washington and Connecticut.

In true “Tour” tradition, the routes available to riders vary in length and difficulty, but they all feature the beauty of the countryside of rural Illinois. Unlike The Tour, it is not a competitive ride—officially, that is. Personal bests are always pursued, and competitions, while not in the program, definitely occur on the road. No horses, no hats, no juleps. But there’s a party— in the event itself, whether one chooses to ride the Joe Besser “Not So Hard” Route – 17 miles, the Curly Howard Shuffle – 22 miles, the Larry Just Fine Route – 30 miles, the Shemp Howard Shortcut – 42 miles or the Moe Howard Metric – 64 miles. The party takes place on the road . . . and after at a catered lunch and “all the slapstick comedy you can stand”—up to 3 hours of Three Stooges films.
First time I rode in the Tour de Stooges, as I passed the primary organizer, Roger Kramer (RIP), who, by the way, passed me later, I shouted to him “calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard.”
In true Roger de Stooges form he responded: “How did you find that patient in room 67?” “Under the bed!” “How did you find that patient in room 73?” “Up on the chandelier.” “What did you do for him?” “Nothing! What’d he ever do for us?”
The point to all this is what? Ride from 17 to 64 miles and have a ball! Riding is an excellent solitary sport, as well as a team sport at times. Cycling is a great fitness activity for all ages. Childhood obesity? Put them on bikes. Seniors who can no longer run and jump? Get on your bikes. But in addition to competition, sports and athletics, bicycling can be an excellent social activity, both during and after the ride. A whole lot of fun.
So here is a Derby Day and Stooges Day call to action in two parts.
First, there is a local citizens group, Town Brook Jacksonville, working to mobilize interest in and support for a new city park, a walk- bike-run trail along Mauvaisterre Creek with pedestrian/cycling connection to Downtown, to Community Park, to Nichols Park and to Lake Jacksonville AND to every merchant and point of interest along the way— and when we all learn to think big enough, even networking with similar trails in Springfield and Quincy and Alton and all the way to St. Louis. What an opportunity for both physical and social fitness! Find out about it and get on board.

Story by Harry Ford. Article published in The Source, week of May 28th 2013 – to reach him email Harry -at- (the at sign) Harry and Steve Warmowski are initiating plans for an inaugural ride this fall for Jacksonville. Please contact Steve via our Town Brook Initiative Facebook page to find out more and to help. 217.245.4178