Love it or hate it, the Hottern’ Hell Hundred will once again make its way through Clay County on Saturday – this time with a different kind of confusion.
For the first time, the 100-mile endurance ride will not come through Clay County. what will remain in Clay County is the road race course. In fact, the majority of the race course, which is actually 107 miles, will be inside Clay County.
The race course enters the county on FM 171, traveling through Thornberry, Charlie and Byers. Riders will turn east onto FM 2332 in far eastern Clay County, then travel south to Hwy. 82. At the FM 2332 and Hwy. 82 intersection, riders turn west, toward Henrietta. In Henrietta, Racers turn north onto Hwy. 148, and travel to Petrolia. In Petrolia, racers will turn back to the southwest onto Hwy. 79, and back to Wichita Falls. See map of route here. See related story here.
Hopefully that will be a benefit to the citizens of Clay County who rely on our highways and Farm-to-Markets every day.
Theoretically, the race should travel through the county at a much faster clip than the ride, which can tie up roads all day long. In Henrietta, for instance, riders are expected to pour into town as early as 9:30 a.m. and will continue to pass through until 11-ish.
A Hottern’ Hell course through Henrietta is new occurrence – last year was the first for riders to pass through town – but the event has long been a sore spot for residents in north Clay County. For years, North Clay Countians have dealt with blocked roads and littered bar ditches. And then there’s the cost to tax payers in the form of additional manpower required from law enforcement at the local and state level to guide bicyclists through town.
Of course residents have displayed their frustrations with general hijinks, usually involving a John Deere and a chisel plow wide enough to take up both lanes of traffic, or so the stories go. And then there was the time some of the signs directing riders were turned around – a classic tactic used in old westerns and war movies when trying to thwart the enemy. The riders hadn’t quite hit Montague County when they realized something was wrong.
Last year, two men dropped their bikes and rushed to a tree in a front yard of a residence on Hwy. 148, north of Henrietta. You can probably guess why. The homeowner’s wife and young daughter were doing yard work. They could have at least picked a bigger tree.
Henrietta itself will benefit from the HHH, with riders filling the local Best Western. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the roughly $8.5 million the ride and race ad to the economy of Wichita Falls at the expense of surrounding communities, and it’s a benefit the city would receive whether or not the race came through the county.
All the while, promoters of the event, in a sort of shortsightedness particular to Wichita Falls itself, think highly of themselves for sharing this great event with us.