Hector Mendoza, owner of the Hector Mendoza Agency, makes his living writing Farmers Insurance policies. He's good at it. He serves on the board of directors for the Denton Chamber of Commerce. He's good at that, too.
Hector, 42, is also good at the thing that drives him most, and that drive is on two wheels, not four. His passion is cycling, and he is readying to ride in the Denton Breakfast Kiwanis 2017 Turkey Roll Bicycle Rally on Saturday, Nov. 18.
"Turkey Roll is the last cycling rally of the year in all of Texas," Hector explained. "The first one in 2018 will not be until mid-April." A bittersweet season end for a guy like Hector who rides an average of 180 to 200 miles per week.
But it hasn't always been like this.
When Hector first took up cycling in August 2013, it was a few miles a week for exercise.
The hobby soon elevated to what Hector calls "a healthy addiction." Which is why by Thanksgiving just a few months later, Hector was registering for his first rally. He liked the fact that rallies are usually for a cause, so he could ride and help others at the same time. This rally would raise money to help the Kiwanis Children's Clinic, so he signed up for the 29-mile ride option in the Turkey Roll.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving in 2013 dawned cold and wet. Hector crawled from bed determined to ride no matter what. Despite the soppy morning, he was pumped as he and several hundred others braving the elements started the rainy ride.
"People were passing me, talking to each other as they did, and I was just about dying." Hector recalled. "I felt like my tongue was dragging on the pavement."
He finished the 29 miles that felt like a lot more, went home, showered and slept long and hard.
When he woke up, he knew he was hooked. He wanted to do it again. And he has, challenging himself on longer distances and faster speeds in scores of rallies ever since.
Passion isn't always easy, though. On March 7, 2014, just a few months after that first Turkey Roll, Hector was alone on a favorite route in the country near Lewisville Lake, training for speed.
"I don't remember how it happened or why," Hector recalled. "I woke up in the hospital with head trauma and a broken collarbone. My friends asked if I was finished with the sport. I told them the day I'll give up is when I die. And if I die cycling, you will know I died having fun."
After a week in the hospital, doctors ordered no cycling for six months. But Hector knew he needed more than just physical healing. He needed to heal emotionally and spiritually, too, and that meant conquering the fear born of that crash. He was shaking as he looked at his bike just two months later, but he climbed on, rode again, and his passion is stronger today than ever before.
The 2017 Turkey Roll will follow much the same route as it did on Hector's first rally ride four years ago.
Joe Holland, Denton Breakfast Kiwanian, Denton Bicycle Shop owner and Turkey Roll founder, says, "Depending on the course you choose, you'll either go to Lake Ray Roberts and back, or if you opt for the longest course, you'll actually cross the lake five times. It's a pretty course, on farm-to-market and county roads in Denton and Cooke counties."
Joe got the idea to start the Turkey Roll on the Saturday before Thanksgiving 35 years ago as a Denton Breakfast Kiwanis event to raise money for their mission to "serve the children of the world." It is now one of the longest continuously running cycling rallies in Texas.
The Turkey Roll offers five routes that begin in a mass send-off from the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church: 8, 29, 39, 52 and 60 miles. It's a supported ride, meaning police support at major intersections and rest stops about every 10 miles along the routes where friendly encouragers, hydrating and energy-boosting refreshments and portable toilets await riders. "Sag wagons" patrol the routes, too, in case of bicycle mechanical issues or worn-out riders.
Turkey Roll is for everyone, beginners to athletes like Hector. "It's about being your best and then some," Hector said. "The important thing is not to be afraid and to have fun. Cycling is safer than a car if you respect drivers and the rules of the road."
"What makes this rally your favorite?" I asked.
"That's easy," Hector said, laughing. "Turkey Roll has the best food along the way. Steak, chicken — it's Thanksgiving on wheels!"
The Denton Turkey Roll is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18. For details, visit http://www.DentonTurkeyRoll.com.
KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton's original, independent spirit through the city's sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.