Remember the Removal, a bike ride to remember the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from its homelands during the winter of 1838-39, made its way through Warren County.
“I’m doing this because I wanted to reconnect with my ancestors,” said rider Clay Rudolph. “I grew up not knowing the culture of the Cherokees. When I got interested in it, this gave me a chance to reconnect.”
Group members are making a 950-mike trek over a three-week period as they retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
During the journey, riders will develop a personal connection to their Cherokee ancestry by studying their genealogies and making notes of their family connections. Participants will take time during the ride to visit historically important sites along the trail, connecting their ancestor’s experience with their own.
In Warren County, the group stopped in front of Central Church of Christ on Morford Street, but not for educational purposes.
“We had a couple of riders met Harrison Ferry Mountain, literally,” said rider Mike Corley. “We stopped to treat their injuries. We have about 25 more miles to go today.”
Luke Phillips’ front bike tire came in contact with Megan Alsenay’s rear tire, which caused a rough welcome to Warren County for the two. Phillips suffered an injury to his right knee, while Alsenay suffered abrasions to her left arm and left leg.
Alsenay says bike accidents happen.
“It hurts, but it will be OK,” he said. “It won’t be easy, but I’m not giving up. In 1984, my father was in the first Remember the Removal bike ride. He told us all the stories about the ride. Last year, my sister did it.”
Applicants chosen to represent the Cherokee Nation in the event must be a Cherokee Nation citizen, a student in high school or college that is at least 15 years old, and a person willing to train for two months.
The ride began June 1 in New Echota, Ga., and will end June 22 in Tahlequah, Okla. Participants will put their bodies to the test as they travel an average of 60 miles a day, somewhat mirroring the hardships of their Cherokee ancestors who made the same trek on foot more than 170 years ago.
To hear a radio interview with some of the Cherokee ride participants, tune in to WCPI 91.3 FM on Monday, June 18 at 2 p.m.
For more information, visit www.remembertheremoval.org.