Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu

Whether it be in arts, politics, business, sports or any other activity involving certain skillset, there are always individuals who stand out, those who perform above average and demonstrate their capacity by achieving more than anybody else.

We, as a community, tend to recognize those individuals, we learn from them and we admire them. Everyday our newspaper features stories of students who earned a scholarship, successful business owners, entrepreneurs, employees of the month, police officers or other public servants who are willing to go above and beyond.

After being in the news business for the most part of three decades, there is little I have yet to see or hear about. However, on Wednesday, during the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce monthly membership luncheon, I had the privilege of learning first-hand about the legendary Dex Tooke, a passionate Del Rioan who has ridden a bicycle across the country.

We have published stories about Tooke in the past. Our Sports Editor Brian Argabright did a great story on Tooke not long ago, when he announced he’ll be competing in the Race Across America, a 3,000-mile ultracycling competition starting in Oceanside, California, and ending in Annapolis, Maryland.

Tooke, part of a very select group having finished that race over the age of 60 – only six competitions have done it in 38 years – will be turning 70 this year.

His presentation was very inspiring. Tooke’s first try at the RAAM, in 2010, was unsuccessful. He described it as a grueling challenge, one that less than 300 people have completed since it first started, in 1982, as the Great American Bike Race.

Unlike European bike tours, the Race Across America is a nonstop event from start to finish, there are no stages and competitors need to stay on the road for as long as they can.

In 2010 Tooke took the challenge and fell 180 miles short of his goal, he stopped in Flintstone, Maryland, when he knew there was no way he was going to make the cut.

For most of us, regular people, the sole fact of having pedaled your way across the country, of having traveled 2,800 miles under all kinds of weather ranging from sizzling hot to freezing rain and sleet while sleeping an average of 1.8 hours per day, would have been more than enough to prove us tough.

Not for Tooke.

Next year, in 2011, Tooke came back a little more experienced. However, he was behind the eight ball from the start.

He had caught a virus a few days before the race and was unable to retain any food, his condition made him lose nine pounds even before the event started.

Took again took the challenge, and it was only after the first 400 miles, by the time he reached Prescott, Arizona, when he was finally able to eat “and I ate, and I ate, and I ate,” Tooke recalled.

All that effort and perseverance finally paid off, when Tooke finished the race and became part of a very select group who have completed the Race Across America.

The course climbs 175,000 feet, crosses 12 states and includes three major mountain ranges: Sierra Mountains, Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains.

It also crosses four of America’s longest rivers: Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio, and the Great Plains.

The route passes through iconic American landmarks such as the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, Monument Valley, and Gettysburg.

This year, Tooke is going for it again, nine years later, he knows his body is no longer the same and he is aware that the 500 miles of the Appalachians are going to be the toughest miles of his life.

However, Tooke is trusting his experience and perseverance will take him through the finish line. Although not as a rider, he has been at the Race Across America every year as a navigator, helping other competitors find their way.

Tooke, a retired employee of a local manufacturing plant, is married to his wife Joni, a retired school teacher who is also his team member. They are already carrying the name of Del Rio very high.

The race will be starting in mid June, and the Tooke team is in need of financial support.

To learn more about Tooke or to donate to his team visit his website at

Rubén Cantú has been a journalist since 1995. He is the managing editor of the Del Rio News-Herald.

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