LOCKPORT – Four local men fell short of their goal of visiting every Mighty Taco location by bicycle in one day, but their journey did raise their targeted $5,000 for the Wounded Warriors Project.
Jeff Tracy of Lockport, who came up with the idea, said he and his friends rode 175 miles Thursday and downed a taco at 17 of the 23 Mighty Taco locations, but they fell far behind schedule and decided to abandon the notion of visiting all 23 stores.
“We cut out a few. It was getting too dark. We were about three hours behind schedule,” Tracy said Friday.
Tracy, joined by Richard Mullaney of Lockport, Mark Kern of Gasport and Jon Lacki of East Amherst, started “The Mighty Ride” about 5 a.m. Thursday at a Mighty Taco in the Rochester suburb of Greece. After hitting that store and the other Monroe County location in Henrietta, the quartet rode south and west, cutting through hilly Wyoming County to reach the Mighty Taco in East Aurora.
The men worked their way north through Erie County, zigzagging across the map in an effort to reach every location, but the taco stops were taking too long.
“We were welcomed warmly by all the Mighty Taco employees,” Tracy said. The company had authorized free tacos and loganberry drinks for the four at every location.
“Along the way, people were giving us money,” said Tracy, a teacher at Starpoint High School.
Although most of the fundraising was done online, Tracy said he was glad to take in-person donations. The Wounded Warriors Project assists those injured in recent U.S. wars. Kern, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division, was wounded by a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2010.
Tracy, a veteran of numerous triathlons, said he and his companions had lights on their bikes and reflective vests on their backs, but as darkness fell, they decided things were becoming too dangerous.
For protection, “We were riding on sidewalks,” Tracy said.
Huddling in the parking lot of a gas station at Maple and North Forest roads in Amherst about 9:30 p.m., they decided to ride directly to a Mighty at Transit and Casey roads in Amherst and then head for the final destination at the Lockport Mighty, where they arrived about 11 p.m.
If they hadn’t skipped some stores, “We wouldn’t have gotten finished until 3 or 4 in the morning,” Tracy said.
Tracy said off-duty Lockport policeman Warren Hale drove Tracy’s truck down Transit Road with the flashers on, protecting the bicyclists on their dark final push to meet about 15 friends and family members at the Lockport Mighty Taco.
“Even at the Lockport store, this kid came out, a teenager, and gave us a dollar. He said, ‘My dad was in the military.’ It was only a dollar, but what an awesome gesture. It was probably all he had,” Tracy said.