BIKING ACROSS KANSAS
Friday, June 7th
BAK starts the same way each year...a day long bus ride to the western reaches of Kansas. I spent the week going over checklists and packing gear. The "getting ready" is almost as much fun as the actual trip.
The car was loaded Thursday night so all I had to do was get in the car and go Friday morning.
Stefanie and Ashton drove me to the bus in Lenexa where I met up with my traveling partner Kelly. We loaded our bikes and stuff on the bus, said our goodbyes, and soon we were off on another BAK adventure.
Stops in Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, and Salina broke up the trip for us. After Salina, however, it was a straight shot to Goodland. On the way we couldn't help but notice the wind velocity and direction. We were not encouraged as neither the velocity nor the direction seemed to favor our bike travel plans. Well...can't do anything about it now.
We arrived in Goodland around 5:00 PM and were welcomed by fierce winds and hot temperatures. Why was I not surprised?
At the check in table I was greeted by old friends and suddenly the weather report became insignificant. BAK is not about the weather or long bus rides or your relative comfort (or discomfort) riding a bike 60+ miles each day. It is about people...old friends and the new ones you are about to make. It is about seeing Kansas up close and appreciating life on a minute by minute basis.
Saturday June 8th
Geez...why do we get up so early on vacation? We were breaking down the tent at 5:30 AM this day and getting ready for the first day's ride. After the first of many pancake breakfasts we hauled ourselves aboard a semi trailer and waited to be transported to the state line about 20 miles west of Goodland. Real BAK men ride their bikes to the state line...however we chose the easy way out and were proud of it!
This was my first trip where all three routes (B,A, and K) started together. Lots of bikes and people.
Kelly and I did not wait for the fanfare of the mass start but instead took off about 10 minutes ahead of the large group. The wind, which had been relentless most of the night, briefly died down and gave us a few miles of comfortable riding. But by the time we reached Goodland the south wind was once again in full force. Today's destination city was Colby, a mere 54 mile ride.
Along the way we stopped in Brewster for lunch provided by a local community group.
Old Hwy. 24 paralleled I-70 for a few miles...I am certain that passing motorists were collectively wondering who these people were and why on Earth were they riding their bikes in this heat and wind. Believe me...a few of us were asking the same question!
Kelly and I arrived in Colby about 12:30...just in time to help unload the luggage truck.
The temperature was about 100 degrees and the south wind was a brisk 35 mph. A real blast furnace. But there was no humidity! Small consolation.
After setting up camp and showering we walked south along the main drag in Colby towards a local cafe' for a quick lunch and much needed relief from the heat.
The evening brought cooler temperatures and calmer winds. Thank goodness. The next morning we had our second pancake breakfast.
Sunday June 9th
Ever been to Lenora? Ever heard of Lenora? Neither had I. We were aided by something of a tailwind for half of today as our route had us traveling northeast with a southwest wind. We made great time and were at the midway point shortly before 10:00 AM. After a one hour lunch break we were off once again only this next portion of the route had us traveling due east so the strong south wind was buffeting us wildly and causing us to lean our bikes far to the right as we rode. ( I was glad that I was not on the tandem in this kind of wind...very difficult to keep the "shiny side up.")
We dragged ourselves into Lenora about 1:00 PM and headed straight for the local cafe'. We ordered our second lunch of the day and debated whether or not we should go help unload the truck. We decided that we would just be in the way and it was probably best to let the more experienced people handle this delicate task.
As the day wore on the temperatures went higher and the winds grew stronger. People were content to find a cool spot to lie down and just relax.
Not much to do in Lenora on a Sunday night. The subway was shutdown for repairs so we could not go uptown to the theater and the professional baseball team, the Lenora Lions, were on an east coast road trip. Bummer.
We were looking forward to the pancake breakfast the next morning.
Monday June 10th
Well, none of us were looking forward to this ride. We were facing about a 20 mile grind directly into the teeth of the 35 mph south wind...a good portion of it uphill. Today's destination was Plainville...had heard of it but had never been there.
After heading due east for a few miles we turned south and stopped briefly at a SAG for snacks and water. Off in the distance we saw it...a long climb into the wind. A few less hardy souls were loading their bikes on to a trailer and were going to skip the fun of battling the wind and gravity. I will tell you it looked like a pretty good idea to me!
The "big hill" was challenging and we were very tired once reaching the top. Of course, the wind was blowing stronger at the summit and there were, naturally, more hills to negotiate. But we managed keep going and by 9:30 we had reached Hill City (aptly named) and raced down the main drag to find a place to eat.
The remainder of the day's ride to Plainville was south easterly in direction and I think we may have had a tail wind for the last 15 miles on Hwy. 18. The temperatures rose into the upper 90's for the third day in a row. Arrived in Plainville about 1:15 PM...missed unloading the truck. Darn it.
The big controversy at Plainville was the absence of air conditioning. The gym was hot, the locker room was as humid as a rain forest, and there was not much relief available anaywhere from the mid afternoon sun.
Kelly had signed us up for a trip to Hays to visit the Rans recumbent factory. Rans was hosting an open house complete with a taco/burrito buffet. Kelly test rode a recumbent bike. I chose not to as crashing a $1,000 bike in front of a big crowd of people was not on my list of things to do for that day. Some other time.
The trip to Hays was a nice break especially since it was on an air conditioned tour bus.
The weather eventually cooled off enough to allow for a restful night's sleep. Good thing as we had a long ride coming up on the fourth day of BAK...the journey to Paradise, a stop at the Garden of Eden, and an encounter with Abe Lincoln. Oh, and another pancake breakfast!
Tuesday June 11th
We left Plainville early and were on our way down Hwy. 18. Betcha didn't know that Natoma is the birthplace of Ted Allen, world champion horseshoe pitcher! We had long stretches of straight highway today, gradual climbs, and great views. Once again the temperatures climbed and our old friend, Mr. Humidity, was making an appearance just for fun.
We rode into Paradise, passed Waldo (we found him), had a spaghetti lunch at Luray* (thanks to the Boy Scouts), and stopped in Lucas to see the Garden of Eden. If you have never been Lucas you must go see it for yourself as there is no way I can adequately describe it to you.
After touring Lucas and fixing two flat tires we were back on the road with about 15-16 miles to go to reach Lincoln, our overnight stop. This was one of those afternoons of riding that you did not dare stop for too long...if you did you would melt right into the asphalt. The air was heavy with humidity and the sun was beating down on our backs like nobody's business.
We hit Lincoln at 2:00 PM (shucks...missed unloading the truck again) and after riding around the town found our way to the Sunset Drive-in. Hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes were the BAK special of the day so we sat right down, cooled off, and enjoyed some time out of the sun.
After our strength had been restored we rode out to the high school, found our stuff, and marched off to clean up and cool down. I had laundry to do so after a while I took the shuttle bus into town and visited the laundromat, Grannies Wash House. While there a fierce storm moved in, there was heavy rain, hail, and a tornado warning. Yep, we were still in Kansas.
Back at the school, the storm caught unwary campers by surprise. Here is a tip: If you are looking to buy a tent just walk around before, during, and after a wind/rain storm during the BAK to see which ones hold up to the weather. I saw some that performed quite well and others that did not.
Dinner this evening was at the Hungry Hunter in downtown Lincoln. I enjoyed dinner with Kenny and Randy while Kelly feasted upon grilled shrimp back at the school.
Because of the inclement weather I slept in the gym that night...no need to set up the tent in a mudhole...and that was about all that was available after the storm.
Great news...the wind has shifted to the north. Not-so-great-news...we have to go north to Beloit on Wednesday morning. Just our luck. Oh, and just in case we were getting bored with the terrain...it gets hilly.
Wednesday June 12th
After days of hot weather the previous night's storm ushered in a refreshing north breeze and much cooler temperatures. While being dismayed that we did not have the south wind to push us along to Beloit we were thankful for the obviously more pleasant riding conditions.
The hills provided tremendous views of the countryside. The sun was shining through a patchwork of clouds and it made for a photographer's or painter's dream. Travelers passing through Kansas on I-70 miss this spectacular landscape...they don't know what they are missing.
Rolled into Beloit about 9:15. Shop owners were just starting their day as we searched for a place to eat. I made a brief side trip to an office supply store for a roll of double stick tape. I needed to make some repairs to my helmet as the perspiration off my brow had completely dissolved the adhesive which attached the sizing pads to the shell. The tape worked well enough for a while but more lasting repairs would require new strips of Velcro. Will get to that after I get home.
We found the Dairy Queen on the north side of town...what a deal, a banana split at 9:45 in the morning. Only on BAK!
From Beloit we headed west on Hwy. 9 towards Concordia. Very pleasant riding today. Although by the time we reached Concordia at 12:30 it was hot again and quite humid. After a lunch break at Kristie's (I highly recommend this place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner) we found our way down to the middle school.
We were able to send some e-mail messages on the school computers during the afternoon. Late afternoon was spent searching for an ATM (for Kelly), checking out a few local establishments, and ordering dinner at Kristie's. Concordia is a great town and they were glad to have BAK stop over for the night.
We were more than half way to Atchison. Where has the week gone?
Thursday June 13th
Hey...no pancakes for breakfast this morning...what's the deal? Had great breakfast casserole provided by some of the locals.
The sky was cloudy and the thermometer at the bank read 61 degrees. Brrrr! I had the good sense to grab my rain jacket before loading my gear "high and tight" on the truck. It was clear that we would encounter some form of precipitation today...not sure when or how much but it was going to rain for sure.
We managed to get to the town of Clifton before the rain started. It never rained very hard on us but those without rain gear did get wet. In spite of enduring caustic comments regarding my attire (I think Kenny referred to me as some kind of mutant bug) I remained dry.
By the time we curved north to Linn we had effectively ridden out of the rain and it looked like we would be seeing sunny skies soon. I proclaimed "La pavementa esta dryo!"
At Barnes we sampled the "church lady lunch" and at Waterville stopped in at the Weaver Hotel for ice cream and cookies.
From there it was just a few short miles to Blue Rapids and the opportunity to eat once again at the local cafe'.
We checked out the baseball field in Blue Rapids where in October of 1913 the Chicago White Sox played the New York Giants in an exhibition baseball game. Playing in that game was one Buck Weaver (no relation) who would be later implicated in the scandal in the 1919 World Series. He was banned from baseball for life as a result. Way to go Buck!
One more full day on the road...Blue Rapids to Holton.
Friday June 14th
Pancakes for breakfast! We were all set to ride with Kenny this morning but he was a no show at the rendezvous point at 7:30 AM. We were certain that he decided our 7:30 departure was too late for him and he left without us.
We took off towards Frankfort through rolling terrain and lush green fields. I clearly remember this stretch of highway from two years ago when Stefanie and I toured this part of the state.
The hills stretched before us as far as we could see. They were not monster climbs by any means but the sheer number of them began to wear us down. We stopped in Centralia at the community building for lunch around 10:00. After eating we spotted Kenny pulling out onto the road so we flagged him down and rode the rest of the way to Holton with him.
We rolled into Holton about 12:30. The town square was ready for BAK! Food booths were every where, the newspaper had a special edition printed for us filled with coupons and information about the town. Merchants wore special T-shirts welcoming the BAK to town. Holton High School was a great facility that provided ample room for everyone and was within walking distance of the town square.
While Kelly ran off to a family function for the evening, I had dinner with Randy Roberts and Kenny McDougle.
There was a real festive atmosphere in Holton that night and the local organizers were the ones to thank for that.
Saturday would be a short 45 miles to Atchison and the Missouri River where Stefanie and Ashton would meet up with me to take me home.
Saturday June 15th
Last day! Our final pancake breakfast!
Kelly and I rode with Kenny and Randy today and had a great time cracking jokes and remembering the weeks events. It was a great ride...cool temperatures and light winds. Of course the BAK always ends like this. It leaves you with the feeling that you could ride forever. But within a few hours we will all be headed home and back to the real world where you can't ride your bike all day long and eat ice cream treats for lunch.
As we turned onto Hwy. 73 for the final eight miles into Atchison I hooked on to a pair of tandems and announced to the guys that this was our free ride home. ( Finally, after three years of riders drafting behind our tandem it was my turn to sit back in the slipstream and enjoy the ride.) But Kelly, Randy, and Kenny failed to stay on my wheel and in the true spirit of BAK I left them behind like a bad habit. However, I did stop on the outskirts of town and waited for them so we could ride through town together and reach the river at the same time.
Atchison...I made it! 505 miles logged on my odometer. The week went by so fast (although a couple days early in the week seemed to last forever). Overall it was a great trip and I am looking forward to next year already.