BIKING ACROSS KANSAS
BAK 2001 JOURNAL
Friday June 8th
Our trip began with a charter bus ride from Lenexa, KS to Elkhart, KS. Along the way we picked up additional riders in Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, and Salina. Ten hours after boarding the bus we arrived in Elkhart and hooked up with our friends Kelly and Grace. Having already set up camp they waited for us to do the same, and then we were off to local eatery for dinner. Eating is an important part of the BAK experience and we always look forward to our next meal...whenever and wherever it may be.
Saturday June 9th
We are up early this morning. We break camp, have breakfast, and make preparations to get to the Colorado state line before the 8:00 AM mass start. We manage to hitch a ride in the back of a truck which saves us the 17 mile ride from the city of Elkhart to the state line. Once there we take a few pictures and saddle up.
Today's route takes us through the Cimarron National Grasslands and northeast to Satanta, our overnight stop. We are blessed with a southwesterly breeze that helps push our average speed to 18-19 miles per hour. The temperatures rise to above 90 degrees before the day is out. By late afternoon we arrive in Satanta, some 75 miles from the starting point. The tour is underway and we complete our first day in fine fashion.
Sunday June 10th
More hot weather is in store for us on this second day, but we still have a tailwind that keeps our average speed well above 18 miles per hour. Today's destination is Dodge City. We pass several large feed lots and are treated to the unique odors that are associated with thousands of beef cattle. As we pass we yell out to the cattle: Stop eating! It's a trap! Don't be fooled! Only a few raised their heads from the trough. It is unlikely that they understood the meaning of our warning.
In the southwest corner of Kansas trees are at a minimum, consequently so is shade. Riders on the BAK will seek out any relief from the sun that will shade their bodies. We will stand shoulder to shoulder pressed against a building, crouch in the shadow of a car or truck, and sometimes use each other as a shield against the sun.
We arrived in Dodge around 12:30 PM and immediately look for a place to eat lunch. We settle on Godfather's Pizza and run into some other riders who had the same idea. After lunch and a stop at Walmart we head towards the evening's accommodations, a community center on the northeast side of town. The ride today was shorter than the first, but the heat took its toll and we are tired. We find a shady camping spot away from the hub of activity and look forward to a good night's rest. Tomorrow's ride takes us to Pratt.
Monday June 11th
Thanks to directions given to us by a local resident we deviate from the route to avoid the heavy Monday morning truck traffic near the meat packing plants. Breakfast is at a truck stop and we eat our fill of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and a cinnamon roll the size of a dinner plate.
The highlight of the day is a lunch stop in Greensburg, home of the world's largest hand dug well. It is Kansas tourism at its best. The people of Greensburg were friendly and welcomed us heartily. The lowlight of the day came when we received word that one of the riders was involved in a serious accident near Haviland and was taken by helicopter to a hospital to be treated for a broken elbow and sundry other injuries.
The final few miles into Pratt were along a county road that was bordered by golden wheat fields as far as the eye could see. It was quite a sight to behold.
The local Pilot Club served dinner and dessert to us and we once again looked forward to a good night's sleep. Tomorrow, the tailwind that served us so well for two days was about to turn against us and make our ride to Medicine Lodge and Harper difficult and challenging.
Tuesday June 12th
We got up early and were on the road by 7:00 AM in an effort to beat the heat of the day. The south wind (30-35 miles an hour) had not eased during the night and was in full force right from the start. Our first goal of the day was to reach Medicine Lodge, 27 miles away, due south. The wind kept our speeds down around 11-12 miles per hour. Once we approached the hills near town our speeds dropped to 8-9 miles per hour. It took a little over three hours to reach Medicine Lodge. We were quite elated to reach this destination and ate an early lunch of cheeseburgers and homemade pie.
The journey was not nearly over, however, as we still had to ride on to Harper. The south wind, now a crosswind, battered us with 35 mile an hour gusts all afternoon. Dust rising from barren fields coated our bodies. The temperature rose into the 90s for the third day in a row. Thankfully, trees became more plentiful and we were able to take advantage of a few shady spots including a city park in Sharon, complete with bathroom and water spigot.
Near Harper a local Mennonite Youth Group sold lemonade and cookies. The final three miles into Harper were straight north and we kicked the "Weaver Express" into high gear topping out at 30+ miles per hour (wind-aided of course).
This night we were treated to a real bed and air conditioning at the home of Kelly's grandfather. We made ourselves at home, did some laundry, had a great meal at a local diner, and slept inside while a thunderstorm approached outside.
Wednesday June 13th
We were off towards Winfield today. The terrain starts to gently roll. I try something new this day and establish a schedule so that we can reach Wellington by 10:00 AM and Winfield by 1:30 PM. I allow five minutes at each sag stop for resting and refueling which holds up pretty good for a while. But an unscheduled bathroom stop in Argonia puts us behind schedule. We arrive in Wellington around 10:30 AM and stop at Braum's for ice cream just in time to see the KAKE News crew from Wichita shooting video for a story about the tour.
Ice Cream. One of the great things about riding the BAK is that you can have a deluxe banana split at 10:45 AM and no one thinks twice about it. It is just the thing to do.
After our ice cream break (which was also lunch!), we pushed on towards Winfield. We were to be treated to yet another night's rest in a real bed at Kelly's parents home north of Winfield. We rolled into town at 2:00 PM and were greeted by Kelly's parents, Gene and Ruth, and Kelly and Grace's kids, Holly and Kalen. The weather was hot and humid and big changes in the weather were on our doorstep. We gathered our things and drove into the country to Gene and Ruth's home.
We appreciated the hospitality and good food prepared for us. We ate like kings! I think Gene must have grilled a whole side of beef and Ruth prepared all the sides and fixin's. There was barely enough room on the table for our elbows.
The City of Winfield gave away free passes to the city pool, had a bluegrass concert in the park, held a farmers market, and generally made us feel very welcome.
We kept watch on the weather as a cold front was about to push through sometime during the next day. But we were about to learn that the weather would be just one challenge we would have to face the next day.
Thursday June 14th
Terror strikes the heartland! Stefanie wakes up to find that she is the proud owner of a vicious case of the hives. The source or cause unknown, we consider our options for the day. After feasting upon homemade cinnamon rolls, it is decided that we will push on and treat Stefanie's condition with Benadryl.
The sky is overcast and sprinkles of rain tease us for most of the morning. The Benadryl makes Stefanie drowsy...not one of the qualities you look for in a tandem stoker but we manage to keep going. We ride over 40 miles before we reach our lunch stop in Cedar Vale. And not a minute too soon as the rains begin in earnest just as we walk inside the Hilltop Cafe. We are advised by the Highway Patrol to stay off the road as high winds and hail are headed in our direction.
After waiting out the weather for about two hours, we make the decision to head on towards Sedan, only 20 miles away. Surely we could reach Sedan before any more bad weather hits. WRONG! We had gone just about five miles when the rain started up again. Then the thunder and lightning switched on and we were in big trouble. Visibility was reduced to near zero. Not a good thing when careening down the highway at 20 miles per hour on slick pavement.
I told Stefanie that I would just coast to a stop, hesitant to attempt braking, and we would get off the bike and just let it rain on us for a while. This seemed like the best plan at that particular moment. Our shoes were full of water, and it was raining so hard we could only see a few feet in front of us. Explain to me again what we were doing here? Oh yeah, we're on vacation!
The rain lets up, and we decide to just take it slow and head on down the road. After a mile or so we see Kelly and Grace's bike leaning against a bridge guard rail. They had taken shelter beneath a bridge and we joined them to stay clear of the lightning.
After about 30 minutes we were rescued by a fellow driving a motor home. He carried the four of us and our two tandems into Sedan, still 15 miles away. We were disappointed that we were unable to finish the ride that day but were glad that we had chosen to be conservative and safe.
The weather clears later in the evening and it looks as though Friday will be a great riding day...for some of us.
Friday June 15th
We dry out overnight and get ready for the last full day of the BAK. Skies are blue, the sun is bright, the winds...calm for the first time in days. Hooray for our side! But Stefanie is still plagued by the hives, and they have gotten much worse. So much so that we seek medical attention. And it is in this situation that we really learn what the BAK is all about: Friendships, helping those in need, and making the best of a bad situation.
Our good friends Bruce and Sarah come to the rescue! Traveling the BAK route in their motor home (the Minnie Winnie) they take us to the local clinic, wait while Stefanie is examined, and then are gracious enough to let us hang out with them for the rest of the day. They piled our luggage in their motor home, mounted our tandem to the back, and treated us like family. We are so grateful to them. And if all this was not enough, Bruce and Sarah's daughter, Faith, agreed to ride the tandem with me from Coffeyville to Oswego. The day that started out so unsettling turned out to be the best day we had the whole trip...thanks to this wonderful family.
Stefanie's hives went away (thanks to a steroid shot) by the end of the day and she was as good as new on Saturday morning, ready for the final 30 miles to the Missouri state line.
Saturday June 16th
Another beautiful day for riding! After breaking camp for the last time and a pancake breakfast we were off on the last leg of our journey. As we rode towards the Missouri state line the trials of the week vanished and all we could think about were the good times and fun that we had for the previous seven days.
We stopped at the Eisler Brothers Store in Riverton, KS on Historic Old Route 66 for a short break. At that point we only had about six or seven miles to go. Early in the week the miles roll by slowly. But on this last day they whiz by and before you know it...the tour is over.
We were met in Galena by my parents, Stefanie's parents, and Kelly's parents. We all enjoyed a fried chicken dinner. Soon after that we began the task of loading up all of our gear and preparing to head back home.
It was another great BAK. We saw old friends, made some new ones, and enjoyed ourselves more than you can imagine.