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2004 - COURTNEY'S GREAT ADVENTURE
It must have been February or March when a hint of spring turned a discussion towards which rides we would like to attend during the summer. The mention of BAK (Biking Across Kansas), with a brief description to 6 year old Courtney, sparked an immediate interest and with very little hesitation Courtney provided an immediate unwavering commitment to doing the ride. She literally made it known that in no uncertain terms that she wanted to ride across our rather long state.
Total Mileage: 510
Having seen the 'Welcome to Colorful Colorado' sign on many occasions, she had a mental picture of the starting area and certainly knows where the Missouri line is as we cross it often on bike rides. She frequently expressed great anticipation of the challenge as she spoke of it often in the preceding weeks.
Time rapidly drew near as her Kindergarten experience came to a close. Preparations were underway, at least the mental planning of the trip, since it would start in short order after school was out for the summer. As we sorted through the logistics of travel to the Colorado line we planned on including 4 year old Natalie for a reasonable portion of the 'Great Adventure'. Natalie was to ride on the quad the first short 17 mile day followed by the longish 57 mile day from Sharon Springs to Oakley. She would then have a few days of quality time with mom before completing the last 47 mile leg from Lawrence to Leavenworth, our final destination located on the Missouri river.
All 5 of us manage to fit into our aged van along with a quad and a triplet for the 450 mile jaunt across the state. Mom would return home after the first couple of days with Natalie to rejoin us in Lawrence for the last leg of our cross state ride.
With only one week into her summer vacation, Courtney was to start her 'Great Adventure'!
Prologue - Friday, June 4, 2004
CO Line to Sharon Springs
17 miles, 1:13, 13.9 average on the quad
We arrived at the Colorado line and assembled the quad as other riders unloaded and started the first short leg of their cross state trek.
Courtney age 6, Julie
(aka 'Mighty Mouse'), Natalie age 4, and Mark (aka 'Dad')
(Natalie is standing with one foot in CO and one foot in KS)
A bit weary from the long drive, we awakened to a beautiful day aside from the the cross headwind that kept our average down to 13.9 mph. We saw probably no more than half a dozen other riders this day as many folks were still making the drive to the start point.
Sharon Springs after the 1st leg
A bit weary after fighting the wind for 17 miles, we disassembled the quad for the drive back to our motel in Oakley. Picking our dinner restaurant was rather easy as the selection is rather limited in the small western Kansas towns. It was a unanimous decision to go to Pizza Hut!
Waiting for our elusive order......
The restaurant was packed with riders and we were getting rather concerned as the kids nutritional deficit was becoming noticeable in their behavior. We waited and waited and expressed concern to the waitress when we noticed others eating that had arrived after we did. It turned out that our order was totally lost and that the restaurant had all but cleared out by the time we finally received or food. What we received was also not what we had ordered. We did receive a very generous $2 off the entire meal for the mistake on making one of the pizzas! ....really impressed us.... NOT!
Mom purchased a book for Courtney to keep a journal of her day's adventure. She would draw pictures and write words describing what she saw. Her first day's record is below.
Day 1 - Saturday, June 5, 2004
Sharon Springs to Oakley
57 Miles, 4:20, 13.1 average on the quad
Saturday greeted us no worse for wear with another beautiful and warmer day. The wind however continued out of the southeast contrary to the popular belief that there is a prevailing southwesterly wind. Have I mentioned that it is all downhill from CO to MO? One drops from near 4800 feet to about 800 feet over the course of the ride and with the mythical prevailing tailwind this should be a piece of cake.
Julie, a BAK veteran, often provided a reality check as to how flat the early part of the ride would be and the seemingly detrimental effect of the wind towards easterly progress. We quickly learned she was right, especially during these first two days!
A rest stop on our jaunt from Sharon Springs to Oakley
On the road near a sag as the temperature soared
Courtney took our picture as we continued being wind blown!
We arrived at the sag just in time to get the last of some fixings. Getting started late due to letting the kids get their needed sleep was not without a penalty. Sleep for the kids is a dire necessity otherwise the ride would not happen..... speaking from experience here!
Julie replenishing some lost calories
A weary but satisfied team neared the outskirts of Oakley and stopped for a close up look at a huge sculpture of a buffalo and hunter. We were able to have fellow BAK participants take our picture alongside the magnificent work of art.
A contrast of the times
Look what the kids found behind the ice cream store!
Day 2 - Sunday, June 6, 2004
Oakley to Hill City
83 Miles, 4:49, 17.9 average on the triplet
It was a breeze, literally and going our direction. Mom and Natalie were to return home on the eastern end of the state while the three of us would continue our trek across KS on a triplet. Our morning greeted us with a strong warm southerly wind, something good for the short northbound stretch. We spotted a couple of bikes in the distance and wound it up making fabulous time with three motors humming, or singing as it were from the rear position. We rounded the curve to go east to Hill City, our destination of the day, when the wind once again blasted us from the southeast.
We caught many riders at this sag and stopped briefly. Our rapid progress was now hindered by the wind but it did not keep us from passing many riders as we were motivated by the 'need for speed'!
First Sag Stop
The wind was unrelenting and the thermometer was certainly climbing. We had caught many of the riders by the time we reached the next sag located on the property of an old restored ranch. Upon stopping many wanted us to continue posing for photos including getting back on the bike but we declined in short order as we were literally cooked, dehydrated and not feeling good much less sociable.
Cottonwood Ranch near Studley, KS, from the 1800's
We toured the ranch's dwelling and pointed out to Courtney the way things were in the 'old days'. She was somewhat in awe as to how the homes were heated, the clothing people wore and how food was prepared.
One of the many hills we would encounter over the next 2 days
We no longer needed to worry about the monotony of the flat terrain experienced thus far as it was changing rapidly today. It was kind of exciting to see what would be over the next rise rather than looking at the next town and their grain elevator as you were leaving another one.
Arriving in Hill City searching for the school and our first night of camping.
We made very good time today with a 17.9 average for 83 miles with the heat and wind. A few extra miles were picked up cruising around town looking for dinner and seeing the local sights.
Toting our luggage across the field to our campsite
This was to be Courtney's first night in a tent, something she had really been looking forward to doing.... camping with dad, in a tent. This was a new experience for her.
Proof positive that is was HOT at 101 degrees!
The local park where the cookout was held - "No Bicycles Allowed" though!
Courtney playing Frisbee with Julie
Sleeping in the tents was a real misnomer with high temperatures prevailing until nearly sun up. The winds continued to whip and beat the tent material all night long making rest a near impossibility. Thankfully Courtney slept well and she managed to get to sleep as the sun was going down. She was a tired camper after what proved to be the longest distance ridden in a single day on the trip but it was not to be the longest time spent on the bike.
Day 3 - Monday, June 7, 2004
Hill City to Osborne
70 Miles, 4:52, 14.2 average on the triplet
Mom had packed little surprises with Courtney's belongings and a little stuffed dog was discovered on this morning. Having seen another rider with a stuffed one their helmet yesterday, Courtney requested that she also have her own personal mascot along for the ride. So be it! We secured the little pup to the top of her helmet for the day's adventure.
Just how long can the wind prevail from the southeast was the question of the day, a question with a known answer that was starting to haunt us. We longed for the tailwind assist, that would only come in our dreams, so we could make the triplet hum down the highway.
Packing up in the mornings was a real struggle and time consuming. It became apparent that it was an hour and 15 minute to an hour and a half project working as diligently as possible to hit the road. Letting Courtney get her sleep was paramount in making this ride a success thus far, a trend that would continue throughout the week. We would be nearly the last to leave and others would ask how we could possibly make it in to the destination in time before the sags shut down. Julie assured them that we would just "ride fast!' ....and we did by comparison to many.
Our first sag of the day
We were not alone leaving late on this day however as there were some tired souls from yesterday's long windy and hot trek that were no doubt sleep deprived as well. It is amazing that anyone in the gym with indoor sleeping could survive in that oven.
Leaving town we immediately spotted a couple of riders for us to chase down. We had trouble getting warmed up as our muscles had been depleted from yesterday's long push but we finally got into a rhythm after being on the road for an hour.
The geography was getting interesting with rolling terrain and some small bluffs. Gone were the long flat stretches where you could see the next town from the one you were leaving. The hills provided some intermittent welcome shelter from the wind and the monotony of the first couple of days was not missed.
We were treated to a peculiar site when we spotted boots placed upside down on every fence post for a considerable distance. This is not something you see everyday! Courtney would draw a picture depicting the site in her journal that evening.
Eating a pizza and breakfast buffet spread
Note the cooked arm and the exhausted tired expression of the captain! Surely sleep would come this evening and a bit of recovery, at least one would hope.
We found the school in short order and the yellow truck that carried our luggage.
Courtney quickly made friends with another young rider that was on a Trail-a-bike type device.
Finding a 'good' campsite with privacy, low lighting in the evening and peace and quiet proved to be a challenge with the hoard of people in such a small area. One would often miss a security light that would flood your tent as if it were daylight if not careful. With Julie's experience of camping in towns she kept a watchful eye out for such lighting issues and streets that would carry late night teenager traffic.
A tired camper writing a post card to her sister and mom
Keeping her journal up everyday!
Julie in her tent
Day 4 - Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Osborne to Lincoln
64 Miles, 5:12, 12.1 average on the triplet
I somehow managed to lose the Y splitter needed to connect 3 headsets to our tandem intercom system. We stopped at a convenience store before departing town and grabbed some calories. A local bakery guy was dropping off the morning supply of donuts and pies while he overheard me ask the clerk if there was a Radio Shack in town. Already knowing the answer I did not express much disappointment. The bakery driver asked me what I needed. Upon explaining it to him he said, "I think I have one". All of us were shocked! We rode 3 blocks to where his car was parked. He rummaged through his trunk saying he knew it was here just two days before and maybe his kids or wife had taken it out of the car. Then we heard, "Ah hah! Here it is!" He had a splitter adapter that worked perfectly for our use. The man refused money and we left being eternally grateful for him taking the time out to help us. Heading out of town he passed us with a friendly wave and horn toot while on the way to his next stop.
Did I mention the ferocity of the wind since the beginning of our adventure? How many days will this unusual pattern keep up I kept asking myself? I know Courtney and Julie entertained similar thoughts but at least it was cooler today. We hit the road and were greeted with a cross headwind blowing extremely hard from the south.
Taking a break from our southerly struggle
We made reasonable time on the flat initial easterly stretch and then we turned south. Oh boy..... It hit us hard in the face and some from the left. We dropped to a crawl it seemed. The wind was gusting from 35-40 or 40-45 depending on the source we later read in papers. I recall thinking that this is going to be a really long day. This was certainly our windiest day thus far.
We found ourselves rolling into a hilly area that was very picturesque. It was great to see such pretty scenery despite the wind. Communication via the intercom was sketchy with this much wind in our ears and microphones but still much better than nothing.
Working the climb and not letting the wind win!
A photographer was waiting for us on a curvy climb that must have been 1.5-2 miles long.
Nearing the top
We stopped for a short break to rest our weary bodies as coasting was certainly out of the question unless we wanted to roll backwards.
The top of the really long rise. The road can barely be seen in the background.
We had an occasional reprieve from the direct wind as the road would jog further east now and then.
The Sag Hags!
Our first sag stop was interesting at best with the costumes. We all received lady bug stickers which we placed on our mirrors. We never did understand the significance of the lady bugs or if there was one.
We were just now catching several riders that had a much earlier start than we did. Lunch was certainly a welcome sight but before we got there, we passed 'unicycle man'!
With a little fresh fuel in our bodies along with the needed rest, we found ourselves passing more and more bikes. Our all out effort on the rollers would plow us through the wind and our momentum would carry us into the next roller. I was literally laying on the handlebar to get as aerodynamic as possible. Even though it seemed like slow going, we were making much better time than others.
Then came the tractor.... from behind. It was blue and big... real big!... and going more than double our speed at 25 mph. "Hit it!" I commanded through the microphone... and we did. We chased onto the back of the large farm machine and all of the sudden it was quiet, real quite. We coasted. We talked. We rested. We had an uphill but it did not slow us down and we hung on with some short lived effort. We passed other riders doing 1/4 the speed and hollered, "jump on" full well knowing there was no way they could. Man it was fun for all of us!
The tractor pull lasted for about a mile before the kindly farmer turned off into his field with a gentle wave and a smile. Courtney was to draw a picture of the tractor that evening in her journal and we were to hear some folks telling the story to many others.
We were catching the crowed evident by the busy sag and in short order we would be in the leading fourth of the 800 or so riders on the road that day despite our late start.
Cat at Sag
We turned east and the crosswind halted our progress as it was now hitting all three riders rather than only one. Riders we had passed were now going around us one at a time despite our efforts resultant of a drop in our aero efficiency. It was demoralizing and we were getting tired going on 5 hours on the bike.
We rolled into Lincoln thankful that a very long slow day was behind us. Our time on the bike was 5:12!
Another swimming pool greeted us but first we had to make camp. We chose an area with trees and as luck would have it the exact spot proved to be a funnel for the wind. Our tents were literally caving in from the wind so we were forced to move to a more sheltered area.
Once we relaxed at the pool it was off to find dinner.
Dinner! ....waiting and waiting on our pizza... and they ran out of beer.... good beer that is.
We quickly learned that these towns would be depleted of food and drink in short order despite them knowing about the BAK inundation well in advance.
Day 5 - Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Lincoln to Chapman
70 Miles, 4:54, 15.5 average on the triplet
Our ride today was to be straight east and the heat finally left along with a great deal of the wind. The rain during the night had ceased, or so we thought. We all started out on pavement that was mostly dry and drying up. Within 2 miles the light rain started causing us to pull over and put a rain jacket on Courtney. She needed this to keep warm and to keep the sandy road oil slop from getting all over her back.
It was a quiet morning on the bike as we were unable for the most part to get Courtney in the mood to sing or talk, a sure sign that things could possibly go wrong for her on this day. She never complained, not a single time that I recall on the entire trip. We rode past a metal sculpture dragon and I became more worried about her disposition when she showed little interest and did not want to take a picture of it with her own camera.
Quite the work of art!
We made it to lunch and across the railroad track that everyone had been warned about. Courtney perked up as the drizzle had ceased and the sky was getting brighter. Riding past some horses she wanted to stop and take a picture so we knew all would be well.
Horses paying attention to Courtney
There was a light headwind today and we were thankful for the reprieve from the heat and the gale forces we had come to expect. Our average was going to be higher today but nothing to brag about as we were tired campers from the previous days.
Hanging out at the Caseys in Chapman
We rode into Chapman and spotted a Caseys within sight of the school. We camped for a while right there on the sidewalk as riders came and went. Courtney purchased a small doll for her sister only to discover that someone had broken it after removing the packing material. We were to return the doll the next day and unsuccessfully seek a replacement at other Casey's on the rest of the trip.
Starting the search for a campsite
We found a good one.... AH.. life is good!
Courtney enjoying the moment and looking very much like her little sister for some reason
Day 6 - Thursday, June 10, 2004
Chapman to St. Mary's
80 Miles, 5:02, 15.4 average on the triplet
We actually seemed to have a light favorable wind for a change as we rode east towards Ft. Riley, Manhattan and Wamego. It was with sadness that the realization that the end of the ride was rapidly approaching especially since the roads were becoming familiar to us.
The route took us on old U.S. 40 to Junction City, a road Sue and I traversed during a Paris Brest Paris 600K qualifier 10 years previous.
We opted to ride through the fort but had a difficult time following the route sheet directions. We climbed a really long hill when a man told us that the others had turned right earlier that morning about 1 mile back. It started to rain as we rolled down the hill and our freehub started to catch. We pulled off on the shoulder and squirted on some chain lube where the seal was dragging and all was well.
Fort Riley pictures
By then the rain had ceased leaving us with only slightly damp roads. We continued to have difficulty finding our way through the fort despite stopping and receiving help two more times. We finally made it onto the highway that would eventually take us to Manhattan.
Manhattan was the town my father grew up in and my grandmother lived there for more than two decades after I was born before passing. We rode over to the house to check it out and saw that it was under renovation. The workman gave us the go-ahead to walk around the house which we did while I related childhood stories to Courtney and Julie.
1614 Humboldt Street
We found our way to the cemetery and located the gravesites of my grandparents. Another BAK woman was there visiting her aunt's grave. Interestingly enough she was on a cell phone telling someone about us riding the triplet across KS when we rode right up to her while being several miles off course!
The Family Marker
Lunch was at Schlotzky's in Manhattan followed by riding east on the south side of the Kansas River. We made good time while I related stories of riding this road with my dad on a Schwinn Varsity back in about 1966.
Wamego was a good resting spot for us and the ice cream served up at Sonic really hit the spot. It was evident we were getting closer to home as the fast food chain restaurants were now available.
Back to civilization and artery clogging fast food!
Leaving town we located the old Dutch windmill to show Courtney, something Sue, Julie and I had seen some 10 years previous on a Manhattan based tandem rally.
Wamego Dutch Windmill
The route took us on U.S. 24 for a few miles to St. Mary's. The traffic was busy and fast with folks seemingly in a hurry going home from work and school. It seemed we had lost the 'country' riding and previously experienced serenity as the impatience of the drivers and the constant noise were now reminding us of something we never missed. Being further east now and in the river valley, the low humidity to which we had become accustomed was now a thing of the past.
We did the usual campsite setup and ate at the local Mexican restaurant. The unicycle rider came in through the parking lot and received a standing ovation from the entire restaurant! It was a really cool thing to see.
A couple of my favorite clowns!
We had only one more day remaining before the final leg which we were planning on doing with Natalie on the quad.
Day 7 - Friday, June 11, 2004
St. Mary's to Lawrence
62 Miles, 4:15, 17 average on the triplet
Courtney seemed particularly tired this morning as yesterday was another long day. We were back in the land of humidity and heat evident by profuse sweating from trying to do anything.
We left early, at least for us and were able to ride with others from the beginning of the ride. A small pace line formed behind us with some dropping off as we rolled along over 20 mph on the flat road that was in the Kansas River valley.
Going through Topeka my thoughts turned toward getting off the official course thus leaving the busy highway. We turned onto stretch of old U.S. 24 highway that would eventually run through the town of Perry. The road was very peaceful and one with which I was already familiar.
Old bridge on old U.S. 24 just west of Perry, KS
More old 24 highway
Cemetery outside of Lawrence
A newspaper reporter and photographer took our picture as we rode down Massachusetts street, Lawrence's downtown main drag. We were interviewed and featured in the Saturday paper.
The heat in Lawrence was incredible and very miserable with the high humidity. We set up our tents and were forced to move since the tree row proved to be an effective wind block and it did not cool off that evening for several hours.
Dinner following a lengthy swim
We did chill out at the pool for a considerable time which really helped!
Courtney took quick notice of the K-State logos around the Manhattan area and came up with a cute 'call' for something she refers to as the 'Kansas City Wildcats", the name of her new tandem club! CLICK HERE for the mpeg (759k). Maybe she is on to something since some have mentioned they don't care for the Flamingo's motif.
There was only one more day remaining and it would be on the quad. We prayed for good weather!
Day 8 - Saturday, June 12, 2004
Lawrence to Leavenworth
47 Miles, 3:03, 15.3 average on the quad
"Good morning Courtney! This is the day when your mom and sister will be arriving! And the last day of our trip!" ...thus the day started.
One of our little troopers! ...6:45 AM by the camera clock
Sue and Natalie arrived as Courtney and I were walking across the field to use the facilities. She noticed them but it did not register as she was still somewhat asleep. She took about 4 more steps and it finally dawned on her who was here to see her. She broke into a run and mad dash shouting Mommy! Natalie! And hugs were in abundance.
All the troopers!
Despite awakening fairly early, we were the last to leave. Assembling the quad and packing up the campsite all took time.
We fought a cross wind to Eudora but it was only for 7 or 8 miles before heading north with a nice favorable assist. But.... we stopped for a donut at the Eudora Caseys before heading in that direction!
We made the quad hum and let our momentum carry us over the rollers. We spotted a couple of riders in short order and sailed past them on the up hills as our momentum was great on the big bike.
Arriving in Leavenworth and nearing our destination, we were treated to some really steep short hills prior to making it to the river. We can do this I thought. We grunted up them maintaining our cadence with sheer determination that the end was in sight calling for assistance from our small turbo motors!
The ceremonial stop at the 'Mighty Mo'
The park was very crowded with most of the attendees already feasting away. We discovered in short order that being towards the end that day was not a good thing. The party attendees had pretty much devoured the celebration dinner. Oh well....
Ready to party at the Park!
The girls were actually being nice to each other after our 6 day absence.
Click here for the newspaper accounts of the event.