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2007 - NATALIE'S GREAT ADVENTURE
This would be the fourth back to back BAK for the, uh (cough!), the mature members of our team. Same ol' thing you say? Ha! Not hardly! Natalie had literally come of age reaching that magical line pulled out of...., err, drawn in the sand, the point where one reaches a certain level of the 'ability to cope' that correlates with the age of 6.5 years or greater. We are talking years here, and to Natalie's credit her growing resume is inclusive of riding two days of this event each year for 3 previous years running, including the terribly windy 86 mile day last year when some 400 riders sagged in! Somewhere and somehow we deemed a 6.5 (or greater) child worthy, capable, and mature enough to not only survive but actually enjoy a 500 mile week long adventure of good times, tailwinds, headwinds, rain, and sometimes cold... all SANS MOMMY! Granted, we could be biting off more than we wanted to chew but with a bit of perseverance and a bit of patience, we had thus far pulled it all together with her elder sister previously so.... it is a must do! ...and besides, it is Natalie's turn!
Since the turf had literally and repeatedly been tested with older sis's 3 previous 'adventures', we were so confident in Natalie that any trepidation that may have lingered in the gray matter rapidly receded into the background with the time consuming trip preparation.
You know, it is always down hill from CO to MO, so how hard can it be? During other years we quickly discovered this thing called 'wind' but in most recent years it could easily be called BAK wind. The wind in the past has not been our friend but being the eternal optimist (Not! - trying to convince myself here) I kept telling myself this was going to be a great year, not only for Natalie but for all of us. Having escaped the widespread highly communicable illness of BAK 2006, we knew luck was already on our side! ... but then we took precautions and planned it that way too.
This year's route would start mid state at the CO line and meander to the NE corner of KS. Somehow the BAK folks manage to get just about the same miles out of every week event even when going straight across the state, as in 2006, using the 'southern route', or if they start in the very SW corner and go to the NE corner as in 2005. Go figure.
The 2007 route is as follows:
One thing was lacking this year. Miles... kid miles that is. Soccer, Brownies, and softball combined with just being plain busy resulted in less preparatory riding for Natalie than ever before. Sometimes life just gets in the way of bicycling! In May we really made a huge last minute effort to provide Natalie some saddle time and managed to add 270 miles to her riding log in just the last two weeks of the month! By comparison, she had nearly triple the mileage by start time the previous year.
Those of you that have followed the chronology must realize that the old van is still with us. Why is open to more than skepticism particularly since it is getting uglier by the day. The kids are often teased with the fact that it IS being saved for them to drive when they get their license!
Early Start Day - Friday June 8, 2007
Border to Tribune
0.0 Miles, 00.0 AVERAGE ON THE QUAD
We skipped the early start this year given our late arrival at Scott City and opted to call it a day with plans to get up with the sun, like that is going to happen!
Mom set up a journal for Natalie to personally record her adventure with instructions to do it each and every evening after the ride. She was to draw pictures and write what she saw each day. Her depiction of the first day is below.
Day 1 - Saturday, June 9, 2007
Border to Scott City
63.0 Miles, 16.4 AVERAGE ON THE QUAD
Somehow our personal 'early start' did happen as we managed to hit the road by 6:38 AM! Small miracles can be a blessing and in this case it seemed to be a good omen for the trip to come.
While driving towards the CO line with the rising sun at our backs, we saw hundreds of early bird riders pedaling east into the wind. It appeared most honored the official start from Tribune given their current distance from the border with it being so early in the day. Being a purist, die-hards or whatever, if we are going to Bike Across Kansas, then that is exactly what we are going to do! With that common unquestioning sentiment, we drove west past Tribune to the CO/KS border for our official start. Doing so created no mental anguish despite knowing we would be starting off with a SSE cross headwind that would pretty much kill any high average speed on the quad. Cross winds hit every rider and all aero advantage we may have at times on the long bike is lost.
ALMOST READY TO ROLL EAST!
It was quite chilly this morning despite being such a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was well rested and in good spirits making the day all the more pleasant.. And believe me the alternative is one to avoid!
Given the girl's don't generate much heat as compared to adults, we started them off with jackets and leg warmers. Rarely do we meet resistance about what they should wear after letting them have their way a time or two when they ended up being miserable for a short spell. Explanations, once understood, usually result in very quick agreement.
STARTING THE LONG TREK TO MISSOURI
The girls shed their arm and leg warmers at the Tribune convenience store as the sun was feeling more toasty by the minute.
OFFICIAL START TOWN
Upon leaving the official start town, we heard the familiar sound of an ambulance usually indicating someone out of 800-900 hundred riders had an unfortunate crash. We never did see the result and thankfully so.
East of Tribune we saw smoke billowing across the plains propelled by the increasing wind. Speculation as to the source was batted back and forth through the intercom as it was quite impressive. Since it appeared to be coming from the highway and was highly visible from a long distance, it made us think that perhaps a vehicle was on fire. As we got closer some major highway resurfacing equipment came into view unlike anything we had seen before. There was a Sheriff's car with a deputy stopping traffic and giving directions on how to pass the machine, as IF this was going to be a complicated task. We were told to give it wide berth! The massive machine was blowing flames from below as well as out of the sides as it literally cooked the old asphalt on the road, scooped it up and put it back down again forming the new surface. Never before have we seen such a large fire breathing monster! Believe me, we gave it a wide berth! Duh!
WARMED UP SOME! ONLY ONE JACKET REMAINING!
We rode on through Leoti skipping lunch and blowing all of the BAK provided sag stops. We were on a roll!
TOO MUCH ENERGY
The kids always seem to spot parks and playground equipment and our arrival at Scott City was no exception.
We tried to eat at a restaurant called La Fiesta but they closed at 2 resultant of the hoard of riders descending on the place causing them to run out of chicken. Pizza Hut proved to be a viable option for us.
Day 2 - Sunday, June 10, 2007
City to Ness City via a Utica Detour!
76.7 Miles, 16.4 AVERAGE ON THE QUAD
So much for early starts! Our early start yesterday was not to be a trend setter as we blew it today! We hit the road at 8:30 AM, feeling a bit weary from yesterday's efforts. It did not help our psyche to again be greeted with a SSE headwind but this is BAK and the wind in our face is so typical! Surprisingly, another late starter cruised by at 21-23 mph despite the headwind. He was certainly not a racer type looking person but one cannot ignore the effort nor one's speed. I uttered "hubba hubba" through the intercom with the hope that the engine room would respond with impressive acceleration needed to get on this rider's wheel. Being early in the day, everyone did ramp it up. After a period of time and an extreme mutual effort, we caught the rider's draft. After a time he sensed we were tucked in and continued to pull for a fair distance at great speed. He eventually tired and we pulled but our speed dropped by 2 mph in fairly short order. We blew by a sag and continued to take turns taking pulls and arrived in Dighton in a respectable time making up a great deal of time on other riders.
ON THE WAY TO UTICA
Julie's cousin, Judy of Utica, was expecting us for lunch and a visit sometime around noon. Utica is actually a bit off the BAK route but easily reached by a detour that would add only 11 or 12 miles to our day's total. Julie gave her cousin a call and pinpointed our arrival time within 10 minutes and we headed north on K-23 in search of easterly bound K-4 that would take us east to Utica. The tailwind on K-23 was more than a welcome break and we made very good time, enough so that we stopped to take a photo. It is always tricky setting the camera up and running in cleated shoes to get in the picture all the while trying to pose as if you been there a while!
JULIE'S COUSIN'S VETERINARIAN CLINIC
We arrived in Utica within minutes of our predicted time. Judy greeted us and gave us the 'inside' tour of her very nice clinic. Natalie was promptly introduced to the live-in cat named Peach who proved to love people and have fair amount of tolerance too! ...thankfully! If memory serves, Peach was rescued from going to the pound some years earlier by Judy. Natalie was ready to adopt this kitty right on the spot and let us know so many times!
NATALIE & PEACH!
We were treated to a wonderful chicken enchilada casserole lunch graciously provided by Judy and her husband at their home. Natalie was able to see their dogs run, play, and fetch in their yard and learned more about their husband and wife veterinary business.
At last it was time to leave. It was a bit hard getting on the bike with a full belly and after such a long relaxing time but we had no choice and it was getting late. Judy took some photos, pointed to the distant grain elevators and said it was "7 miles" to get there. The wind seemed to have picked up as the heat of the day built, but that was no surprise.
We continued east to K-285 where we turned south towards or destination of Ness City.
Sue awaited our arrival where reservations had been made at the Derrick Inn, which looked to be a nice place. She was told they had no record of our reservations despite having made them a few weeks before and supplying them with a contact name. Thankfully the Derrick Inn owned a 2nd flea bitten motel down the street where we were able to get something resembling a room. The place was a real dive with questionable looking characters coming and going from other rooms. The beds sagged greatly and were likely over 40 years old. There were even large holes in the street level bathroom window curtain that was made of an old towel! Now that is class!
For the first time ever on a BAK trip, Courtney was to go home with mom for the remaining part of the week to see us again at the MO line and finish. It was hard for her, and us, given she had done the entire distance 3 times previous even though she knew there was a special ride planned just for her in August.
Sue and Courtney were getting off to a late start but a bad headlight needed replacement on the van before leaving. Sue had picked up a replacement earlier in the day so it was time to install it. The simple process proved not to be so simple given my finger was sliced on a sharp metal edge in the process! I said, "oh darn it!" Yeah right.....
Natalie was asleep by 8:20, which was good since she had been up early the day before and suffered sleep deprivation on top of having just ridden 77 miles today and 63 the day before. It makes me tired just thinking about it!
Day 3 - Monday, June 11, 2007
City to Hoisington
71.5 Miles, 15.2 AVERAGE ON THE TRIPLET
Monday! This is the start of a long work week for most but today was a big mile stone for Natalie as we were to switch from the quad to the triplet. Our bikes are difficult to identify this year given both have the same color scheme but hold a different number of riders. The color schemes were not planned that way but resultant of available inventory! The kids have always been told that all bikes are for sale, and that they are replaceable with new ones too, should a customer need one of our personal rides.
We were up at 7:30, ate a few snacks, and packed our bags for the BAK truck. We arrived at the 'tent truck' to learn from the driver that the start this morning was delayed until 8:35 resultant of heavy fog. He had monitored our progress other days and volunteered, "You'll catch them!" The delayed start was a relief to hear given we were only 25 minutes behind the masses, purely by default!
Sure enough, there were several riders left in town, an unusual sighting for us given we are often the last to leave out of 800-900 riders.
The wind proved to not be too bad the first 5 miles but then it switched to the SSE again. Arrrggghhh!! BAK wind I muttered to myself! We blew the first sag hoping to make ground on the hoard of riders that were surely ahead given they more or less had a mass start due to the early morning fog. We readily stopped at the second SAG operated by the SAG Hags. We needed this break! One of the Hags came over and said she had been looking for Natalie since she knew she had been selling bike pins, an entrepreneurial effort for her college fund.
We enjoyed the tailwind that flattened out the climbs as we headed north to Lacrosse. The benefit lunch at the park was complete with turkey, cheese, cookies, Gatorade, and it all really hit the spot. The rest from stopping at lunch combined with the absorption of new calories made us cruise very well for a time. When it was time for a break we stumbled upon a farm repair and gas station facility that actually had air conditioning! We filled our hot tired bodies with cold drinks and ice cream while the comfort of the AC made it difficult to mentally get back on the bike .
ENJOYING THE RIDE!
We spotted the swimming pool right off as we rode into Hoisington! It looked so ohhhhh, refreshing! Just about all roads in Hoisington were brick giving the place character from another era. Our lodging accommodations proved to be upstairs, something our legs did NOT look forward to investigating. Upon hearing those words I merely groaned. I expressed concern about our custom Precision triplet and where we could safely house it for the night. The inn keeper ushered us around back to an overhead door that when opened revealed a secluded back room that would easily hold our triplet for the night.
COOL AT LAST!
NATALIE ON HER BUNK BED
As is seemingly usual on BAK rides, we would find our day dwindled away with little if any time remaining to explore or do anything aside from get dinner. We finally made it to restaurant and as per usual after following a swarm of riders, we had to wait over 1 hour for our food. The lengthy wait caused me to make a trip down the road for chips to tide Natalie over.
DINNER AFTER A LONG WAIT
Natalie sold a few of her bike pins and wanted to play pool, some place, but it was 9:15 and way past her bed time so with promises to keep a lookout for a pool table at the next town stop, she agreed to close her eyes. Whew... day 1 sans Mommy behind us!
Day 4 - Tuesday, June 12, 2007
82.0 Miles, 16.3 AVERAGE ON THE TRIPLET
GETTING READY TO GO AFTER BREAKFAST
We were off by 9AM, our latest start thus far, but given 'Nat the Cat' was up to a rather late hour the night before, it was in everyone's best interest to let her sleep in.
We found ourselves working our way NE again with what seems to now be a prevailing SE wind. The wind was not too bad for 20 minutes or so but then it picked up slowing our forward progress substantially.
ATOP A VISTA!
We found the SAG Hags, who were once again looking for Natalie to buy some more bike pins. They bought 7 bringing a huge very long lasting grin to Natalie's face!
READY TO HEAD DOWNHILL FOR A WHILE
Running north was a welcome relief and we crossed I-70 near Wilson Reservoir. On the north side of I-70, we were greeted by spectacular scenic vistas and long climbs. After an awesome descent to the reservoir, we made a hard hair pin-right immediately followed by a sharp gut buster climb that left several riders walking. We struggled but kept a bit of momentum given everyone answered the call enabling us to push it over the top! YES!!!! ...now relax.
It looked like our mileage was going to end up higher than it was predicted for the day. As it turned out, we had an 82 mile day while the published distance was only 73 miles! Close.. but no cigar!
The skies looked threatening and the pool was about to close despite our rushing through the day. The folks at the pool were gracious and must have understood the anticipation one little girl carried with her nearly 100 miles that day since they let us in for free for the remaining short time. Natalie was in the pool no more than 7 or so minutes and it started to rain! Out we came scrambling to get our bike and everything under a shelter. Each day on BAK is an adventure!
ALMOST MISSED THIS DIP!
was a very familiar place as BAK had come through here back in 2004, our first
BAK with Courtney. While riding in we replayed where we had eaten, swam,
and camped some 3 years previous. No doubt the town would be glad to see
us once more!
NOT POOL BUT GREAT ENTERTAINMENT FOR NATALIE!
We checked out the same pizza place that was so swamped 3 years ago and discovered there was only a short wait. How strange! The BAK feed must have overridden the desires of the riders to partake amongst the locals. Natalie had great success as her salesgirl techniques must be improving as she was 7 pins lighter upon leaving.
Day 5 - Wednesday, June 13, 2007
83.1 Miles, 15.7 AVERAGE ON THE TRIPLET
Another long day was ahead of us but then about every BAK day is long either in mileage or a combination of mileage and wind. Not that we are complaining mind you, one can only ride 500 miles in so many days and keep the bike time to something reasonable! Part of our route today would be familiar territory as we had traversed this stretch in 2004 with Courtney, the last overlapping part of this year's route.
Guess what? SE winds again! Yep... what are the odds? This is BAK!
The Tent Camper truck left early this morning so we loaded our stuff onto the 'Gym Camper' truck. When something like this happens it is always interesting given we end up with stuff on both trucks making it hard to find everything.
The weather was not looking too great as it had rained and then dried some, rained a bit more, etc. We started off but quickly stopped and put a rain jacket and shower cap on Natalie as the precipitation was increasing.
THE METAL DRAGON!
Seeing the metal dragon out in a farm field, brought back memories of 2004 when we were also riding past in a light rain with a very quiet Courtney who did not want to stop and take a picture. The moisture really dampened the spirits of that 6 year old some 3 years ago!. Natalie was doing better however and really enjoyed the sculptures, as they appeared one after the other.
ANOTHER WORK OF ART!
The rain would come and go and can certainly make or break anyone's ride. We arrived in Clay Center with it coming down again and had to find our bags unloaded from two different trucks under those conditions.
We had spotted a Mexican restaurant on the way in so that was a good sign given we all love their food. The next step was to find our motel. I rode the triplet solo looking for the place and found it on top of a large hill to be greeted by a sign that said go back down the hill to another motel to register. Aaarrrrggghhh! Okay... down the hill in the wet to check in and then to find everyone. All went well until it was time for the 3 of us to ride up that hill again!
The food was good at the Mexican restaurant and it felt really good to get a shower and relax after such a long and somewhat uncomfortable and less than enjoyable day.... at times at least. It all rounded out to be good however.
Day 6 - Thursday, June 14, 2007
Center to Centralia
81.3 Miles, 15.7 AVERAGE ON THE TRIPLET
Breakfast at the school this morning was awesome as there were plenty of ham, eggs, and biscuits, along with gravy too! It was a cool overcast day with another SE wind! Sheesh. We had sprinkles in the afternoon but not enough hit the ground to slop up the road, thankfully. We rode straight east utilizing the shoulder when we had to with only an occasional bike or two at the most in sight. Solitude is guaranteed with late starts on BAK as many must belong to the 'crack of dawn' club!
After turning north, we were buzzed by an SUV driven by a fellow bike rider evident by it pulling a trailer with a Bike-E recumbent on it. We hoped to see a Sheriff to report the driver so he could be properly educated but as luck would have one was not to be found.
MID 1870'S LOG CABIN
Blue Rapids was our lunch stop today. We pondered the source of the name but never did figure it out given we were not in the mountains or in another area more seemingly deserving of the description. Beef seemed to be on the chosen menu of the day leaving us out and any vegetarians too. We bought lunch from the grocery store deli after realizing the other choices available. The center of town had a manicured grassy park that was voted to be the place for us to sit down and eat. After consuming all that was purchased, a log cabin was spotted to the south of the park that was from the mid 1870's. Six of eight children were born in this two room cabin and we tried to explain to Natalie how good she had it as apparently 10 people lived and thrived in such close quarters.
The football field was apparently off limits but we found a spot outside of the track fairly close to a restroom that worked well for us. It has always been a curious question as to why the coaches or other powers to be shun away from having campers aerate the soil of their fields given there is no way damage would occur.
THE ONLY PLACE IN TOWN TO EAT
We cruised the town in search of food and realized there was only one quickie shop outside of town and one little restaurant in town. We choose the Panther Den Cafe, as if there was another choice! Natalie tried to sell a bike pin or two but for the first time ever was discouraged immediately by a rather crass person sitting outside the door that poked fun at her. It was a disappointing experience for her but one of life's learning experiences too. Just about all other adult bike riders had been more courteous when saying, 'no thank you'. This person did it in such a way that the adults found it irritating!
NATALIE & MARK'S CAMPSITE
The Panther's Den dinner proved to be rather meek hence we headed back to the quick shop for more nibbles. Surprisingly they were closed and at a much earlier time than announced by the BAK folks earlier. Other riders had the same idea as they were also turned away by locked doors.
After getting Natalie and Julie back to our campsite, I rode up the hill to the north and east of town in search of a cell phone signal. The signal was good enough to attempt a call home to make sure all was okay there.
As we retired it looked to be a stormy evening but luck was on our side as it remained dry. The humidity was so high that the clothes we washed refused to dry and the mosquitoes proved to be bad making for a very short evening outside. To top that off , the proximity of homes with resident barking dogs robbed us of needed sleep intermittently throughout the night.
Day 7 - Friday, June 15, 2007
76.7 Miles, 15.3 AVERAGE ON THE TRIPLET
Chris Cakes served up breakfast at the school this morning and given our late departures, we got the very last of them before they closed up at 8AM. Somehow luck is on our side most mornings when it comes to breakfast! Today was no exception and we managed to be on the road by 8:45.
HEADING TO THE CAMPER TRUCK
It turned out to be a hot day with a very hilly route. The hills were relentless, the heat getting unbearable during major exertion, and fatigue was felt more than usual. As the day progressed we found ourselves surprisingly worn down. We stayed on the bike pretty much straight through to Horton without any breaks trying to make time. There were not many choices for food in Horton so we ended up eating quickie shop sandwiches. Sound familiar?!
The big surprise of the day was that the SE winds would continue to plague us and our progress! Oh well! The winds were not strong but enough to keep our speed down but the roar was certainly still there in my ears. Temps today hovered close to 90 degrees at lunch with them rising from there. A better indication of our efforts and the weather would be our clothes. The jerseys had lost their vibrant colors thus taking on the look of the salt flats of Utah! NOT good!
A PUPPY NATALIE IMMEDIATELY FELL IN LOVE WITH!
We rolled into Troy at 3PM, and found ourselves surprisingly well ahead of most everyone given the number of unclaimed bags that remained laying on the ground.
Camping was at the fairgrounds and the showers were blocks away at the high school. Shuttles proved to be wagons pulled by a variety of tractors driven by local farmers. After waiting and watching the tussles of getting on board by these popular transportation alternatives, we opted to walk. But first we headed to the pool that was close by. Natalie had a nose bleed on the way there, delaying our progress for a bit but proved to be none the worse for all that happened that day which allowed her to enjoy the pool.
GIANT OAK SCULPTURE
We rode the shuttle into town and all of us somehow forgot Natalie's bike pins! I hopped another shuttle back and eventually returned in search of Julie and Natalie. They managed to scope out the good places to eat so we were quick to get a barbeque pork sandwich ordered that came with chips and a drink, all for $4.00!
PLAYING POOL AT LAST
The outdoor beer garden was restricted to 21 and over although one under 21 can go inside the bar and play pool. Go figure!!
Natalie sold several bike pins on one side of the fence while we enjoyed the beer garden on the other side. As her sales increased it was easy to see her confidence grow with each sale.
down the town and caught the last tractor shuttle back to camp and realized we
did not have a flashlight once we were in total darkness. It was REALLY dark too!
Thankfully someone was kind
enough to escort us back to our tents.
It was a grand night to sleep as the crickets and bullfrogs provided soothing sounds of nature for our week long fatigued bodies. Then again, the beer may have made us sleep well too! Topping off the evening was a cool breeze which is always welcome when inside a tent.
Day 8 - Saturday, June 16, 2007
15.6 Miles, 16.6 AVERAGE ON THE TRIPLET
This is one of those little short days that one talks of skipping, usually early in the week, by finishing it off the day before. That thought never seems to come to fruition though and was out of the running for us yesterday after enduring such hot and lengthy conditions. And, we did not want to miss the party that the town of Troy put out for us on Main Street!
We slept a little later than usual and took our time packing knowing we would otherwise arrive too early for lunch given there was only 15 miles to go.
We enjoyed another good breakfast of ham, eggs, pancakes, along with biscuits and gravy too.
THE MIGHT MO!
FINISH LINE PHOTOS
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