Bike Across Kansas (BAK) came through in a flash and they were gone.
Over 600 bicyclists came to eat, drink, visit and leave early in the morning.
One cyclist refers to it as Banquet Across Kansas because he can eat as much pie as he likes.
They filled our restaurants and called us the friendliest people.
A community bike parade was organized and was a hit thanks to many participants, volunteers, and sponsors. Medals, helmets, ice cream and a drawing for a new bicycle which Josyln Rivas won.
The cyclists came out to watch the locals ride to the bowling alley and back.
Tents were set up and the school opened their doors for showers and some amenities.
Bulldog Pizzeria and Country Cafe opened their doors at 4:30 am on Saturday morning to feed them. And then they were gone. 50 some miles the first day. Reports online indicate heat has taken its toll on many of the riders as the temperatures hit triple digits.
Former Syracuse resident, Becky Wallace, returned to Syracuse to join the Bike Across Kansas cyclists, something she said she would do the next time the route began in Syracuse.
This is not her first BAK, her first try was in 2009 when BAK began in Syracuse and she was downtown visiting with some of the people. She started a conversation with a lady who had a bike similar to hers and she asked her if she thought she could bike across Kansas with it, “She told me yes and invited me to join them the next day, I only made it two miles before I got a flat tire, but I learned a lot!” Becky added, “That same lady who inspired me is on the list this year!” She also recalls the late Mike Hawkins participating in BAK and was inspired by him as well.
She and her late husband, Doug, moved from Syracuse in 2010 to Manhattan where there were a lot of biking clubs. Training this year involved a six mile newspaper route, which she chose to do on her bike.
Her first BAK was in 2012 and this year will be her seventh year.” The first one was the hardest, but I remember one year the asphalt temperature was 113 degrees for several days,” she explained. This year she is only doing the first leg, as she is meeting up with two grandkids in Garden City and taking them to Manhattan for a visit.
Some of the challenges is the wind, “One year we had 40 mile per hour head winds for a long period and we could only go three miles per hour!” Another is the hills in eastern Kansas, “But I’ll take a hill over wind because I have lots of gears and it is a thrill going down the hill at twenty to thirty miles per hour.”
One year their destination was Great Bend, but they encountered a storm and had to take shelter in a huge quonset hut, “It took hours for the school buses to come get us.”
While she usually stays in gymnasiums she would like to try to tent next time where the caravan brings tents, sets them up, puts the bedroll inside, greet you with coffee and breakfast in the morning, “It’s the Cadillac of treatments.”
While it is one of the hardest things she has done, “It is such a feeling of accomplishment, a good good tired, and it gives you a new appreciation for the beauty of Kansas,” said Becky.
She guesses the average age of cyclists are in their fifties and Becky recalls an eighty-year-old from Elkhart in years past. “It takes money to get started, investing in a bike and you have to have your health!” she explained, “Some kids may ride part of the way and it is not uncommon to see three generation of bikers.”
What do you suppose the BAK participants look forward to when they arrive at the daily destination? “A shower!” said Becky, “Preferably a warm one and some food, we like to eat!”
Their children, Jessie, Jordan and Kari are in Manhattan, with the exception of Dana who lives in Arlington, VA and Chelsea who lives in Denver. She enjoys having the four, soon to be five, grandchildren.
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Bezona said, “I loved every minute of it, but it is time to start a new chapter.”
Ra Vernon began last month and is enjoying it. She said, “Joy did an excellent job, and I don’t know anyone who could have done it better.”
Vernon, mom to seven kids, grandmother to ten, is a busy woman. She does bookkeeping from her home, serves as lay leader at her church, and is on the Hamilton County Food Pantry Board as well as the Hamilton County Research and Extension Executive Board.
“I chose the job because it has flexibile hours and that suits my life. I like dealing with dogs.”
Right now there are seven animals at the shelter, five blue healer mix puppies that are four months old. They were surrendered to the shelter and don’t have much time left. They are great farm and ranch dogs, and great at working cattle.
If anyone is interested, call Ra at 620-384-4841.
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