Friday, July 30, 2010

BAK 2010: Final Day

June 12, Saturday

Boy, it was a hot and sweaty night last night. I hate camping in humid heat. Eastern Kansas is more humid than western Kansas. I grew up only 35 miles west of here, so I should know. Hard to sleep when you're sweating. Oh well.

Woke up to a breakfast served by Chris Cakes. He's known for his flamboyant style of cooking and serving pancakes. This meal was on BAK. We had them for a breakfast on our 2007 ride, too. They're fun, and the food's good, too.

Then we hit the road. It's a short day planned, with a finale at Leavenworth and a catered hot meal for lunch. The first picture is our crossing of the Kansas River. I have a history with that river. Grew up in Topeka area, which is a Kansas River town. Then college at Kansas State in Manhattan, which is near the source of the Kansas River. I've floated St. George to Wamego a couple times. I like that river.

We met a confusing lady in the morning. Cody was in lead and stopped first, because she asked if he could carry a bag of green beans to town to the homeless shelter. We caught up with him and stopped, too. She asked if we heard the voices . . . the voices in the traffic. They come from the tires. We told her we didn't. She encourages us to keep trying. She said it's important to tell people what we're doing on BAK, and there are many Lords. She doesn't know who the authorities are, and we all have different levels of authority. We could tell our conversation should end and we needed to move on. We bid her farewell.

Half way through the day our average speed is 15.2 mph! I can tell the week has made me stronger. We have overcast but no rain. Made it to Tonganoxie just fine. Then . . . RAIN, and rain and rain. It never ended for the remainder of the day. Some lightning but not close and mean. No big wind. The mood dampens. We keep pedaling. Wet doesn't kill you.

We make it to Leavenworth and the rain picks up. The traditional BAK individual ceremony, when the trip ends at the Missouri River, is to dip the front tire in the river for the symbolic end of the trip. We had trip notes on where to go, and we tried, but we couldn't find the river access point. We're soaked to the bone, visibility decreasing and we're lost, so we decide to scrap the tire dipping (we did find a beautiful park with a river overview) and proceed to the park for the cook-out. Many others are in our situation, so we cruise to the park together.

We get there and need to wait an hour before the food's ready. Only two shelters. One is full, and the other will be used for serving. We huddle under some kids playground equipment until food is ready. We unload trucks in the rain. We're served food in the rain and most riders need to stand in the rain to eat, too. We scurry to eat under the playground gym with a partial cover (that few others have seen). We're starting to catch a chill as our wives arrive and we load up and leave.

But, we do have a good ending. We stop at the Depot Restaurant, which is a refurbished Depot. Wilma hadn't eaten yet so she ordered a regular meal. The rest of us had eaten a soggy BBQ chicken dinner in the rain, so we each ordered a hot cinnamon roll and I added a hot coffee. As we waited for the food to be served, we changed into dry clothes. We had a great chat, good food, dry clothes. Life is good.

Will we do a BAK again? We don't need to think about that now. It's time to stay dry for a while.

37.9 miles
Vavg 13.9 mph
2 hr 43 min
Night: HOME!

The End.

BAK 2010: Day 8

June 11, Friday

Today was a good day. I don't take weather for granted anymore, and the weather was clear and warm. Ottawa was to be the lunch stop, but it was too early in the day, at around 10 a.m., so we went on. We made a pit stop there, though, at our first Casey's on the trip (a gas station convenience store chain that I like). Had to stop for a cookie and 16 oz. of cold chocolate milk! I've been craving the milk. Amy says it has an excellent blend of nutrients you need when exercising. Boy did that go down good!

At an early Sag Stop we were set up in the entrance driveway to a working farm, maybe 50 yards from the house. We were all self-absorbed in cooling down and eating something and topping off our water bottles, so it was easy to miss a young boy and his toddler sister watching us from their house steps. Amy and I noticed. I grabbed the camera and went over. Struck up a conversation with the young man, who spoke with confidence. He told me it was his Grandma's house, and she was inside with their dog. The dog is really nice but doesn't like big groups of people. He was here visiting his Uncle. He also pointed to the pasture where he has a horse. I asked if I could take a picture and he was happy to get his sister positioned, and at the last minute put his hat on her. It was the cutest thing. Great kids.

One of the Sag Stops today had a theme of Kansas History. We were all asked trivia questions from a book about Kansas. The success rate for correct answers wasn't particularly good.

We made it to Baldwin City for lunch. Found a non-chain pizza place called Wheat State Pizza. Their crust was a whole wheat blend, and they had a lunch buffet going. That hit the spot. The day was getting hot and the air conditioning felt good, too. We stayed a while.

Made it to Eudora, to their HUGE Middle School. It big and new. In the demographics of Northeast Kansas, Kansas City and Lawrence are growing communities. Between the two is Eudora. People wanting to live out of Kansas City but still work there move to Eudora. Good tax base thus good school facilities. They brought out a couple bands to play for us, turning it into a mini festival for BAK and their community. All the concessions were there so we didn't have to ride into town, which was probably good because it's a big town by BAK standards. Ran into Bill and Robin, fellow 4-H Venturer volunteers. Nice chat, and BAK veterans in their own right. They plan on doing it again soon.

At our nightly town meeting we heard the news that we have a 40% chance of rain tomorrow, our last day. That puts a damper on things!

67.1 miles
Vavg 13.1 mph
5 hrs 5 min
Night: Eudora

Thursday, July 29, 2010

BAK 2010: Day 7

June 10, Thursday

Well, today was the day for our Kansas Flinthills and tallgrass prairie. Before we got to them, one of Amy's Achilles tendons acted up and she could not pedal without great pain. We stopped at a Sag Stop and talked to them. She could stay there until she could catch a ride with someone driving to our next overnight city. Reluctantly we leave her behind and head out. Dan and Cody take lead and I won't see them until I reach Osage City for the night.

I hit the sign designating the Flint Hills and keep on. The towns are far apart and I'm not sure where lunch will be, but I'll figure it out as I go. The hills were very long but not particularly steep. Never been on hills that long. It becomes a muscle burn. I think I'd like the scenery just as fine through a car windshield.

The designated lunch town was too early. I'm hungry when I hit Allen, but it's not a city that responded to BAK planning staff. It's just too small. The only hot food was the local bar, but it was a neat place to spend time. Food was good and the wait staff did a good job.

On to Osage City. The school had a confusing layout. Most of these schools have been added on to a little at a time and tend to meander around. Plenty of food vendors again, and all is good.

I'm pleased that I can keep up with the biking. Still not fast but I am steady and no body parts are injured or in pain. I think I'll make it.

64.9 miles
Vavg 11.7
5 hrs 29 minutes
Nite: Osage City

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BAK 2010: Day 6

June 9, Wednesday

Finally, a day without rain. It was a mix of sunny and partially cloudy. I liked the clouds because it kept it a bit cooler. Today I had my introduction to 'rollers', and I like them. They are hills that aren't too long or high, but the downhills are long enough to be fun. We have a mix of pasture (cattle) and crops. The wheat has a couple more weeks and it's ready to harvest. The heads are turning tan but the shafts are still pretty green.

The heads have turned enough that I could eat some wheat berry's. I've done that since I was a kid. It makes a neat chewy gum.

We hit Abilene for lunch. It's a BIG town compared to what we've been through and we had traffic and four lane streets to show for it. They are also big enough that they really didn't care we were coming through. We ate a great buffet at the largest Pizza Hut in Kansas, but they didn't know we were coming through. I ate a lot and never got full. That's one beauty of this BAK thing, and the 'regulars' all joke that BAK stands for Buffet Across Kansas.
In the afternoon we hit a small town selling home made ice cream at their city park. That hit the spot! That's where I saw this older couple and I had to take their picture.

Then we hit Herington. WOW! It was their first time to host a BAK overnighter, and they tied one on for us. (After the ride I conclude this was our best community stay.) As we arrive in town we are greeted by families out in their yards with young kids, all waving. They had townspeople at key intersections directing us when we needed to turn. At one, the person was handing out small bags of Chex-mix type snacks, as we rode by. We hit the high school and set up camp. The superintendent walked around with a bull horn spreading the word for scheduled activities. He was clearly being our father figure for the night, which was a nice touch.

Their local Christian rock band, Red Letter, performed for us in late afternoon. It was hot and sunny, and most BAKers were inside resting. But I love live music so I was there, front and center. Didn't bring my chair. Then I see a young girl, maybe a Kindergartner, struggle to carry a chair to the audience area. The folding chair was about as tall as her! She couldn't quite get it over the parking bumper, so I went over to help her. I carry it to the grass and ask her where she wants it. She thanks me and points over to the area in front of the band and tells me I can set in it. I thank her, but say I'll move it there and she can set in it. Then she explains. She's drinking a fruit juice. She needs to drink it and not get it on her blouse because she's going to play T-ball soon, and she brought the chair for me. Ahhh. A golden moment.

We had tons of food booths set up. When the sun was still up, sales were slow, but as the shade sets in, the crowd supports all of them.

77.4 miles
Vavg 12.4
6 hrs 13 min
Night: Herington

BAK 2010: Day 5

June 8, Tuesday

Once again, we had storms through the night. Kinda getting used to the rumble to sleep by. Packed up wet gear again. The gear stays wet until it's set up at night, but it does dry fast.

We had big open pastures now. Saw some long horn cattle. Amy had a flat at the top of a long hill with a beautiful view. Nice panning, as the view was great the fix a tire. She did it mostly herself.

Lunch was in Hunter, which is a painfully small town in the middle of today's route. BAK hosts three or four meals, and this was one of them. This little town all pulled together to prepare and serve a BBQ chicken sandwich meal with a side and dessert and drink. Very impressive! They had a community bulletin board with each community person's name and responsibility.

Then, in the after, we hit two food stops. The first one was the pie lady from KC, who sets up a roadside restaurant for pie. I had rhubarb! Then, a little further, in a small town the community center was open and the local 4-H group sold pie, ice cream and cookies. Amy and Dan ate there. Some people ate pie at both places. It's a BAK thing.

Then we hit a young family with a lemonade stand. The kids were cute, and were sure interested in the hundreds of bikes riding by their farm. Of course, we had to buy some.

We got into Minneapolis. Set up our tents behind the bleachers on the football field. Showers were scalding hot and unusable. Food vendors around the high school and also a shuttle bus to town offered more. We were hungry and ate at the high school. A potato served on an aluminum pie pan piled high with trimmings! Then we caught the shuttle to town for ice cream in a church basement. Then we walked around the downtown. These small towns are really nice for bicycling. Not too spread out, and the people appreciate the business we bring in.

76.1 miles
Vavg 12.4
6 hrs 6 min
Night: Minneapolis

At the end of the day, Amy sits back and patches the inner tubes for the THREE flats she's had on this trip so far. They're all patched now, and ready for more action.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BAK 2010: Day 4

June 7, Monday

Storms again through the night. Packed up wet gear again. Some tenters woke to being in a pond. The business community set up a huge white tent and served a breakfast ala cart buffet that made for a great start. Clouds are quickly approaching from the West (just like yesterday). Dark clouds. The four of us have decided that Amy and I are slower and will stick together. Dan and Cody will ride faster, but will wait for us at each sag stop to make sure all is well. This works fine, and Dan and Cody take lead today.

An hour and a half into the ride the storm overtakes us (8:30 a.m.). This is different than yesterday. Wind and horizontal rain, then the lightning starts. First far away, then a mile to the left. Then, when I view Amy on my right I see a lightning strike in the field behind her, no more that a half mile away. Time to seek shelter! About 40 of us find a farmer who opened up his tool shed for us to wait it out. Then he brings out towels to dry off, and stays with us the chat. Real nice guy. The picture is blurred, but I still liked it. The farmer is in the middle, of course. That old shed had the same smell as my Grandpa's tool shed and my Uncles tool shed (both farmers). That blend of dirt and grease and oil and metal parts. It was comforting.

As time passes, though, we loose precious body heat in our tight thin riding clothes. After an hour or so the rain lets up a little, the wind dies a lot and the lightning stops. Amy and I pound down an energy bar each because we're starting to shiver, and hit the road. Doesn't take long to build our heat back up. In about five miles we hit Nicodemus, a historic Kansas town known for it's early black citizens. The historical center, run by National Parks, opened for us and let us get warm. We caught up with Dan and Cody there, and told stories.

It was a long day. Got into Osborne and all the food was there at the High School. Nice. Plenty to choose from. I had a Taco Salad and an ice cream (ice cream is a recurring obsession). Had a great evening meeting. A local singer/songwriter was there to help us all day, plus sing a song for us. At the meeting, a long-time staffer told us today was in the top three for bad days. They have never seen a lightning storm light that before. That makes me feel a little better.

69.4 miles
Vavg 11.5 mph
5 hrs 59 min 41 sec
Night: Osborne

BAK 2010: Day 3

June 6, Sunday

We had storms through the night, which means packing up wet gear. A sound I like in the mornings is the hiss of the tire pump. After you pump up the tire to 100+ pounds pressure, you hear a big air pressure release hiss when you take take the head off the valve stem. That's a sound you hear all over camp.

We hit a church on the way out of town that had a pancake feed. Long line (get used to it), but good eats.

68.1 miles
Vavg 13.3 mph
5 hrs 5 min
Night: Hill City

As we rode East, the rain clouds followed us, then overtook us. We rode in the rain about 3 hours. Nothing wicked, just wet. Lunch at Trish's in Hoxie. Long line (get used to it), and it took 2 hours. But we were dry and warm inside, and it's wet and cool outside. I didn't mind.

The crickets started singing in the pastures once we passed Hoxie. Starting to see more crops and less pasture. One of the sag stops had our perrenial Sag Hags, all in their fine sleep attire. These ladies have a fun-loving attitude, and it's a shot in the arm to see them for a quick stop.

Arrived in Hill City and set up camp. The town set up a free shuttle bus system to take everyone downtown where food vendors were set up in their city park, and retailers downtown were open. We ate hot sandwiches in the park, then went to Majestic Cornerstone for some ice cream.

This was the first long mileage day and I'm content. My legs are shot but overall I feel fine. Nothing over-used. I did pop an ibuprofen, though. The legs will be revived by morning. Tomorrow will be longer yet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

BAK 2010: Day 2

June 5, Saturday

Bright and early, we load our gear in the moving truck labeled for campers. The schedule states a mass start this morning, but, unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Don't know why. Would have been neat. Today is a nice flat ride to Colby. Met another Dad about my age with a T-shirt that said Odd Bird. I had to ask, so he explained his daughter is in California and is the singer in a band with that name. He is spreading the word. That's neat.

39.7 miles
Vavg 13.5 mph
2 hr 56 min
Night: Colby

We got to Colby and our stay was at Colby Community College. Nice campus. We set up camp and see that Twister Bar and Grill is close and we're hungry. As it turns out, BAK bikers fill the bar, with only two tables of 'locals'. Hot sandwiches and cold drinks. Just fine.

Then we rode to their historical museum. The large white barn was moved in, and is a wonder of woodworking. The tent was set up for Chautauqua, but it was for tonight not the afternoon. Wish we could have seen the historic re-enactors.

Real mileage will start tomorrow, with about 65 miles. I'm a bit anxious because I didn't get the training mileage in that I had hoped for. However, I did maintain regular workouts on our cheap home gym stuff. Hopefully that's enough.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

BAK 2010: Day 1

June 4, Friday

We pulled Friday as a vacation day to get out west to Goodland. Registered there about 4 p.m. Our wives drove us out to the Colorado/Kansas border, took our picture, then left us to pedal back to eastern Kansas. From l. to r.: Dan, Cody, Amy, me. We pedaled back to Goodland. It was a good flat fast ride to build confidence.

19.8 miles
Vavg 14.4
1 hr 33 min
Night: Goodland

I had a chain problem. Real noisy derailleur. Seems my changing of the chain last night a midnight was threaded wrong. I had to break the old chain down and re-thread it there on the road side. Then it worked fine. Nice to know I can handle it.

Camp at Goodland High School. Picture is of Amy and Cody. Each night we have a town (BAK) meeting and tonight's didn't have many people, at least not 850. I suspect they'll join later.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Late night Thursday, last minute adjustments, around midnight. We leave early tomorrow. Should have finished all this a week ago, but we didn't. I decided to put on a new chain, but it made too much noise so I put the old one back on. Amy's putting on new tires. What training I could get in will hopefully be enough. My total training mileage of 400 should have been around 700 miles. March snows delayed training until April.

The last time we did BAK was 2007. Dan, Amy and I. Good memories and some stressful memories. This time fiance Cody suggested we do it again, this time with him. After what Dan called a "lapse in judgement" we decide to do it. Memory of 2007 aches and pains have faded.

This year BAK has 800 registered bikers (our typical number) and 60 support staff that ride. Each night is coordinated and is usually at a High School or similar educational institution. Roughly half of us bring our tents, half of us sleep on the gym floor or in the hallways. Local non-profit groups have volunteered to operate food booths as fund raisers for themselves and a convenience to us. We really appreciate them. BAK uses rental moving trucks to haul our gear to the next night's stay. We wake up, eat, pack up and load our gear in the trucks and hit the road by 7 a.m. (no set time) and a typical day is 6 hour in the saddle. This is every day for seven days. You get in a groove after the first couple days.

Friday, July 23, 2010

BAK 2010

Well, this is a delayed posting. I just finished it, but it's for a bike ride I did the first full week of June. Life has been hectic lately and I'm in a sketch idea backlog. It'll happen, just not spontaneously.

Anyway, for the second time I've done the Biking Across Kansas (BAK) organized ride. The first time was in 2007 with daughter, Amy, and brother, Dan. This time we add Amy's fiance, Cody. Actually, Cody was this year's spark plug to get us all to go. It's his first time and he had enough of our stories and wanted to experience it himself. The process of pedaling 6 hours a day and fighting 860 other people for showers and food at local high schools doesn't lend itself to sketch journaling. I kept a traditional journal and took pictures. So, what I did here was a recap sketch journal entry after the fact. For my blog I think I will take one day at a time for this seven day journey and make a post based on my journal and add some pictures. Then back to my regularly-scheduled sketching. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Felony Banjo, II

First off, WHO STOLE JUNE! I've never missed a whole month of blogging since I've been at this. No excuses are being offered. It just happened.

Now, if you remember from last July 4, our family camps out with extended family and friends on July 4 (and other holidays) at Clinton Lake in northeast Kansas. Part of that tradition is evening picking and singing at least one night, around the campfire. Ed on guitar, me on banjo. Last year, for the first time, we got shut down by authorities because it was Quiet Hours. A first.

So I wrote a protest song of sorts to memorialize the event, and was looking forward to singing it this year in its debut. Daily storms got in the way. Ed's son drove his family in from Tennessee (with huge 5th wheel trailer and truck) and really wanted to hear his Dad sing, so on the last night we huddled up under Ed's awning, in light rain. Started at 9:30 p.m., when the rain started to let up.

Things went well until 10:15 (Quiet Hours start at 10). Nobody camping close to us and people with any sense are all inside their campers to stay dry, so I thought we were safe. Nope. The deputy walked in, suggested we make this our last song and walks off. Well, we think another couple songs won't hurt. Wrong. He keeps driving by and stopping to watch us. Tension builds. I'm ready to quit but the group wants to push the envelope. I sing my "Shut'em Down" protest song and everyone loved it. Just one more song. But as we're playing we see a second patrol car pull up to the deputy. We sing more. A third patrol car pulls up. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. I don't feel so good. I think five night sticks and five 9mm semi-auto pistols trumps a banjo and guitar. We call it quits, quickly, and disperse as the five cars eerily drive in close formation into the camp to shut down some illegal fireworks (very few this year) and US. Once again, my banjo is my weapon in the commission of a crime.

We all make it to our campers without incident. A couple guys in our group stay up and the deputies clamp down on them for laughing too loud. We can't win.

So, another year, another violation of federal regulations. This just isn't working.