Heat, wind and making it to WaKeeney

I’m way behind on writing and updating about Biking Across Kansas.

Part of that is because there wasn’t reliable Internet at our location in Tribune, and I’m on a Chromebook that all but requires an internet connection to do anything.

But mostly, it’s because I’m exhausted.

As is typical, the short ride from the Colorado border to the first overnight stay is pretty easy and uneventful. The best thing about the first night of BAK is that it feels akin to a family reunion.

My friend Shawn drove me up again this year, as he’s done the past three years. This year, however, my friend Kimberly Hawks met me in Hutchinson to catch a ride to the border. And my son, Mitchell, is along this year for his first BAK.

Generally, we all get checked in and settled a bit, and then we look around for the people we haven’t seen in a year. The people who rode with us the year before, or who sat down to have dinner with us, or who stayed up too late with us on the last day of the ride.

But it seems we always pick up just about where we left off. We have time on the road to catch up on the details of one anothers’ lives; the first night is simply the excitement of seeing each other again.

The route began in Tribune, and headed east on K-96 toward Dighton – a 70 mile ride.
Although it’s a single ride, it had the distinct feeling of two different rides. The morning ride from Tribune to Scott City for lunch was near perfect. Somewhat cool, with a slight wind that wasn’t too bothersome.

 

From Scott City to Dighton, however, mother nature unleased a fury of wind and heat that was debilitating. The last time I looked at the temperature on my bike computer, it read 110. A strong cross wind made things even more difficult. By the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, and the fatigure carried over to some degree the next day, on the route to WaKeeney. From what I’ve gathered, several people had to be SAG’ed in before the end of the day, and at least one person suffered a case of heat exhaustion.

It’s hot out here. It feels like all the heat of hell has been unleased. And on the first day, it was complicated by Mitch suffering two flat tires – and as hard as it is to be riding in the blinding sun, it’s perhaps harder to be sitting out under it, wrestling with a tire. And there’s these flies that bite the skin off your ankles if you even slow down enough for them to latch on to you.

Today was better. The first leg of the journey from Dighton to Ness City had a strong cross wind, but it wasn’t overly hot. We had lunch in Ransom – a really good lunch put on the by the local VFW – but to get to it we had to ride the toughest mile of the route, nearly directly against the wind. But the lunch was well done, with lots of fruit and great pulled pork and fajitas. I’m always amazed and humbled at the way we’re all treated in some of these towns and the way the residents come out to support us.

Tailwinds pushes us most of the way from Ness City to WaKeeney. We got into town around 2:30 p.m., which got us out of the worst heat, but it was still plenty hot. This town also put out a good showing – with a band and food at the park, and a much appreciated shuttle between our campsite and the activities.

Unfortunately, with the heat and the wind, this year’s ride has been a little different. The name of the game is to get to the next location as quickly as possible, and hopefully avoid the worst heat. That means I’ve not spent my usual amount of time stopping to talk to people or take pictures of the interesting things or the stunning landscape. I’m hopeful that changes some tomorrow, with a shorter ride of 60 miles.

That doesn’t mean we’re not having fun; there’s just a bigger sense of purpose with these rides. In the evenings, we’re still gathering to eat and talk, and joke with each other.

It’s supposed to be 100 again on Monday, so we’ll all head out early. I don’t know that there’s much better than riding into a sunrise in the cool morning air. I’m looking forward to that, as well as maybe a little more time to explore before the sun gets too high and hot for us to handle.

P.S. I have some photos to add, but the internet connection here is incredibly slow. I can’t seem to load my photo gallery to use my images.

 

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