It might be said that Biking Across Kansas (BAK) is as much a state of mind as it is a ride. BAK provides an opportunity to experience Kansas on a deeper, slower level: to peel back the layers and get past the stereotypes to see what our state is really all about. That said, the […]

It might be said that Biking Across Kansas (BAK) is as much a state of mind as it is a ride. BAK provides an opportunity to experience Kansas on a deeper, slower level: to peel back the layers and get past the stereotypes to see what our state is really all about.
That said, the experience of completing BAK brings with it both challenges and blessings. There is always the wind, often the heat, sometimes the rain, and, occasionally, the cold (it was unseasonably cool on BAK in 2019). At times you will have mechanical problems, flat tires, or maybe even end up riding off the route. There are the occasional crashes, as I heard through the grapevine that there were several of those on this year's ride. In fact, my wife, Kathie, had one of them. On the last day of BAK and about ten miles from Atchison, she went down on some tracks at a bad angle (the danger for cyclists is that your front or rear wheel gets caught in the gap between the metal track and the road). X-rays revealed torn ligaments in her right forearm and a badly sprained thumb. She knew that she cracked a rib or two, based upon her symptoms, and her knee was also badly bunged up. If your injury isn't life threatening, you can get up, wash off your wounds, use your First Aid kit, and ride on, which is what Kathie did. One cyclist did not fare so well on the last day of the ride and was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Atchison, not long before Kathie had her crash.
You never know just quite what you'll encounter on BAK, but, whatever the ride brings, it will likely be memorable. In that spirit, here are some good memories from BAK 2019.
As I was preparing to get ready one day, I dropped the contents of my toiletries bag all over the bathroom floor of a school where we were staying. A young man named Michael helped me gather up the contents.
Our friend David Blair from Wichita always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Once he helped Kathie free a chain, which was badly stuck on her rear cassette, so she could continue riding. Another time, David helped her set up our tent when I arrived late one evening after doing a century ride.
A woman who stopped to visit with me near the exit to the town of Penokee reached inside her car and handed me a bottle of water, unopened, when she learned that I was getting low on water.
When Kathie and I took a wrong turn and ended up near Ottawa State Fishing Lake, we were rewarded with a Bald eagle circling us overhead, twice, as we returned to reconnect with the route.
In Hays, Pete Zook of Haviland loaned us his truck so we could do our laundry and also go to Wal Mart to get a different air mattress, since ours had developed two leaks. On the way back to Hays High School, I discovered that an envelope full of all of our BAK money was missing. I pulled into the same parking space at the school as before and noticed and envelope lying on the ground. It was our money, still awaiting us over two hours after we had left. Thank goodness the wind had died down that night.
Numerous museums, businesses, swimming pools, and communities in rolled out the red carpet for BAK cyclists, often offering transportation to nearby restaurants and attractions (like Rock City, near Minneapolis) to cyclists who were sometimes weary after a day's ride. We enjoyed the humorous signs that the owner of Horlacher Jewelers posted, Burma-shave style, for us along the route as we neared Colby. Cyclist also enjoyed the signs and numerous decorated bicycles, including some popping wheelies, that lined the route as we rode the last ten or so miles into Holton.
Overall, it's the people and landscape that make BAK such a compelling way to experience our wonderful state. The camaraderie found among cyclists engaged in a common purpose is definitely is definitely a contributing factor. As well, it's always great to reconnect with longtime BAK friends and also make some new ones. In the end though, it was the in depth planning of BAK staff and the assistance of scores of volunteers that made it all possible.