About 850 cyclists are currently pedaling across southern Kansas on a route that stretches from Colorado to Missouri, via Johnson City to Galena. Some of those participating in Biking Across Kansas (BAK) ride the event year after year, taking a weeklong vacation that leaves some folks scratching their heads in wonder, perhaps questioning the sanity of BAKers.
Yesterday three Pratt residents--including myself, Dan McAnarney, and Mike Neifert—joined the group for one day of BAK.
Our route stretched from Coldwater to Anthony. It was an ideal opportunity to join this annual celebration of cycling and all things Kansas, as we pre-arranged transportation to and from the starting and ending points for the day.
It had been a five year hiatus since my last BAK experience, riding the full route with my wife in 2008.
It is hard to describe to non-riders the BAK mystique and what draws hundreds to suffer in the heat and wind year after year. Perhaps it’s the camaraderie of sharing a common, healthy interest. Certainly, it’s the opportunity to reconnect with old friends—or make new ones—from across the state and elsewhere, some of whom we see only once a year. Of course, the food is a big part of the ride, as cyclists sample cuisine in small towns through the state, which leads some refer to the event as Eating Across Kansas.
Yesterday was only a small sample of BAK for the three Pratt cyclists, two of whom had never ridden the event previously. We battled winds and heat that increased over the course of the day; we drank around a gallon of water each; we revived ourselves with snacks at the rest stops; we visited with new friends and happily greeted old ones. Two of us added enough extra riding to exceed 100 miles, also known as a century. One had to drop out a few miles before town, due to nausea and overheating.
This coming Saturday, with the celebration dinner in Galena, cyclists may be thinking something like the chorus to a song I heard performed by a fellow cyclist on the final night of my first BAK, 13 years ago: “Bye, bye love / Bye, bye BAK / Hello bills to pay / I think that I’m gonna cry.”
Waking up and pedaling to work on Wednesday morning, I only wished that I were joining the Lycra-clad masses, heading out of Anthony bound for Arkansas City. Oh well, there’s always next year, another BAK.