ELLINWOOD — Five Ellinwood residents participated in the 39th Annual Bike Across Kansas, which ran from June 8-15. Chase and Scott Tillotson, and David and Mel Waite rode their bikes, and Debbie Tillotson went as a support member. The 800 plus bikers and the 200 support members began their journey across Kansas in the far southwestern town of Johnson City. The Ellinwood group, along with many of the other bikers, started on Friday night, and went the extra 14-mile ride from the Colorado border into Johnson City.
The bikers generally biked between 60-80 miles/day, sleeping on school gym floors in the towns that hosted the bikers. Saturday night was spent in Sublette, Sunday night in Dodge City, Monday night in Coldwater, Tuesday night in Anthony, Wednesday night in Arkansas City, Thursday night in Sedan, and the final night in Oswego. On Saturday morning, the bikers rode their last leg of the journey into the far southeastern Kansas town of Galena.
Many rode a few extra miles to pose triumphantly by the Missouri border sign. Some of the small towns rolled out the red carpet for the bikers, offering live
music, showcasing their local attractions, and pedaling good food for the hungry group.
The bikers battled temperatures near 100 degrees and very windy conditions. They rode on some hilly terrain through the Gypsum and Flint Hills areas of Kansas. Even the flat land of western Kansas gave them a challenge, as hills or trees didn’t subdue the wind gusts. As the promotional material states, “Biking Across Kansas 2013 is a recreational and social rally for cyclists.
It is not an endurance contest, a race or a test of stamina. Each rider should plan to set a pace agreeable to his or her own degree of expertise.” Mel told of the oldest rider who was an 87-year-old man who had taken up bicycling as his way of transportation after his children had pulled his car and his keys. According to Mel, “he wasn’t the fastest bicycler there, but he rode each day.”
Some riders only rode part of the day, and were picked up and taken to the next stop by support personnel. Mel and David Waite rode every single mile across Kansas, even putting in some extra miles when they were at Arkansas City, riding down to the Oklahoma border. They also completed a “century ride”, a designation given to those who logged over 100 miles on a single day. The Ellinwood bikers enjoyed the challenge and chance to meet people from all over the United States.
The Tillotson family rode bits and pieces of the trip, as Chase and Scott were able. Chase was able to ride 120 miles on a tandem bicycle with his Dad. Scott logged another 200 miles more on his road bike. Chase said, “It was hard, but fun and entertaining.”
Scott said, “Debbie made the trip possible for our family, keeping us fed and hydrated, loading and unloading, helping set up camp and putting up with me.” For Scott, riding through the Gypsum Hills with Mel and David, conquering one particularly nasty hill with Chase (dubbed “Hernia Hill” by local cyclists, East of Ark City) were the highlights of the trip.
As Scott said, “It was hot, it was windy, and it was hilly, and we’d all do it again! “