Cycling enthusiasts from far and wide made their way through Manhattan Wednesday for a much-needed pit-stop at Blue Earth Plaza as more than 800 bikers continued their participation in this year’s Bike Across Kansas event.
This year’s route totals 555 miles and started at the Colorado border in the southwest corner of Kansas near Elkhart on June 7. Bikers will wrap up their journey on Saturday in Highland near the northeast corner of the state. The diagonal route crosses every other route the event has taken in its 40 years.
“It’s been great. This (has been) the best day so far,” Bel Aire native David Cox, 50, said. “I left Salina at 6:45 this morning and got here at about 12:30.”
This is the seventh year Cox has participated in BAK and enjoyed yesterday’s sunny 80-degree, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky weather.
That can’t be said for parts of the trek from a few days ago in Western Kansas, though.
“We were in rain between Spearville and Ellinwood,” he said. “We just kept going. We were pretty much soaked. There were 30 mph wind gusts, and it was pretty crazy.”
Cox said he heard about BAK from a friend and decided to give it a try. He was already a casual cyclist, but he said the first time he participated it was a real challenge.
“A friend mentioned his sister-in-law did it, and I thought, ‘Hey, I’ll give that a try,’” he said. “I rode some in high school and a little bit in college, but nothing this far. I never dreamed I could do it.”
Cox, who averages 14 mph on his bike, said the friendships and adventure of the event has kept him coming back.
“You meet all kinds of people along the way,” he said. “And you get to see small towns and so much of the state.”
Some use the event as a way to raise money for charity.
David Saving, 59, is the executive director of Lead A Child, a Christian organization that donates to schools all over the world and was co-founded by Edie and Jim Jorns of Manhattan.
“We have 24 bikers in it this year,” he said. “We raise money by getting pledges. People will donate by the mile.”
Saving, who is from Lenexa, said they run this event via Skype with other organizations and schools in the countries they donate to who are also participating in biking tours at the very same time.
Trinette Walker, 37, of Larned, is notching her second year as a participant.
“It’s been really, really good,” she said. “It’s been challenging on a few hills, but downhill has been a great reward.
“Monday (with the rains) was rough.”
Walker said she’d done triathlons before, but gave BAK a try after a friend’s suggestion last year.
“There were five of us last year,” she said. “This year we have 17 for ‘Team Larned.’”
This year’s BAK features a mix of female and male and young and old — from bikers as young as 10 to as old as 86.
George Sullivan is 14 and made the trek with his dad, Brogan — and his 69-year-old dad was just a mile or two behind.
Both are from Leawood.
“It’s been good,” George said. “We had a rough day a few days ago, but today’s been nice.
“It’s fun to go out and see a state. There have been some pretty sites.”
Brogan, who also made the BAK journey when he was 14, said he’s enjoyed taking his son.
“We’re the father/son duo,” he said. “It’s been great. We’ve had our ups and downs, but overall it’s been fun. I’m very impressed with his cycling.”
Brogan said he’s taken his oldest son on BAK and plans to take George’s younger brother in a few years, too.
“I was ready to fall in the grass or in the road because I was so tired,” George said of the storms bikers went through a few days ago.
“We were in the lowest gear possible,” Brogan said. “But we persevered.”
Now, George said, “We have a story to tell.”