Last week’s muggy heat and near triple digit temperatures made for a grueling bicycle ride from Hutchinson, but more than 600 riders, some coming from other states to be part of Biking Across Kansas’ cross-state tour, made it to Hillsboro soaked with sweat and exhausted.
Many bikers took advantage of sleeping areas at Hillsboro High School. Some rested on bedrolls and sleeping mats in the school’s air-conditioned auditorium. Others rested in the non-air conditioned gymnasium, and yet others laid down to rest in a hallway.
Some riders checked into a hotel, and others set up tents.
Two massage tables were set up where volunteers took care of sore muscles in the hall.
Everyone checked in at a table. When one asked for a map, the man behind the counter quipped, “Only if you take a shower.”
The route from Hutchinson took riders along both highways and county roads. As participants pedaled north on Indigo Rd. to enter town, some turned east on D St. and others kept riding north.
First-time riders Terry Lee and Steve Barrett are friends from Garden City.
Lee said the experience was Barrett’s idea.
“He turned 60 this year and he said, ‘I want to lose a little weight, and I need another fool,'” Lee joked.
Despite being “forced” to go, Lee said he was glad the temperature had been a bit cooler than it was the previous four days of the trip.
June 12 had been a brutal ride into high winds, he said.
The men started training for the race in February.
“We rode 1,300 miles in training,” Barrett said.
Barrett had heard about Biking Across Kansas for several years and thought he would stick with the tour.
“I like to bike,” he said.
He and his wife, who did not accompany him on the adventure, like to take three-day weekends to drive to see new things, he said.
The trip so far was filled with new things to see and new people to meet.
“It’s been fun to talk to all the people raising money,” he said.
At Goessel, the men bought popsicles from a young girl and mint tea from a church group. Many people set up stands along the route for riders to stop and get something.
Even in Marion, where the riders came to see Central Park on Thursday, a couple set up a produce stand.
“We don’t just race,” Barrett said. “We like to see things along the way.”
Hon Chu, born in Hong Kong before moving to Los Angeles, now lives in Colorado.
An avid bicyclist, he participates in rides sponsored by organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and cross-state bike tours in other states. This year was his fifth riding in Biking Across Kansas.“You make a lot of friends,” Chu said. “Every time, I see an old friend and meet a new friend.”