Pedal powered tourism
When 12-year-old Ali Wilcox and her father, Ed, were mapping out plans for the summer, they decided it would be fun to take a trip across Kansas.
They got what they wanted -- traveling from the Colorado border to the Missouri border without once stopping to fill up for gasoline.
The father-daughter team participated in the 2003 Biking Across Kansas ride June 7-14. The event is an annual ride for cyclists to travel across state powered only by their legs and motivation. Riders travel between 50 to 80 miles per day.
The ride started at the Colorado line west of Syracuse. Although they had trained in the De Soto area and around Eudora, Ed said the length of the first day kept him on edge.
"The first day when we went back to Garden City, it was about 70 miles," he said. "It was very cold and windy. That was the day I was pretty worried about. In our training we had never gone more than 55 miles."
As with all cycling on highways, the event's bikers were at risk from traffic. That, Ed said, was his biggest concern as he tried to keep an eye out for himself and his daughter.
"You have to be very conscious of what's behind you," he said. "There a long stretch where you couldn't get away from the rumble strips and there were tons of semi's going past us. That was scary."
But did the heavy traffic on a Kansas highway with vehicles zipping by at high speeds scare 12-year-old Ali?
"Not really," she said.
"I was," Ed said, laughing. "I was terrified."
Cyclists were supported by pit stops along the planned routes of the journey. Riders explored rural towns and visit ed diners, museums and other highlights of being on the road.
Ali said at times, the stops were the most enjoyable part of the experience.
"Some days it was boring because all you would see were wheat fields after wheat fields," she said. "It was smelly because of all the feedlots."
Both father and daughter said the open road left a lot of time to consider the answers to deep questions, such as:
"What's for lunch?" Ali said.
"When are we going to stop for lunch?" Ed added.
Bikers stayed mostly in school gymnasiums each night with sleeping bags, although some camped out with tents. A truck loaded with luggage hauled the items from each town, giving bikers the freedom needed to ride with few worries. They were on their own for their main meals, but the scheduled stops provided opportunities to interact with new people and see some of the highlights unique to Kansas.
Ed said one of the greatest things about the ride was that it showed his daughter a little bit more about Kansas and gave her a sense of what the world holds.
"I grew up in Minneapolis, Kan., and it's a real small town," he said. "Most of the kids around here don't have a clue about what the rest of the state is like. I think it's good to see the rest of the state and know it's not all like Johnson County."
And, he said, like any other sport, there is great fulfillment knowing what challenges you could overcome.
"I guess it's enough of a physical challenge that it's nice to know that you can do it -- or that you did it."