Feed on

…And I helped

So…another Dirty Kanza 200 has come and gone, and I was on hand as a helper-varmint again, though this time as support crew for Joel and Wade. Which meant driving Joel’s pickup from one tiny Kansas town to another, with a 5-gallon water cooler in the back (as well as a cooler of food and a box containing tools, parts, extra shorts, and god knows what else)

First stop was in a miniscule township known to those who know it as Cassoday. As far as anyone knows, 129 souls reside within the Prairie Chicken Capital of Kansas.

The principal attraction of Cassoday, if you’re asking me, is the old train station, which has been brought inland from the tracks and is stationed pretty much squarely smack in the middle of town.

I peeked in the windows and was gratified to learn that it has been set up to look much like it must have looked circa 1900. I took a few pictures through the closed windows, and would very much like to have had a chance to actually go inside. Perhaps someday I will.

I got to Cassoday a good two hours before any riders were due, as I wanted to get a good location so that Joel and Wade wouldn’t have to search for me to get their supplies, and also so that I would have time to take a little bike ride for myself before I needed to be back and on duty. So I got parked and organized and took off for a little spin, then came back through town and took the pictures linked above. At that point in the day, the weather was completely beautiful…maybe 75-80 degrees, light breeze…lovely!

At 60 miles, Joel and Wade came in grinning and laughing. In fact a lot of riders came in at that point still looking pretty fresh and chipper. The weather was still pretty co-operative, and the general atmosphere of enthusiasm was infectious. They re-watered quickly and headed back out for the next 40 miles. I hung out with my friend Susan, whose husband John was not only making his first attempt at DK200, but was doing so on a singlespeed Pake with ‘cross tires on it. Big brass ones on that man. He came in with a smile on his face, sailing on endorphins, I’d reckon. Pretty shortly after saying “hi” and “best wishes” to John, I headed for stop 2, in Florence, KS.

Now I’d laid eyes on Florence, KS about a month earlier, on an astoundingly ill-fated pre-ride, whereupon all four of us who’d planned to ride together were in some stage of malaise. I was having wicked period cramps. Joel had a stern case of hay-fever. Christie was flat-out overworked, and Tim was recovering from a cold. On that particular day, the day dawned at about 50F and the temperature fell steadily. By the time we all packed it in around noon, we’d ridden about 30 miserable miles and wrote it off as “just one of those days.” But it is an ill wind that blows no good. That ride had started off from Florence, which has a delightfully scenic downtown.
This old stone house, though abandoned, is still a rather handsome ediface.

The carved pediments over the windows provide a touch of the outstanding to this otherwise straightforward stone wing-and-ell dwelling.

A very typical two-shop building on the main street. There are similar commercial buildings in small towns across the midwest. This one particularly reminds me of a row in Chadron, NE.

Downtown Chadron Nebraska
Chadron, NE downtown, for comparison.

Any town with any hopes of being anything had an opera house. Florence was no exception.
If there aren’t the spirits of a few Valkyries perching on this cornice, waiting to swoop some deserving soul off to Valhalla, I would be just a bit disappointed.

Here are the Outpost and Some Place Else, which confusingly enough, may well be above the Outpost…?

Here are a couple of junked out Ford Pintos on a car-hauler. I was tempted to try to find out who owned them as I’d sure love to acquire one of these:
for an art-project-bike I have in mind to do up.

Anyway, I didn’t have time to track down the “proud” Pinto owner. I’d spent enough time messing around taking pictures that I figured I’d best get over to the park and be ready for Joel and Wade. Wade pulled in ahead of Joel, obviously feeling the heat, which had been rising steadily since last I’d seen our intrepid cyclists. He re-watered, cooled himself off at the hydrant there in the park, and sped off for another 60 miles. Joel hit the checkpoint about 20 minutes later, reporting a wicked bad headache, and was of two minds as to whether to press on, or to call it a day at the halfway point. Even after a cool-down and a snack-break, his head was still hurting, and he decided not to continue on and make himself feel like complete hell for the rest of the day.

Turns out that Joel DNFing would turn into a good turn for another exhausted cyclist. Ebby, owner of Sedalia’s Pro-Velo cycling shop, had hit the wall and was unable to contact his support crew. So, we gave him a lift back to Emporia, then continued on to Checkpoint 3, to be there for Wade when he got in.

We met up at Checkpoint 3 with Barb, who had started the day in the race, and who decided to call it good enough at Checkpoint 1, after hammering out a seriously hard-and-fast 60 miles. She had switched into support mode and had supplies (and a ride, if necessary) for the inimitable Dennis Grelk. Dennis was this year’s winner of Trans Iowa, so I figured he had a pretty good chance at DK200, but the heat took its toll on him, too. The heat, plus the unexpected and fairly violent storm which hit right about when the bulk of the riders were about halfway between Checkpoints 2 and 3.

Thanks to modern technology, the following gentleman actually has video of the storm experience from the road!

As we were heading to Checkpoint 3, we noticed some weird, mottled clouds on the horizon, right over where the cyclists were likely to be. Lightning arced between the massed thunderheads, and things looked to be getting ugly.

At the checkpoint, the skies cut open. As riders trickled in, caked in Kansas, they reported hail, being blown off their bikes, and holing up from the storm in sheds, barns, under trailers, and in ditches. The storms demoralized and exhausted a great many of the riders who hadn’t already been knocked out by the peak heat of about 95F from earlier in the day. As we waited around, a truck came in with a familiar green Kona on its roof. Wade had called it quits after taking a severe buffeting from the storm. Exhausted, filthy, and hungry, he was happy for a lift back to town.

Despite the dirty tricks that the weather and landscape of the Flint Hills threw at the field, 65 riders managed to finish. The winner was a team this year. For the first year ever there was a tandem class, and last year’s second-place finisher, Lance Andre, and mountain-biking wonderwoman Barbi Miller joined forces to knock out a win. Even more astounding, they’d never ridden together before! Lance needed a strong, yet small “stoker” as his tandem frame was sized for a very petite second rider. Barbi fit the bill, sneaking in perhaps just over the 5′ line. They took a practice run on the tandem the day before the race, to get fitted up and situated, and went forth to kick some ass.

Our friend who’d started off his first DK200 on a singlespeed finished the same, gritting it out through heat, storm, and…well…singlespeededness. I haven’t seen him since Checkpoint 2, but reports are that he was ecstatic as he crossed the finishing line.

So, another DK200 down.

Joel and I will be back next year as volunteers. So many great people to see, and such an epic event to support. You can hardly go wrong to get involved.

2 Responses to “…And I helped”

  1. Jason Hatley says:

    Nice overview Michelle. Looks like a terrific, horrible, terrific event.
    I may give that a go some year soon.

  2. Meetzorp says:

    I bet Wade could give you a few hot tips on how to approach that beast of a ride!

Leave a Reply