Biking Across Kansas camped in Spearville at the end of the second day of its southwest to northeast ride.
Over a period of hours the "City of Windmills" became the "City of Sprockets" as the population of Spearville doubled with the arrival of Biking Across Kansas riders and supporters, Sunday.
The convoy of 800 or more cyclists snaked northeast through Dodge City, a constant stream of brightly colored reflective clothing on all types of bikes, riders of all ages, all going at their own pace. Some stopped for lunch or to take in the ongoing street fair downtown before continuing east toward Spearville.
Outside Wright the rally set up a roadside support and gear hub, staffed by the "SAG hags" that dress up the tailgate rest stop with costumes and encouragement.
"When you've been on the road for a while it's a sight for sore eyes," Marqueeta Seagraves said while taking a walk to loosen muscles outside the Windmill Restaurant.
Seagraves is from Edmond, Okla, and is completing her third Biking Across Kansas cross-state rally this year alongside her husband, Jack, and son, James. The two parents switch off driving their support truck, but 26-year-old James insists on making the whole trip from the saddle, she said.
What draws them to Kansas away from the Oklahoma-equivalent? The roads. And Biking Across Kansas, which has been held annually since 1975, is incredibly well organized, she said. The cross-Kansas rally was also the first vacation she and her husband took after emptying the nest, now it has become a post-college family bonding opportunity. The community and the shared sense of accomplishment bring them back.
"If you don't know anyone at the beginning" of the 555 mile trek, Seagraves said, "you will know plenty of people by the end. What develops in this community draws you closer."
Riders set bikes alongside Kelly's Corner Grocery, where early arrivals wiped the story out of single-serving chocolate milk bottles, a preferred post-ride rejuvenator; the Windmill Restaurant which kept long hours to accommodate the crowd; and at a beer garden next to the Knight of Columbus where riders could get a beer, a burger and a slice of pie.
For as many riders, there are as many reasons to ride. One rider, Seagraves said, might have fibbed about her age last year when she said she was 80. This year she revealed she's 92, and back in the saddle every morning.
Bryan Griffon of Wichita was told by his doctor he should only do half the trip, he said, coming so soon off of abdominal surgery.
"If I'm going to do half, I have to do the whole thing," he said. For diehards, Biking Across Kansas is a relatively easy trip, externalities aside. In most years, Griffon puts between 3,000 and 4,000 miles in the saddle, a transcontinental equivalent on the low end. With the recovery he's averaging about 15 miles per hour, he said, down five to 10 from his typical average.
On the early start day riders put in 18 miles from the Colorado state line to Elkhart. The next day was 62 miles to Satanta, then 78 to Spearville.
"By the time I do 88 (miles) on Wednesday, I'll be up to par," Griffon said.
For 15 years Griffon wanted to partake in Biking Across Kansas, but as an advocate for epilepsy research and understanding, he typically used his vacation time to travel the country speaking about the illness.
Brain surgery and better meds made distance biking safer for him, and recession-era cuts to country-crossing speakers freed up his vacation time. There's no other way he'd rather spend that time than on the bike, seeing the welcoming small towns the rally passes through.
Through Sunday night, the weather had held out. Saturday night's rains cooled the air and the temperatures didn't much break 80 degrees on their trip from Satanta. Storms loomed, and later that evening the tent city at Spearville High School's football field got soaked.
Though whirling wet weather across the state forced some riders to call it a day near Pawnee Rock, Monday, on the way to Ellinwood, SAG crews were there with trailers and transport. Better weather, today, they said, then on to Salina where participants of rallies past will meet up with the traveling chain-link community.