Okay folks, it's on from here. I am on my way right now to Kansas to participate in the Dirty Kanza 200. There are quite a few area and Iowa based riders in the event this go round including Mike Johnson, Jeremy Fry, Ron Saul, my T.I. co-director David Pals, and Paul Jacobson, just to mention a few. We'll be sweating it out in humid, 90 plus degree temps in sweltering sun shine all day and into the night, (for some of us). It'll be a true test of endurance, that's for sure!
A Dirty Kanza Primer: For those that have no clue about the Flint Hills area, here are some facts and descriptions for you to chew on.
The Flint Hills, which run north to south, roughly, through much of the eastern third of Kansas, is an area of thin soil mixed in with broken limestone and flint to the point that farming is......well, a ridiculous proposition. Trying to farm in soil riddled with skull sized rocks is pretty laughable, but some Kansans pull it off none the less. What these giant rolling hills are good for is growing thick, lush grasses. In fact, The Flint Hills are one of only two large areas of tall grass prairie left standing in the world! (The other is in South Africa) If you've ever traveled the Kansas Turnpike southwards from Emporia to Wichita, you've gotten a glimpse of the rolling sea of green grass that seems to go on forever. It does seem pretty vast, but imagine that at one time that was what the entire Great Plains looked like! A pretty amazing thing when you consider how our ancestors navigated through this vast ocean of vege without GPS, and many times without a compass!
What you don't see from I-35 is how those seemingly benign, gently rolling curves of green are riddled with streams and how those streams and creeks have cut veins so deeply into valleys all over that climbs measured in miles are not uncommon out there. You don't see how the counties use the native scree and broken rock as "gravel" for roadways. The chunkiness of this aggregate is at some points, astounding. Large, sharp, fist sized stones waiting to slice tires are commonplace. We often spend more time dodging rocks than we do looking around at the awe inspiring scenery.
Then you see how the ravines that carry away rain water run right across the road ways, since there are rarely any ditches here. Water carries away the finer stones and leaves the nasty, big rocks submerged in the running water over the road where many a tire gets pinch flatted. The roads in the Flint Hills are an unforgiving lot!
Those roads run in the typical Mid-western grid in some places. Other places you'll find a winding path amongst broken rock out croppings with nary another road in sight for miles to either side. Just tall, lean stalks of grass waving in the wind as a constant reminder of what once was. The prairie still remains and is not to be dealt with lightly here. A bad fall, poor water strategy, or bad nutritional plan will really bite you in a big way here in this remote area. You won't find a ranch house, a road, or other travelers on these remoter roads in the Flint Hills. In fact, the whole area is pretty lightly populated. Well.......in terms of humans, that is.
Cows and plenty of them range all over this grassy paradise for bovines. Some of the richest "finishing" feed one could want for cattle is found here, and that's exactly how ranchers in the Flint Hills make a living. They rent out the rich grasslands to feeder cattlemen with cattle needing finishing before slaughter. Some of the area is "open range" because of this. That means that cattle can roam across roads, (where there are roads!), and stand around pretty much where ever they have a mind to. This has resulted in unplanned stops by riders in the past and in one edition of the DK 200, a rider even got knocked off his bike, and out of the event, by a cow that seemed to be quite unimpressed with the efforts being put out by the DK 200 challengers.
This is where I will be riding along with approximately 200 other freaks and enthusiasts this weekend. Stay tuned for the updates coming soon. I'll also file a report here next week.