Monday, June 06, 2016

The Kanza Ride: Going Deeper

Racing the Dirty Kanza 200 in 2015: Image by A. Andonopoulous
It was an early January day in 2016. The registration for the 2016 version of the Dirty Kanza 200 event was the next day. I had a strong hunch it would sell out rather quickly, and I was in no mind to struggle with whether or not I should get up early and press the submit button. I figured if it was meant to be, I'd wake up early enough to get in. If I overslept, I wasn't going to be sorry about that. I just had no feeling one way or the other on the subject.

I had made my peace with the DK 200 the previous year when I went 154 miles out of 200 and missed the checkpoint for going the final leg by two minutes. isn't a finish in the official sense. However; my personal satisfaction with the event wasn't predicated by having a pint glass and my name on a list. I was very satisfied with my efforts in 2015, and I still am at peace with that part. The event is a fantastic event, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good gravel challenge, but my focus was shifted after last year's ride.

The thing is, I knew that there was something more to this area. Something deeper and something I was missing by doing the event. I was too busy eating every fifteen minutes, worrying about finishing a water bottle every hour, and being distracted by focusing on my cues. I could see things in my periphery vision. I could feel things I didn't have time to stop and pay attention to. In other words, this former land of the Kanza, a land that had beaten back an invasion of white settlers in the 1930's with nothing more than heat and dust and wind, was calling to me. It was time to listen. That's all.

Just how was I going to do that? Well, to be honest, I had no idea whatsoever how I would do that. There is one lesson I've learned about my life though, and that is this- If I let it go, things come around to me. Sometimes it works out better than I could have ever imagined, and then sometimes there are delays. That's just how I've found life works out well for me. I don't stress about those things, and they tend to work out anyway. This thing has worked out well, and here is the story of how that came to be......

Ready to load up.
 My friend Tony has been working his way toward a Dirty Kanza 200 finish for a couple of years or more now and so he was motivated to get up that cold January day and get himself signed up to go ride the full 200. He ended up getting himself all set to go with the support for hire package, a two occupancy room, and the entry fee. Afterward, he asked me if I'd like to travel down and hang out. Certainly the social aspects of being at the Dirty Kanza weekend were very appealing, and if that were all I got out of it, I would have heartily agreed to go no matter. The offer was accepted, and after I discovered Tony didn't need me to do any support for him, I was free to entertain the call of this land. To explore it more intimately and discover what it might be I was missing.

The ride down was really good. Tony is a great traveling companion and the way we travel seems to mesh well with each other. It didn't hurt that the day was a spectacular early June day with abundant sunshine and blue sky. We arrived at Emporia late on Thursday afternoon to unload our belongings and bicycles in the dormitories of Emporia State University. I at once was reminded of my days at the University of Northern Iowa and my room there. Uggh! The "dorm life" was not my thing then, nor would it be so now. That being as it may, these were our digs for the weekend. They would suffice. Now if they would get that air conditioning fixed!

Geeking out on various forms of "Gravel Bikes" in the parking lot.
We ended up going downtown, eating at the excellent, and highly recommended Radius Brewing Company, and then retiring to the equally excellent Mulready's Pub on Commercial Street. There we ran into two of the quartet of forces that move the mighty Dirty Kanza's levers and set things in motion. Tim and Kristi Mohn. We had an excellent conversation and I learned that the event has started to affect the residents of Emporia in a positive way. People are becoming more community oriented through the various facets of the event, and even more impressively, are beginning to choose more healthy lifestyles centered around cycling. I left the pub that evening feeling hopeful and uplifted, even if Kristi doesn't like getting flowers. (I didn't think that anyone would hate on flowers, but oh well! )

Tony and I retired to our four walls of cinder block awesomeness. The air conditioning was still broken.......

Next: Blowing Up

1 comment:

youcancallmeAl said...

I get the impression you are about to give us a guided tour (with photos I hope) of the country around the event! Exactly what I consider to be the real joy of gravel bikes and the places they can take you. In competition, there is no time to dawdle along smelling the roses.This should be great!!!!