Tuesday, June 06, 2017

DK My Way: Gravel Family Reunion

The back of the 9:00am Pre-Ride field.
One of the best things about doing this event, or.....anything really, is the relationships you develop as you meet new people. I have been so greatly blessed by so many folks I have met it is crazy to try to count them all. I love being where they are gathered, so I wouldn't miss the DK200 weekend for most anything. I know many that didn't get there due to missing the registration feel similarly right about now. Especially after seeing all the social media posts about the event. There is just something about the atmosphere and the feeling you get when the "gravel family" comes together.

I get that at Trans Iowa, for sure, and Gravel Worlds, definitely, but the DK200 has this going on as well. So, I really enjoy being there and seeing all the folks. The Friday "hoopla" that the DK200 has going on makes it easier to rub elbows with a lot of these great people. So, I was up and at 'em early to get some breakfast in my belly and get out there and see some of these folks.

Tony and I decided to hit up the course South of town. The beginning stretch of the DK200 has used the same roads for at least three years running and I remember hitting these roads in my attempts years ago. So, it is a fairly well known set of turns to me now. I'm sure many of you reading this that are DK veterans could do the first 10-20 miles of the DK course with your eyes closed. I know I could. So, we didn't even have to figure out where to head out, but just in case, Tony was calling out turns on his GPS.

We ran across a guy on the way out of town on a white Specialized hard tail 29"er. He crossed the rail road tracks on Commercial Street as we were going out and ejected his seat post mounted water bottle. Tony swung back and grabbed it for him. That's how we met Kevin from Las Vegas.

We chatted him up and found out that he knew magazine editor Neil Shirley and had heard good things about the DK200 from him. So, apparently Kevin took Neil's advice and headed out one year to ride the DK200 and has been hooked ever since. Kevin mentioned that all his riding buddies in Vegas cannot fathom why he comes to Kansas every year to ride "gravel" when they are going to do mountain bike racing at Mammoth Mountain or some other cool place. Well, Kevin pretty much said that they were really the ones that were missing out. Tony and I nodded in agreement, and we pedaled on to what is known as "DK Hill", the first climb of any import in the DK 200 course.

Here's "Vegas Kevin" and his rig. It was great to make friends with him and spend a little time chatting.
This dog insisted we all three pet him/her before we continued onward. This was at the top of "DK Hill".
Eventually we parted ways as Tony and I wanted to get back in to town so Tony could get registered and we could get to eat before the Pre-Race Meeting at 1:00pm. So we headed back to town. It was like riding a "gravel bike path" with all the two way bicycle traffic. Everyone was giving a friendly "Hello" or "Good Morning", and the Sun was bright. It was a near perfect day.

Tony riding past a field of wheat as we headed back into town from our pre-ride.

We got back to town and headed down to the registration area. I stayed outside with the bikes as Tony stepped inside to get registered and pick up his materials. I saw a few folks and chatted with them as the hustle and bustle of the DK200 weekend got cranked up on Commercial Street. Then we went back and got cleaned up. Realizing that we were going to not have time for lunch, we hit up the expo for a little bit, then we headed in early to the meeting. We took our seats in the balcony and awaited the start of the proceedings.

DK200 co-founder Jim Cummins giving instructions on checkpoint procedure at the Pre-Race meeting.

When we got out of the meeting, we saw a few more folks, but then it was time to get something to eat. It was now about 2:00pm, and we hadn't eaten since breakfast! Well, another great restaurant in Emporia is Casa Ramos. It is family owned, authentic Mexican food and the service is outstanding. The food matches that and more. Again, under $12.00-$14.00 depending on how many cervezas you have. Crazy good place. Go there.

Anyway, afterward we had a lot of time to wander around. I needed to pick up some electrolyte tabs for my ride and I got a spare tube of Orange Seal "just in case". I saw Adam Blake at Gravel City, the bike shop down there, and he was busy installing a brand new Lauf fork on a rider's bike. It was great to see him, and it sounds like the shop is doing okay. Then we moved along....

I spied this, what I think is, a new WTB 650B tire- The Resolute.
I saw a ton of folks and we talked with many of them as we walked along. It was great to see everyone, and the buzz on Friday afternoon in Emporia is palpable. Folks were getting excited for the event. Worries of rain were evaporating like dew in the desert and spirits were high.

I spied a new WTB tire. At least, I'd never heard of it, but the 650B X 42 Resolute hasn't shown up on my radar before. It reminded me a lot of a skinny, smaller diameter Nineline. Probably a bit of overkill for gravel, but on dirt it might prove to be spectacular.

As the day wore on we stopped by Mulready's Pub once again and sampled a couple more beers. They have an incredible selection focusing mostly on Kansas breweries, but they offer others as well. The service, again, was great. After this we decided it was high time to eat something for supper and go find our beds. So, we thought about going back to Radius Brewing Company, but the line was out of the door for a table. (No wonder. The food and beer is outstanding.) So, we went directly across the street and waited 15 minutes for a seat at the bar of Bobby D's Merchant Street BBQ.

I had a meal of burnt tips and it was so good! The guy that was behind the bar serving the patrons was maybe the best server I've ever had anywhere. Fantastic! Both Tony and I tipped him big time. He deserved every penny. Amazing food and experience.

After all of the "eating and drinking like kings" that we had done, it was time to go back, get some rest, and put our game faces on. The following day was ride time. Of course, Tony was doing the actual race, and I was not. (See this post in case you have any questions about that.) But no matter, we each had something serious on our plate for the following day, and a good night's rest would go a long way toward meeting our goals.

Next: Westward Alone

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