Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Mid South Report: The Expo

The Honeman Flyer on Oklahoma gravel
 Friday was the day for the Expo, but not before we all went down to meet Bobby Wintle and whomever else was with him for breakfast at a restaurant named "Hatch" in Stillwater.

Somehow we all peeled ourselves out of our beds at the Air BnB to make it down to Hatch by a little after six o'clock in the morning. When we got there I think we were almost the first folks in the building to eat. There was that one guy sitting at the breakfast bar with a bowl of cereal in front of him who had a thousand yard stare going on. Yeah....been there done that, Buddy! But besides that guy, Bobby was nowhere to be found. 

But I did not expect him either. If there is one take away from these reports, please make it that Bobby Wintle IS Mid South and his fingerprints are all over the event. He and his wife Crystal host more than 3.000 riders, put on a music festival, an expo, and help facilitate a few parties over the course of the week. That's a lot of work, and while Bobby has several volunteers, his soul and spirit infuse Mid South with life and - in my opinion - without Bobby Wintle there is no Mid South. 

So, I figured Bobby probably had other, more important things on his mind, or he was torn away by some pressing need or another. Not to be wondered at with such a complex event with so many moving parts to it. 

My plate at Hatch on Friday.

Of course, breakfast was wonderful. The crew agreed with me that it was one of the best meals we'd all had recently and that Hatch was an experience not to be missed. The place was really cool inside, (it used to be a NAPA auto store from decades back), and the brick interior with its tall, many-paned windows were lending a bit of an industrial feel but the rest of the interior is bright and modern. 

Bobby did eventually show up and he said hello, introduced us to his parents, and then was about his day. So, that was a bit of a surprise and it was really great to see him again. Bobby said he was going to go nuts when I finished the event and give me "the greatest hug". A "Bobby Hug" is part of the reason a lot of people want to finish this event, and Bobby will hug all 3000-plus if they all finish. 

Ben, Michael, and Marty then went to set up the pop-up tent for their booth at Mid South's expo area, a two block bit of the street that bisected the street which was used for the start/finish line. The event started and finished in front of District Cycles.  I went with Justin to find where Ben and Michael had parked the truck with the small, aluminum covered trailer they pulled down with that contained the tent, bicycles, and supplies, so we could see if some of Justin's keys were in the back. 

We did not have clear directions as to the location of the trailer, only that it was near a brewery, and yes - there is more than one of those in Stillwater. So, Justin and I got in a nice walk before we eventually found the trailer and he found his misplaced keys. This would be a recurring theme with Justin for the entire weekend. He and misplaced keys, that is. 

A look at the East end of the expo area.
The Grassroots Gravel Event is in Pueblo, Colorado. I'll have more on them later

It was a colder, blustery morning. The wind gusts were giving some of the vendors a fit, but Ben, Michael, and Marty's set up was fairly sheltered. I ended up cruising the expo and then I sat around, taking spot duty for the guys in case they had to eat, use the restroom, etc. 

I met a lot of great folks from all over the USA. While on my cruise of the expo I ran into Jason Boucher, Jason Strohbehn of Gravel Worlds, and a few other people I know. I was happy to reconnect with these people after so long. 

Ben Witt (L) and Michael Lehmkuhl of the Heywood ride. Marty Larsen took the picture.

GT (R) with Rob Evans from Lincoln, NE. (Image by Rob Evans)

Eventually the Sun came out and it reached 70° with lowered winds. The afternoon was actually quite pleasant. I stuck around at the expo, took a break to eat at a food truck located down there, and then I just enjoyed the people that came by to share stories and bicycles. 

This Mosaic titanium bike was pretty far-out with its sponged color scheme.

The Mid South holds running events on Friday along with a slate of musical acts on the main stage.

While the event's expo is cool, there is also a main stage where musical acts performed all day Friday and into Friday evening. The Mid South also has running events, and those were contested on Friday as well. 

This frame is cast aluminum and is all one-piece. made by Heavy Bikes.

The aluminum is cast with pressure into a sand foundry mold

The Heavy Bikes gravel rig came by the booth, and while I don't like to do anything like those "awards" some media folk hand out, this was maybe the best bicycle at the expo. At least it was in the top three. Ben's tall bike was arguably in that conversation as well. Anyway...

The Heavy Bikes process is really interesting. The aluminum is left with a lot of the textures and "warts" from casting which gives the bicycle a very industrial, purposeful look, in my opinion. You might think it is ugly, but since casting metal is something I was around for ten years as a jeweler, I find this fascinating. Oh! And the bike wasn't all that heavy either. Quite surprising. 

Marty Larsen helps pack up the booth after the expo. Ben's bicycle sits to the left here.

We went back to our Air BnB for supper.

After a full day of meeting people and talking it was time to get the booth torn down and put away. Ben had let probably a dozen different people ride his tall bike, which was a frame and fork he bought from Adam Sklar, a frame builder. This tall bike was something that Adam was experimenting with, and is not officially a "Sklar" bike, but that is who built the frame/fork. 

The bike was garnering a huge amount of interest and Ben's friend and photographer, Jared Bunk, was asked to take images of it after the expo out at the Air BnB we were staying in. 

(L-R) Justin Michaels, Michael Lehmkuhl, and Ben look on as Jared Bunk prepares to ride the tall bike.

Ben Witt taking an image of Jared on the tall bike.

After the photo session we all went in and had a supper of pan fried chicken breasts and some side dishes. Jared spoke with us about his Summer plans which prompted Ben to pitch Jared on coming to the Heywood ride to take images. I think Ben convinced Jared to come in the end.

Jared then left and it was off to bed as we had another early day ahead with the actual ride.

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