Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Stay Fired Up - An Ass Kicker in Kansas



Back when it was Cool Hand Luke Gravel Grinder we raced it, 2017 on the Pugsley and 2018 on the Fargo and it was a butt kicker both times. Since then they have changed the name due to legal reasons and are now going by the name Stay Fired Up, there are also rumors that the course was "tamed down" a bit from the previous versions but that was yet to be determined. It was a ride that sort of fell off the radar for what reason I didn't really know, it was always a fun one in a type 2 fun sort of way. I believe Doug was the one who mentioned it and Jackie had never done it before so that is how we found ourselves once again toeing the line in Leavenworth Kansas.



Photo Apr 23 2023, 6 47 02 AM

Photo Apr 23 2023, 6 56 38 AM

The saying goes that Mama didn't raise no fools, Jackie and I decided we were going to enter the single speed category for Stay Fired Up and after the previous two times riding it I felt like that decision was going to test that old adage. Would we live to regret the decision or would we not, that was the question yet to be answered. Truth be told we were the only people in the single speed category in the 62 mile (actually ended up being 68 miles and some change) or the 100 mile and I think that say something about how difficult this course can be. All we had to do was finish and we'd get first place but we still had to finish and that certainly wasn't a guarantee going into the race.




I think I made it all of 50 yards from the starting line when I noticed that my freshly pumped up front tire had decided to not remain pumped up and so it was that we had to pull over still within the shadows of the starting arch and pump the tire back up. I was hoping that it was just the valve stem that I had been struggling with and that after pumping it up things would be great... nothing like giving the rest of the field a 5 minute head start. We began the race in dead fucking last, like literally the sweeper van and then the sweeper volunteer rider were right behind us!




Thankfully none of us went into panic mode and felt the need to burn all the matches to try to get back with the field. Instead we wisely just settled into a brisk but sustainable pace and it worked, by the time we hit about mile 15 we started catching up to and passing some of the folks on the back of the pack.



By the time we hit the first checkpoint we were sitting pretty good, I figured we had passed at least a half dozen folks already so we were safe from the DFL.

Photo Apr 23 2023, 10 10 37 AM

At the checkpoint who should be run into but MK who we met 6 years ago at our very first Cool Hand Luke (Stay Fired Up) event in 2017. How cool was that and very unexpected. After chatting it up for a few minutes MK and her friend sailed off into the gravel seas to finish up their race.


As the day wore on so did the endless hills and the memories of the previous two races came back to me. Don't get me wrong it's a great event but the hills in that area of Kansas are relentless and they all seem to pitch up a couple of extra percentage when you near the top of them. I ain't bull sh#tting you either, just ask these two fellas!





If you could convince your legs that things weren't all that bad the views held up their own. If you come to the event prepare yourself for the end of the race, some of the worst of the hills are stacked up near the end and if you're not mentally ready it'll be demoralizing.


Photo Apr 23 2023, 2 07 10 PM

I was very grateful to see that pavement and know that we were only a few more minutes from the end and it was great seeing friends at the end as well, smiles all around.

Photo Apr 23 2023, 2 28 44 PM



Jackie and I finished and that meant that we walked away with some pretty sweet medals, Doug was a bit disappointed because we had thought that there were only three men in the fat bike category but there ended up being four after someone made a last minute category change. Didn't find that out until after the race. Stoked to have finished and super stoked to have "won" but I'm not sure I'd do it on single speed again.. but never say never I guess. Great event, great friends and great times!


Monday, April 17, 2023

2023 Flint Hills Gravel Ride - Day 4

Photo Apr 08 2023, 7 42 56 AM


After three days of riding from Marysville it was time to get down to the reason for the ride, the 2023 Flint Hills Gravel Ride and Run. While the previous three days were fun and it was a really good time it was good to see everyone at the ride and to be in a larger group of friends.




The lead group went out pretty spicy to begin the ride and that was okay by me, let them have it. I was perfectly fine just settling into a decent pace and letting the rabbits do that rabbit thing they do so well.








It was a fantastic day to ride bikes with friends, as is almost everyday, and to my surprise nothing really hurt on Saturday like I thought it would. All systems checked out a-okay despite having already ridden 160+ miles at this point. The 30 mile route was the correct choice for the FHGR for sure, just enough distance to make it enjoyable without being out there all day.


The group pretty much stuck together for the entire ride, some people being a bit faster and some a bit farther behind but it was good to ride with everyone. Came across the like with Jackie and Joe to finish the FHGR and to cap off 4 great days of riding. 


Photo Apr 10 2023, 7 10 07 PM

Rick and Jon weren't too far behind us and Rick even got the full Tour de France experience thanks to B Paul and myself.

Photo Apr 08 2023, 12 15 28 PM

This was our first time at the event but we have decided it won't be our last, the event is pushed back one more week for next year in hopes that the majority of the burning is out of the way and the air is a bit more clear. It also seems like Mark might start doing the bikepacking adventure as an annual event also, I'd highly recommend this as well and combine the two. Put in that request and take the PTO, nobody is going to miss you at work that much and the lifetime memories you'll make will far out last your days at work.


Friday, April 14, 2023

Flint Hills Bikepacking Day 3


Photo Apr 07 2023, 9 45 31 AM

Photo Apr 07 2023, 9 45 16 AM

Day 3 we woke up to warm temperatures but the wind was back and unlike day 1 it was going to be in our faces all day. But before we set off toward Americus we stopped by the bank in Dwight and said hello to Amy and took a look around and the old equipment and pictures from the banks early days.



Photo Apr 07 2023, 11 24 10 AM

The winds never stopped blowing and the hills never stopped coming on the early day section of the route, I guess this was pay back for the tailwind the first day and no wind on the second day.





We hit Council Grove at about the halfway point and made a brief stop for lunch before jumping on the Flint Hills Nature Trail, an old railroad track converted to trail. The wind block from the trees was nice but it seemed like the trial pointed up the entire time we were on it. Take the good with the bad I suppose.




Shortly after leaving Council Grove we came upon three monuments to the Kaw (Kanza) people that used to inhabit the lands before the white settlers and the Union Pacific Railroad pushed them on to reservations in Oklahoma. The top picture is a limestone tower erected in 1925 and it was built as a tribute to the Kanza people who once lived in the area, it's know as the monument of the unknown Kanza warrior because during the construction of the monument they unearthed the remains of the warrior and the belongings he was buried with. His remains and posessions are now entombed at the base of the monument. The circular monument depicts a bead pattern common in Kanza belts, the outer rim contains the names of the 16 Kanza camp names that once occupied the land. The now stabilized stone building is the remains of the Agency Building where Native Americans and the US government would conduct business, it is also the sight where Kanza chief Allegawaho made a protest to the government when the Kanza were told they would be relocated to Oklahoma. 

"Great father, you whites treat us Kaws like a flock of turkeys. You chase us to one stream, then you chase us to another stream. Soon you will chase us over the mountains and into the ocean, and we will have no place to live." 

All of this in the middle of a field, along a dirt road in nowhere Kansas. I've said it before and I'll say it again, traveling by bicycle has to be the single best way to really see and discover the world we live in. It's fast enough to get you places in a reasonable time period but your IN the world and not removed from it by a layer of rubber, steel and glass. I am quite certain if I hadn't traveled this section of Kansas on a bike I never would have seen these monuments and would have never known they existed.





A few more miles up the trail and we turned south and the last 10 miles of the day. The closer we got to Americus the more you could tell we were in the right place, it was the first time since leaving Marysville that we had seen other people riding bicycles also. We had found our people once again!

Photo Apr 07 2023, 4 01 23 PM


Photo Apr 07 2023, 5 30 47 PM

Literally we had found our people, several of them were already at the check-in/expo and had posted up at tables. Since they arrived by car instead of bike they looked much more refreshed than we did and I sort of feel like they cheated a little bit but it was great to see them non-the-less. Pizza was had, beer was drank and conversations were had before putting our bikes in the back of the truck and hitching a ride back to Dwight for the night. Yes we drove back to Dwight, the time for riding on that day was over but there was more to come the next day at the Flint Hills Gravel Ride and Run. That ends day 3 of the adventure, I had hoped to get all four days knocked out this week but the time it takes to write blogs and edit video surpassed the time I had available while still maintaining a life. The fourth blog and video are on their way it just might be next week before they are done... in the business that's what we call a cliff hanger. Ha, look at me sounding all self important!