Friday, April 24, 2015

Land of Oz

Back in early March we had a warm spell that triggered my spring fever. I got a 60 mile ride and a 30 mile in the same week before the snow and cold returned. I wasn't going to have anymore snotty cold so I called my buddy Blake and pitched Kansas like a vacuum cleaner salesman. It was an easy sale and a week later we jumped in Ocho and went to Kansas to ride until our legs fell off. We literally had no plans. North east Kansas has a lot of trails and gravel so we couldn't fail and with a house on wheels we only needed a place to park. 
Grab a few hundred miles and a couple of Gas Station Gourmet meals and we are in Kansas City (don't go stupid, it's the same town on a border). We rip dirt for an hour and its 70 degrees. You'd think it was summer; we already forgot it's not August.
The trail is a little wet but we ride it and if any 'dirt boss' asked about why we are riding a damp trail I have a cash donation apology  plan because lets be honest. I drove 500 miles to ride a bike and if it helps local trails I'll gladly buy the case of beer it takes to rake dirt to cover the handful of ruts I make. This is probably a good time to say I don't ever ride wet local trails and I didn't know they were going to be marginal wet but if you spend 10 hours driving, you ride and are sorry but you still ride.

I don't know what trail is what anymore. Even at the time I wasn't sure what the name of the trail was. We find them on maps and 'google' and go ride it. Remember we don't have a plan and that not B.S.

I took pictures of the posted maps so we would not get lost. It helps some at the time, it helps more now. I guess it was Wyandotte and Shawnee. Freaking Kansas slang.
Shawnee was the 3rd trail of the day. It was the best. We got very lucky and each of the trails was better then the last. Tomorrow was SwitchGrass and one of the IMBA EPICs.

A state park campground and we are one of maybe 5 campers. Its great and the dark sky made some of the best start gazing I've ever had the pleasure of viewing (and that's not total amateur talk).
Switchgrass, 22 miles of wild winding hell on dirt. Its enough miles and mountains to make a full day and without giving away too much we are overjoyed to get ice cubes in our water when we get back to Ocho.

We camp in the park with the trail so we can ride TO and FROM the camper.
The rocks and technical trail hits us hard within the first few miles.

Ridge rides are easy but sometimes very close to the edge. Sometimes very, very close and I get my fill of excitement. Before the day is over I could be quoted as saying, "I'm done with widow walk cliffs"
SwitchGrass is so great it's worth the 14 hour drive just to mash dirt and rip trail. It flows better then any trail I've ever been on and that includes Fruta and Moab.

We snake around the lake and cliffs for some 4 hours. It's awesome. We have nothing but tired legs, sunburn and praise for the mid-Kansas trail.

Grinding miles, hills and technical features start to hammer us. Fun but we are getting beat up. It's hard to say you love getting killed but it's like any hard workout. You get your mind right and the pain is what makes it great. If it's easy, everyone would be here and, well, we are all alone, all day, and didn't see one person and it was that much better.

Nearing the end, the rocks and risk have beaten the bravado from us and we walk without shame. 2 days ago that was out of the question.

Below: "Lone Tree" We have 10 miles to go I think.
Long ago this was a farm or a ranch and without trees they used rocks for posts. I'd like to know how old this fence 'post' is but it's cool as hell and with the park it will be this way for 100's of years.
Dead ass tired and nearing the end I stop and take my finishing photo. All along the trail are markers, most are all rocks from the few I saw. This is the last one so I wanted to capture my first "IMBA EPIC" finish. What a great trail. I expect they are all worth the travel expense and Blake and I are already talking about getting a crew and making a run at more Epics next spring.
We finish Switchgrass and fall off our bikes back at camp. Drink, literally, a gallon of water and a tray of ice and lay in the sun for a few hours. We can't get lazy, we have an hour or 2 drive to Perry Lake to get the next camp and trail staged for the next day. Early the next morning....
We grab some trail but it's not to be. It's average trail and following an Epic, it's lousy. We are ham from 3 days of riding and it's rocky hell so we grim up and grind 8 or 10 miles before we say it's not fun and bail.

The exit plan is mapped and we are going to return to Ocho, move the coach 10 miles and get killer Kansas gravel. Minnesota may have started the gravel grinder but North East Kansas owns it with the best rolling hills and wide open limestone anyone would want. Dorothy and Toto spoke the truth. There is no place like this. Without planning we happen on 3 days of great trails. How can that be luck.

Below: We've been back to the RV for a full lunch and a short rest before getting on the gravel bikes. We've moved the house 10 miles east and have no maps but a 100 mile long gravel race takes place on these road in December so how can we go wrong when it's 89 Degrees out.
Some soft roads graded from winter. Some are hard old crushed in to cement. Rolling hills, old farms and 20 miles of view.
Below, That is an A+ gravel hill climb. It made my day. How I can be happy about riding a skinny tire bike up a dirt hill in the middle of no place? Easy, because at that moment, its the only thing in the world. It's short and savage and it's all mine.
Happen stance. The grave below is only of interest because I drove 500 miles to Kansas, got on a bike and randomly road 30 miles, I passed an old cemetery (I think mostly 1933 flu pandemic because it's a lot of children) so I ride in and look at the people and stop in front of this very stone. why? Sure, it's happen stance but is it really random chance with so many people convinced of an after life why would anything be pure happen stance.
We ride on and I take basic sightseeing photos that explain themselves.

Nearing the end and Blake is cooked. I'm feeling good but we need to get a plan together for our last night out so I don't get the 50 miles of gravel I was looking for but we narrowly avoid setting up camp at night. That's worth a few missed miles.
The next day we are just south of Des Moines Iowa for the last of the dirt rides. It's hot and sunny and by this time we've forgotten it's a warm spell and we'll see snow in MN before we see mountain biking again.
These are old slag (mining) piles or sometimes called Tailings. They make a nice trail. Narrow winding trails that flow allowing for a lot of speed and we rip down then for an hour before we both run out of gas. We make a few extra laps in the last hours we have but we are sore and our legs are ham from 4 days of riding and a hard day at SwitchGrass. We are cooked and spring fever is gone.

Below, A proper finish to this post is to give the final photo to the best trail and the man who found it for us. If it wasn't for my good buddy Blake and Kansas SwitchGrass this trip would have been dull and on that bright note, good bye.

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