Camaraderie, culture exchange found on BAK road

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Wily veterans of Biking Across Kansas are Terri Anderson (left) and Gena Clounch (right) of Iola. Both are on the 2009 BAK that made an overnight stop in Humboldt Thursday before following old U.S. Highway 169 up through Iola to Colony on it’s cross-state ride to Louisburg.
Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Tents cropped up all around Humboldt High School Thursday as the 870-plus contingent of the 2009 Biking Across Kansas tour stopped overnight at Humboldt. The cross-state riders enjoyed the hospitality of the Humboldt community toward the end of an eight-day cross-state ride that ends in Louisburg today.

HUMBOLDT — What keeps you coming back each year to Biking Across Kansas was the question.
Terri Anderson and Gena Clounch looked at each other and giggled like school girls. The reaction spoke volumes.
“It’s a social activity as much as the physical challenge of the bike ride,” Clounch said.
“You meet people from all walks of life and with different backgrounds. You also see friends you’ve made on previous rides and catch up,” Anderson said.
Then they look at each other and again, relax with a laugh.
The 2009 Biking Across Kansas (BAK) made an overnight stop in Humboldt Thursday. Anderson and Clounch usually pitch tents for the night during the eight-day, 500-mile ride but not Thursday. They rode their bicycles home to Iola, showered, changed clothes, then returned to Humboldt for the evening meal and activities.
“We’re sleeping in our own beds tonight,” Anderson said. “We’ll get up and head to Paola Friday morning from Iola.”
Anderson is making her ninth BAK ride and Clounch is on her seventh. They said co-workers talked them into their first rides and they have kept at it ever since. “It’s something to do during the summer,” Anderson said.
Anderson is a guidance secretary at Iola Middle School. Clounch is a human services consultant with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services office in Iola.
The two friends ride together throughout the tour — this year from Syracuse to Louisburg. For the two women, the ride is full of fun.
“We sing songs even when we don’t know the right words to the songs. We talk to each other and with other riders. We can stop along the way in different towns or at historical markers,” Clounch said.
The 870 riders represent 28 states on this year’s ride. Friday’s ride was the longest of the BAK, 85 miles from Humboldt to Paola, which is the final overnight stay.
“We’ll have a lot of riders who will do a century (Friday),” said Sherry McKee.
A century refers to pedaling 100 miles that day instead of the actual distance between overnight stays. McKee said riders usually are on the road by 5:30 or 6 o’clock each morning to beat the heat and traffic. Riders started showing up in Humboldt Thursday at 10 or 11 in the morning. Clounch and Anderson were in Iola by 12:30 p.m.
“We usually crawl out of the tents about 5:30, get packed up, load the gear on the truck, eat breakfast. By 6:30 we hit the road,” Clounch said.
“We’ve had pretty mild weather this year. Wednesday morning we had drizzle but we’ve missed the storms,” Anderson said. “The first day was really hot but we haven’t had that consistent heat this year.”
McKee coordinates with the host towns for each BAK. Host towns must accommodate 800-plus riders and the gear, tents, trucks and vehicles that come with them. McKee helped direct riders to the showers at Humboldt High School or to the massage therapist, plus talked with Humboldt community volunteers. She said BAK officials stress that riders do conditioning rides to prepare for BAK and know how to ride on highways.
Clounch and Anderson said the best way to prepare for the BAK rides is “just get out and ride your bike. It takes some long rides on the bike to get ready.” Clounch and Anderson walk and keep active throughout the year.
“Humboldt has everything really organized for the group. Communities really do a good job of having us stop overnight. It’s amazing how communities like Humboldt come together and provide a great deal for the riders,” McKee said.
“It’s the culture exchange that we love about the whole ride each year. Community people come out and be a part of the tour. It’s a great way to learn about the whole state of Kansas.”
Clounch said former Iolan Lori (Hawk) Obermueller is on the BAK this year with her husband Mark. They are from Lincoln. Bill Lamb of Moran was among the riders on recumbent bicycles in the BAK. There were tandem bicycles, one built for four and several bicycles pedaled by hand by handicapped riders.