BAK been here, RAAM is next

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Richard Ake of Clearwater waves as he rides through Iola this morning. Ake is on his first Biking Across Kansas ride

June is bicycling month in this area. Iola will see two distinct types of bicycling events fly through.
Well, one has already been and gone as of today. The 2009 Biking Across Kansas (BAK) riders breezed through Iola early this morning after having a nice overnight stop at Humboldt.
Humboldt welcomed 870 bicyclists Thursday afternoon along with the BAK staff, crews of the SAG (Support and Gear) vehicles and individual rider SAG vehicles. All the grassy area surrounding the Humboldt High School and Humboldt Community Fieldhouse turned into tent cities. The two gyms at the school were turned into bunkhouses.
The BAK is a recreational bicycle tour crossing the state of Kansas. Participants on the eight-day trek from west to east each year range in ages from elementary-age youths to several “youngsters” in their 80s. They do recommend that riders be strong bike riders because a day’s ride is from 50 to 70 miles long.
The BAK stops each night in host towns, usually the smaller towns along the route. This is the sixth year out of 35 years that the BAK has been just one route. The BAK used to be split into three routes — a southern, a northern and one that went across the middle of Kansas. The route is always different.
In my three-plus hour visit with BAK officials and a few of the riders Thursday afternoon, they were all impressed with the way the Humboldt community “had rolled out the welcome mat” for the group. And that was before all the evening activities began.
“Where’s the chicken and dumplings to be served? I need to replenish some carbs,” one guy asked a Humboldt host.
“Yeah, where will that be. I’ve been waiting for this all week,” a woman rider chimed it.
They were directed to the Humboldt school cafeteria where a chicken and dumpling, mashed potatoes meal was served to the BAK contingent .
After what I am sure was an enjoyable evening of entertainment and small-town hospitality, the riders retired after a BAK meeting. They were up this morning on their longest ride between overnight stays — 85 miles to Paola. The ride ends Saturday at Louisburg.
Two Iola women are on the BAK and their stories will be in Saturday’s Register plus some other photos of the BAK in Allen County.
BAK is not a race. It’s a ride through Kansas. People stop along the way to explore not just the towns they stay in each night but other towns along the way. Many riders came to Iola Thursday then rode back to Humboldt.

IOLA will see a different type of rider come through here June 22-25. Those bicylists will be racing.
The 2009 Race Across America (RAAM) course is set to run right down U.S. Highway 54. Yates Center is Time Station 28 again as the racers on the 3,000-mile plus endurance race go from Oceanside, Calif. to Annapolis, Md.
As in the past, riders — solo and teams — push through this area at all times of day and night. Yates Center is one of seven RAAM time stations in Kansas. There are 54 time stations along the race.
RAAM starts next Tuesday and Wednesday for different divisions. There are not many overnight stops by these riders. Depending on the division, there may not be more than just a pitstop taken, if that.