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And finally, here in chapter 4, we get to one of the main reasons why we headed out with all these bikes in the first place. So now I bring you:
Chapter 4: Kansas City – A Great Place to Ride Your Bike
Some time back, we had been contacted by Cycle Kansas City. They wanted to know if we would be interested in attending one of their group rides. Without knowing much more about it than that, we agreed, looked at their ride calendar, and picked the Northland Nightmare as the event we wanted to attend.
And if you don’t know us very well, usually that’s all it takes is an invitation – most of our adventures are exactly that half-baked. But the reality of this trip is that Kansas City is just over one thousand miles away from our home base in Salt Lake City. If we had stopped to look at a map, we might have thought the better of going. In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t pull up that map until later.
If you’ve never done a mass-start cycling event before, the main most awful thing about them is that they always start at zero-stupid-thirty in the morning. We’ve been doing these for years, and we still don’t know why that is. If you’ve read the first three chapters of this saga, the one thing you know about Stef and me is that we never get up early, or even on time. So these events are challenging for us in that respect. But for this ride, Lance came to our rescue.
Since we roll in an awesome Class B, parking most anywhere is not a problem. We don’t need (or even usually want) to stay at expensive RV parks. So for this event, we had asked Cycle Kansas City if we could just park for the night at the race start. They said, “No Problem.” They sent us a map of where to park. And they even alerted the local authorities that we were going to be there overnight.
This worked out spectacularly. We found our spot with no problems, and with no need for hookups, Stef, and I, and our four bikes settled in for the night. We even watched a movie, which happened to be our first time firing up Lance’s TV. The next morning, at zero-stupid-thirty, we were already there, and didn’t need to drive to the start (or stand in line at the port-o-johns).
Now, the other thing I didn’t notice about the ride (but Stef did) was that it was a costume-themed ride. Riders were encouraged to ride in costume. I would have preferred to just ignore this bit, and not pack costumes halfway across the country for two weeks, but Stef wasn’t having any of that. We had to have costumes, and we had to ride in them. She decided (more or less without my input) that we would be “minions”, and before we left all manner of blue and yellow things were showing up at the house.
When we put all of it together, it wound up looking like this:
Stef had even (again, without my input) enlisted other riders to join in the minion theme.
That’s Ken & Kathy, fellow Travato owners, cyclists, and friends from our shakedown cruise over the summer. And while Stef seemed to be hamming it up with other costumed riders,
I (being a “serious cyclist”) was completely mortified:
The thought of riding 62 miles dressed like this was killing me.
Right up until the ride started…
As soon as we started rolling, I completely forgot I was dressed like a weird Swedish flag, and had one of the best rides – and overall experiences – of the season.
For starters, there was the terrain. No mistake about it, there were climbs in Kansas City. But these were not the 40 mile long, brutal, annoying, slog-fests that someone (ahem… Steve) usually drags me up back home in Utah. These were short, steep, punchy rollers that were an absolute blast for a cyclist like me. Loved it.
And Cycle Kansas City had done a great job with the route. It got out of the city and into the countryside quickly. And when we did head back in towards the finish, we took advantage of some of the most spectacular urban paths I’ve seen.
The next thing that made the ride awesome is so odd, I can’t believe I’m actually going to say it. But The Drivers in Kansas City were hands down, the most safe, courteous group of motorists I’ve ever shared a roadway with. At several points during the ride, drivers actually slowed down and paced behind our group of cyclists. It happened several times before I realized they weren’t reaching in their glove compartments for firearms. They were actually waiting – at times rather slowly – for a safe spot on the road to pass us. I don’t have any pictures of this because I was too shocked. For comparison, back home, the drivers would usually wait until a car was coming the other direction and then try to time their pass to crowd us off the road. (And that’s if they just didn’t try to run us off the road outright.)
Maybe it was the costumes? I don’t know. But motorists of Kansas City – we salute you for your courtesy and concern for the lives of your cyclist residents. Well done!
The event wasn’t just for experienced cyclists, either. There was a 5 mile ride for newbies, complete with volunteers who were ready to ride with the newbies, teaching good technique and the ways of the road. We’ve never seen this at any other ride we’ve done. Cycle Kansas City did a great job of organizing this unique ride, it was pretty impressive. All the little extras made it not just a ride, but an experience.
For example: Like clockwork, there were rest stops every 15 miles. Actual rest stops with food, water, energy drinks, and enthusiastic and costumed volunteers:
I’ve paid good money to be in races that didn’t provide anything close to this level of support. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Rockwell Relay.)
And 62 miles later, at the conclusion of the ride, there was an actual party, with an actual band. Also in costume! In this case it was “Retro-Active”, playing 80’s hits that try as you might, you can’t deny knowing by heart.
And also plenty of food, free drinks (“adult” drinks too!), swag, the list goes on and on. If I ever host a cycling event, I hope I do half as well as these guys:
And of course, Lance always seems to get attention at cycling events. It’s almost part of the routine now… the point in the day where everyone’s curiosity gets the better of them, and a group of people want to check out our Travato.
And as the party died down, we showered up in Lance (right there on the street!) and began our long drive back to Salt Lake City, where we arrived two days later. We plan to come back next year, and readers we’d love it if you’d join us, so save the date (but we don’t know the date)! Thanks again to Cycle Kansas City for an awesome ride and event.
Oh, and Stef, if you’re reading this, I got an email from the Bangor Cycling Club. They want us to come to an “ice ride” they’re having next month. I told them we’d go. Bangor isn’t that far, right?