Last year, about this time, a friend and I did a little private, self-supported century I called the Loop Le Loup Century. This year, we decided to open the ride up to a select group of friends and acquaintances.
We picked a route, picked the date — September 13th — and sent out the invites. We got a really good response, and were looking forward to a nice little group of about 10-15 people.
Then we hit a few detours along the road…
Detour #1: The rains came. And it rained, and rained, and rained some more. Saturday was washed out. Sunday (the fall-back day) was soggy as well.
We rescheduled the ride for the next weekend — September 21st. Unfortunately, along the way we lost many of the original riders due to family commitments and scheduling conflicts with other events.
Well, to all those who couldn’t make it: you missed out on a great ride!
Five of us — me, Reed, Jon, Kevin, and Scott — gathered in Gardner at first light, heading out into a cool and foggy morning, tail lights blinking, with few cars on the roads. With the bridge over I-35 closed for repair, there was a slight detour to the east, then we were headed south towards Hillsdale Lake.
As we passed the lake and headed north toward Edgerton, the fog burned off and we were left with a beautiful crystal morning, clear and bright and nearly windless. The miles passed quickly, and we were soon taking a short break at Dee’s Mini Mart in Edgerton.
A short westward jog on US-56, then a few miles south on K-33, then into Franklin County, past Wellsville, then west on Shawnee Road through LeLoup.
Reed, Scott, Kevin, and Jon on Shawnee Road.
The next stop was in Baldwin City, where we encountered another short detour that took us past the city cemetery, then through downtown before hitting the Santa Fe Market on the north end of town.
While most of us took a break there, Scott headed off down the road, shortening his ride to attend to family business later that morning. A strong rider, he ended up with something like 55 miles for the day, at what I am sure was a very good pace. Thanks for joining us, Scott!
After consuming a few calories in Baldwin City, we were off again, with a short climb followed by a long, exhilarating, 40+ MPH downhill run into Vinland. From there, we took a winding route north and then west to Wells Overlook Park.
The park is situated on a high hill south of Lawrence, and the road leading to the park offers something rare in Kansas: switchbacks. There’s only two set of switchbacks, and the distance is not that great, but the grade is significant, and it’s certainly a big change from the relatively flat roads preceding it.
Kevin won the King of the Mountain for the paved portion of the road, but I was just behind him, and was first up the last steep little dirt segment to the observation tower. The others followed shortly, and after we caught our breath, we ascended the three flights of stairs to the top of the tower, to be rewarded with a nice view of farmland laid out below us, and the city of Lawrence in the distance.
Kevin at Wells Overlook with Lawrence in the distance.
Randy, Reed, Jon, and Kevin at Wells Overlook.
After a few minutes admiring the view and reading the graffiti scrawled on the tower, thoughts of lunch (plus the promise of a downhill) lured us off the tower and back onto our bikes for the short jaunt north to Lawrence.
In town, we encountered yet another detour, but this one we just rode on through, since it was short and we could see the end of it. After another mile of so of city traffic, we arrived at our destination, the Free State Brewery. We had to wait a bit, as they didn’t open until noon, but we eventually got our beers and sandwiches, and an hour-and-a-half later or so we were on our way. Yes, it was a long wait for lunch, but it was worth it.
Across the Kansas River and into North Lawrence, we encountered still another section of road closed for reconstruction. However, having learned from our last episode, we just rode on through it, under I-70, and onto US-24 headed east.
I led for the next 10 miles or so, as we climbed onto the bluffs along the river, first on US-24, then on K-32. By this time, the wind had started to pick up as well, and the downhill into Linwood, and the convenience store that awaited, was a welcome sight.
The next few miles were mostly flat, as we made our way onto Golden Road and then across the river bottoms to the Kansas River bridge at DeSoto. After snaking our way through town and taking another short rest at the c-store, I proposed that we shorten the route, heading through DeSoto’s main drag, rather than through the bottomland northwest of town. No one objected to that idea, so off we went, onto the last detour of the day.
One good thing about the reroute was that it took us past the old Sunflower Munitions plant near DeSoto, which, even years after it was closed, is still an impressive, daunting, almost spooky presence, with it’s huge, empty buildings and mysterious secrets hidden behind high fences and No Trespassing signs.
The westward run into Eudora was our last chance to taste a tailwind, and we made the most of it, pumping up the pace before turning south for our final c-store stop, a very short break at the aptly-named Kwik Stop in Eudora.
For the rest of the ride, the wind, though not terribly strong, was in our faces, and I for one felt it. The group stayed together for the first five miles or so of this final leg, then split apart as we made our way east, south, and then east once more back to Gardner.
At this point, though I’d been riding strong all day long, I was bringing up the rear. The same thing happened to me on the Cider Mill ride. I still felt reasonably strong, and felt like I was pedaling smoothly, but the others were soon lost in the distance ahead of me.
I rode the rest of the way alone, reaching Gardner to find Reed and Kevin waiting for me, but no Jon.
We loaded up the bikes, and Reed and I took off in the truck to find him. We searched the entire last section of the ride, but no Jon. So we went back to the starting point and waited. Sure enough, he rolled in a few minutes later, after losing his way not just once, but twice. Too tired to navigate!
Some dummy went off and left his cyclocomputer at home, but here are the ride stats, courtesy of Reed: 102.5 miles, 6 hours and 36 minutes ride time, and a 15.4 MPH average speed.
Since Reed made it back before I did, I added a few minutes to his time and called it close enough, giving me about a 15.25 MPH average.
I’m satisfied with that, and I still felt fine at the end of the ride, not nearly as exhausted as I was at the end of the Cider Mill Century. Of course, I think the milder temperatures were a big part of that.
The weather for the day turned out beautifully, topping out at around 80 degrees. The wind, though it was annoying the last 15 miles, was relatively light. The route, other than the climb up to Well Overlook, was flat-to-rolling, with no really big uphills. Traffic, with only one or two exceptions, was light and easy-going.
All in all, despite the many detours, it turned out to be a great day and a great ride.