In putting together ideas and plans for possible tours during 2012, the Cottonwood 200 came up as an interesting choice.
The Cottonwood 200 takes place over Memorial Day weekend in late May (May 26-27-28 this year). It starts in Topeka on Saturday morning, overnights in Council Grove, rides to Cottonwood Falls and back on Sunday, overnights in Council Grove again, then heads back to Topeka again on Monday. It covers about 200 miles during the three days.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about this tour, but never experienced it. It does go through some very lovely country — the Flint Hills of Kansas — and rides on two of Kansas’s scenic byways, the Flint Hills Scenic Byway and the Native Stone Scenic Byway.
But I can’t be content with a supported 3-day tour on paved roads. I have to amp it up a bit, don’t I?
So how about this: riding to and from the event, making it a 5-day, 300-mile, mixed-surface, semi-self-supported tour … that’s more like it!
Here’s the idea:
Friday, May 25, 2012: Leave from my home near Gardner and ride to Topeka. This is about 60 miles, all paved, except for a bit of gravel trail. No services along the way, but I can detour into Lawrence if I feel the need. The last six miles or so would be on the Landon Nature Trail. In Topeka, I have a couple people who have volunteered to let me camp in their yards, so I should have a place to stay the night. Bonus: May 25th is the last Friday of the month, so I could ride with the Critical Mass Topeka crew, which would be fun.
Saturday, May 26, 2012: Meet up with the Cottonwood 200 people at Washburn University, and roll out by 7:30am or so. Either continue carrying my own gear, or load it up on the tour truck and let them haul it. Ride to Council Grove, about 75 miles, all paved. SAG stops are provided. The route is on part of the Native Stone Scenic Byway, “a region of the state known for its outcroppings of native limestone, which has been used to build homes, barns, and fences in the region since it was settled”. Camp at the school in Council Grove. Dinner in town. (Note: This is the 2011 route; the 2012 route may be different.)
Sunday, May 27, 2012: Ride with the group along K-177 to Cottonwood Falls. This is on the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, and includes a stop at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Perhaps make a side trip to check out the waterfall at Chase County Lake. Ride back via gravel roads through the Flint Hills, passing by Lake Kahola, and heading back into Council Grove. Or perhaps swing west, and approach Council Grove from the southwest. Camp at the school again. About 50-60 miles, half paved, half gravel. Breakfast and dinner provided by the tour, lunch in Cottonwood Falls.
Monday, May 28, 2012: Rather than returning to Topeka with the group, strike off on my own, following the Flint Hills Nature Trail east through Bushong, Allen, Admire, and Osage City. Provisions in Osage City for sure, possibly in some of the other towns as well. Camp near Pomona Lake. I have several options there — paid camping at the state park, free camping on the north side of the lake, or a friend who lives just a bit further, near Appanoose. About 60-70 miles, mostly on trail and gravel roads.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012: Ride on home. I could either ride through Baldwin City or Ottawa. Either way, it’d be another 65 or so miles home, on a mixture of paved and gravel roads.
So it’d be a total of about 300 miles over 5 days of riding (probably a bit more, once all is said and done). Camping out 4 nights. Cost would be $66 for the Cottonwood 200, plus food.
I’m excited about riding on the scenic byways, and riding on the FHNT. I’ve never been on that part of the trail before, and understand that it’s very rugged and remote country.
Here’s a rough map: