As part of our Middle West Meander we headed south to the Flint Hills in Kansas. Although we mapped out a solid bikepacking route that would begin in Emporia and dip into parts of the Flint Hills Nature Trail and Prairie Spirit Trail and return to Emporia at the end of the day we opted out of bikepacking. Why?
Kansas was exceptionally hot the week before (highs in the low 100’s) and we thought it might be fun to do some loop riding instead of out and back rides since that’s what we just did on the Mickelson and Cowboy Trails.
So pivot we did to a car camping and cycling tour of the Flint Hills. Car camping opens up a LOT of options like finding drop-in pickleball games when it rains (we brought our paddles), seeing a movie, attending Mass, visiting local museums, and choosing restaurants and breweries based on preference instead of proximity.
We felt right at home in the town of Emporia. Did you know it is the founding city for Veterans Day? 🇺🇸 And it’s known for its robust glassblowing and engraving communities. Emporia is also considered the disc golf capital of the world and the main attraction for us? Her gravel roads. There is a cycling event held each year called Unbound Gravel and although we don’t race gravel bikes, we sure love to ride them. So we figured we’d download a couple of the routes from the Unbound event website.
Our plan worked well! There are SO many world class gravel roads to ride around Emporia it’s worth a return trip for us. Not to mention Radius Brewing. Their beer and scotch eggs are👌🏻
After a couple days in Emporia we moved on to towns along the Flint Hills Nature Trail including Osage City and Ottawa. I mean, we had a car so easy peasy.
As it turned out, it wasn’t the heat that was oppressive in Kansas. Instead we brought the farmers some much needed RAIN! And rain it did. Although it puts a crimp in riding at times, we were happy to oblige. ‘Cause like I said, when ya have your car, ya have lots of options.
By the end of our fling with the Flint Hills we’d ridden loops out of Emporia and Ottawa and long segments of the Flint Hills Nature Trail and Prairie Spirit Trail.
The last stop on our Middle West Meander was Stillwater, OK where the Mid South Gravel race is held each year. Again we snagged a 55 mile route from the event website to get our ride in for Oklahoma. The ride was a good mix of gravel, some red mud and even some swampy muck.
Our three week Middle West Meander couldn’t have gone any better. Plus on the way home we get to rendezvous with pickleball friends we met last March in Costa Rica and take in a Cardinals game in St. Louis.
Not gonna lie though… it’s not all rainbows and unicorns all the time. I have more skeeter bites on my body than I can count. Yesterday I drilled Tom in the face with my PB paddle because we both went for the same ball #ouch
And my sleeping pad popped a hole somewhere in New Mexico last summer and I forgot to replace/repair it before our ride so I had to blow it up again in the middle of the night every night 😂 And finally, the flies in cattle country. Dayum. I’ve never seen so many flies… they land on everything! Like my food- after they sit on 🐄 💩 All this and more comes with the territory and makes the easy days that much easier.
We’ve met some fellow bike travelers the past few weeks, most of them cycling across the country. It’s going to be a lot of fun keeping up with them when we get home. Pedal on friends, Mike and Steve aka the Ready Riders, Steve and Sissel from the UK, and Mike and Sue who are finishing up their last leg of pedaling the perimeter of the lower 48 states.
As for us, we have a couple of big bike tours in the hopper and we might try to squeeze in a five state bike tour of the North East before it’s time to start raking leaves in Indy.
Thanks so much for the follow everyone! 😊
Click on the image below for more pics and videos of our visit to the Flint Hills.