My Breakthrough ride started in Saint Louis Airport where I rented the car that would take me and my bike to Kansas City to Pick up Jeff Burns and then take the two of us to Wichita, KS. Driving to Kansas City, I went through two big storm systems and as I pulled in, the rain started pouring there also. I was hoping this would not be a sign of things to come. After picking up Jeff, we made it into Wichita before 5 and were lucky enough to meet up with Tom and Jerrah (the previous riders) and Evan, Melanie and Glen (the road crew). We all went for dinner and we got to listen to some of the road stories and get an idea of the logistics of breakthrough riding and learned the most important rule: go to bed early.
Wichita - Emporia (84 miles)
After breakfast, which was kindly served early by the nice people at the hotel, we rolled out of Wichita. There were a couple of other early bird cyclists out enjoying the Saturday morning. The great thing about starting early is that the temperature is not scorching yet and the wind had not had a chance to pick up. Unusual for Kansas, the wind was not coming from the west so as the day progressed we did end up with a good head wind, especially after mile 40 when we started going north. This is my first experience riding VIP style. Having an attentive road crew made riding on 55 mph roads much safer and it was great to have ice cold drinks and great company at the rest stops. In the afternoon we rode through the flint hills of Kansas - a very scenic area with wild prairie and rolling hills. The cicadas were as loud as lawn mowers and the streets mostly deserted. Around noon we stopped at the Hitching Post - a small burger joint in Matfield Green - a town of about 50 people. We stocked up on drinks and I had my first PBFO (peanut butter fold over) which was shared with a stray cat. In the afternoon the hills and the wind slowed us down and it was great to have Jeff to pull in the strong winds. We got into Emporia, and after showering (yay!), had sandwiches in the Pony followed by napping and an early dinner. No problems falling asleep at 9 PM.
Emporia-Lawrence (71 miles)
We got up early and the nice people at the hotel had once again prepared early breakfast for us so we were able to start early. We were driven out of Emporia in the support cars to get to the starting point of today's ride. As we got out of Emporia we were cloaked in heavy fog. When Melanie (driving front support car) got 40 feet out, her car would almost disappear in the fog. It was a beautiful and very wet ride with the sun coming through the fog and eventually dispersing it around the time of the first rest stop. The stop was at an old Skelly gas station which we thought was abandoned - but as we chugged gatorade the niece of the owner came by in her PJs to see what was going on. Turns out that one of her friends wrote a memory book about her mom's Alzheimers disease. Also turned out that the gas station was still fully functioning so Glen was able to get some gas. The ride continued uneventfully until we hit some construction that had popped up overnight so we loaded the bikes up on the cars and were dropped back on course. Today ended in Lawrence and although I had already eaten lunch I was not able to make it until dinner - Lawrence is a college town so I figured that they must have a Chipotle - and I was right. Jeff's wife came down from KC and we all had a great dinner.
Lawrence-Kansas City (44 miles)
Since we had a shorter distance today we started a little later than usual. The media frenzy was set to start in Kansas City at around 1 pm so we had to pace ourselves so we could ride in around that time. Leaving a little later put us in the morning rush hour of Lawrence but the pace cars did a great job of keeping us safe. We stopped around 12 miles outside KC in the parking lot of a country club and had lunch on their lawn where we were greeted by the club marshal and several other interested people in golf carts - it turned out that they were having a senior golf tournament that day so they were happy to meet us and had many encouraging words. After lunch we rode the last 10 miles to KC and found that KC is on top of a hill. The road into KC goes up a bridge that is usually 4 lanes but there was construction on two lanes so we took up a full lane as we struggled up the hill. We got lots of cheers from the people working on the other two lanes, which was a small taste of what waited on top of the hill. As we rode into the plaza, the local Alzheimer's Association had gathered and cheered us on. This was a great way to end a short day of riding! It was great to meet the local chapter and there were even people who had driven from Des Moines, Iowa to come cheer us on. It was amazing!
Thank you to the Alzheimer's Association for wonderful days of riding. The support along the road from random people, local chapters, and from the amazing road crew has made this a truly once in a life time experience. I would do this again in a heartbeat.
- Tim West, Ph.D., is Director of Laboratory Operations at C2N Diagnostics, a biotechnology service company located at the Center for Emerging Technology in St. Louis.