Settle in people, this is going to be a long one!
You know the old biker saying, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey?” Well, as we started the overnight trip to Milford Lake on Friday, August 25th, it was all about the destination because the beginning of the journey sucked. Sucked in an epic way. Let’s set the stage, shall we?
I had offered to lead the ride to Junction City and then Nellie would take over and get us to Milford Lake. Nine of the Kitties were to meet at the Quik Trip at 143rd St. and E. Kellogg. The Augusta girls of Suz, Nellie, Linda and Christine, who was riding shotgun with Nellie since her bike was in the shop, did not want to ride east only to have to ride back west, so we agreed the better plan would be for them to ride to El Dorado and fall in behind us as we rode into town. Since I was leading the ride, I looked at a map on the World Wide Web and saw that 143rd went north all the way to Highway 254. We would then take Highway 254 to El Dorado and then Highway 77 all the way to Junction City. I consulted with my husband, Greg, and he agreed and even encouraged me to go that route. Easy peasy, right? Uh, that would be a big fat N.O.
I blame the World Wide Web and Greg for what happened next. Both of whom should have known this was a very bad idea. We pulled out onto 143rd St. heading north and we’re riding….riding….riding…WHAT THE HELL?? Out of nowhere, we went from a nice smooth paved road to a lumpy, bumpy gravel road! At the moment it happened, I was looking in my rearview mirror to check on the string of bikers behind me and I was on the road before I could do anything about it. I knew the last thing anyone would want to do was make the dreaded U-turn on this treacherous road so onward we went. And let me tell you it went on FOREVER! So many things were running through my head, but at the top of the list was how stinking mad all those girls behind me were going to be; we were going to be late meeting the Augusta girls; and they were going to be worried. In hindsight, it was good that I was so focused on these things because the least of my worries was having to ride on this gawd awful road. I ended up getting way ahead of the rest of the pack in FINALLY reaching Highway 254 so I got there before everyone else. I immediately shot my kickstand in the down position and got off my bike to greet the angry mob that I could see coming up in a cloud of dust. After apologizing all over myself for the worst start to a journey in Krome Kitty history, we finally rolled onto the pavement we all had dreamed of for the last 15 or so minutes, which seemed more like 60. In the meantime, I got a call from Suz through my Sena system and like I knew she would be, she is wondering what the heck is going on. I was still rattled from the gravel road experience and I think some foul language might have been used. Fortunately, Suz does not have ladylike ears and totally overlooked my potty mouth. While I was on the phone with her, I see Bobbie come screaming up from behind and motioned for me to pull over. What now?? Is there a bike problem? Did something shake off a bike from the aforementioned nightmare we just lived through? After we pulled over, Alice yelled from behind me, “Your saddlebag is open!” Damn! I sure was hoping I could blame someone else for this unexpected stop and I yelled into the phone to Suz, CAN THIS BLANKETY BLANK DAY GET ANY WORSE? You can probably guess what should be inserted in the blankety blank spot. After about 10 more minutes of me, and probably everyone else, fuming and trying to calm down, we pulled into El Dorado and come hell or high water, I was not going to miss the one turn we had to make to get on Highway 77. Thankfully, I didn’t. So, I guess like the one time you finally convince your husband to do the laundry and he ruins a whole load so you will never ask him again, so goes the notion of Janice leading a ride. I screwed this up so bad, no one will ever let (make) me do that again!
After about 100 miles of uneventful riding (which we were all grateful for because we had had all the excitement we needed for one day), we pulled into Junction City’s Harley Davidson City Cycles Sales dealership. The dirt riding girls dusted themselves off and we piled into the dealership where we were greeted and treated like Rock Stars. The staff all wanted to know who this band of badass girls were; Nellie, a native of Junction City, ran into an old boyfriend (awwwkward!); cameras were pulled out to take our pictures; and credit cards were a flyin’. If we were real Rock Stars, we would have been comped on all the things that were being thrown onto the sales counter, but I guess we haven’t reached that status just yet. I made a call to Cynthia’s One Bite Delight, the lunch destination, and asked if 13 hungry Kitties could converge upon them and she said if you promise you will show up, we’ll set up for you. I pinky swore we would not let them down and would be there in about 30 minutes. Several of the girls found the perfect shirt, which I announced I already had because I got it at the last Kitty Christmas party, and now several of us have matching not-quite-a-Kitty-shirt-but-we-are-Bad-Kitties shirts. All too soon, I was herding Kitties out the door because, after all, I did pinky swear that we would be at Cynthia’s in 30 minutes. One of the staff followed us out and took several pictures in the parking lot and then walked up the road to get a few shots of us leaving. Thank you for taking such good care of us City Cycle Sales! Nellie took over the lead and drove us right to Cynthia’s One Bite Delight, where we were greeted by a not so lovely gravelly parking lot. Geez, we cannot get away from this gravel today! True to her word, the waitress had a table for 13 all set up for us and we all got ourselves situated. And that’s when I made a dreadful discovery. I couldn’t find my regular eyeglasses in my saddle bags and after a phone call to Greg, he confirmed that yes, they were indeed still sitting on the kitchen counter. Dadgumit! I really, really, really debated getting back on my bike and riding back to Wichita to get them. Suz offered to go with me if I wanted to go, but common sense prevailed and I decided riding all the way back home and then back to Milford Lake all in one day just wasn’t worth it. I would just have to wear my prescription riding glasses the entire weekend…which I hated….and made sure everyone knew it…on numerous occasions.
All sorts of different menu items were selected, like catfish, shrimp, and oxtails, and everything was delicious and as homecooked as it gets. If you ever find yourself in Junction City, please take time to eat at Cynthia’s One Bite Delight. I promise you will not regret it! After filling our bellies and chit chatting a bit, the all-important moment came. Who was walking away with some spending money?! I patiently waited for our wonderful waitress to finish taking care of the table next to us and all the while, I noticed a gal who had on the same red shirt as the waitress, sitting on a chair against a wall on her phone. When the waitress was free, I held up the flamed bag with the tickets and all I got out of my mouth was, “Would you mind drawing…..” and that’s when like she had been shot out of a cannon, the phone-talking, red-shirted gal came running over and said, “No! I wanna do it! I’m the owner and I should get to do it!” Well, I could tell she was a feisty one so I responded, “You sat over there all this time on your phone and didn’t pay one bit of attention to us! You had your chance and you blew it, so no! our sweet waitress gets to do it!” And that’s how our friendship with Flo, the one-time attorney who took over the restaurant from her mother, began. But more on Flo later….we got a drawn ticket and it damn well better be mine! I didn’t even have enough time to get my tickets out of my side purse before I heard Suz yell, “That’s me! I won! I won! I won! In your face Janice! You’re a loooooser and I’m a winner! You’ll never win because you’re too stupid to win!” Okay, maybe she didn’t say some, or any of that, but that’s how it felt. This is really starting to sting people! So, Suz walked away with 33 smackeroos, which hardly even made a dent in the wad she left behind at City Cylce Sales!
We chatted a bit with Flo and found out she always wanted to learn to ride and seeing all the bikes pouring into their parking lot and then realizing we were all GIRLS, well…she was inspired! She asked to come outside and have her picture taken on one of the bikes and, of course, we were happy to oblige. She got to pick the bike she wanted and Flo selected Paula’s black beauty. After summoning (more like yelling) at a gal named Jill from across the parking lot to get on over here and take my picture on this motorcycle, we snapped a few group shots. We then hugged our good-byes and she made us promise to come back again someday and we made her promise to get on a bike someday.
In 15 short miles, we were pulling into the Acorns Resort at Milford Lake. Great. Just great. While the road was paved, the parking was…you guessed it…gravel. If there’s anything a Kitty hates worse than riding on gravel, it’s parking on gravel. But like the big girls that we are, we all managed to get our bikes parked and we commenced to unloading saddle bags and deciding who was going in which cabin (we had two) and who was going to snuggle up with who for the next two nights. Then came time to decide who was going to paddle board and who was going to couch surf for the next couple of hours. Bobbie, Denise, Maureen, Christine and I went to the lake while the rest of the group rested up and enjoyed the AC and each other’s company, although several other Kitties came down later to see how the lake Kitties were doing with the paddle boarding. Unofficial awards were given in the following categories: Fastest to Get Wet goes to Denise; First to Get to a Standing Position goes to Maureen; Best Yoga Pose goes to Christine; The Only One to NOT Get Wet goes to Bobbie; The Farthest Distance from Dock goes to Maureen; and The Most Clothes on While Paddle Boarding goes to Janice. One final award was given to Maureen for The Only One to Lose her Flip Flops on the Lakeshore. It’s still a mystery as to what happened to said flip flops – they were either stolen or were too close to shore and floated off.
After returning to the cabins, a liquor order was taken and Nellie and her Whiz Bang Machine, along with escorts Linda and Bobbie, went to fetch the booze and pick up a few snacks. Good Lord! What they came back with would have supplied a frat house for days! There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell we were going to eat or drink all that stuff, but that’s what happens when you shop when you’re hungry and thirsty! We had a pre-dinner cocktail and then got ready to walk to the Cove Restaurant for dinner. That’s when Kit E. Kat, the Krome Kitty mascot, finally made her appearance. Lots of pictures were taken to document her attendance on the ride but she was more than a little put out when she found out she wasn’t invited to actually eat with us. Get over it Kit E. Kat, no one likes a pouty Kitty! Dinner at the Cove Restaurant was delicious, the service was outstanding and to top it off, we got to see a gorgeous sunset over the water.
After dinner, we walked back to the Party Cabin; tried our best to drink some of the massive amount of alcohol; and laughed until our faces hurt and our bellies ached. I would like to say that we partied way into the night, but let’s be honest….none of us are spring chickens anymore so we called it an early night with orders to be ready to roll at 9:00 the next morning.
The next morning everyone was up and out the door right on time and as I was walking to my bike, what to my wondering eyes should appear? Like an old-fashioned Texaco gas station attendant, Dawn was cleaning everyone’s windshield! This is one of the many reasons we love you Dawn – you are always thinking ahead and thinking of others!
The first order of business was to put some fuel in our bikes and that’s when Kit E. Kat came back out to play. She gassed up Suz’s bike; she posed in a variety of positions and even got all playful on Bobbie’s bike by stretching out like the sun-loving, frisky Kitty that she is.
Suz planned a lovely day of riding for us which took us through miles and miles of Kansas countryside; alongside Glen Elder Lake; and several small towns. I have to mention a little something about the lake. When I say “lake”, I mean a very large body of water. Not a pond, not a stream. It. Was. A. Lake. We’ve all seen a lake, right? They are hard to miss, right? Especially when we’re riding right alongside one, right? Imagine our shocked reaction when someone mentioned at lunch about how pretty Glen Elder Lake was and Denise responded, and I quote, “What lake? I didn’t even see a lake.” We are stared in silence at her with our mouths agape with incredulity. That lasted for a brief moment before the questions came fast and furious. “What? How could you miss the lake?” “What were you doing that you couldn’t see a lake?” “You do know what a lake is, right?” There were more, many more, but now I feel like I’m beating a dead horse or an embarrassed Kitty so I’ll stop. Denise’s only defense….”I guess I must have been looking at the road.” Hey, Denise, we appreciate your lazer-like focus on the road and if there’s roadkill or a pothole or a dead body on it, we know you’ll be the first to point it out, but it’s OK to look up every now and then!
Speaking of lunch, a short distance from the invisible Glen Elder Lake was Cawker City, where we jockeyed our way into the Lakeshore Tailgater Bar and Grill parking lot (I bet Denise wondered why it was called “Lakeshore”) and filed into the restaurant for some hamburgers and french fries. Kit. E. Kat also had a chance to peruse the menu a couple of times but the finicky Kitty that she is, didn’t even order anything. We learned from the waitress that the Word’s Largest Ball of Twine was within easy walking distance and if you called this lady named Linda Clover, she would meet us there so we could add some twine to the ball. Hell yeah we want to add twine! Nothing a Kitty loves more than a ball of string!
As promised, Linda Clover met us at the Big Ol’ Ball of Twine and provided a bit of history of how all this started. I was so busy taking pictures, I didn’t catch the entire story, but I did hear that it was started by Frank Stoeber in 1953 and he gave the ball to Cawker City in 1961. It currently weighs over 20,000 pounds!! Cawker City has taken this notoriety very seriously and even has painted twine on their sidewalks. I was selected to tie the twine onto the ball and Linda was great about letting us go round and round and round again in order for everyone to take a turn in adding twine to this historic ball. We agreed that since Alice was the newest member on the trip, she would tie it off. Thanks to the Kitties, they can now record a pound or two more to that Big Ball’s total! While we were all taking silly pictures with Kit E. Kat, a sidecar that looked very vintage, but come to find out really wasn’t, pulled up. We were like bees to honey and swarmed that poor man who just wanted to come and spend a few quiet, reflective moments with the Ball of Twine. Turns out he was on a cross country trip on his sidecar bike, called a Ufal, which tops out at about 50 miles per hour. I bet HE saw the lake!
After we sufficiently saw everything there was to see at The Ball, we walked back to the restaurant and biked back up for the next stop on this 270 mile Tiede Tour de Kansas. Rock City here we come! There we were riding along with music a playin’ in our ears or thoughts a runnin’ through our heads when suddenly, the pavement ended and gravel began. What The Hell? This is almost starting to be funny that we cannot escape the gravel on this trip! As I’m riding along, two things crossed my mind. One – I no longer have any fear whatsoever in riding on gravel. We had done it so much that it beat that anxiety right out of me. Two – you’re welcome Kitties! You’re welcome for providing some practice time on 143rd St. for what was to come! I guess I’m not such an idiot now, am I? That’s a rhetorical question – please do not answer. Now we just gotta get everyone used to riding in the rain, but no chance of that on this trip. Or is there….
The gravel did seem to go on and on and on, but we eventually found paved road again and pulled into Minneapolis – the KS one, not the MN one. We gassed up and regained our composure from the gravel experience and decided who was and was not interested in riding the very short distance to Rock City. Turns out, you had to ride on a dirt road to get to Rock City and between that and being hot and thirsty, five Kitties decided to stay at the Casey’s gas station to cool off and rehydrate and eight Kitties and Kit E. Kat rode on to Rock City.
Rock City is actually a park with about 200 ginormous Dakota stones. They each have a name based on what they resemble. A few that I remember were Turtle Rock, Donut Hole Rock, Shipwreck Rock and Mushroom Rock. I went on a rock climbing expedition on Turtle Rock and was able to successfully summit but then had to get back down, which was actually a lot harder and required a bit of sliding on the ole’ derriere. Kit E. Kat aka Paula and Dawn recreated a scene from the Lion King and everyone agreed they nailed it! After group pictures, we got back on our bikes and rode back to Casey’s to get the rest of the Kitties and ride the 40ish miles back to Milford Lake.
“So, what’s for dinner?”, I ask when we returned. Hot cheese and hamburger dip and snacks was the answer. Someone’s gotta eat all that food sitting on that there countertop! So, a few of the Kitties started frying hamburger and melting cheese and ripping open bags of chips and cookies and candy bars and crackers and sausage. Are you getting an idea of how much food there was? We all grazed off the countertop and made a half-assed attempt to drink all that alcohol, which we had no chance of actually ever doing. We all sat around and laughed; chatted; watched Bobbie break her glasses; and after watching Denise ignore the ranch dressing that had spilled on her hand for about ten minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore and walked right over to her and licked it. Hey, someone had to do it! We also did a lot of studying the radar. “Looks like rain is heading our way in the morning,” says one Kitty. “What will we do?” says another. “We get wet,” says yet another. The original plan was to meet for breakfast at the Cove Restaurant before heading for home in the morning; however, in light of the wet weather scheduled to hit in the morning, we aborted that plan and decided to meet at the bikes at 8:30 with an 8:45 departure.
No sooner had the Kitties in my cabin rose from their slumber that Sunday morning, we got a call from the other cabin. “We’s got to go and we’s got to go now! Be ready in 20 minutes!” The Kitties in that cabin had apparently been up for like hours looking at radar and talking to husbands back home and knew rain was coming our way. Because of their early rising, they had a very leisurely time of getting things and themselves ready and packing bags on their bikes. In my cabin, it was utter chaos as clothes were being stuffed in bags; rains suits were being unrolled; clothes were being thrown on; Denise was worried her rain suit wasn’t going to fit anymore; and saddle bags were being packed. As we were walking out the door, right on cue, the skies opened up and it poured. Does this mean Dawn isn’t going to clean our windshields? I guess not because she was already biked up and ready to roll. Nellie took the lead and after a quick stop for gas, we got on the road for the long, wet, cold ride home.
That long, wet, cold ride home was even longer for Suz. You see, somewhere between Herrington and Florence, there is a roundabout. Suz was riding sweep and Linda was right in front of her. Suz and Linda got separated from the rest of the group by a car at the roundabout and we lost sight of them, presumably because they were behind a few cars. The group got to El Dorado where we pulled over at the Quik Trip to regroup and take a break from the weather. I called my husband, Greg, to let him know where we were and I would be home soon. That’s when he said, “Did you hear about Suz?” My heart dropped not knowing what was going to come out of his mouth next. “No, what happened to Suz?, I asked. “Her bike died and she is sitting all alone in the rain. She tried to call her husband, Jim, but he didn’t answer so she called me for help. I was going to give it 15 minutes of trying to get hold of Jim and if he didn’t answer, I was going to hook up the bike trailer and go get her.” Three things then happened. First, I said “FBomb!” and then I asked what happened to Linda and then I asked if some of us needed to go back. Greg went on to say that he was able to get hold of Jim and he and Nellie’s husband, JT, were on the way to get her. He stressed that Suz did not want anyone to go back for her. Turns out Linda pulled over in Florence and called Suz. Suz explained what happened and that she had called the Highway Patrol and an officer was coming to take her to a dry waiting spot. She told Linda to go on so this meant that Linda was riding all by herself in the rain. (I found out later that Linda made it home safe and sound and wet and cold.) After being convinced that Suz was being rescued, we hugged our good-byes and got back on the road headed to our respective homes. As soon as I got home, I called Suz and she was sitting in a restaurant with her husband and JT having lunch, the bike had been loaded and while she was very wet and cold, she was safe. But that’s not all folks. The Highway Patrol who was supposed to come get her and take her to a safe and dry waiting location…never showed up. Turns out there was some sort of crises going on in Ellsworth, KS and it took everyone’s attention, most notably the dispatcher’s. She had forgotten all about Suz and didn’t even call it in. Not to the Highway Patrol and not even to the Sherriff’s office. Here’s another little fun fact, Suz literally counted every car that went by and it took 69 cars before anyone stopped to see if she needed help. That person….a biker driving his car. Number 70 also stopped. Yep, another biker in a car. They had each asked if she needed a ride somewhere, but knowing the Highway Patrol was coming, she turned them down. If only she had known….. In the end, Suz did everything right and I for one, am grateful that she used whatever resources she could (even if they failed her); kept her wits about her; and didn’t panic. She even did the most important thing in a situation like this. She took a selfie. Well done Suz! Oh, and the reason Husband Jim didn’t answer his phone? He was vacuuming…or so he says. He at least had the good sense to have the vacuum out when Suz got home to lend credibility to his story.
So there you have it! We rode 504 miles on this trip; we made memories that will be talked about, and laughed about, for years to come; and provided some valuable lessons in gravel riding (again, you’re welcome!) and rain riding and crisis handling. These overnight trips never disappoint in bringing members closer and strengthening friendships already made. We missed those who were unable to come and hope that they will be able to join us on the next one. I think Paula said it best when she commented that it’s so refreshing to be with a great group of women who truly enjoy one another and don’t bring drama with them. I couldn’t agree more!
Those on board for the On Gravel We Travel Overnight Trip were Janice, Malaina, Christine, Nellie, Dawn, Maureen, Denise, Suz, Linda, Alice, Paula, Colleen and Bobbie.
Janice, KKMC Founder