Thinking outside the box. That’s what we did this year when planning the annual Tom Kat ride. Plan A was to ride to Elk City with the Toms, until Christine Allsman suggested we change it up this year and participate in the Shellinger Children Benefit Ride to help out the two young children whose parents were killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this summer. So, we did the democratic thing and put it to a vote with the results being an overwhelming Hell Yeah, let’s do it!
So, Plan B was put into action and that meant setting the alarm clock for pre-dawn-thirty on Sunday, September 14th, and meet at the Town and Country Restaurant for a hearty breakfast before heading to Hutchinson for the 10:00 departure time. Maureen Stout and her Tom Kat, Larri Brown, claimed their alarm clock didn’t have a setting for pre-dawn-thirty and would skip the hearty breakfast and meet us at a much more reasonable time – only after mumbling something like, “I don’t know what the hell you’re thinking, Janice. We have a wedding to attend on Saturday night and that means a late-night rendezvous with Jack Daniels!”
I wasn’t quite sure what we would be walking into when entering the restaurant. When I called on Saturday, they were none too pleased upon hearing that 25 bad-ass bikers were going to be arriving at 7:30 sharp. “Yeah, we can’t accommodate you” was their exact response. After convincing them that we didn’t have to all sit together, they begrudgingly agreed to let us come. Why thank you, Town and Country, for “allowing” us to come and give you our money. That’s mighty generous of you. However, my annoyance with them quickly evaporated when I walked in and saw that they gave us our own room; had tables all set up for the 25 bad-ass bikers; and gave us a couple of super sweet waitresses to dish out our hearty breakfastes. (Merriam-Webster says that’s not a real word, but I say it is!)
After snapping a group photo in front of the restaurant, we biked up and with my Tom Kat, Greg, in the lead we were on our way to Hutchinson. Within blocks of the restaurant, we encountered our first omen of what the ride to the departure location was going to be like. Orange construction cones required these 25 obnoxiously loud bikes make a detour through a residential area. Hell, it was 8:30. It was high time these people got out of bed and by God, we didn’t mind being the ones to tell ‘em!
The ride TO Hutchinson was uneventful; the ride IN Hutchinson…not so much. What our fearless leader, Greg, didn’t realize was when he was looking for 4th Avenue, he needed to wait until he got to North Hutchinson and not South Hutchinson. (Really, what is the point of having a South Hutchinson and North Hutchinson? Shouldn’t that just be used for places like States and Countries not small Kansas towns?) After pulling into a parking lot and having not one, not two, not three, but FOUR intelligent men, (Greg Friedman, Ken Stoppel, Daryl Miller and Dorrin Allsman) consult paper maps and cell phones, they figured out the problem and we were off to find the OTHER 4th Avenue. But that’s not where the saga ends. No siree. We found ourselves staring down the path of a dead-end street and that was the undoing of my otherwise, calm, patient, easy-going, roll with the punches Tom. Even over the roar of 23 bikes behind us, I could hear the expletives spewing forth from his mouth and oddly enough, most of them started with exact same letter. Yeah, you guessed it – the letter F. However, it did seem like I heard him mention his mother in that string of expletives. Not sure what that was all about. After yet another detour through a residential neighborhood, we managed to finally find our way to the departure location. Lead Biker…it’s a thankless job. Who’s with me on that?
Event organizers packed us into a parking lot like sardines and we made our way to register for the race. That’s when Greg had to perform his second service of the day. No, not THAT service you nasty Kitties! Turns out they were selling raffle tickets for prizes by a rather unusual method. Twenty bucks got you an arm span length. “Oh Greeeeg…bring your Albatross-like wings over here and buy my tickets” was said more than once that morning. Time in the parking lot was spent taking lots of selfies, doing lots of posing, and stripping off layers that were no longer needed as the day warmed up to a perfect riding temperature.
The time had finally come and 405 bikes were released – and that, my dear Kitties, is when everything went terribly wrong. While keeping everyone together in the parking lot made for a great photo shoot, it was a disaster in the making for a poker run. Having 405 bikes leave Hutchinson at the exact same time meant that 405 bikes were all going to land at our first stop of Nickerson at the exact same time. As I was riding to Nickerson, I thought to myself, “I sure hope they have a big parking lot for us all to pull into.” They didn’t. All 405 bikes were jockeying for a parking spot in a lot about as big as a postage stamp…and a gravel one to boot! Oh wait, it gets better. We had to do the dreaded U-turn in this postage-stamp-sized, gravel-covered parking lot. “Dear Lord, help me not drop this bike in front of 404 bikes” was the first prayer I said, quickly followed by, “Dear Lord, thank you for making me look like a better biker than I am”, when I successfully got my bike to stop in the upright position.
And then there was the line of people waiting to get their card stamped. I swear that line looked like it strung all the way back to Hutchinson – maybe even to South Hutchinson! I started whining about, “This is going to take forEVER!” and that’s when the idea was first thrown out…how about we NOT do the poker run and say we did? After all, we came, we supported, we rode 12 miles. Isn’t that enough?? A small committee of Kitties agreed that was a brilliant idea and we started hunting down Kitties and Toms to see if they were a Yay or Nay. We were all a Yay and agreed to re-group at yet another gravel parking lot and make our way to Stearman Airport in Benton. Daryl Miller used his connections and paved the way for the now 21 bad-ass bikers to get tables (sadly, we lost the Stoppels and their guests, the Kemps, in the aftermath of the Nickerson debacle.) There was talk about should we stop for gas and then talk about no, we think we got plenty. So, Greg passed his navigator hat to Maureen Stout’s Tom Kat, Larri Brown, and off we went.
We pulled onto the tarmac of the Stearman Airport like the VIPs that we are and started counting heads. We’re two short…who are we missing? I consulted my wadded-up piece of paper with the roll call and Maureen Humbolt and Denise Johnson were nowhere to be found. Come to find out if you have to think about whether you have enough gas, you probably better just get it. Maureen had to limp into a gas station way back in west Wichita with Denise as her wing woman. She threw some gas in her tank and joined the rest of the group in quick order.
After enjoying some beverages, some good food, great conversations, and taking lots of pictures, we called it a day. Another Tom Kat Ride was in the history books. Plan B may have turned into Plan C, but it was proof that it’s really not about the destination – it’s about the journey – and the people with whom you take that journey. I, for one, can’t think of a bunch of better people to change directions with!
Those on board for The Twelve Mile Poker Run were Janice and Greg Friedman, Suz and Jim Tiede, Christina Brown and guest Mark Greer, Dawn and Gene Morse, Melaina Phares with guests Mike Herman and Paul (who seriously looks just like Ty Pennington!), Tena and Ken Stoppel with guests Tish and Laurence Kemp, Kari and Daryl Miller, Sue and Mike Morrissey, Maureen Humbolt, Denise Johnson, Christine and Dorrin Allsman, Sueanne and LD Rugh and Maureen Stout and Larri Brown.