Ottawa — Nearly 500 miles after she set her wheels on the ground at the Colorado-Kansas state line, Lisa Rasor plans to finish the weeklong Bike Across Kansas tour today.
It's not the first cross-state trip for the Lawrence resident. She first made the ride in 1996.
"I really got into long-distance biking in 1995," Rasor said after finishing the ride Friday from Council Grove to Ottawa. "I was looking for something that would really challenge me."
She found it.
"I heard about BAK and thought, 'Yeah. Yeah, I'm going to train for that.'" she said. "After you do it, it's euphoric. You feel like you can do anything."
She wanted that feeling again, which prompted her to sign up this year for the 25th anniversary of the trip.
"It's a way to connect with people," she said. "You see people making friends with each other and sharing things. To me a lot of it is seeing small towns you normally wouldn't see, but a lot of it is being able to focus on the bike. There's no way to think of anything else."
The tour attracted a total of 1,159 riders this year, the largest in its history.
Each rider was assigned to one of three routes. The routes pass through small towns like Jetmore, Marion and El Dorado on their way to the last stop, Louisburg. The three routes came together in Ottawa, the last overnight stop.
Riders Fannie and Leon Slabaugh from Orrville, Ohio, have made the ride every year since 1995.
"We've done tours in maybe 10 states," Fannie Slabaugh said. "This is the best organized one we've ever been on."
Of course, there were some moments of stress, as when truck drivers tried to force cyclists off the road.
Ironically, Leon Slabaugh is a truck driver when he's not bicycling.
"There was one trucker on (Highway) 56 who had a train horn," he said. "Every time he'd go by bicycles he'd blow that thing. That was bad, but some of these truckers don't care. They haven't been educated about how to share the road."
The trucker was just a minor glitch, and everyone made it safely to Ottawa.
Organizers Larry and Norma Christie are thinking about hanging up their spokes after the ride is over this year.
"Twenty-five years is a long time," Larry Christie said. "What makes BAK special is that people like to be involved. It becomes a big family."
If the Christies do retire, there is no danger of BAK falling by the wayside, Larry Christie said.
"There will definitely be BAK next year," he said.
-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.