Legacy Park administrator to bicycle across Kansas


Staff writer

Four hundred and sixty-six miles. Sixteen cities. Eight days.

Bike Across Kansas will depart June 7 from the Colorado border. On June 14, riders will arrive at the Missouri border.

Bryan McDaniel, administrator at Legacy Park, Peabody, will be participating in this year's BAK. The event has been up and running for the past 32 years. McDaniel has been participating in BAK on and off since 1997.

He said, "It's not as difficult as people make it out to be."

On average, the bikers ride 58 miles each day.

"It's just a bunch of people getting together. They're generally extraordinarily nice and very easy to meet. You just spend the day talking to people, whether it's a surgeon from Arizona or a plumber from Tuscaloosa."

McDaniel generally starts training in late February or early March. "I ride five to 10 miles a day — not in any hurry. You gradually build up by going faster and further. The goal is to push yourself a little further each day."

The favorite part of the trip for McDaniel is western Kansas. "There's no civilization. I like to get up before the crack of dawn and watch the sun come up.

"It's a peaceful experience. During the day people pedal up beside you and start visiting."

McDaniel really got interested in the Bike Across Kansas with his ex-wife. "I think she was the one who brought it up," he said.

High schools in towns along the way allow bikers to camp out and take showers. McDaniel said a few people use hotels in the towns. He said there are about 800 bicyclists and 200 supporters, generally family members, who drive the route.

McDaniel said the most difficult aspect, physically and emotionally, is the wind. He remembers three years ago when the wind was the most pleasurable it has been out of all his adventures.

He said the wind happened to be blowing in the direction the bicyclists were riding so it pushed them along.

The most pitiful experience for him was in 2002. "They vary the course every year. It's always from Colorado to Missouri and is rarely straight across. Every day there would be head wind." McDaniel said if they were riding north, the wind would be blowing from the north. If they were heading east, the wind would be coming out of the east.

Whether it's the wind or careless riders, accidents are part of the experience.

"Every year somebody gets hurt doing this. You have to be very safety cautious."

McDaniel meets a lot of people but doesn't stay in touch with them throughout the year. "It's [BAK] is a way for people to get reacquainted. I don't stay in touch with people every year but I get to see them once a year." McDaniel has met a doctor and his wife from Council Grove, and a surgeon and his daughter from Arizona. "There are a lot of new people but you also see a lot of the same faces."

According to McDaniel, the ultimate goal of people riding in the Bike Across Kansas is to eat the more food than you usually would because you work it off each day. "The goal is finding the best pie. We're like locusts going through the small towns and wiping out the gas stations and restaurants."

McDaniel likes getting a head start on the day not only to see the sunrise but also so he can get first choice on food.

Bike Across Kansas is for people of all ages. McDaniel said he knows of an elderly gentleman from Hiawatha who participates. "He's in his late 70s and he is in remarkable shape. Two years ago there was a grandfather with a five or six-year-old granddaughter."

McDaniel said Bike Across Kansas is something anyone can do. "There is no reason not to do this type of thing. Bike riding is a very good form of exercise because it's not hurting your joints like running does."

Not only does McDaniel get quite a bit of exercise riding 466 miles, but he also enjoys it. "I do it for the pleasure, not for racing or anything like that.

"And contrary to what people think, Kansas is not flat."