Why Dirty Kanza Rocks

Posted on Jun 14, 2016

Dirty Kanza 2016, #FindYourLimit, is in the books. What a phenomenal event! The videos on Facebook are amazing to watch – 1,000 cyclists in the DK200 taking off downtown – what a sight. There’s a video by Ben Schubert down by the Veterans Memorial that is really impressive. You see a huge group of riders go by and they just keep coming. It takes over two and a half minutes for all of the cyclists to pass. Amazing!

This was my first time to ride in the Dirty Kanza. No, not the 200-mile signature event, but the 20-mile Fun Ride! My riding partner, Jeanine McKenna, and I have been out with the Wednesday night beginner’s class as well as some of our own routes. We had several 15-mile rides, a few 18-mile rides and a 20-mile ride under our belt so we were confident we would be successful. We waited until Friday to register because I didn’t want to ride in the mud and risk breaking my derailleur, which was a common mishap last year. Well, good old Mother Nature put a kink in that plan when she picked Emporia for a “scattered thunderstorm” in the wee hours Saturday morning.

No backing out now, I mean how muddy could it be? We had been dry for days. Besides that, we already told everybody we were doing it. My mom and dad were coming down to see us off and wish us luck. So, we ride! As we’re waiting to take off, people we know are wishing us luck and some want to take a picture, like we’re celebrities or something. It was fun. As we were riding through the 500-block, a fellow cyclist whom we had visited with at High Gear one day, hollered from the side of the street and told us there were about 5-miles of mud right as you turn off onto the gravel and gave us tips on how to get through without breaking anything. I don’t even know his name, but that day he was my new best friend. And bless all the people who stayed on Commercial Street cheering us as we went by. You don’t know how important that made me feel. Someone had even made posters and staked them in the ground after we turned on the gravel road.

And the piece de resistance was coming through the finish line chute and there is Mr. DK himself, Jim Cummins, sticking his hand out for a big high five! #Love Emporia!

Saturday evening I was a volunteer at the finish line. My job was to help riders negotiate through the crowd to get from the finish line to the rider hospitality tent and sign the banner. During that time I had a chance to speak briefly with many of them. The conversations mostly went “ Congratulations! We want you to come sign our banner because you’re a rock star now. Where are you from?” They would tell me their home city and state and many proceeded to thank me for volunteering to help with the race. The majority of the riders said the community support Emporia has for the Dirty Kanza is like no place else they have ever been. They love coming here and they love spending their money at our local businesses.

While I was working the finish line area I had the opportunity to congratulate some riders from North Carolina with whom I rode on Wednesday night. When they arrived in town they wanted to ride and see the country so they joined up with the Wednesday night group that was leaving from Gravel City Adventure & Supply. We went out to the Rocky Ford Bridge and told them what had happened there many years ago. As we parted, they said they were going to see if they could find Murder Ordained on Netflix. That whole group rode the 200-mile race and they all came in together. It was fun to congratulate them and give them high fives and hugs.

I also got to congratulate our guest blogger from a few weeks ago, Bobby Thompson, on his finish as his wife and oldest daughter and several friends surrounded him. The camaraderie is thick out there!

On Sunday morning I stopped by our office to pick up trash and sweep the sidewalk. The first person I saw was George Milton who was in the process of repairing “Kids Pan Alley” one of the secondhand soundmakers that Emporia Celebrates the Flint Hills placed downtown last week for people to enjoy. This one was not quite sturdy enough to withstand all the “enthusiasm”. But George had a bag of plastic zip ties and recruited me to hold the pots and pans while he zip tied them on to the stand and in no time the soundmaker was alive again.

As I was picking up trash and sweeping in front of our building many people were downtown and several asked me for directions to “the diner”. The block where Commercial Street Diner is located was packed on both sides with vehicles toting bicycle racks.

The rider encounters didn’t end on Sunday though. Monday I was in the Granada Coffee Company and three gentlemen from Seattle and Tacoma, Washington came in and we visited about the race and places they had been while they were in town. After they left Bev told me they had been in the store several times and she had a lengthy conversation with one of them on Saturday night. She asked him if they were headed home on Sunday and he said no they were going to stay another day because they like to spend as much of their money in Emporia as they can. How cool is that?

There are a zillion stories out there, which goes to show this is an event that loves our community and our community loves this event. Thanks to Dirty Kanza Promotions and the hundreds of volunteers needed to make this event the success that it is. And most of all, thank you to all the riders and visitors who came to our town and allowed us to share our Emporia hospitality with you. #LoveEmporia.