January 7, 2006 ... A winter ride into the Flint Hills of Butler, and Greenwood counties. The first week of January is usually the harshest winter weather in Kansas, with ice storms, blizzards, and well below zero sustained temperatures. This week has been very atypical!

Five riders gathered in Cassoday to enjoy a mild and colorful day of riding. Braving the early morning cold were: Tracy Ropp - Goddard - XR650, Russ Smith - Wichita - DRZ400, Steve Starkel - Wichita - Husqvarna TE-610, Gordon Polston - Herington - KLR650, and Roger Baugh - Wichita - KLR650.

Steve led the three Wichita riders on a scenic sand/dirt/gravel road route across western Butler county. Arriving promptly at our ETA in Cassoday, we joined Gordon and Tracy at the Cassoday Cowboy Cafe for an enjoyable lunch, and an opportunity to get "caught up" since our last rides together.

We decided upon a ride area that would take us southeast of Cassoday towards Eureka, and into the expansive 777 Ranch via public roads. Much of this area is open range land, so I thought we might have to keep a watch out for cattle on the road. A nice surprise came when we entered the ranch and discovered hundreds of wild mustangs in various herd sizes. Being very wary, the horses scattered before we could get into good camera range, so we had little opportunity to photograph that beautiful sight we enjoyed for several miles.

Near the ghost town of Ivanpah, we started our loop back towards Cassoday. About two miles south of Lapland, we found a section line "road" that would take us into some picturesque high country. Fortunately, the path remained passable all the way to our destination. With the tall bluestem grass hiding a few truck/tractor ruts, the trail did require an adjustment to riding styles in the early going!

We arrived back in Cassoday in time to refuel and make it back to our respective homes by sunset. For me, 191 miles in the saddle across much enjoyable terrain, and at a time of the year when I'd usually be shoveling snow and stoking the wood stove .... Kansas, You Fooler!

..... rb

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