June 10, 2006 ... Only a week before, some of us had ridden gravel roads of the lush, emerald green Flint Hills. This day would be much different. Five riders rode from the Wichita area, one rode-in from Ellinwood. Two riders trailered-in to Medicine Lodge from the Kansas City/Wichita area. Knowing that temperatures would be near the century mark, we elected for a very early start in the morning. Making this ride: Randy Snyder - Belle Plaine, KS - KLR650, Luc Valentin - Manhattan, KS - KTM 640 Adventure, Troy Wolf - KCMO - DR350, Scott Tillotson - Ellinwood, KS - DR-Z400, Russ Smith - Wichita, KS - DR-Z400, Kevin Ware - Smithville, MO - XR650L, Chuck Wagner - Wichita, KS - Yamaha TTR250, and Roger Baugh - Wichita, KS - KLR650.

Normally, the Gypsum Hills are quite colorful in late Spring and early summer with various grasses and wildflowers covering the area. This year, a prolonged drought shows a different face. Prairie grasses have turned brown or tan and gone dormant. Ponds have dried up. And, many roads have turned into "sandtraps" or "washboards" from the lack of moisture.

We entered the hills from the northeast quadrant, and were immediately rewarded with some spectacular views. Whereas we had ridden through nearly a hundred miles of flat wheat land being readied for harvest, there was no mistake now that we had entered rugged ranch and hill country. Fairly early into the ride, Luc managed to keep his field repair record intact with a puncture to his front tire. The procedure required one helper and six commentators!

The "payoff" for this ride came when we entered open range near the ghost town of Aetna ... and seeing hundreds of buffalo grazing there. They seemed to be less skittish this year, and simply moved away from us as we rode for miles through the various herds. We were extremely cautious on open range, practiced "situational awareness" at all times, and approached the herds very slowly. We were prepared to quickly reverse direction had the bulls decided our presence represented a threat. The buffalo rutting season normally starts in late June and can last until September, making those times more hazardous to humans. Obviously, we had no intention of "petting" the huge critters!

Leaving the buffalo behind, we then rode north to the town of Sun City ... and the one remaining business, Buster's Saloon. The air conditioning, cold liquid refreshments, conversations, "old west atmosphere" and delicious fare was enjoyed by all!

Leaving Sun City, we rode the Medicine River Road back to Medicine Lodge, made more entertaining when a large doe deer tried to play tag with the ride leader. After that incident, a fairly uneventful and comfortable ride back to Medicine Lodge. We then refueled in Medicine Lodge, and split-up to head back to our separate homes.

A great day for a ride! ..... rb

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