June 19, 2004. Up for the early morning trek, Wil Locke, Jeff Gilliland and Steve Starkel wrestled a KTM 640 Adventure, KLR650 and a Husqvarna TE610E onto a trailer in a dark east Wichita parking lot. After a sunrise drive through the Flint hills we arrived in Lawrence to meet up with the rest of the riders that were prepared for the “Lawrence Gran Prix”, a terrific ride through the hills and valleys of northeast Kansas. The rest of the contingent assembled to head out on this rather cool June morning were, Joe Hackney on a XR650, David Hodges XR650L, Jeff Riggs on a KLR250, Alan Weis on his XR650L, Donnie Clausen XR650L, Jeff Swearingen XR650L, Terry Fleming RXC620 and our ride leader David Hemphill on his DR650.

Leaving Lawrence we proceeded to the north toward Oskaloosa, Joe did some extra exploring down a creek bed where there were not many tire tracks, we then made our way for a scenic view of the Leavenworth State Fishing Lake. After crossing the dam we followed a great twisting turning paved road that connects the lake to highway 16 we continued on toward Easton. On the way to Wil suffered a flat, believed to be caused from a previous ride through an area of tornado damage down south. After locating a good spot for the repair the “Backroads Pit Crew” flew into action and with little trouble the tube was replaced and we were on our way. According to one timekeeper the repair was accomplished in a mere “two minutes by my watch”, a time that would surely make the Dakar guys jealous! (that’s the story and we’re stickin’ to it). One rider was heard to comment, as we were preparing to resume the ride, “I kind of enjoy fixing a flat on a ride ... as long as it’s not mine,” I think most of us would agree that getting our hands dirty and helping out a fellow rider is part of what we enjoy about the kind of riding that we do.

On to Easton so the “non-tankers” could get a drink of fuel and then further north to the town of Atchison located on the Missouri river for lunch. Sitting on the Kansas side of the Missouri river we listened to tales of the “Japanese Jumping Carp” that have made their way into the river system and now posed a real threat to boaters with their curious habit of jumping into a boat that is making its way on the river. While we devoted some time surveying the river no twenty pound flying fish were seen this day. Back up the hill, past the Amelia Earhart house, and the local festivities of the day, our parade of bikes drew a few curious looks from the folks in town. Next we rode along a drive with a great high view of the river and then we began our trip back to Lawrence.

With the temperature finally feeling more like Kansas in June we wound our way through the hills and across several water crossings. One crossing in particular needed some thought before proceeding, Donnie was called up from the back to give his opinion, as he cleared a path through the pack of riders to make his way to the front Terry had picked a line and made his way across the case deep water to the other side. The rest of the group made their way across without mishap. As we got closer to our starting point we came across an accident between a car and a now overturned pickup at a gravel road intersection, with police and many people there to help we proceeded on to Lawrence, a reminder that we are not always the only ones on the backroads.

Thanks to David Hemphill for organizing and leading this ride, hope we can do it again sometime.

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