Today we drove to Florence, Kansas for the Tour de Florence ride. It is a gravel road mountain bike ride in the Flint Hills. Deb and I did this ride two years ago and although it is a tough ride with lots of hills, we really enjoyed the scenery. The road surface is unsuitable for Deb’s recumbent trike, but she went with me to be my personal SAG driver. We decided to take Gabby and Sophi along for the ride so they wouldn’t have to spend the day in their “doggie jail”.
We were on the road by 6:30am and drove an hour and a half northeast to Florence. The weather forecast was perfect……..sunny, a high of 80 with fairly light winds. The temperature at the start of the ride was in the upper 50’s, so I started with arm and leg warmers and full fingered gloves. The ride started from downtown Florence at the American Legion. I believe there were 42 riders participating.
There were two women that showed up with heavy cruiser type bikes, decked out with fenders and even baskets on the handlebars. One of the women was dressed in regular capri pants and the other one had on a pair of regular shorts………neither one had padded cycling shorts. I later found out they were from Wichita and that they had no idea the route was going to be so rocky with so many steep hills. I asked them where they rode in Wichita and they said, “The bike paths” (which are paved with easy grades). They ended up walking their bikes up most of the steeper hills because they simply did not have enough gears. They were determined though and made it quite a ways before they sagged in.
When we did the ride before, we rode the shorter route of 25 miles. The longer route is 42 miles. I decided to try to ride the longer route since I had Deb following along behind. I knew I could stop whenever I needed to. In the end, I did not complete the long route. I did ride 25 miles, but at least I got to see some different scenery than last time since I was on the other route. I climbed 1,304 feet in elevation. My maximum speed was just over 25 mph, which was a little dicey in that gravel. On a really steep hill, I looked at my computer and saw that I was going up a 10% grade.
Deb was a good samaritan and helped one rider fix a flat. After I quit riding, we ended up picking up a man from Hutchinson who didn’t want to ride any further. He was very grateful for the ride. We saw one man riding with a plastic milk crate strapped to his luggage rack. Sitting inside the crate was a little dog that looked like a cross between a pekingese and a pug.
We arrived back in Florence and enjoyed a lunch prepared by the ride organizers. We saw some beautiful scenery on the route…….I love the fall color of the Flint Hills. It’s a really well organized ride and the folks that put it on do a good job.