Throughout its 45 years, Biking Across Kansas has become a tradition that for some now spans multiple generations.
The Nordgren family is one of those. Late Monday morning, after arriving in Hays from Hill City, Eric, of Topeka, set up the family’s camping spot inside the Hays High School gymnasium with his son, Kjell, and his children, daughter Kiah, 12, and Justus, 10, all of Abilene.
“It was a graduation present for him when he graduated from high school in 1999,” Eric said of how they started on the cross-country tour of the state.
Kjell is the oldest of Eric’s five sons, three of whom have participated in BAK. Kjell, on his 13th BAK, has ridden the most, Eric said.
“I stopped for a few years, started a family,” Kjell said.
“I carried all four of his children across the state for 10 years. Now we’re starting the second cycle, so to speak,” Eric said of Kjell’s offspring.
“We started with her on the back for a couple years, then him,” Kjell said of Kiah and Justus, “then their younger sister and younger brother. By that point she was ready to do it on her own.”
Kiah rode solo for the first time three years ago when she was 10, and her brother is in his first year as a solo rider.
She said her favorite part of BAK is the food.
“You get a lot of good stuff at stops along the way. Usually they’ll have food trucks with stuff around towns, so you can go to those,” she said.
Food trucks with Mexican food, brats and snow cones were waiting at Hays High as the more than 800 cyclists and support staff began rolling through town late Monday morning.
Along the route, water stations were set up, including one in Ellis by the Chamber of Commerce. Kendra Jeronimus, of Golden, Colo., took advantage of the spot to take a break in the shade. Jeronimus was watching the progress of her sister, Roberta Von Lintel, of Hays, on a GPS tracker on her phone.
“Today was awesome, perfect, absolutely perfect,” Jeronimus said of the partly clear skies and low temperatures.
She said she’s a mountain biker but enjoyed seeing the countryside on BAK.
“I feel like just being out there is seeing the sights. You get to look at everything along the way,” she said.
“It’s super fun when you find someone who goes along at your own speed,” she said.
For her on Monday morning, that was Curt Wood, a former Hays assistant city manager in the early 1980s.
This is only the second time Wood has participated in BAK. His first was in 2017.
“I’m an avid bike rider. I wanted to do long distance over multiple days so I wanted to try it one time. I liked it enough to come back the second time,” he said.
He said he hadn’t been back to Hays in about 10 years and was looking forward to “tooling around” town on his bike to see the changes.
The Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau provided a shuttle from the high school to various sites around town, including Historic Fort Hays and the Ellis County Historical Society Museum, both of which are normally closed on Mondays but opened especially for the cyclists, CVB Director Melissa Dixon said.