Catch up: A cross-country bike tour with a twist: Chris Reichel is riding his mountain bike from Colorado to North Carolina and hitting all the best trails along the way. If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of the Ultimate Ride to the Ride, you might want to start there.
By Chris Reichel
I struggled to find motivation after getting pummeled by Mother Nature. What should have been one, long day to get to the trails took me most of two. The reality of what I had just gone through took a little while to sink in. My mind started playing tricks on me. I reviewed my bailout options as I pedaled across the emptiness of the prairie.
Alone with my thoughts in the baking sun, I would occasionally pass a humming oil well or an abandoned farmhouse. I could ride down to I-70 and hitchhike back to Denver or B-line it to Wichita and fly home to Arizona. The mind is a funny thing when you are exhausted. The truth of the matter is that I really didn’t have a home to go back to. I had given all that up and gone fully mobile weeks ago. I am a glorified bike hobo that was now lonely and tired in the middle of Kansas. I might as well push on. What else am I going to do?
My destination was Wilson Lake and the relatively well-known Switchgrass trails that surround it. I approached the lake from the north and when I crossed the dam at the eastern terminus, I suddenly knew that things were going to get better. Before me was a large clear lake and tons of people everywhere seemingly having a blast.
I rolled into the campground in the heat of the day and picked out a site close to both the lake and the trails. Relieved to be settling in for three days of relaxing and mountain biking, I quickly met the neighbors who instantly offered me a cold beer. Then I met Randy, who was on a similar cross-country mountain bike pilgrimage but in a car. He was stopping along the way to ride anywhere and everywhere he could. We chatted about the places we had been and the people we have already met along the way. It was nice to talk mountain bikes with a fellow traveler.
We rode a bit together and explored the trail system. I didn’t get many pictures of my stay at Wilson Lake because my camera gear spent most of the time desiccating in a giant bag of rice (after getting flooded in the tornado storm). But on the final night, I rolled the dice and put the batteries back in the cameras. Much to my surprise (and relief) everything worked!
I convinced my new friend Randy to go out for a little sunset ride to get some photos. We were treated to a most beautiful sunset and great trail conditions. Randy was even nice enough to crash right in front of me so I could get an action shot!
I rode over 400 miles towing a trailer/drunk show to get to these trails and I have to say it was worth it. It is a well-laid-out trail system that somewhat resembles Phil’s World in Cortez, Colorado. The luxury of a great campground plus a lake to jump in and wet a fishing line was a bonus. What a pleasant singletrack surprise!