Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Flint Hills, KS

The trek to the Kansas Flint Hills has been a very long, indirect one for me. In the past 40 years, I've both driven and ridden up and down I-35, most often to and from our southernmost boundary.  The interstate passed right through an area with signage proclaiming the region as being the Flint Hills.  Somehow, somewhere, long, long ago (Before Internet) I found out that the Flint Hills was an area that was mostly desolate, something very easy to witness by racing through at 70+ mph.  Set this knowledge aside for a paragraph or two.

Back in the late '70's, a book was introduced, its title one very easily able to capture my interest.  The book was "Blue Highways" by the author, William Least Heat Moon.  A paperback copy was obtained, the book was read, enjoyed and stored away.  A few winters ago (my reading season) while sorting through some old posessions, I came across the book and once again, read through it, confident that with the passage of time and gained experience having done more traveling back and forth across the country, quite possibly I'd have new impressions of the book.  I did.  Read the first time, my great focus was on place.  Thirty years of time has allowed me to see less geography and more of the human experience.  In other words, people met, ideas, human interaction and the like were the focus of what was taken away from the re-read.

Least Heat Moon was also the author of another book, one named "PrairyErth: a Deep Map".  Dealing with Chase County, Kansas, essentially the heart of the Kansas Flint Hills, I was intrigued.  The author was a known, as was interest in the central section of Kansas.  Checking an online auction site, I found a cassette-based audiobook of PrairyErth and "Bought Now".  I listened on my commutes and wherever and whenever I had quiet breaks, hearing many chapters numerous times.  The decision was made to motorcycle to the area, the only questions being when and with which of my bikes to make the trip.

The duration of time available for the trip would have a bearing on which motorcycle, as well as the route to/from, all choices involving ever present compromise.  I toyed with taking my large sport touring bike, hustling down to KS, confining myself to the larger, primarily paved roads which wouldn't have been a very good option considering the lack of roads in general, not to mention that they are almost exclusively rough gravel and poorly maintained.  My smaller machines and one in particular, my Yamaha TW200, was the ideal bike for the roads themselves but was less than ideal (most of my friends would say woefully inadequate) for the ~500 mile trip down from Minnesota.

While attending an early season BMW rally in the midwest, friends once again encouraged me to ride down and attend the Missouri Falling Leaf Rally, the St. Louis BMW Riders' gathering in October.  It suddenly dawned on me that it would make an almost perfect trip to trailer the Yamaha down to Kansas for part of a week, then pack up, head east and spend the last half of the week in eastern MO.  Seemed like a perfect plan and it was.  Watch for a future post.

No comments:

Post a Comment