By Sam Jack
CLEARWATER – When more than 800 Biking Across Kansas participants arrive in Clearwater on Tuesday, June 12, at least one of them will be a Clearwater resident making a stop at home.
Greg Guiltner, 58, has biked across Kansas six times since 2010, pedaling at least 3,000 miles in the process.
“It was really something I’d wanted to do for years,” Guiltner said. “I used to bike a lot when I was a teen and up into my 20s. Then I started a kind of sedentary job, so I needed something for more exercise and activity. The first time, I was kind of afraid to even tell anybody I was going to do it, because I didn’t know if I’d be able to.”
He was well able to do it, as it turned out. Guiltner keeps in shape by biking to work at OxyChem every day, and he often spends extra time on his bicycle after work.
Biking Across Kansas is not a race, but rather a social and sightseeing expedition. Bikers pedal anywhere from 50 to 90 miles, then spend the evening sightseeing and socializing before sacking out for the night in a tent or in a sleeping bag on a gymnasium floor.
Kansas is well-known for being flat, so the biggest variable each day tends to be the wind.
“If you have a tailwind, then you’re going to have a wonderful day,” Guiltner said. “But the joke is that the prevailing winds in Kansas are always southwest, except for the week of BAK.
“If it’s a windy day, you just have to keep going,” he continued. “About every 15 to 20 miles, they have a stop set up with water and snacks, so it really breaks up into several shorter rides.”
Guiltner values the random encounters, both with other riders and with people he meets along the road.
“One year, a Model T was sitting out on the road next to a person’s house close to Concordia, and since I have a Model T, I stopped in to look at it. This old guy came out and said, ‘If you like that, you’d really like the stuff I have back here.’ He practically had a museum. Anybody that didn’t stop and look at that Model T really missed out on a unique person,” Guiltner said.
Last year, Guiltner rode past a lonely old schoolhouse in rural Trego County. After he reached his destination in WaKeeney later that day, he came upon a 1914 photo of the schoolhouse, displayed in the town’s historical museum.
“It looked the same, except then it was on wagon tracks and now it’s on a highway,” Guiltner said. “There wasn’t a tree in sight. … Kansas is a lot more empty than you’d ever imagine, being from this part of the state. Out west, you can ride and ride and hardly pass any cars. It’s really remote, and I really enjoy that part of it.”
For more information on Biking Across Kansas, visit www.bak.org.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the April 19 print edition of The Times-Sentinel. To see stories like this sooner and to get all of your community news, subscribe to The Times-Sentinel. Call 316-540-0500 today to start home delivery next week.