The pic above from l to r, Kelly, Richard, and Tim McKinney circa xmas ’91.
Note: this post is about my first-ever Dirty Kanza 200 experience on June 4, 2016.
Part I – The Signup
My father, Richard McKinney, passed away December 23, 2015. He had suffered for about 10 years from a series of health problems increasing in severity. Throughout that time I never heard him complain. If asked he would declare all of the reasons he considered himself fortunate.
I owe my love for cycling to him. From my earliest memories, there were plenty of bikes around. First a Huffy Stingray hand-me-down in the late ’60s. Later were the department store 3, 5 and 10-speeds, ’70s era European road bikes, and finally into the mountain bikes of the ’80s and ’90s.
In those days (early ’70s) parents let their kids run loose and we took full advantage of it. In the summer, it was not unusual to leave right after breakfast and not return until just before suppertime (our cutoff ). Pack up a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we’re good to go. We’d explore the countryside on bikes. Pavement, gravel, singletrack and doubletrack. Sometimes we’d run up against hobos making their way across the area via the highways and railroad tracks. Maybe we’d come back carrying some kind of snake or turtle and Mom would not be happy.
“What do you think you’re going to do with – that?” she’d ask.
There were boundaries. Don’t cross the Delaware River west of town or the US Highway 24 to the north. Little Wild Horse Creek was especially off limits. Kelly once cut his foot on a crossing, bad enough to require stitches.
Beyond the creek were miles of unbroken ranch land to be explored. The hills NE of town was left by Pre-Illinoian glaciations 600,000 years prior and we couldn’t resist them. We’d hose ourselves down using the water spigot at the edge of town, before returning to our house, between the two churches, one Methodist, the other Catholic.
We thought we were being slick, but Mom would always find out. Years later she told us how – muddy underwear from swimming in the creek.
Those were simpler times and our parents were not fearful like many are today. The worst thing that ever happened was being prevented from riding due to a mechanical problem, missing a cutoff or going out of bounds, and getting into trouble (grounded).
A very poor quality Polaroid photo of us in Perry, KS (early ’70s)
Years later, after I got too busy to ride, my Dad would throw hints by sending me home with new bikes to try out. I’d mostly ignore his attempts during my 20’s and 30’s but he never gave up and once even sent me home with an electric bike (which I still have).
Here’s a newspaper clipping of me riding one of Dad’s hand-me-down bikes with son Zachary…
Over the years, as my passion for cycling has ebbed and flowed, I received steady encouragement from him. Of late, as the number of hours in the saddle rose to extreme (crazy?) levels, he continued to support and applaud my accomplishments (modest though they were) never once hinting I might be overdoing it.
My younger brother, Timothy, completed the 2014 DK200 in just under 14 hours. He subsequently dedicated the accomplishment and gave him his coveted Race Against the Sun award, I was there acting as support for Tim, and the moment was not lost on me in terms of importance. The seed was planted.
So after Dad died talk returned to the Dirty Kanza and thoughts of signing up in 2016. Before that time the race was on my bucket list but I had no concrete plans for making a run this year. After the funeral, and with pleading from my family, we decided to go for it.
When it became time to sign up I was leaning toward the Half Pint (100 miles). To me it made sense as it would give a taste without having to commit to more training than I was accustomed to.
It was then my brother Kelly convinced me to do the whole enchilada. You’ll get there in June and want to do the full distance he reasoned. Somehow he swayed me and I signed up with him along with Gregg (cousin), and Dan (close friend).
Little did we know what we had gotten ourselves into.
Next Post: Part II – Prep / Training