Bikers camp overnight on Mabee lawn


Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant Editor

After trekking 911 miles, the Santa Fe Trail cyclists pulled into Baldwin City and took shelter on Baker University’s own Mabee Lawn. They pitched their tents and enjoyed the hospitality of the Long Student Center’s cafeteria facilities before the group settled down to conversation and leisure on campus.

Cyclists with the Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek, celebrating the trek’s 20th anniversary this year, arrived at the university on the afternoon of Sept. 22 and departed for the last 185 miles of their journey at 8 a.m. the next morning.

The trek, which is scheduled over 20 days, ranges over a combined distance of 1,096 miles and stretches from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to New Franklin, Missouri. The ride includes high altitude changes with steep inclines and follows the Santa Fe Trail, bumping into cities and towns along the way.

Though the organization itself is non-profit, cyclists intending to complete the trek pay a daily fee of $45 to cover transportation of camping gear and some meal expenses, the exception being those who planned to leave on day four of the trip.

The Santa Fe Trail cyclists have been coming to camp at Baker since the program’s inception in 1994. Lynda Lewis, BU coordinator of conference services, is currently in charge of coordinating dates and boarding with the club’s president.

“Every year, when they arrive in the afternoon at Mabee south lawn, I will go out to welcome them to Baker,” Lewis said in an email. “It’s a good time to let them know if there have been any changes at Baker since they were last here, and to let them know we are available if they need anything.”

Most of the cyclist share a high opinion of their stay on campus. Robert Macleod, an experienced cyclist from Georgia, said he enjoys the “college stay” and appreciates the cafeteria in the Long Student Center’s food. He is not the only one.

“They say they have always felt welcome here with hot showers and good food available to them,” Lewis said. “Not all of their camping locations are as appealing.”

Most of the cyclists are retirees and have no problems leaving home for the long-distance trip, but others must take time off of work to participate. However, the loss of vacation time is not the only challenge the cyclists have to face on their trip. Other obstacles include weather, bike accidents, climbing and unforeseen roadwork or bad traffic.

Having had a hole in his air-mattress that caused him back pain once before, Macleod ensures that his camping equipment is prepared and takes with him a tent, air-mattress, bag and pillow.

Richard Chilcott leads the trip and believes having good equipment can help many of the challenges cyclists face.

“There are surprises,” Chilcott, son of trek founder Willard Chilcott, said. “But making sure your bike is safe can help.”

For those interested in cycling, the Santa Fe Trail cyclists would suggest that you have the stamina, equipment, and basic know-how before attempting a trek.

Lewis expects that the cyclists will continue to stay at Baker as long as Baker continues to house them. Anyone looking for more information on the group can visit the group’s website.