Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek riders visit BU campus

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Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek riders visit BU campus

Story by McKena Metzger, Writer

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Riders in the non-profit Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek spent the night of Sept. 21 on the lawn beside Mabee Hall.

The organization makes the 1,096-mile trip across the Santa Fe Trail, beginning in Santa Fe, New Mexico and concluding in New Franklin, Missouri, bumping into cities and towns along the journey.

The ride is organized by father and son duo Willard and Richard Chilcott.

“I think what draws people to the ride is the freedom,” Richard, who is the leader of the ride, said. “People are free to do what they want and experience new things.”

The Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek began in 1990 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Willard wanted to design a tour along the Santa Fe Trail.

Richard said the groups of riders have always stopped at Baker University due to the “overwhelming hospitality.”

Upon arriving at Baker University, the riders pitched their tents on Mabee Lawn and enjoyed the scenery and Long Student Center’s services.

A variety of riders participate in the trip. Most of them are retired and over the age of 50. Diversity plays a huge role in the experience, and that’s why cyclists like three-year returner Tim Roth continue to participate.

“It’s just honestly a great time,” Roth said. “You get to see beautiful Kansas and communicate with all new people.”

Volunteer Jeff Pifer and late starter Mikaela Roos accompanied Roth.

Pifer describes the trip as “a way for old geezers to get together and experience the history of the trail.”

Roos joined the trek through a Craigslist ad and started cycling on day six.

“The trip is different in the way that we are all professionals,” Roos said. “All of us want to be here. There aren’t any people who have negative intentions or attitudes.”

Technology has helped bring publicity for the trek, including a blog, Crazy Guy On A Bike. Tom Young documents the experiences he and his colleagues have from start to finish. Young describes the blog as educational, which “gives an outsider an insider’s perspective.”

The cyclists usually depart from their previous destination at around 8 a.m. and ride until their desired number of miles is reached. There is no set time for the length of each day’s ride. Young repeatedly marvels at the scenery provided by the trip.

“Kansas has a reputation for being boring,” Young said. “But, you know it’s pretty interesting when you’re on a bike and slow down to take it in.”

This year’s group of cyclists began with 32 riders, but that number was eventually reduced to 18. Chilcott said participation was down this year, but he doesn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.

“Even if numbers are low, the people that are here want to be here,” he said. “That’s what makes this trek such a positive experience.”