As Bike Month comes to a close, Main library Associate Steve Oakes is approaching 300 miles of bike riding for the month of May.
Dutifully, for the past twelve years, Oakes has ridden his bike to downtown Kansas City, Kansas, from the Waldo neighborhood to go to work. Eclipsing 3,000 miles each year, he has worn out multiple parts on one bike, which has since been retired (he owns three bicycles).
When his co-workers noted it was Bike Month, they commented that every month is bike month for Steve. Oakes primarily rides his bike while driving to work less than five times a year. When road conditions are not safe for cycling, he rides the bus. On occasion, safe cycling is questionable for the morning commute but fine for the afternoon. In that situation, he puts his bike on the bus, then rides his bike home.
At age 64, his health has benefited tremendously from the daily routine. His resting heart rate is between 46 and 50 beats per minute. Health professionals often ask him if he is a runner. He proudly proclaims that he is a bike commuter with a round trip ride of twenty-one miles.
The health benefit, however, was a detriment on one occasion. Periodically, Oakes donates blood at the Community Blood Center on Main Street in KCMO. One day when he was riding the bus, he decided to stop by and try to give blood. After the third attempt to check his pulse, they informed him that his heart rate was too low and below their accepted threshold. He asked them
if he could go outside and run around the parking lot a couple of times to try to bring his pulse above 50 beats a minute. They asked him to come back the next day. Oakes has learned his lesson and now will only visit if he is on his bike.
Oakes is once again on schedule for riding at least 3,000 miles for the year. He has already passed the 1,200 mile mark. His wife also commutes by bike. Her round-trip distance is about seven and a half miles.
2008 Bike Ride Across Nebraska – Sand Hills area (Photo by author)
Oakes and his wife have also completed several week-long organized rides such as the Bike Across Kansas (BAK) www.bak.org, Bike Ride Around Nebraska (BRAN) http://bran-inc.org, and Ride the Rockies (RTR) https://www.ridetherockies.com. The couple has nearly ridden the entire length of the KATY trail https://mostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park and hopes to experience a new section of trail, known as the Rock Island Trail, which will connect Kansas City to the KATY. This newest addition is nearly complete and will be formally dedicated in the near future.
Near the end of the journey in Glacier National Park, Montana (Photo from authors’ collection)
Bicycling vacations are also something the couple is known for. In 2017 they rode their bikes to Union Station in Kansas City and loaded them onto the train headed north to Chicago. After a couple of days in the Windy City, once again, they used Amtrak to transport bikes and gear to Whitefish, Montana. The self-supported bicycle touring began in earnest on July 5, when they set out for Jasper National Park in Canada. Over the next four weeks, they biked over 1,200 miles and spent 29 straight nights in their tent. After crossing nine mountain passes, they ended up in Glacier National Park in Montana, where they connected with Amtrak to get them back to Kansas City a few days later.
Taking a break from the cycling in Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada (Photo from authors’ collection)
The trip was so enjoyable the pair did another biking vacation the following year. The National Park Service (NPS), Natchez Trace Parkway (https://www.nps.gov/natr/) became their destination. The north to south Parkway is a linear park, with the roadway being 444 miles in length. The endpoints are Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi. Commercial traffic is prohibited (no semi-trucks!), and the maximum speed limit is 50 mph.
The picturesque, long and winding road, is a good way to describe the Natchez Trace Parkway (Photo NPS)
There are several NPS campgrounds along the way and several small, charming towns that are very accommodating to cyclists. In particular, the Wayne County Welcome Center in the city of Collinwood, TN, just off mile marker 355 of the Parkway, has a small shower facility for cyclists, free of charge (and often cookies!!). The Natchez Trace has thousands of years of human history, and the impact from the countless travelers is still evident in certain areas.
A section of the Natchez Trace trail showing the worn path created by the passage of thousands of travelers over the millennia. (Photo – NPS)
Built in 1848, this monument commemorates the life of Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery. Lewis died near the monument while traveling the Natchez Trace in 1809. (Photo – NPS)
Whether riding his bike to or from work or exploring the countryside, Oakes is content with his life on two wheels.
To find out more about how to explore Glacier National park car-free, see the author’s blog post on the subject here https://kckplprograms.org/2020/05/28/travels-with-steve-glacier-national-park/.
Information on the Bike Month Challenge (and area bike trails) is available at the Mid America Regional Council (MARC) website https://www.ridesharekc.org/Public/PublicPage.aspx?ItemName=2021BikeMonthChallenge.
And the following advocacy group for biking and walking has information about how to get around the Kansas City area without a motor vehicle – BikeWalkKC https://bikewalkkc.org/
A just-released book by Kansas City, Kansas homegrown cyclist Sara Dykman chronicles her travels as she follows the migration path of the Monarch butterfly. Check it out!
Other books of touring on two wheels from your KCK Public library include:
Author: Byrne, David, 1952-
A voyage across an ancient ocean : a bicycle journey through the northern dominion of oil
Author: Goodrich, David M.
Author: Buhring, Juliana
Every woman’s guide to cycling : everything you need to know, from buying your first bike to winning your first race
Author: Yeager, Selene.
Author: Rubin, James and Rowan, Scott
About the author – Main library associate Steve Oakes, is a former National Park Ranger at Denali, Carlsbad and Cuyahoga Valley National Parks. Oakes and his wife enjoy hiking, backpacking, bicycle touring, canoeing and other outdoor adventures.
More information and photos will be provided with his Touring by Bike blog and program later this year. Details forthcoming.
© Steve Oakes