Open Range riders take on wind, sand and scenery in Barber County

Brandon Case
Special to the Tribune
Noah Easterling of Prairie Village said he enjoyed the difficult terrain for biking in the Red Hills near Medicine Lodge, part of the 2020 Open Range Gravel Tour.

MEDICINE LODGE—While an unanticipated windy start to the 2020 Open Range Gravel Race added to its challenge, most participants just kept on pedaling through Pratt and Barber counties last weekend, doing their best to stay upright amid strong blasts of wind.

The number of tour participants, 18, was only a fraction of the 322 who signed up for the Open Range race option, but the two-day noncompetitive Open Range Gravel Tour will likely see increased numbers in the years ahead, if comments from tour riders are any indication.

The tour route exactly mirrored that of racers in the 200K Open Range Gravel Race, who completed the course in one day. Since the Gravel Tour was no race, participants had ample time to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Red Hills without worrying that someone might catch up with and overtake them as they stood on the side of the road snapping photographs or perhaps taking a cool nap in the shade.

Tour riders had a place to lodge or camp overnight at the Gyp Hills Guest Ranch, located southwest of Medicine Lodge. The staff there prepared supper and breakfast for the riders, as well as the finest in western hospitality while riders rested there.

There are numerous reasons that people traveled to south-central Kansas for the now-annual Open Range riding event from locations throughout Kansas, Colorado, and Missouri, only to name a few states. But it seems to be all in the name of outdoor fun.

Several participants shared their thoughts about the new Open Range event.

Both Matt Burris and his wife Tiffany, who live in Platte City, Mo., had high praise for the tour.

“It is a beautiful ride. It’s a great experience. Being a noncompetitive ride, you can take pictures,” Matt said, which he did with his GoPro camera.

Burris has a monthly podcast called Gravel Warfare and said an episode about the Open Range Gravel Race was one of his most popular ones.

“It will become a destination race,” he said.

While Matt’s wife, Tiffany, stated that she is highly competitive, she appreciated the opportunity to not compete.

“My favorite part was leaving Sun City, the long climb up the hill. I love riding the ridgelines and being able to see for miles and miles,” she said.

Karen Dill of Fort Leavenworth also enjoyed her first time out on the Open Range.

“The scenery just made me go wow around every turn, every hill. This is a ride I would do over and over again, if I could,” she said.

Noah Easterling, of Prairie Village, also had high praise for the tour.

“I think it’s awesome. It’s just challenging enough to not make it suck but not hard enough to make it miserable,” he said.

Marty Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Garden Center in Wichita, offered a perspective on the tour with which all participants would likely concur.

“I think on rides like this you come here for the adventure, the challenge,” he said. “But it’s the people you meet along the way that really make it meaningful. I know Kansas has some really unique beauty. Experiencing it is special.”