Post by Yuri Hauswald, GU Community Development Manager
This one time, at gravel camp, I rode with the King of the Kanza himself, 4x winner Dan Hughes, and he didn’t drop me, but he did “win” every county line sprint. I also spent three days riding with forty folks from all over the country, in a region of eastern Kansas and north central Oklahoma that contains the largest intact tallgrass prairie in North America. I’m talking about the Flint Hills, which surround Emporia, Kansas, and also happen to be the launch pad for the Dirty Kanza gravel camp and the home of the Dirty Kanza 200, arguably the hardest gravel race in the world.
There are no National Parks in Kansas, there’s no BLM land, the paved roads tend to not have safe shoulders to ride on and there certainly aren’t any mountains, so gravel gives people a chance to see the landscapes just a few miles outside of town and get away from it all. And the landscape that’s outside Emporia, KS, the birthplace of the Dirty Kanza 200, well, it’s stunning. Yeah, I know, most folks don’t put “stunning” and “Kansas” in the same sentence, but they obviously haven’t experienced the geography that makes this part of the state unique and beautiful. The Flint Hills, also known as Bluestem Pastures or Blue Stem Hills, are a region of eastern Kansas and north central Oklahoma that contain the largest intact tallgrass prairie in North America. Less than 4 percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains—and most of it is in the Flint Hills of Kansas. One of the other distinguishing features of this region, and the bane of those who dare to ride bikes through it, is the sharp, flint rock that has survived eons of erosion and is what prevented the tall grass prairie from being plowed under for farmland.