Eleven bicyclists left McPherson this morning en route to their halfway mark in a journey across the nation.

Eleven bicyclists left McPherson this morning en route to their halfway mark in a journey across the nation.
Although they will pedal 64 miles to Abilene, the ultimate goal of the America By Bicycle cross country challenge group is Portsmouth, N.H. They began in San Francisco June 3 and will finish their 3,900-mile journey to the East Coast July 24. McPherson is part of the Tour de Plains, one of six sections running through 13 states.
“Every day is a new ride,” Shawn Hawkins of Shawnee said. “You get on the open road and let it all go.”
The riders battled 107- degree heat and 20-mile- per hour winds as they came into town Thursday. To keep cool, they ride early, drink lots of water — some about a gallon a day — and wear lots of sunscreen.
But the state isn’t as unforgiving as the weather seems.
“I love Kansas,” Paul Meincke of Chicago said, noting the landscape. “There’s a natural beauty to every spot we go to. We appreciate the hospitality. They are just so nice. Everybody goes out of their way.”
On one particularly difficult day in the Sunflower State, Meincke was grateful for a couple who saw him fixing his tires on the side of the had enough cold water.
The flatter roads are a welcome for their legs, which received their toughest workout through the Colorado inclines. But even though they must push through the pain, the sights along the way are worth it.
“You quickly forget how hard the climb was,” Meagan Daniel of Birmingham, Ala., said. “The reward that it brings, everything is worth it.”
The group’s unity also helps them overcome the journey’s challenges. None had ever participated in the challenge before. The first day was the farthest Daniel had ever ridden at one time, who had only purchased her first road bike last fall.
“We’ve all seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” Daniel said. “I’ve been crying on the side of the road, I’ve been screaming on the side of the road, and I’ve been 20 miles straight grin. At this point, everyone is able is ready to handle anything that comes from someone.”
Some members of this family also are supporting groups back home. Daniels has raised around $3,500 for Alabama tornado relief efforts.
“I knew that if I was going to quit my full-time job and do something for two months, I knew it needed to be for a good cause,” she said.
Meincke, a former Scout master himself, has raised $2,000 for the Boy Scouts.
“Non-profits are always in need of money,” he said. “It seemed a logical fit that, if I’m going to do this, I might as well use it as a vehicle to help raise money.”
As they complete the second half of their journey, they look forward to more experiences on the road.
“It’s freedom,” Meincke said of riding, especially when he rides downhill with a strong back wind. “It’s kind of a weird high.”
America By Bicycle, founded in 1994, hosts a variety of tours across the nation, varying in time and distance. Cyclists, who must be at least 15 years old, are given route directions, may travel at their own pace, and sleep in hotels. Along the ride, they’re provided with food and drinks and luggage transportation.