Hill City Kansas June 2018
About this time of year, but a half century ago, my brother Chris and I set out on one of the biggest adventures of our young lives. Momma must have been very brave to see us ride across the Kansas River, at 15 and 17 years of age respectively, heading from Kansas City to California on our bicycles. She and Dad followed us across the bridge in the car the first half mile and then stopped to bid us safe trip. I whispered, “Dad the derailleur broke on my bike.” He whispered back, “Don’t tell your mother.” I peddled on in high gear, smiling through my pain, and we were off!
We had many adventures, but one of my favorite parts was our approach to Hill City, Kansas. Five days into our trip we were stopped on the country road by a couple who wanted to know what these two boys were doing this far from “civilization,” riding ten speed bikes with luggage racks on them. We explained that we were California bound. As former members of the Oceanside California Road Runners Club we wore a small cap with the brim flipped up, shorts, and bicycles sweat tops with pockets in the back. Compared to the Kansas farm boys our age, we were quite a sight. The couple invited us to dinner at their house, and we jumped on the opportunity.
An hour later that Saturday evening we rode in but they had already eaten. We were set up in the kitchen at a sumptuous farm table feast with their two beautiful daughters, who coincidentally were our ages. Later the girls asked and were given permission to take us to the movies in the next town over. The oldest, driving dad’s car, got us back by 11:00 pm; and the parents were sitting in the living room in their bathrobes waiting up for us. They said, “We have two boys off at college; would you like to have a hot shower and sleep in their room tonight?” After our 80 mile ride that day, they didn’t have to ask us twice.
The next morning we had a Kansas corn-belt breakfast with farm fresh eggs, pancakes, home baked bread as toast, canned strawberry preserves, and piles of bacon. Then off to the Methodist Church we went with them. In the service they introduced us and had Chris and I stand up in front of the whole congregation. Afterward they said, “Now we are going to Sunday School.” I excused us for a moment while Chris and I stepped around the corner. I told him, “Brother, you know if we eat one more meal here with those girls, we are never leaving!” We biked back to their unlocked house, grabbed our gear, left a note and rode west.
For years afterward I am sure they remembered “those two boys on their way to California.” Chris and I will always recall the humble hospitality of that wonderful, Christian family that gave to us without asking a single question or expecting anything in return.