Bob Hoopes finished his last bicycle ride in time to make it to yoga class Monday in Marion’s Central Park. Most people never would have started that ride, let alone finish it.
The 74-year-old resident of Eastshore at Marion Reservoir had just returned from a three-week, 720-mile trek along the Great Divide bike trail, riding his bicycle with a BOB trailer in tow along dirt roads and mountain passes from Wyoming to New Mexico.
“There were six of us that started, and two of us that finished it,” Hoopes said. “There were some mighty steep hills, some of which we had to push the bikes up. Some of the roads had grass growing in the middle, some of them were very rocky.
“It was pretty tough. I wouldn’t say it was the toughest thing I ever did, but it was close to it. It was an exciting run.”
Hoopes and his girlfriend of 10 years, Ruth White, are no strangers to long rides. One trip they rode out to San Diego, up the west coast to Vancouver, British Columbia, and back to Wichita. Another trip took them east to St. Augustine, Florida, and Richmond, Virginia, then back home.
“It’s a great way to see the country. At about 10 miles an hour you see everything, you don’t miss much,” Hoopes said.
It was a ride he couldn’t go on in the mid-1980s that got Hoopes interested in long rides. His work as a Wichita banker prevented him from participating in an organized ride across Kansas, but the challenge intrigued him.
“I decided I’d bike across Kansas by myself, and I’d do it on dirt roads most of the time,” he said. Stringing together weekend rides of 35 to 40 miles, Hoopes eventually crossed the state both north-south and east-west.
He’s become a regular participant in a cross-state trip that draws about 900 riders.
“I bike across Kansas most years,” Hoopes said. “I biked out to the start this year, as I have the past few years, bike across the state, then bike back from the finish.”
While highway traffic creates moments of anxiety, one of his most harrowing moments came on a stretch of desert road on the Great Divide trail.
“I was in the lead, and I came up on a big, fat, long rattlesnake laying across that path,” Hoopes said. “I think fear is a great motivator because some way or another I was able to jump that bike with the BOB trailer over to the left lane and missed him. He coiled up, he buzzed, and he was really hot.”
Hoopes said riding close to home is special.
“I love it right here, I love these Flint Hills. I like to go out and ride the dirt around here where you can ride for 30 miles and see one vehicle,” Hoopes said. “You see a lot of wildlife, you see beautiful country; year-round it’s wonderful to ride in the Flint Hills.”
Most of the time Hoopes rides solo.
“There are some people around Marion that ride; used to be more than there are right now,” he said. “I ride a lot by myself, just go out and ride around.”
Hoopes doesn’t follow a rigorous training regimen. He said he eats a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, and does some toning and weight work once or twice a week with a group at Trinity Mennonite Church in Hillsboro.
“This little deal over at Hillsboro, yoga, and what I can do myself has to make it work, along with a little biking,” he said.
For people interested in taking up bicycling, Hoopes recommended starting with a reputable bike shop.
“A good reliable bike shop would help them get fitted with the right bike,” Hoopes said. “Getting the right bike to suit them, and the right fit to the bike would be very helpful.”
Hoopes cautioned against getting a cheap bicycle.
“I wouldn’t encourage going to the big box stores and buying some of the $200 bikes. I just don’t think the components will hold up. I think you could get a pretty good bike for $600 to $800,” he said.
While Hoopes called the Great Divide trip “exhausting,” it might not be long before he’s back on the road.
“It’ll take a few days to kind of rest up,” Hoopes said. “With the nice weather, maybe it is appropriate to take another little trip of some nature.”