There’s a rock in the Flint Hills of Kansas, standing tall in the middle of the oil fields. It never closes, and on the spring solstice all were welcome. We didn’t take a jeep there, and Bruce Springsteen was a no show.
On Teter Hill Road, at the very pinnacle of Teter Hill, stands Teter Rock. This rock was once a waypoint for weary homesteaders searching for the Cottonwood River. Long gone are the days of Teterville, only a few old foundations and the rock remain. Using rocks and waypoints has been replaced by the now popular GPS, and the homesteaders have been replaced by the modern-day weekend warrior, the resourceful, opportunistic bikepacker.
On Instagram the call went out, “Spring Solstice Spoon Swap!” I instantly told my wife about this adventure. I said, “Hey, check this out, there is a get together south of Emporia where you carve a spoon, ride out to this big rock, camp out, and trade your spoon with someone.” Her facial expression immediately indicated that this was a terrible idea. I immediately knew, this was a great idea!
Fast forward to the week before the spring solstice and it was rain, rain, and more rain. I followed along online as one rider after another dropped from a gravel event near that area. Messages were sent, routes were discussed, contingency plans were made, but in the end six of us committed to riding out of Emporia while the event organizer made the trip solo from Wichita.
The fretting over the weather was all for not. No one could have asked for a better day to knock off early on a Friday and go play bikes. Temps in the high 50s and a slight tailwind (from Emporia, at least) blessed us as we rode. As six loosely affiliated guys that kinda, sorta knew each other either from an online presence or by reputation only, left downtown Emporia out the back door of Gravel City Adventure and Supply. We became fast friends before we hit the Casey’s in Madison. What do guys talk about while jockeying back and forth in a loosely organized bikepacking peloton? Oh, the usual, TIG welding, tire pressure, handlebars, single speeds, Dude Wipes, wool underwear, the races we’ve done, and the races to come.
After one water stop and three water crossings, (one on a totally unnecessary photo-op side road), we climbed Texaco Hill, we climbed Teter Hill, and almost as if we had planned it, we met the lone traveler from Wichita who had put in 70 miles to our 50, but he looked none the worse for wear. In almost no time a tent village was constructed and the campfire was burning.
Settling in for the show, I watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed, and seeing those beautiful bikepacking rigs circled around the massive slab jetting out of the earth burned this memory in my brain forever. As night fell and the field of stars hung over our heads without a cloud to be found, the group huddled close to the fire in anticipation of the temps that were expected to dip below freezing in the morning hours. The talk turned from pipe tobacco and bourbon whiskey to the reason for the meet up… SPOONS!
One by one, each man presented his carvings by firelight. Each spoon had a story, where and why the wood was chosen, the tools that were used, the style, shape, finish, and the type of oil carefully rubbed on it to bring out the grain. Some stories were silly, some were serious, all the stories rung true with all in attendance. When all the spoons had be laid out, selections were made, and each creation was given up as a sacrifice in order to take a piece of that moment, a piece of the story, and the bond of a new found friend and fellow bikepacker home with you. Dozens of hours of hand crafting useful tools with a soul culminated at the base of the rock, in the middle of the Kansas oil fields, where on the spring solstice, all are welcome.
The organizers behind the Spring Solstice Spoon Swap are planning more fun group rides this year, including a ride to Wilson Lake on June 26 – 27th. Follow them on Instagram @4seasonsbikepacking to learn more.
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