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Nearly 1,000 fellow riders spend night in her hometown

Staff writer

It was hot and humid, and Denise Duerksen was riding her bicycle down a shimmering highway, headed toward her hometown.

By the time Duerksen reached Goessel High School, her alma mater, she had ridden 54 miles that day, was a touch saddle sore, and was ready for a break.

What she found was an oasis.

“They had air conditioning and bottled water — not just water, but ice water,” she said. “It was amazing.”

Duerksen was one of nearly 1,000 Bike Across Kansas participants who tripled her hometown’s population over a 24-hour period last week.

Goessel was 300 miles into the 502 mile tour.

Its high school gym was a welcome way station for riders because exhausted from the heat.

“Some people don’t understand why this is one of my favorite times of year,” she said. “I just love riding through these small towns like Lincoln and Baldwin City. The hospitality is great, but no one does it like Goessel.”

This was the first time Goessel had been an overnight stop on the annual tour.

“It was really fun to stop at a town where I know a lot of people,” she said. “I have friends on the tour that live in big cities. They were amazed at how friendly everybody was.”

Duerksen graduated from Goessel High School in 1984. She lives in Newton, where she works as city clerk, but still attends Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, near Goessel.

“I saw some members of my church when we visited Bethesda Home,” Duerksen said. “On the route, we usually visit nursing homes. Riders showed their bikes, and a number of men and woman sang for the residents.”

Some of Duerksen’s biking friends asked her what it was like to grow up in a small town.

“Quiet and laid back,” she replied. “Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows everybody’s business.”

Donna Alle, of Omaha, Nebraska, has known Duerksen since 1993.

“She’s a great rider,” Allen said. “All the towns’ roll out the red carpets, but Goessel was different. “It seemed like the whole community was at the dinner. That usually doesn’t happen.

“The homemade pies were delicious, and the side dishes great. I haven’t have had pistachio salad since I can remember.”

While they ate, Duerksen, Allen, and other riders were entertained by musical acts the Flannelbacks and the Book of Jebb.

Allen was surprised when the library repeated a free movie for those riders who didn’t get to watch it the first time.

Duerksen eventually retreated to her sleeping bag bunking for the night inside one of two gyms where participants slept.

“I’ve slept on plenty of gym floors,” she said. “But I haven’t slept on Goessel’s gym floor since I was in high school.”

Duerksen rode through Hillsboro and Marion on Thursday morning, then departed the county on K-150, reaching the eastern edge of Kansas at Louisburg on Saturday.

The trip began June 6 at the Colorado border wst of Johnson City. It included stops in Lakin, Jetmore, Larned, Sterling, Council Grove, and Baldwin City.

Last modified June 17, 2015

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