• Mon June 27 2005
  • Posted Jun 26, 2005
When the pro-slavery residents of Lecompton made their town the Kansas territorial capital during the 1850s, they probably never imagined it would someday make their home more attractive to bicyclists. But that history is precisely why Lecompton is one of the first stops on the “Border Raiders” bike tour that starts today in Lawrence and continues along a 400-mile loop of Civil War-era history through Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. “Nobody’s ever done it,” said Paul Corcoran, a Lawrence resident who helped organize the trek. “Sooner or later they’ll start looking at this area, and realize that Kansas and Missouri is where the Civil War began.” There are nearly 200 riders signed up for the trip, which will roll through the stomping grounds of Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Jesse James, William Quantrill, J.R. Gatling and other notorious Free Staters and border ruffians of the era. “I thought I was a history buff,” said Randy Breeden, another Lawrence organizer of the tour. “But there’s more history out there than I dreamed of.” Organizers say they are still trying to figure out if riders are joining more for the history or for the chance to spend eight days on a bicycle. “I think it’s both,” Breeden said. “We’ve got people from 15 states. I don’t think they’re here just to ride through Kansas.” “Our design is to let you stop and smell the roses” at historical sites, Corcoran said. “But not everybody’s going to do that.” “We hope it’s the history they’re looking at,” he added. “That’s what is interesting to us.” Maybe, maybe not. “It’s just an opportunity to get another bike ride under my legs this year,” said Susan Smith, a Lawrence bicyclist on the ride. But, she said, “it will be nice to find out more about the history of this area — I’m a transplant.” She said the ride is appealing because of “the challenge. The getting the satisfaction of doing it — getting off the bike at the end of the day and getting ready for the next day. Life is very simple when you’re on a bicycle; you ride, you eat, you sleep. That’s all you do.” The ride comes as Lawrence is spearheading an effort to designate the region a “Bleeding Kansas” National Heritage Area in Congress. The bike tour is one event that could help showcase that history, said Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I think it’s a really exciting event that features our history,” she said. “More of that is always great.” Riders will leave around 8 a.m. today from the parking lot of Free State High School. Organizers said they plan to make the ride an annual event — and that they expect to find more hidden historic sites along the route. “We think,” Corcoran said, “we’re going to discover more history than we ever thought about.” Route Map By Joel Mathis Saturday, June 25, 2005

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