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Cassoday - The Sturgis of Kansas

Written by  March 31, 2004

About an hour south of Council Grove on Highway 177 is Cassoday, Kansas. It's not far from the Kansas Turnpike. But don't blink as you ride through. It's that kind of small rural community where Main Street is a gravel road. There's a small U.S. Post Office, an antique store, an auto-body-welding shop, a couple of other buildings, and a cafe surrounded by a few houses. On a good day, the population of Cassoday might be 100!

But come the first Sunday of the month, May through October, the little community of Cassoday rumbles with the thunder of thousands of motorcycles, and the business community grows with the addition of motorcycle vendors. Cassoday is quickly becoming the Sturgis of Kansas six days out of the year.

The journey to becoming a motorcycle mecca, or so the story goes, started several years ago when the owner of the Cassoday Cafe, where the sign promises you good food and gossip, got an idea. Being a motorcycle enthusiast, he opened his cafe on a Sunday morning and invited a few of his motorcycle-riding friends for breakfast.

They had such a good ride, they decided to do it again . . . and again . . . and then again, each time inviting a few more friends. Pretty soon, so many motorcycle riders began showing up in Cassoday (they come from Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska), it was decided to make the Sunday ride and breakfast a monthly event, the first Sunday of the month during the riding season.

Four members of the Saturday morning motorcycle mechanic class at Johnson County Community College decided to make the trek to Cassoday. Class instructor Bill Brown, and student Darren Marshall, had been to Cassoday before; but it was a debut trip for Roscoe Johnson and yours truly.

We left for Cassoday at 6 a.m. The sun was just starting to rise, and the temperature was brisk. But you could tell it was going to be a good day to ride. The plan was to ride I-35 to Emporia, get gas, and then take Highway 50 to 177 into Cassoday.

We encountered other motorcycle riders along the way, all heading the same direction, towards Cassoday. While getting gas in Emporia, another rider pulled into the station.

'Going to Cassoday?' he asked.

'Yep,' I said. 'It's my first time.'

'Cool,' he said. 'I'm heading down there in about a half hour. See ya there.'

But none of us expected what we saw when we reached Cassoday. There were between 3,000 and 4,000 motorcycles parked throughout the small community. And as motorcycles left, they were continually being replaced by new arrivals.

Every motorcycle imaginable was there: Harleys, Hondas, BMWs, Triumphs, Suzukis, scooters, crotch-rockets, choppers, custom bikes, stock bikes, home-built bikes, motorcycles with car engines, even a Topper Harley scooter. There were several motorcycles for sale. There was a lot of money riding in and out of Cassoday. It was definitely an impressive sight.

On one end of Main Street, a group of townspeople were cooking brats, hamburgers, and barbequed pork. The waiting line into the Cassoday Cafe was a good two hours. The waiting line to the cafe's tent breakfast was a good hour, and across the street there was a 30-minute wait for more food. The specialty was biscuits and gravy, not bad either.

Vendors were on hand to sell T-shirts, stickers, patches, jewelry, just about anything a biker would want as a memento from Cassoday.

About the only difference between Sturgis and Cassoday is there was no beer in Cassoday and no topless women - at least I didn't see any! But I did see a tattooed, cigar-smoking biker chick!

You could spend hours looking at all the motorcycles. New ones were coming in all the time. But all fun things must come to an end, and the next leg of our day trip took us north on 177 to Council Grove where we stopped to eat at the Hays House. It was a Sunday buffet, and the fried chicken was great!

We picked up Highway 56 in Council Grove and took it all the way back into Olathe.

'How was the trip?' my wife Terri asked when I got home.

'Awesome,' I said. 'I think I'm going to have to make this a monthly trip during riding season.'

She gave me 'the Stare.' But that's okay, we bikers can take it! Now, if you'll excuse me, there are some dishes in the sink that need to be washed!

Story & photos by Chuck Kurtz