Kansas City Woman Bikes for Butterflies

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Kansas native who has hiked the entire Continental Divide, canoed the Missouri River and biked from South America’s Andes into Texas is trying to add another 10,000-mile bike trip to her list of adventures.

Sara Dykman, 32 and formerly of Johnson County, is roughly 2,200 miles into her trek that began in March in Mexico, hoping to draw attention to the famously orange-and-black monarch butterflies that each year make their own cross-country migrations, The Kansas City Star reported.

“There really isn’t a more interesting migration on the planet, I would say. The migration is incredible to me,” said Dykman, who in coming days will speak at Kansas City-area schools during a pause in her “ButterBike” journey that will take her to Canada, then back.

Some 95 percent of the monarch population has been lost over the past two decades, largely because tens of millions of acres of the milkweed plants on which the caterpillars feed have been plowed under or uprooted by development.

Dykman her mountain bike laden with four saddlebags for her tent, sleeping bag, tin can stove, clothes, laptop and camera has traveled through rain, over hills and prairie flats so far during her trek, stopping occasionally to urge kids and adults to plant more milkweed in their gardens.

“We literally can share out backyards with them,” Dykman said of the butterflies.

By most accounts, Dykman is a minimalist: She doesn’t own a car or house, isn’t making the trek for money and has no financial sponsors. With a bachelor’s degree in biology at California’s Humboldt State University, she make a few dollars here and there doing field biology projects, and then sets forth on adventures that using her foot, bike or canoe cost her no more than about $10 a day. People may donate through her website, beyondabook.org.

“I tell people I’m retired now,” Dykman said, meaning while she’s still young and healthy, with plenty of time for work later.

“I figure I’ll have to work until I’m 90,” she said, laughing.

Orley “Chip” Taylor, the 79-year-old director of the nonprofit Monarch Watch based in Lawrence, Kansas, cheers Dykman’s efforts.

“I think Sara is personalizing this mission in a way that few of us can,” said Taylor, who said he consulted with her on what might be the best monarch route to follow.

Given that the extensiveness of the loss of milkweed, Taylor said, many states are now trying to put together planting plans to counter the loss. A proposal of Taylor’s own is to create what he called a “milkweed highway” by cultivating the plants in the median and other areas along highways from Mexico to Canada.

All the while, Dykman pedals.

“The whole route is 10,000 miles,” she said, knowing how that sounds. “It’s crazier that a butterfly does it.”

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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