The day started for me at 4am in the morning on Saturday trying to get out of the house to make Marengo by 6am. I kept thinking I had it all in the car only to say "Doh!" and return for forgotten items. The last time I was two blocks from the house when I remembered that I forgot my cell phone and camera. Double Doh!!
I arrived with no further problems in Marengo by 5:55 am at Doose's Cafe'. I had driven through some fairly heavy rain, and I was wondering if anybody would show up besides David Pals, who helped plan the event. Once David showed up, Corey Heintz walks in with Matt Maxwell and Emily Broderson. After we had our breakfast nearly eaten, Paul Meyerman from Waterloo walks in. We had six folks in all. After a slow gearing up, we all pulled out of Marengo about 7:30am to hit the roads under a cloudy sky.
About the first 20 miles were dead flat riverside gravel. We rolled along together at a fairly quick pace, chatting and checking the skies now and again. After rolling through Belle Plaine the roads went up abruptly and the skies darkened. I got a bit worried because I knew that rain would turn the upcoming B road sections to mud rather quickly. I think David sensed the same thing and we upped the pace a bit in hopes that we would beat the rain out. Well..........we lost that race!
By the time we hit the second B section, it had been raining steadily for a good fifteen to twenty minutes, by far enough time to get us in trouble, and it did. First I went down at speed on a snotty, slick clay downhill. Surprised and shaken, but all right, I was about to get up when Paul rolled by cautiously and tumbled over right in front of me. We both got up and soldiered on to the next B road section, which was far worse. I started the downhill you see in the picture here and slowly came to a halt when mud packed up my wheels so bad that they wouldn't turn around any more. (Sound familiar you T.I.V2 vets?) We were resigned to walking that section with our bikes hoisted on our shoulders. Emily out did us all by getting about 50 yards further than any one else, but even she had to walk it. (By the way, I'm not even half way down the hill yet in that pic!) We had to walk up the other side of the hill, and then had another just like it afterwards, up and down a mile and a half. Mud was caked on our shoes to the point that each shoe weighed about five pounds a piece, added to the excess weight of the mud on our bikes. We were getting tired, it was raining heavily, and we were seeing lightning and hearing thunder the whole time. We decided to regroup at a shelter David and I had spotted two weeks before on the recon ride.
This little park area was right at the end of a long climb up out of the muddy B road section. Thank God! We were beat and needed a rest. The corn crib in the background of this photo was turned into a shelter house and we made good use of it. We decided to hang out for a bit and see if the rain was going to increase or decrease. We certainly didn't want to ride with lightning around either. In the meantime, Emily produced a flask of Wild Turkey that had "aged" in the back seat of her car a few days. I figured that you can't hardly ruin whiskey, even if the bottle had gotten cooked in a car, so we all had a swig. After some good laughs, we decided to cut off the loop through Montour because we were going to be short on time with all the walking and the gravel was saturated. The mushy spots lasted throughout the rest of the day, so this turned out to be a good decision. We lost about 22 miles of the route, cut out another potential muddy B road, but gained a lot of time.
Drive trains weren't too happy afterwards with mine wanting to spontaneously chain suck and Emily's 1 X 9 set up wanting to derail. We finally got it all under control and made it to the Casey's convenience store by noon. There we were quite the muddy, wet spectacles. Not as muddy as we were, courtesy of the continued rains, but still pretty gross. After refueling we got back on the gravel for the ride "home". The wind had come up which blew away the rain, but it was a head wind, of course, and was blowing about 25 miles an hour. We shivered as the rain soaked clothing dried on our bodies. After a misstep just outside of Toledo, we made it to the "Ridge Road" where I noticed we were getting all strung out, not riding together. I had to stop several times to let us regroup and to navigate. I didn't want to lose anybody out here. Emily passed around the flask a couple more times for "motivational purposes".
About 25 miles from the finish, I noticed I had a flat. (Gee, just like last year!) I pulled off and started to futz with my tubeless set up. For some reason, I couldn't seem to keep air in it, and then I saw that the valve was malfunctioning, so out came the ol' trusty tube. In the meantime, David busted out the beer he had bought and distributed amongst us. The rest of the crew stood and listened as Cory gave his "Ditch weedSermonette" pictured here. (Just kidding!) Those guys sounded like they were having fun. Paul helped me out with a couple of CO2 carts, (Thanks Paul!) and we were back on the road.
By this time, I was getting tired, so I layed back a bit, but I still found myself in third wheel behind Matt and Cory, which if they were in the right position, could be smelled on the wind even at 100 yards! I suppose we all stank! Eventually Emily's whiskey ran out, and we were all literally running on fumes. We had been working the head winds pretty solid, but it was taking it's toll. The sun was peeking through, and the humidity was getting oppressive. Several times we stopped just to refuel and drink........water! David promised us that the last six miles or so had 2000 feet of climbing. I knew the last three miles were dead flat, so I figured these hills must be monsters. Well, they were! They didn't hold us back though, and I rolled into Marengo at 5:54 pm.
We all headed over to David's house and got some pizza and beers to celebrate. Good fellowship and good food was had by all, but eventually all must come to an end. I took my leave at 9:00pm and made the hour long drive home with thoughts of a long, tough day in the saddle running through my head.
Thanks go out to David Pals for his hard work and hosting the aftermath gathering, and to all the riders on this years GTDRI. I had a great time and got to know some folks I didn't know so well a bit better. Until next year...............