Saturday, July 05, 2008

GTDRI: The Course Recon

<===Hard, smooth, and fast. Better than gravel!

I got out Friday for my recon ride of my proposed Guitar Ted Death Ride course. It was a great morning, slight winds, and 77 degrees. I started out from the parking lot of the Pronto station in La Porte City. Heading out on a bit of pavement, I then turned south on gravel.

The good news is that the County road crews have maintained the roads. The bad news is that the County road crews have maintained the roads! Chunky roads ruled the day. Lots of vibrations from all the rough gravel was a constant reminder of all the recent work done. This would play itself out in a couple important ways in the coming hours.

<=== Another roller coaster fast B road

The first two B roads were the smoothest sections I rode. Fast and fun, these were a welcome respite from all the rattling gravel. On the second stretch I saw a strange sight. Purplish looking "smoke" floating above the road surface. I looked for the source of this "smoke" and then I ran into a cloud of "it" and found out what was really going on. Gnats! No really..........a cloud of gnats! Or I should say, many clouds of them. It was hard to see as they plastered my glasses, me, and the bike. Fortunately, I wasn't all sweaty yet, and most of the gnats blew off me as fast as they had been plastered on. The rest of the first 25 miles or so were uneventful otherwise. Nice rolling hills, more chunk gravel, and beautiful weather.

<=== South of Traer the big hills get going.

I stopped for a breather about 25 miles in just south of Traer. The hills start in just south of there and are pretty relentless for the next 35-40 miles. Still dealing with chunkier gravel with no real clear runs where the car tires usually clear off the gravel meant weaving back and forth looking for the best lines. It kept me busy at least!

I noticed the temperature jumped up to 88 degrees and the winds had picked up a bit. (Eventually it got up to 96 degrees later on) I was due to start traversing west, so it didn't really affect my progress. The hills were pretty big and I caught my high speed for the day going down one of these westward bound hills.

<====The Badger and I take a break from the hills.

I kept slogging up the steep hills and it was taking a toll on me. Rest stops were becoming a bit more frequent. One, two, and then three in the space of about 15 miles. My guts were, ah....shall we say, gassy? Emissions were becoming frequent. Anyway, besides that my head wasn't feeling just right, and then just about 7 miles from Garwin, I ran out of water!

I was hoping for a convenience store to be in Garwin, but what I hadn't thought of was that it was the 4th of July. Yeah, little towns and Sunday's, special days, and holidays meant that any convenience store or business was likely to be closed. Small towns are still like that. Used to be every town and city in Iowa did that, but those were the "old days". Would Garwin be one of those towns? I was sure hoping they wouldn't be.

<==== Lucky for me the lights were on!

I got into Garwin and found the oasis of Pronto open for business. Yes! Refueled here and hit the road to the strains of "How Great Thou Art" being performed at the towns 4th of July celebrations. Heading out again north and west. Garwin is just over the halfway point of the ride, so now I was on the "backside" of the circuit and was heading back towards Traer and La Porte.

The course gets tamer after Garwin. Almost downright flat in places. A very welcome relief from the crazy steep hills that came before. Interestingly, the last B road on the course is just north of Garwin. I took it and as I was tooling along, I heard a strange noise coming up from behind me. A pickup truck! How many B roads have I been on and I've never had a vehicle meet me or overtake me. Well, i pulled over to the side, rolling slowly and let the truck pass by. It was full of young hooligans that were making some sort of "call me" gestures out the window at me. Hrummph! Whatever........

I continued onward to cross Highway 63 for the second time. A mile east and then back north a bout four miles to cross that highway again for the second to last time. The final crossing being in Traer. A few monster climbs in between me and Traer, but also a sweet ridge road descent of about five miles. That would take me to Traer.

Suddenly I heard a "knock.......knock......knock" that was timed with every pedal stroke. Crap! The bottom bracket? I looked down and it was still screwed into the frame all the way. I tried wiggling the crank arms back and forth. Yep! Loose crank arm! I couldn't believe it. In fact, I was in denial for about another mile before I decided to stop and see if by chance I had an 8mm allen wrench. Well, I didn't have one and ended up calling in for a ride. I was about 65 miles in and had to walk/coast another 4.5 miles to catch my ride from Mrs Guitar Ted and my kids.

I didn't get to finish out the ride, but the rest of the course is well known to me and I have ridden parts of it already this year. We should be good. No crazy frost heaves, no washed out bridges, and the roads are intact. One thing you will need though, and that's to double check your rigs. All this rough gravel will shake loose parts that are not secured perfectly before hand.

We should have stops with convenience stores at Garwin at just over the halfway point, Traer at just over 70 miles in, and then it's back to La Porte City. The crazy big hills are all concentrated in the first half of the course with the exception of a few monsters just before Traer. If it rains, the B roads will be a mess, but hopefully it will be dry. I'll have cue sheet info coming soon.

As for the Badger, I'll have to see if I stopped soon enough to prevent damage to the splined interface, but I'm guessing it is roached. Usually once they come loose, they're done. So, I'll be looking for a square taper replacement here. Stay tuned..........

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