Friday, April 29, 2011
<====John Gorrilla and Sean Mailen coming into Checkpoint #1: Image by Wally Kilburg
Checkpoint #2: 6:40pm : We had gotten word from some folks that the leaders were stopped in Norway, Iowa at a convenience store getting food and water. We weren't far from there and we knew it wouldn't be long before we had our first glimpse of Trans Iowa riders since Checkpoint #1, 10 hours earlier. We patiently waited as Jeff Fring set up his camera in the ditch where he would have a low angle viewpoint of the rider's arrival. Soon enough, here came two riders abreast over the small rise in the road. To my surprise, it wasn't exactly the pair I thought it might be.
Sure, John Gorrilla was there, but his companion, Sean Mailen, was somewhat of a surprise to us. we hadn't seen, nor heard his name all morning. Of course, it was a matter of "flying under the radar", not that he couldn't be there, or that he didn't have the ability. Certainly, we knew he was a strong rider from last year's attempt at T.I.V6. It was also entirely possible he could have had a mechanical, like Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey did, or that he had an injury flare up, like Lance Andre. Great riders entirely capable of winning a Trans Iowa that had misfortune visit that day.
So seeing Sean's smiling face at Checkpoint #2 was a pleasant surprise, nothing more, nothing less. John joked with us saying, "Well, I'd like to see what you think a lot of B Roads are!", in reference to my comments before Trans Iowa that there were only a "few B Roads" between Checkpoint #1 and #2. Well, there turned out to be more than "a few", but that due to an auto-routing error that put us off our intended course by printing off different cues. Technology. Not all that reliable yet!
<===Charlie Farrow (left), and Tim Ek, (right), were all business at the checkpoint.
It wasn't long before Gorrilla and Mailen were off again, and then on their heels pulls up Ek and Farrow. Unlike the smiling, relaxed pair in before them, Ek and Farrow were graven, serious, and said little while they grabbed cues and prepared to give chase to the leaders up the road.
That was the cue for David and I to head out to check on the course. We discovered another bridge out, and re-routed that corner a mile north. Then onward to see "S Avenue", which we knew might be a bit sketchy. We took a look at the steeply sloping downhill B Road, and deemed it okay for travel, then moved on. Night was falling, and soon our second stint of darkness would be upon us.
There wasn't much to say about the next hour or so. David and I chatted in the car as we navigated by the cues. Everything was falling into place until we reached Belle Plaine.
Southern Benton County is very confusing to navigate. The roads which should make sense in a grid system are twisted out of their East-West, North-South ways by hills, rivers, and ravines. Roads meet at obtuse angles and compass points can be hard to keep straight. David and I have been snookered several times riding our bicycles in this area. Even Joe Meiser, the winner of T.I.V5, was confused in this area, as it was the place where he made his infamous 4am phone call for directions to me.
<===Denis Grelk at Checkpoint #2, image by Wally Kilburg
So, we get to a sign that says 11th something-or-another, and we were to turn left. Now, mind you, we weren't checking mileage at all. Why? Because the signs have more influence than the mileages do, or so it seems, so we were trying to keep it as "real" as we could, in terms of navigation. So, we get into Belle Plaine, and nothing makes any sense at all!
We ended up finding the street we were to come in on, and back tracked it out of town to the corner where we should have turned left. Well! Whaddya know! It says 11th something-or-another as well! One was an "avenue", one was a "street trail". Wow. How goofy is that? David and I marked the corner where we went wrong to show you should go straight through, then headed into town to grab a bite to eat.
It was nice since David suggested we go in and have a "sit down dinner". It was a great way to re-charge our batteries for the remainder of the night. Once we had eaten, we hit the streets of Belle Plaine, and we didn't get far before we hit another snag in the signing of the streets.
Once again, wonky signage made our brains go awry. We had a devil of a time finding the correct street out, and when we did, it was found to have three different signs/names in the span of about six blocks. Ridiculous! So, we staked out some markers in hopes that the riders would see our suggestions on how to follow the cues out of town.
After that, the cues made sense and we were good to go. The turns were still requiring all the mind power a sleep deprived mind could muster though, and we would stop sometimes and have to work through things that were simple when our minds were fresh. It doesn't at all surprise me that riders get confused, disoriented, and second guess everything at every turn. We went through it all as well. It is part of the challenge of the event. Certainly we could tweak things out better, and I was already making plans as we drove the course to do just that.
At any rate, we drove on. I have to say that northern Mahaska County has the weirdest signs on the roads I've seen. Instead of being on the corners, they were about 20-50 yards down the south bound road, and on a pole about two stories high! I think it was because we were driving on the East/West county border, but still......that was bizarre!
So, we ended up giving up finding the route at about 4:00am and went and slept in Grinnell for a couple of hours. Then we were back at it, driving the course backward after a getting word that riders were getting lost. This was a concern, so we drove backward down the course to find everyone we knew was still going.
The first rider we saw was again a surprise. We were sure we'd see John Gorrilla up front, but here was Dennis Grelk! Did we miss the leaders when we stopped for gas in Montezuma? Maybe we did. We kept rolling as we wondered what was up. Then another lone rider. It was Gorrilla! Huh.....maybe Dennis was winning Trans Iowa! We got excited even more as we cam across Ek, Farrow, Krause, and trailing behind, Sean Mailen. Yes, Dennis Grelk was winning Trans Iowa V7!
Meanwhile, we had to keep looking for riders. It wasn't long before we came across three's and four's of riders heading west under a bright, sunlit sky. These were for the most part all going to be finishers, since they were well within striking distance of getting to Grinnell before 2pm. Some were even taking rests, so we stopped to chat and see how they were. As it turned out, mostly good was the report we heard. Nothing too unusual and the riders we spoke with all seemed to be in great spirits. We still hadn't caught up with everyone, so we pressed on.
Still coming across a few riders, David and I were anxiously looking for the last women out on course. We heard the night before, after Checkpoint #2 closed, that two of the three women riding the event from Checkpoint #1 were quitting. That left Janna Vavre, who was from the Lincoln, Nebraska area. We knew that several Lincoln folks had gone through Checkpoint #2 with her, so we were hoping experienced T.I. riders were there riding her in. In fact, we had word from the riders we were running across that they had seen her, or had been in the group with her in the night.
Well, eventually we did see Janna and another Cycle Works clad rider, (Scott Bigelow), coming down the road just east of North English. Cool! Then we found our remaining two riders in North English. Mission accomplished. Everyone we knew that was still riding, present and accounted for, and still on the route.
We hadn't heard anything about a finisher by this point, and we were a bit puzzled by this, since Dennis and John weren't all that far from the finish when we saw them. We put out a text to Steve Fuller, to see if our photographer had any better info for us. We waited, and we turned the Element back towards Grinnell............