Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trans Iowa V8: Recon Report

I have made some big inroads on recon for T.I.V8. One third done with physical recon, 75% sure on the rest, with only a short bit to do in country I've never been in before. It's coming together very nicely!

Barns For Jason!
It was an intensely sunny day, and where I was, it got so warm I ended up using the A/C in the "Truck With No Name" . Dust was kicking up to the heavens from my passage.

First of all, I apologize for the cheesy images. I was driving my rig at about 45mph, swanning all over the road, and trying to get photos while I read maps, mentally did calculations, and watched out for farm implements and dogs. So, yeah.......sorry about the reflections and ghost images! That said, feel free to click on an image to enlarge it and see if you can guess where in Iowa I was.

Goals: With this edition of Trans Iowa, I wanted to cover a lot of ground I hadn't been over before. I wanted to try something a little more daring, (from a course choice standpoint, not really affecting you riders), and because of these things, I had some major questions to answer during recon. It was going to be a kind of "winner takes all" deal, or I was going to come back home with my tail between my legs and have to start from scratch.

Look at the dust from the truck!
I had a course to Checkpoint #1 figured out a long time ago. It's about 55 miles in. Since that is country I've been in quite a bit, I don't have much worry about it. I'll recon that later, but what came after would be critical to making my loop for T.I.V8 work.

I started in the Checkpoint town, and what came immediately after, well......frankly it is pretty boring! Typical grid, flat, straight Iowa roads for several miles. Really. (I know lots of you Vets are thinking I'm playing you, but you'll see!) I was thinking this was going to be a long, uninspiring day, but things got a bit more interesting the further I went into the "big-assed loop"

I am purposely cutting back the number of B Maintenance roads this time, because, well......ya know, it's supposed to be a "bad year" this time around, right?

This may get the axe!
  The first B Maintenance road is a cake walk. Flat, high elevation, ditches, and a mile long. Won't be too bad unless it rains during the event. The next one; however, is a different story altogether.

Those who did T.I.V7 may remember the steep, gnarly B Road on 270th after Checkpoint #1. This next B Road is like that one. Well, the image here is from the second B Road, and if you click on the image to make it larger, you'll see where the road disappears going down, and you can see it again in the distance. That descent is steep!  Plus, and this is the deal killer, it goes over a low water crossing that will be too dangerous if we have any wet weather next spring. I'm pretty sure I'm going to cut it out, but man! It is pretty rad right now. Too bad....

The work-around is super easy, so I may wait on this to make a call in the spring. Stay tuned.....

Another barn for Jason!
So, I wended my way down, around, and through some territory I hadn't been through before. This was very enjoyable for me. It is what makes doing all this work fun.

There were two critical bridges that needed to be there and in great shape to make this section of the loop work. Fortunately, both were in excellent shape, and only if we have catastrophic flooding will these be in any danger of not being in use at the time of T.I.V8.

This sector went by pretty fast, but was more rolling, very scenic, and dead straight. You'll go miles before needing to make a turn, so don't fall asleep at the wheel and miss one! It's funny how that can happen- You're thinking you don't have to worry about looking for a turn for awhile, and the next thing ya know.....whoops!

Why I Have to Drive The Course
 Then it happened! The dreaded "Road Closed" sign reared its ugly little head. Drat!

But......this is why you have to physically lay eyes on every mile of the course. I/we have not always done that in the past, and almost every time, it'll bite ya come Trans Iowa time. I'm not taking any short cuts this time around folks. I am personally going to inspect every foot of my T.I.V8 course this time around.

Well, this was shown on the maps as "being open", but it obviously is going to be taken out, and I'm betting this bridge won't be replaced. So, I sat there with the map and plotted out a work-around. It didn't take too long, and with the help of some soaring hawks, I found the way around the closed road. It actually was a better way to go too.

So, two questions answered, one problem solved, and the next question was fast approaching.

Going (way) Down?
I was in a county township I'd never been in before, going to a town I'd never been in before. I had to ascertain the best way to get into this town using the least amount of pavement and keeping away from some heavily traveled highways.

With a bit of map perusing on a sunlit rural hill, I found the correct solution! Onward, I also discovered a nice convenience store which was just off-route. This would work great with the one I discovered earlier back up the road, that was a total surprise to me. Getting re-supplied should be no problem in the first half of T.I.V8.

Getting out of this city, I was headed to the "do-or-die" section of the course.

And the day is saved!
If the bridge isn't there, the course would have to be scrapped. This was a lynch pin to the whole loop. I had been looking at aerial photographs of the area on Google, but you never know. I saw the bridge, but..... Like I said, ya gotta drive the entire course.

If that bridge wasn't there, I'd have to go miles out of the way, and have to re-configure the linkage points, and well....fortunately it didn't have to go that way. I'll tell ya, I was pretty stoked to see this bridge when I saw it.

With that out of the way, I entered more strange, new, and scenic land that I was really having a good time checking out. The "grid" was abolished here. Yup. Hang on tight to that wheel and keep the truck on the road! Curves, and lots of em, were snaking up, down, and around the beautiful land. 

By now it was well past noon, and I didn't know how much more recon I was going to be able to squeeze in.

Cemetery On The Hill

I don't plan this, really, but somehow I always seem to drive by lots of cemeteries. They find me, I don't look for them!  I get a lot of ribbing from certain T.I. vets about this phenomenon, and to be honest, finishing T.I.V3 and starting T.I.V5 at cemeteries probably didn't help my cause any. Honestly though, Iowa must have a cemetery about every ten miles in any given direction. Heck, I found one on the first B Road! Weird.

So, yeah, give me a hard time about this all ya want to, but I can not help it. Iowa has lots of bodies planted in its black earth. What that will raise up in crop someday is anybodies guess....

At any rate, the course here in this neck of the woods is really hilly.  I T.I. Vets are astonished to hear this as well.....

Going (way) Up?
So, in the end I had to cut things short and head back home. I promised Mrs. Guitar Ted I'd show up in time for the evening meal, and I had a loooong drive ahead of me to get back to town.

I am pretty stoked. Every sticky point was no big deal, and I only found the sketchy B Road and the road closed sign that gave me any pause. The course so far is pretty solid. The roads are, for the most part, not ones to be closed down, truncated, or have any sketchy bridges that may get closed before T.I.V8.

They are roads that are stunningly beautiful, (with exception of the opening miles after Checkpoint #1), and lots of this course, (lots of it), is on twisty-turning roads that will be a blast to ride on. Now- I only did about just shy of 120 miles of this course, but I know a large portion of the rest ahead of me that I haven't been on ever before promises to be just as interesting as what I've laid eyes on already. There is one, big sticking point to ferret out yet, but I have two options to choose from. I am certain a solution will present itself. I'll be doing more recon soon. Stay tuned......


Bill G said...

Awesome Mark and it can never be said enough but thanks! You put heart and soul into TI!

Ari said...

I will be moving to New York to further the Slender Fungus in that part of the country. My new boss already knows I will be heading out to Iowa in April. Road look great!