|The scene at the ride start|
Note: This is a long one!
The ride was put on by Craig with help from his friends and started right at his home. About 10 fellows started out a bit after 6pm to get started on the 64+ mile quest to ride into the night under the light of a full moon.
I had ridden down with Trans Iowa finisher and 3GR rider, Robert, and we arrived at the start point with plenty of time to run over and grab a sandwich. Turns out we didn't know that we could have eaten at the ride start, since there was a ton of food there. Oh well!
The ride started out at a brisk pace, but not too bad. It wasn't but a few miles in before we hit a very dry, rutted out B Maintenance road which splintered the group into small pairs and triplets. Craig had told me earlier on the 3GR ride that it was extremely dusty and dry down his way and he wasn't kidding. I could see the dry dirt kicking up off of the tires of riders ahead of us and with no wind to speak of, the dust held up in the air, making things a bit difficult.
I found myself riding early on with Trans Iowa veteran, Rob. We chatted and passed the early miles as we picked our way through the dusty, rutted B road.
|Dust kicked up by a car in the distance|
Craig had several B roads packed into the beginning of the course, and these were so dry, it was as if they were covered in a fine layer of Nestle's Quick powder. The dirt was so fine it was causing the tires to drift and bikes to fish tale a bit. Good thing the ground was mostly flat. Also, it was a good thing we were hitting that stuff in what was left of daylight.
|The sun sets.|
The rest of the bike was all standard set up for me. The BMC was riding just great. The change to cyclo cross chain rings using the FSA chain ring duo works so much better for my legs than the old compact set up ever did. Retroshifters just work no matter what the situation, and I have figured out an alternative for shifting while descending that gets the job done.
So, the ride continued across the flat plain and then we crossed Highway 30 to something with more rollers- to start out with!
Then we ran into some of the worst dust of the ride. Some of it was kicked up by cars that we saw, but sometimes we just would run through some clouds of unexplained dust. The cars passing by were the worst. The dust particles would be so big, it would seem that my eyes would have grit all over them, and of course, you couldn't see anything with all that dust. It was just crazy, especially going down hill.
The dust and heat was making my throat very dry, and I was going through water.......well, like water! I was a bit concerned, because we hadn't even gone 15 miles yet, and I had made a big dent in my first water bottle already.
|A rider tops out on an 18% grade|
By this time, Craig and another rider had caught up with Rob and I and we had become a foursome. Craig knew the route like the back of his hand, and he had a GPS computer, so I stuck with him and put my cue sheets away. Turns out I wouldn't get them out for the rest of the evening.
The course turned onto a B Road and then kicked up a "wall" which turned out to be about an 18% grade. It reminded me a lot of the "wall" that is west of Traer that was featured in "300 Miles of Gravel". I made it up, but it tested me and I used a pretty low gear scaling it. I managed to catch back on to the few that got off the front ahead of me and we were back to a foursome once more.
Soon we were joined by one more rider and became a five-some. It turned out now only a small number of riders were now out in front of us. Maybe we would catch them? But right at the moment, we were getting to the point where the lights had to come on. About this same time, one of our group, the only 26 inch wheeled rider, had to stop to air up his rear tire which was getting soft.
|The Moon Over the course|
This provided the chance to flick my two head lights on and my rear tail light blinkie. We re-mounted and traversed slightly curvy roads with gentle hills until we made a right turn onto a B Road that was very deep in powdery dirt. I managed to slip my weight back a bit, unweighting the front wheel, which allowed me to power through the cocoa powder road surface. I could hear others behind me exclaiming and by the sounds of it, the guys were having troubles. Then the course went downward and I began to pick up speed.
As I was concentrating carefully on my line and trying to pick out the smoothest route, I heard Rob say "Rider down!" from behind me. I slowed and said, "Someone down?" Rob confirmed this, so I simply let my bike be slowed by the deep powder and rolled to a stop.
|Convenience Store stop with 20 to go.|
I was now counting down the miles in my mind, waiting to find the convenience store stop at 45 miles in Solon. Flattish roads, mild rollers, and several turns passed by with little conversation. Rob and I were at the front of the little group we were in, and every once in awhile, we'd stop for the 26"er rider to re-air up his rear wheel. Even with the frequent stops, Craig felt we were making good progress, so I didn't worry to much about it.
Now we were on a long stretch of road, about ten miles, which was winding, rollers, and was the last run in to Solon and a break off the bike. I was really low on water, but Craig had passed me a bottle which he had in reserve, and that helped. The gravel on this road was rough, loose, and cobby to start, but then it smoothed out, and finally became pavement-like before we hit the last few miles which were on actual pavement.
I was riding pretty well, but I was definitely ready for a break and was wanting to re-fuel.
|Bewildering lights and tired legs at the end.|
I barely scarfed down my eats when I felt like the rest of the group was getting set to leave. The fellow that crashed bailed out here, so he didn't leave with us. Rob and Charles hooked up and sped away from us almost immediately after we left, which put Craig, the 26"er guy, and myself as the final trio of riders out on the Moonshine Metric.
As we left, we were running into pockets of really cold air. Actually, it had been progressively getting colder all along, but we would still hit air pockets that were warmer as well. The weird temperature inversions were puzzling. In the end, we had hit enough cool air that my feet were very cold.
Craig saved the real doozy climbs and downhills for the final 20 miles. There were steep ascents that taxed me severely, and the down hills were super fast, sketchy with loose gravel, and along with my tired mental state, were testing me severely as well. I actually got scared on the last big, fast descent into the Cedar River Valley, and the whoop-de-doos in the road didn't help matters any!
The long day of riding on fat bikes in the morning and now my Orange Crush in the evening was taking its toll. Fortunately the route leveled out a bit and one chunky B road and another fast descent into Mount Vernon was all there was of consequence before we got back to Craig's house where there was more food, beer, and great conversations around a fire. By 3am we were all headed to our respective sleeping destinations and spent the night. In the morning, Craig made us sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast. Robert and I were very thankful and took our leave of Craig to come home at about 10:30am.
I got about 112 miles in on two separate rides with great people. Good times were had, and lots of dust inhaled! Thanks to Craig, Charles, and everyone that had a hand in the Moonshine Metric. Thanks also to Robert for the excellent conversations and ride down and back from the event.