|Gathering in the pre-dawn light.|
When I pulled up to the Jackson County Welcome Center, there were a few cars there already, riders milling about, and I noted one of them was Steve Fuller. He had stayed all night there in his SUV. It was not a pleasant experience for him, as the River is lined with railway, and locomotives pass by all night long working hard to pull their loads. Also, the highway is quite busy as well, being the lifeline from one of the rare bridges across the Mississippi. As a bonus, the air smelled bad there. Like the cross between a wet dog's but mixed with rotting fish. Bleech!
It was obvious that this was going to be the best attended GTDRI ride ever. The old record of twelve was smashed and people were still pulling in. Pumps were brandished and the hiss of the Presta valve could be heard off and on in the half-light of the early day. I conferred with Ari about how we should start, and right about 5am, I called the riders to line up in front of the old white school house on the grounds there.
|A look over my shoulder after the start.|
It was maybe a little past 5:00am, but we were off. A bit of a pavement climb and then we were on gravel. The group strung out almost immediately and some of the slower folks were off the back there and out of my sight. This was a big group with a diverse set of rider abilities. How would we keep it all together?
I knew Ari was back there so I kept an eye out for the front runners and just settled into a groove. This was going to be a long, long day in the saddle, so no need to put in any leg-breaking efforts outta the gate. The weather was...well it was about as good as it gets in July. Probably in the 70's, not a cloud in the sky to start out with, and hardly any breeze. Oh....but I knew it was gonna get hot later!
One of my favorite things about the ride right out of the gate and all the time I was with anyone was that there was chatter. Folks talking to other folks and enjoying each others company. So cool! This was no competitive deal, no one was showing their guns or trying to "put the hurt" on anyone. A ride on bicycles. In the country. This was awesome!
Another really cool moment was when I was about mid-pack, cresting a hill. The next turn, a left hander, was coming up a quarter mile ahead of me. The field to my left was all rolling hills and a large herd of horses was pasturing in it. They were gathered at the corner as the lead riders approached. Then they turned and galloped along the fence line with the leaders. It was an awesome sight to see about 20-25 horses galloping along with the brightly colored jerseys of the riders.
Well, those leaders, they were chatting up a storm and not looking to see how far ahead they were. I was not going to chase them down, but I took opportunities when they came up to work my way towards the front. One more downhill and a roller. Got to them! I cautioned them that we were getting really strung out and we needed to keep the "no drop" rule in effect. At the next turn we stopped then to gather up the stragglers.
Here's a line of images from the morning.....
|The sun breaks the horizon|
|A hog barn in the morning light.|
|Riding up with the leaders for a bit.|
|A lot tougher than it looks!|
|I can see for miles and miles and miles and......|
We passed through the village of Miles, then at Preston we gathered up the group again. Pushing off from there we were met with more hills and great scenery. Finally, after my tummy was saying I needed to eat, we arrived in Maquoketa, our first spot to refuel and resupply. I had been feeling pretty good up to this point and was excited to see even more stunning scenery.
Part 3 tomorrow.....