Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trans Iowa Masters Program: Route News

Well, I had a goal of getting the details done on the Trans Iowa Masters Program by the end of 2013, so it is about time I got crackin'! I sat down in two evenings in a row and cranked out the draft for the cue sheets. By my figuring, the course is a lot longer than I thought it would be!

The first Trans Iowa was about 310-320 miles. Somewhere in between those figures anyway. However; that was only getting you to Decorah and it left about 3 miles on the table on the Western side, if you actually start at the border. My intentions were to "give the people what they want" and make it truly border to border. That meant adding on the little bit from the Big Sioux River at Highway 10's crossing of it to where we started T.I.v1 and 2 at the Eastern edge of Hawarden, and also a big chunk east of Decorah.

The route is fairly direct West to East. There is a jog Northward to go through Forest City and avoid some obstacles, but then it sticks to the Northern tier of counties till the eastern border. That said, once you pass into the Driftless Region of Iowa, the roads go every which way and the route has to zig-zag around a lot to get to the Mississippi River at Lansing, Iowa.

The start of the 1st Trans Iowa- You'll use this on the TIMP as well.
 I figured it would add something to the route to the tune of 340-ish miles, but 376.84?!! That's right folks, 376-ish miles across the great State of Iowa, mostly on gravel roads.

There is a fair chunk of paved stuff, but here's the deal with regard to this. I could have eliminated a lot of paved roads, especially the ones going into and out of larger towns and cities, but if I did that, the supply situation on route would have suffered greatly. So, in light of the ability to find open stores, or stores at all, I allowed more pavement than I would have liked to. That said, the course is overwhelmingly gravel, and there are B Maintenance dirt roads for sure!

The funny thing about B Maintenance roads is that due to their relative scarcity in the Northeast parts of Iowa, I never knew about them until we reconned T.I.v1. In Western Iowa, the dirt road is a commonplace occurrence. So the TIMP course reflects this. Most of the dirt roads occur West of Interstate 35, and once you get East of that major road that bisects Iowa North to South, there will only be two more B Maintenance roads! That said, that will likely be all right with riders of the TIMP since there will be sections where there are three straight miles of dirt at a crack.

Riders in Western Iowa on T.I.V1
Speaking of "straight miles", I am pretty sure there are at least three sections of 20+ miles in one direction on the course. Most of that in Western Iowa. That shouldn't surprise anyone.

The elevation profile is interesting. Overall, you'll be going downhill with the wind, (if it is average weather.) Things start out at their highest out West, but all you'll notice are the ever rolling hils. You'll get to the Little Sioux River Valley and there will be some big down hill runs and some steep grunts. Then you'll get into the "mind numbingly flat" section of Iowa's central plain.

Things won't seem too bad up until you get about 80 miles from the end, then things will start to roll, then get downright nasty hilly! From about 70 miles to the finish, there will hardly be a flat, straight section of road anymore. All those straight, boring parts will be a something you might be missing by the time you hit the final miles of the TIMP.

I made a few tweaks to the intended course, and I will amend the TIMP page on the Trans Iowa site to reflect this. Here is a basic breakdown....
  • Border to border means that,  (depending on what checking things out shows me), you get to dip your tires in at the Big Sioux, (Western Iowa's border), and in the Mississippi on the East. This is truly a "Trans Iowa" course. 
  • There will be cities that you pass through where goods and services can be obtained at somewhat regular intervals, but timing of your arrival to such places may preclude the ability to get stuff. Keep that in mind! 
  • The course cues will be split up into two "Semesters", the first going about 200 miles in, and the second one approximately 176 more miles in. 
  • There will, (hopefully), be the bridal path dubbed "East-West", which is about a mile in length, that you will have to traverse in Pilot Knob State Park . I will verify that it is still there before I put the green light on that bit. While a mile doesn't sound like much, trust me.....you'll be happy when it is over! (Maybe not though!)
  • Towns and cities on the route as planned include now; Hawarden, Orange City, Paulina, Sutherland, Peterson, Linn Grove, Mallard, West Bend, Algona, Forest City, Osage, Cresco, Decorah, and Lansing. (West to East)
  • In almost all cases, I routed past convenience stores for your......well, convenience! This adds to the complexity of the cues and adds pavement, but there it is. 
  • There is one section of bicycle trail I used on the East side of Paulina. 
  • Trans Iowa route sections include bits from V1, V2, V3, and V4. There are a few new bits as well sprinkled throughout. (Obviously a big chunk East of Decorah)
  • You will ride past the farm where my relatives settled after coming from Scotland. 
That's about it for now. I'll have more on TIMP coming up soon. Stay tuned!

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