Wednesday, July 30, 2014

GTDRI Report: It Could Have Been Worse- Part 4

"2 Mitts" Burger Shack in Elkader Iowa was a treat on the GRTDI for 2014
Rolling up to the heart of Elkader, Iowa we clocked in at 68 miles. It was 11:45am. I was stoked.

I figured that we made up about 45 minutes to an hour on time coming from Wadena. It was an up-lifter, because now we could lounge around and not be in such a hurry to get out of town to get in the final 48 miles. That doesn't sound like many miles, but these miles would by far be the hardest of the entire ride.

I was also stoked that I was able to continue to stay hydrated and not get hungry. The chips at Wadena and the chocolate milk actually worked well. Now it was time to sidle up to the tiny burger shack and order up some grub to chew on. "2 Mitts" is a funky joint made from a travel trailer and from its little enclosure comes boiled hamburgers, brats, or hotdogs with or without onions and cheese. Order up a bag of chips and a soda. That's the menu. It was told to me that 2 Mitts is a very popular joint there in Elkader, and by the looks of the line of folks that constantly were there waiting on some boiled goodness, it was probably a true statement.

I got a cheeseburger, no onions, and a root beer. (I still had a half a bag of chips from Wadena!) I set down at a shaded picnic table and chowed down. It was a perfect amount of food. Then a trip across the street to the convenience store, a much better stocked and modern one than Wadena's, and purchased some peanut butter crackers for later and a purple Gatorade along with a bottle of water. Topped off the fluids and I was ready to go.! You cannot lick my ice cream cone, Jeremy! Michael Lemberger and Jeremy Fry behind 2 Mitts in Elkader.
Big views, more flowers, and heat. Just East of Elkader, Iowa.
Windmills for Paul Errington
We spent about an hour at Elkader and then it was time to mount up and get after those big climbs. Things started out nice and easy with gentler grades and a couple really fast down hills. The views are spectacular out here and I was reminded once again why this course has been a favorite of mine over the years. "Brutally Beautiful" is how I like to describe it. The hills are tough and you hurt bad with the heat and efforts, but the payoff is grand. Descents are hairy and fast. Michael Lemberger said earlier regarding the climbs and the "pay-off" afterward: "This is a currencty I could get used to." Works for me! I wonder if the heat and light company would trade hills bagged for electricity and gas?

I am pretty familiar with this country having ridden it twice before and reconned through this area a few times for Trans Iowa and the GTDRI. I didn't need cue sheets! Plus, I knew what was coming. Hills were going to get steeper and the weather wasn't cooling off at all. In fact, even the wind went away. Probably a "worse case scenario" for me, but there was nothing I could do but pedal onward. So, that's what I did. It was slow going on some of the climbs because it was like single speeding with too tall a gear.

Grape Road, Harbor Road, and over toward Ironwood Road, (which is paved now, but wasn't in '09-'10), and the climbing was brutal on the Tamland. I handled it all okay, but it was slowly taking a toll on me. I could feel my core temp raising little by little, and with no breeze and full Sun, it was tough to cool down on anything but a 30+ mph down hill, which didn't last long enough! The country out this way was really "open" as well, which left no where to hide from the elements. It was also the highest elevation point on the ride, so we could see for miles away from the ridge tops.

The turn off to Ironwood Road was where we all stopped to gather up again. Then it was off on a bit of an easy stretch on pavement toward our first B Maintenance road of the day.

Imperial Road. A nice steady climb through the trees to start out with. 
The tamest section of Impala Road. I didn't dare take any images while descending the gnarly bits! 
Imperial Road is the tamest of the two B Maintenance roads on the course. It is pretty much a straight shot at a gentle upward grade. The rocks are bigger here and most of the lane is going through a shaded area, which was nice for a change that day! Up toward the top; however, things changed. The trees go away, and there was fresh, fist sized rock spread across the entire roadway. Still going upward, the Tamland's lack of a low gear made for really stupid efforts to be expended just to stay going forward. In an effort to conserve energy, I got off and walked a bit.

At the end of Impala Road we ran across the RAGBRAI route again.
Then it was another "up-down" on gravel, a Left On Ironwood Road again, and a bit more pavement to Impala Road, where we would hit one of the most unique B Maintenance Roads in the State.

Impala Road starts out with a roller coaster down hill where you can easily reach speeds over 40 mph, then it goes right back up as steeply. The climb got me off the bike again since by now the heat and gradients were just too much for me and my bike's gearing. As I was walking along, pushing the bike, a Chevy Tahoe with a bike rack and bike on the rack stops up, rolls the window down, and the man inside says, "Well! You guys are the real Ironmen riding out here!"

I replied with, "Well, either that or we're complete idiots!" The guy then explains that he wants to drive his Tahoe down Impala Road to Garber. I tell him that while the road does indeed go to Garber, it would be a very bad idea to drive down it. That is because Impala Road turns into a legitimate DH course for several hundred yards. The rocks are big, the pitch is pretty steep, and there are ruts, sand, and mud in places. We picked our way carefully down at a snail's pace to avoid pinch flatting.

It eventually comes down to pass beside the Turkey River and levels out, but there were mud holes and washouts to get around as well. We passed an Amish buggy and saw the horse and driver in the river cooling off as we rode by. Then we got dumped out onto a chaotic scene- the RAGBRAI route was passing by on the black top we intersected at the end.

Tomorrow: The last installment of the GTDRI report, and the most bizarre thing that has ever happened on any ride I've been on will be discussed.

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