Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where It All Began

From a 1980 Des Moines Register article

What you are looking at here represents what is pretty much one of the major reasons Trans Iowa got started. This article is the story about four road riders that decided to try to cross the state of Iowa in a single day on road racing style bikes. I happen to work for one of the four men who did this, know another, and have met the eldest one just recently. They are all nice guys, but you'd never know they had done this unless they told you. It's one of those forgotten "feats of strength" that not too many folks know about.

That's a shame really.

So, how did this forgotten ride that happened 34 years ago help to spawn Trans Iowa, and arguably, the whole gravel scene that followed? Interestingly, it was because a couple of mountain biking fans got fed up with hearing the story a few times too many.

An old story of road riding tripped the trigger for the idea of Trans Iowa Image by W. Kilburg
I mention it in the film "300 Miles Of Gravel" when I am talking about how Trans Iowa got its start and I allude to the "riding across Iowa in a day on road bikes". Jeff Kerkove and I were mechanics together at Europa Cycle & Ski, and Russ Clarke, our boss, (and still is my boss!), used to regale us with stories about road riding when the business was slow, which it typically is during November. After one particularly long assault on our mtb leaning minds, which ended with the riding across Iowa story, Jeff asked the now infamous question, "What if we rode across Iowa on mountain bikes....?"

 Of course, we wouldn't be able to do that on dirt. Iowa is, after all, a very agrarian state and most of the countryside is plowed and tilled. However; there are a claimed 70,000 plus miles of gravel roads with some dirt ones sprinkled in for good measure. You know the rest of that story......

Now, there were other influences on Trans Iowa, certainly, and the whole gravel riding scene may have popped up without us at some point, but if you ever come to do Trans Iowa, or have ridden in it, or ride other events inspired by T.I., then you have these four humble gents to thank for it. At least in part. I cannot imagine Trans Iowa ever happening without them.


john said...

Mark - very nice to give Russ and Danny and Carl some credit. I loved hearing about those rides. How about Thad and Lee's ride? Also Europa employees and their ride across the state. Were they before or after Jeff's memorable statement? Seems like it was right before???
I wonder how Carl is doing?

Guitar Ted said...

@john: Thad and Lee rode across the state in a day? Not aware of that, so it didn't have any influence on Jeff and I, and maybe since there was zero knowledge of that (if in fact it happened, which I don't know),that would explain why it doesn't figure at all into this story.

john said...

Ask Russ, he should be able help. I do remember some near epic stories from them.

Guitar Ted said...

@john: Well again- it doesn't have any relevance to this story.

John Mathias said...

Carl (my father-in-law) is enjoying the Sun and their Pool! If he knew I said he wasn’t as young and fast as he once was, He’d ask me if I’d looked in the mirror lately! He follows TI and all the crazy things his kids and grand kids do. Something’s Never Change! When I told him about finishing TI V-10. He asked all the normal questions, finishing place overall, age grp, time, avg speed and WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG??