Monday, April 13, 2015

Geezer Ride 2: Report

Steve Fuller rode over from Des Moines.
The second Geezer Ride was instigated to get the two yahoos I created the deal for over to actually participate. It was decided that since Wally and George were going to be in Iowa for the final Trans Iowa V11 recon, they may as well ride the day before. The recon was based in Grinnell, so that's why the second Geezer Ride happened there as well.

April- You never know what you'll get for weather. It could have been 40 degrees with rain, or it could have snowed the night before. Who knows? I was certainly concerned what it may turn out to be, but I cannot decide or change the weather, so whatever it was to be, it would be. Unbelievably, it actually turned out to be one of the best Spring days I've ridden on in years. Actually, the last two weekends have been glorious. Who knew?

Anyway, I headed down to Grinnell after waking up at 4:00am in the morning, packing up, and driving down to meet Steve Fuller, Robert Fry, and whomever else might show up, for breakfast at the Frontier Cafe in downtown Grinnell at seven o'clock in the morning. It was quite chilly when I left Waterloo, as it got down to 30°F. Ice was all over my windshield, but temperatures were forecast to rise dramatically just after Sunrise. There was to be a Southerly wind, but they claimed it wouldn't be too crazy.

Once again, the turnout for the Geezer Ride was bigger than I expected.
Steve Fuller rode his Tour Divide set up over from Des Moines the evening before, camped out, and finished up a short jaunt into Grinnell Saturday morning to meet us. I walked in to the cafe to find him and the proud new owner of a 2016 Warbird, Kevin, sitting there at a booth. I joined them, and not long afterward, several other riders came and sat down for a fine Frontier Cafe breakfast. If you ever get to Grinnell for breakfast, I highly recommend this joint.

Anyway, I was stoked on how many were there and I knew we'd have a great ride, however, I wasn't prepared to see just how many did end up coming. In the end, we had 24 riders, some from many miles away, and several locals. One rider came from Michigan, and two from Illinois. Really, I was quite blown away by the participation. Maybe more so by the fact that Steve, a man I graduated from high school with 36 years ago, and hadn't seen since those days, showed up to ride as well. I was very humbled by the turnout.

So, there we were standing in the crisp air with a bright morning Sun shining down. I said a few words and we were off to find the gravel North and East of Grinnell. (No! Not on the T.I.v11 course!) The crew was in good spirits and there certainly was a lot of chatter going on!

Riding past Grinnell College on our way out of town.
Starting to string out on the rolling hills North and East of Grinnell.
We made it out of town without causing too much of a ruckus with traffic or what have you. No small feat given the size of the group and given that the town was fully awake and going about their normal business on a Saturday morning. Things around Grinnell are hilly no matter how you slice it, but I tried to devise a route that was as kind to "newbies" as I could, and we had several professed "new to gravel" folks on the ride. My recon man, David Long, had informed me that a week prior there was very little new gravel; however, it was soon apparent that the maintenance crews had not been idle for the preceding five days. There was a lot of freshly laid gravel and patches where the riding was tough and good lines were either hard to find, or non-existent. Not that the two fat bikers seemed to mind. They just rode wherever they wanted- even in the ditches at times! The rest of us quickly learned to adapt to less than ideal gravel road conditions.

Trouble with Dogs: This Corgi got away from its owner and was frolicking amongst the riders stopped at a corner. 

The owners finally corralled the pooch and gave him a lift back home.

We stopped several times to gather up stragglers. It was a no-drop ride, after all.
Big skies, gravel roads, and a bunch of fun loving cyclists. What a grand day out!
Since the terrain was a bit challenging and the gravel was fresh, or there were loose, moondust kind of spots, we found ourselves getting strung out pretty quickly. The riders were great though, and patiently awaited me to help usher slower riders back to the group. Unfortunately, about 15 miles in, Wally and George decided to pack it in and turn back. I couldn't blame them. Wally's first ride all year? The Geezer Ride 2. Not necessarily the friendliest awakening to a body not accustomed to being upon a bicycle saddle. He did great considering, and afterward George and Wally recounted their adventures on B Level Maintenance roads which sounded really fun.

Speaking of B Level roads, I witnessed several folks pulling over to look, and even ride up and down, these curiosities, which I found amusing. They would get their dose of these roads soon enough! 

Geezer Ride Barns For Jason
Kevin rocking the gravel on his brand new Warbird 105
Dropping in to the B Level road. This was the same stretch of dirt road used in the 1st leg of T.I.V8. 

We had to turn South and the big, rolling hills North of Brooklyn were taking their toll on the group. Down to 22 riders now, we were strung out a long distance over the windswept gravel. The gradients here were likely in the 12%-15% range and many riders were walking their bikes up the steepest stuff. It didn't help that the wind, now blowing at around 20mph and gusting higher, was straight into our faces.

Still, the faster, stronger riders were courteous and would wait at intervals for the stragglers which I was busy trying to keep track of so we wouldn't lose anyone out there. Finally we reached 370th and our left hand turn out of the face of the wind. The really bad hills were now behind us, and the dirt was just ahead. I sped ahead of the pack so I could grab some images of most of the riders coming down into the dry dirt road. A few exclaimed as they went by that the best road of the day- so far- was this one. Ha! If only they had been on this when it was wet, blowing hard, and rainy for a Trans Iowa. I bet the opinions may have been opposite of what I was hearing Saturday!

Waiting on the final rider to pass, and then I followed down this hill and up the next onward to Brooklyn.
Avenue Of Flags in Brooklyn, Iowa

Once we crawled South and East a bit to Brooklyn, we stopped at a convenience store for vittles and drinks. A couple more riders decided to head back to Grinnell on pavement. They'd had enough, but were gracious and claimed that they had a great time. Just not quite ready for the level of effort that was required this day. The gravel was tough every mile. Deep, fresh, or with the looser, soft spots. Hardly any "typical" cleared paths and harder tracks to follow out there. Add the wind and it was quite the workout. Even the seasoned riders exclaimed at the finish that they were worked over out there.

More rollers- not as steep and big though- West of Brooklyn. Note the fresh gravel and how the tire tracks pressed into the looser dirt on the side here. 
Heading to the South turn to Malcom, Iowa. Somewhere between there and Malcom I pinch flatted.
The rollers were back, just not as steep or as big as before Brooklyn. The Westward direction helped take the wind out of the equation, but with all the previous efforts put in, many riders were straggling off the back. I waited quite a while for the last one to come, number 20, and escorted him up to the corner where we turned South to Malcom.

Now, somewhere between that corner and the middle of Malcom I must have pinched my tube, because as we were rolling through Malcom, one of the riders pointed out my tire looked rather low. Sure enough, my rear tire was pretty soft. I tried to just pump it up and to see how far that would get me. We continued on after a short vote to add in two more miles of dirt road which the riders were eager to try out. It was Diagonal Road which is at railroad grade, and since the roads were dry, I said let's do it!

Me shooting someone who was shooting us on Diagonal Road West of Malcom.

Putting the mechanic skills to good use: Image taken by Steve Fuller
By the time we reached the end of the B Level Maintenance section and were to rejoin the original route, I determined that my rear tube was not going to make the cut. So I stopped and began to repair the flat. Steve Fuller, Robert Fry, and Tony McGrane stopped along with me to chat while I fixed the flat and pumped up the tire. With a bit of time put into this, everyone on the ride had caught up and passed us by. We were the last four on the route.

Once we got started I had to stop within a few hundred yards to add a bit more air, but I got going again, and by this time we all were really off the back. It was a mile or so North then West for the final miles of the Geezer Ride.

It wasn't but a few miles and we found Steve, the fellow I graduated with, then a few more, along the roadside. We were seven or eight strong and headed back, but Steve was feeling the miles and fell off the pace. I slowed way down to help tow him up, and he caught on to me a couple miles from town. I decided to take the first turn into town, instead of the planned second turn into town, just to get Steve back out of the wind sooner, and we ended up pulling in, as what I assumed were the final two riders in. However; good ol' Steve Fuller, Robert, and Tony were waiting for Steve and I at the second turn into town, and when they hadn't seen us, they called and messaged me to see what was the matter. Well, I was a bit embarrassed to have not thought about them waiting for me, and told them we were already done. Not long after, here they were, and we were all accounted for. The Geezer Ride 2 was over.

Epilogue: The Geezer Ride 2 was a big success from the standpoint of its intentions. It is meant to provide those with none to very little gravel road riding experience with an avenue to try it out under the least competitive atmosphere possible, yet have a challenging experience that may have them achieving something they didn't think possible. It is a casual, fun atmosphere for the seasoned cyclist and a time to share fun and adventure with like minded cyclists. I think all involved fit into this somehow and all seemed to actually have a good time.

Some riders asked about future Geezer Rides and some even said they would come to the Fall Geezer Ride. (?!!!) Which, ya know........I have never mentioned doing, but I guess there will be one! I am planning to do a Geezer Ride 3 with the venue to be up here in Waterloo/Cedar Falls sometime in August, so stay tuned for that. Anyway, it is obvious that the concept is popular and that folks really want to do this more. That speaks to the success of the ride more than anything I could say.

Thank You: Thanks to all 23 other Geezer Riders. I am still humbled and deeply grateful for your attendance and excellent attitudes. Some of you had a really hard ride, overcame adversities, and finished. I am very blessed to have witnessed your experiences. Thanks to David Long for doing the recon on this ride. Without his ride to make sure the route was good a week before I would have had a bit more stress coming into this one. Finally- Thanks to Wally & George for inspiring the Geezer Ride concept and for your attendance at this ride.


AlanEsh said...

Hey Mark, thank you so much for putting this ride together! I had a great time on that rather challenging route; could have used smaller rings up front though :D

I'm disappointed that I didn't have time to hang out after and put some names and contact info with the faces I chatted with en route. Maybe next time I'll have a clearer calendar for that day.

Please do the Fall Geezer ride if you manage the time! I have some lower back issues that make the more common 100+ mile rides pretty much impossible for me, so I really appreciate the 40-60 mile opportunities.

Thanks again, and stay dusty!
- Alan Eshelman (that Raleigh guy)

George said...

Mark, Even though I didn't complete the entire Geezer Ride, I did get in a hair over 30 miles. It was fun and another cool adventure. As you well know, we don't have much gravel or "real" hills near my house so this was a great experience. The TI scouting trip as usual was fun and full of stories and laughs. I'm looking forward to seeing everybody at TI in a couple of weeks and I promise to be in much better shape for Geezer Ride # 3. :-)