Monday, April 18, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Final Recon Report

See all that dust? It was the theme of te day!
Well, another big hurdle was crossed on Saturday. The course was checked for the last time before the big dance is set to go off this coming weekend. Following are some fine details, comments, and observations. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY!!!


The course checked out 100%. There were no surprises in store for us out there, and everything was as expected as far as the route overall. No mileage changes, no time cut-off changes. please refer to the Trans Iowa site for those details.

Course Notes & Commentary:

From the start to Checkpoint #1- Okay, here's the deal folks, and please, if you are in this event, this is very important- THERE ARE NO RESUPPLY OPTIONS AFTER YOU START UNTIL WELL PAST CHECKPOINT #1!!  This means that you must have provisions and water to sustain you for 100 miles. NO EXCEPTIONS!! Don't ask if there is a store at the checkpoint location, because there is none. Don't ask the volunteers at CP#1 how far it is until you can resupply, because they will not know. You should not plan on resupply until well past CP#1, but within 100 miles. No.....I won't tell you where the first stop can be made at, but if you make sure you can last 100 miles self-supported, you won't need to worry. The first stop is a Casey's, and you will be going right by it. If you are so blind that you are afraid you won't see it, maybe you should not take the start. 

You must obey all rules of the road, including stopping for trains!

  Secondly, and maybe as important if not more so than the above is that you must obey all rules of the road!!

This means stopping at all paved road crossings, looking both ways, and proceeding with caution. There will be FIVE crossings of a state highway within the first 70 miles, maybe two of a US highway, and there will be several county roads. Many of the county roads will NOT BE INDICATED ON THE CUE SHEETS!! This means it is totally up to you to be aware, use your head, and don't be stupid. This is a 339 mile ride and, despite what many think, it won't be won, or made more finish-able, by racing into intersections and throwing caution to the wind. To overcome the challenge of Trans Iowa, you must first finish. Being a dumb ass and not paying attention to safety and traffic signs is not a finishing strategy.

Also, and this is paramount- RIDE RIGHT UP HILLS!!! That means STAY TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD WHEN GOING UP ANY HILL!! This could save your life, as we were about waxed by a Chevy 4X4 Saturday that blasted over the crest of a hill going straight down the middle of the road. Had we been in the wrong place......Blammo! The guy was doing about 50mph too, so a cyclist would have no chance, and if it is windy, you may not even hear a vehicle until it is too late.

Speaking of farm trucks....... It appears to us that the crops are about halfway put in. I expect that most of the corn will be in by Trans Iowa, but if farmers turn their attention to beans, or haven't gotten all the corn in yet, then you should expect LOTS OF FARM TRAFFIC. We saw tractors, semi-tractor trailers, trucks, and many cars. More traffic than usual, but planting season breeds that sort of thing. Be AWARE!!

Level B roads will likely be dry, but not necessarily "smooth".
Level B Roads: 

Okay, these were all dry. All pretty hard packed, as in hard like cement. Trouble is, none of them were smooth when they "set up". So, you will have to be extremely careful not to get tripped up by a rut. There were some softer, worked up spots on one Level B to the point that the silt is about six inches deep in spots, maybe more. I doubt you'll be able to ride that one. Kinda more a fat bike's wheel house, but that was the odd Level B. All the others were really rutted and rough.

I am going to highlight one particular Level B that, if you get this far, will be traversed in the dark on Saturday night. This one is so rutted, so steep, and has loose shale on the backside that is really treacherous, that I recommend walking it. Am I overstating the difficulty? Well, consider that we could not drive it. It was far too technical for George's 4X4 Ford truck. Being that this will be in the dark, I feel strongly that you should walk this We did, and even in the daytime it was something we had to watch where we stepped. In the dark? Yeah..... You'll know this one when you see it. It is by far and away the craziest B road I've used in several years. It almost isn't a road at all, really. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this road is decommissioned soon and returned to the local landowners.

Some fresh gravel, some regular, every day roads, all really dusty!
Road Conditions:

Everything was super dusty. We noticed lots of what I would call "normal" roads early on. Then things changed to roads that had a mixture of frost heaved spots, soft roads, and maintained patches. Later on we saw a lot more loose, fresh gravel roads.

Things will change in a week, and I suspect we will have more fresh gravel. Regardless, the roads are all pretty much covered with gravel, and there is very little of what I would call "clear" paths or clear road way.

Some of the roads, well.......a lot of them actually, are pretty narrow. A lane and a half wide, I would say. So, it is really important that you all ride on the right side. Getting over the center to the left side will be really easy. So pay attention folks. It's pretty tight out there in some places and passing cars will not likely give you a lot of leeway, if you see them.

There will be several unmarked corners, and I have them marked on the cue sheets as "n/s" at the end of the description. If you see this, look for a flag on the right side of the road at the intersection. If the cue says "L" for a left turn, then look left and identify a similar flag on the right side of the road as you look left. Go that direction and continue following the cue sheet. Follow a similar rule if the cue says "R" only you'll be going right, correct? Yes. Hopefully.....

Pavement: There will be several short, half mile sections or less of pavement that I had to use where roads were offset at the paved roads I wanted to cross the route over. Please ride on the white line at the extreme right side of the road, or on any graveled shoulders that there may be. Veterans have seen this before....

There's a semi-tractor trailer in that "cloud" there.

 Dust- With the forecast I am looking at, and considering we "maybe" will get one day where it might rain, I am going to say that it is going to be super, super dusty out there.

We found out that when big vehicles go by, they kick up so much dust that you cannot see anything after they pass by for several moments.

So, be very careful not to ride into a dust cloud that you cannot see into. There may be another vehicle coming that you cannot see.

Also, this dust will infiltrate everything. Be prepared with lube, both for you and your bike! Wet wipes might be nice. A bandana to cover your face may be wise or to get something that will help with breathing clean air instead of a steady diet of dirty air. Just a thought. Eye drops. I bet those would be nice at times. is crazy dusty this year! 

This may change with the weather forecast, but for right now, I would have to think it would take a big rain event to reverse these conditions out there, especially with how windy it has been lately. Unless we get three days of rain, which, as you know, could happen. It is Trans Iowa time, after all!

Barns for Jason

 The weather! It will be the "wildcard" of the event once again. It would appear at this point that it very well could be a carbon copy of what we experienced out there Saturday. Maybe more clouds, but high 70's-low 80's, very windy, and very dry.

My take is that you will have to consider more water than you think, make sure you consider sunburn and wind burn as real possibilities, and remember that you will probably have a wicked head wind and an awesome tail wind at different points, off and on, all day. Bike handling skills will become a premium as wind compounds the handling  issues. Especially going down. Down hill that is......on your bike, not off it! 

Any questions? Hit me in the comments section. 

1 comment:

Gleaso said...

Thanks for all your hard work Mark! Looking forward to experiencing what you have put together for us. See you all at CP0...