Monday, October 17, 2016

Trans Iowa v13: Recon Report

A sleepy Grinnell Iowa under sullen skies.
Let's see now, just how many of these missions have I been on? Too many to count. In some ways, they all start to look the same. Get up at "O-dark-thirty", get organized, hop in the truck, and for the fifth time, pick up Jeremy who does my recon with me nowadays. During the last several years, recon doesn't start without a visit to the Frontier Cafe in Grinnell. Good eats right there, and I highly recommend the place if you are ever down that way.

With that great food in the belly, we started reconning the course for the thirteenth Trans Iowa. Thirteen! I never would have guessed.......

So anyway, we got rolling, and it was with some trepidation too. The weather was weird. It looked as though it could break into a full on rain at any given time. In fact, it kept misting almost all the time in varying degrees. Sometimes it was barely enough to turn on the intermittent wipers for, and then at other times it was full on regular wiper speed and almost not cutting it at that. I think I about wore out the wiper switch Saturday!

The point was that with Level B Roads to look at, rain was going to make the recon very difficult and maybe we would have to cut things short. I was ready to give in should it do the rain thing since the Truck With No Name isn't exactly "mudder friendly", being a two wheel drive vehicle with highway tires and all. No need to try and be a hero when I might get stuck miles away from any services.

Rain was potentially only minutes away many times during the day, but it never developed beyond a heavy mist.
Well, despite all the reasons for bailing out that might happen, we were game to head out and so we did. Our initial leaving from Grinnell was a bit awkward due to road construction and missing navigation cues from Jeremy, who mistakenly thought I knew where I was going. He should know by now that I've always been a lost puppy!

Once out in the country we were headed out on the proposed course to checkpoint #1. It didn't take long to have a reminder of why it is that you have to physically go out and look with your own two eyes at your course. Any event director that doesn't actually lay there eyes on every mile of their proposed course is making a big mistake. We were initially really excited that we could drive onto the first Level B on the course. That was until we saw the following.......

Yeah...... This is the reason why I drove 488 miles Saturday. When you rely on maps and GPS tracks, they don't show you stuff like this.
A small, probably 20 yard long bridge was blockaded off and there was no way around it. Poof! There goes your course idea, as this was the only through road in the direction I wanted to go for 5-6 miles in either direction. Dang it!

Jeremy and I improvised a quick re-route, but it won't be the way T.I.v13 runs. I am going to have to redo three quarters of that section just to get the mileage and destination to work out right. The Level B? Well, I hope to find a substitute for that. Stay tuned....... In the meantime, we were off to CP#1 and beyond. The next Level B was a completely new one to me, and should be perfectly fine for T.I.v13 no matter what the weather brings. That doesn't mean you wouldn't have to walk it, by the way. I wouldn't read too much into that.

You know that there will be big hills, but there will be "mind numbing flat sections" as well. 
Quick break on a Level B road........somewhere in Iowa.
Then it was on to the first section of the course to Checkpoint #2. This year, this will be the longest part of Trans Iowa. It's probably going to be about 155 miles or so. I was kind of worried how it would look, since, well......... I don't know, but flatter sections of the state might seem boring to some riders. I think that flatter sections serve the event by having their own set of difficulties both physical and mental. That said, I was mostly surprised and pleased with much of what we saw. This part will happen during the daytime, so seeing things will be a factor in this part of Trans Iowa. Trust me......there will be things to see! 

One of those times when we thought it was about to pour down rain, but it didn't.
Jeremy took a cemetery count, but I didn't get the final total we went by. 
We actually had a few nice surprises on the way to CP#2, and again, this shows you why you have to actually go out and do this recon stuff. We found Level B Roads that were not marked as such, even on the State DOT maps. (Department of Transportation maps, for anyone not familiar) In fact, we were kind of shocked, but in a good way. These fit the course well, not having potential flood concerns, that we can see, at any rate.

I also was pleased by a safer choice I made to cross a major highway, and another way to get folks across a separate one was deemed good enough. Then there were a couple of bummers as well. Places where pavement running out of towns went on a lot longer than I'd have liked to have seen it. I will be looking to make tweaks in these spots.

Tunnel vision
Yep .....that would be a Level B.
We looked at CP#2's location and I am stoked about how it sets and the possibilities for the event. Then it was on to the final leg of the course, which was heading back to Grinnell. Things were looking good and we had to stop to refuel the Truck With No Name. When I checked my watch I was dismayed. We had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time. I decided I was going to have to push the pace a bit in the truck.

One thing we found coming out of a town on route where there is a 24hr convenience store stop was a gravel road where I expected a city street. Now that was a change for once! Less pavement, bonus gravel! We'll take that!

A "bonus" Level B road that wasn't marked as such on the State DOT maps.
So now I was driving like a dirt short track racer. Hitting the brakes hard into a corner, coasting the apex, and mashing the gas out of the corner. Jeremy wasn't too fazed, but he did make a few snide comments about me being "all NASCAR" or something to that effect. It's all good! In the end, we got things covered that we needed to get covered. In fact, we even found a couple more "bonus Level B Roads" out there. I think we had five sections discovered that we did not expect. That's pretty cool since they were all decent, usable Level B's without concerns for water or what not.

Another unexpected Level B find. 
And another!
With the light fading, I had to make a decision about when to quit. I have been rather familiar with the routes near to Grinnell, and I decided to not recon the final 25 miles so we could concentrate on getting in what we hadn't been on before. By the way, I have laid eyes on the final run in several times this year alone. Fortunately, we were able to sneak all the recon in we wanted to, despite having a bit of difficulty verifying signage on several of the last corners we checked.

The weather cooperated and we didn't have to cut recon short! We even saw some blue sky. 
Final Thoughts: First of all, there are going to be a lot of changes and tweaks to this course. That said, I am pleased by what I saw. I think in the end it will provide an excellent experience for the riders. It will showcase a bit of Iowa that should leave a lasting impression on riders. I think the scenery in many spots is spectacular, and in others is very representative of Iowa. I will say that I was a bit dismayed by the amount of traffic and the lack of outward shows of friendliness by the natives we came to pass by on the route. That may be an anomaly due to several circumstances, but I am concerned about that.

I feel the route will provide a great challenge to the riders this time. It will all be dependent upon whatever the weather brings, of course, but the Level B's should play a part in the outcome, unless it is totally dry. There are hills, but again, there are some mind numbing, flat, boring parts that will test both mind and body in unique ways.

Stay tuned for updates on the course, mileages, and checkpoint cut off times. I cannot comment on any of that just yet as there are some serious tweaks to this course on the menu, and when they are completed, I can then give you all the details.

I finished up the day with 488 miles of driving in 14 hours. I used a tank and a half of gas, we stopped about seven times, and we covered all but the last 25 miles of the proposed course. Those might be tweaked as well due to construction in Grinnell. We weren't stopped by rain. That was amazing!

Okay, more soon, but for now, thank you for reading!

1 comment:

Scott Redd said...

Your course looks like it's off to a great start! My favorite thing is to discover a road that is not passable by car (decommissioned bridge, washout, etc), but still just fine for a rider or a hike-a-bike. The gravel gods can be generous at times. :)