Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: The Cold, Lonesome Call Of The Owl

A Trans Iowa rider navigates in the dark of an Iowa night- Image by Jon Duke
The Sun had set on an eventful day of Trans Iowa. MG and I found ourselves bumping down the last few miles to the final town on the course, Montezuma. It was chosen since it had a 24 hour Casey's which riders could avail themselves of no matter when they got there Saturday night or Sunday morning.

We needed to get gas and when we pulled up we found Tony and Mike there finishing up what was supper. Since MG and I had been on a diet of pizza for breakfast and lunch, we decided to finish it off with a Casey's slice o' pie. As we munched and chatted here came in Luke Wilson, shivering in the now plummeting temperatures. The dry air and dying winds doubled up for an intense drop in temperature which would dive well below freezing during the overnight hours.

At this point Luke was still a bit rattled by the sudden appearance of the three chasers at CP#2. He still hadn't quite got it out of his mind that he was being hounded by them. We informed him that the reason they were so close at CP#2 was that the chasers missed the same corner he called us about and that the three had cut the course there. Luke took that in and then relaxed a bit, taking care of his needs for the last 100 miles.

Luke Wilson's bike at rest outside the Casey's General Store in Montezuma, Iowa.
We took leave of Luke and Tony and Mike here and went about our business. We wound our way Southwest of the city, then North, then West until we crossed Highway 146 directly South of Grinnell. It was about at this point that I noted MG had the "thousand yard stare" and he wasn't going to make it to Grinnell without some shut eye. I suggested we find a place to allow him to catch a few winks and we found a turn in to a farm field just West of 146 and pulled in. I grabbed my book and phone as the DNF's were piling up now. It was shortly before 11:00pm, CP#2 was about to close, and a lot of riders were figuring out they weren't going to make it on time.

There is nothing quite like a Level B road after midnight, somewhere in Iowa....
I was taking calls, trying not to shine the flashlight app on my phone in MG's direction, and being as quiet between calls as I could be. If you have never stood outside in Iowa in the middle of nowhere, with almost no wind, at night, there is a level of quiet that you do not know.  It was serene. Then, as if on cue, with the full moon riding up over a grove of trees, a Barred Owl hooted- "who cooks for you-who cooks for YOUUUU...". The sound echoed into the night. It sent shivers down my spine. Then an answering hoot from further away. It was scary, magical, and made me feel alive. I loved it.

Then I heard the distinctive sound of car tires on gravel. Faintly at first, but then it grew louder. I figured a lone figure sauntering around near a parked car might elicit a confrontation that I may not want to have. So I quickly moved over to the Subie, crouched down near the rear wheel, and made myself still. Just as the car was coming the phone lit up with a call. Great! I answered and the car went roaring by, with no sign of slowing down. Good! I stayed completely still until the car disappeared over the next hill.

Not long afterward MG appeared out of the car refreshed enough that we went along about our business. We came across Tony and Mike parked off the road about 50 miles from the finish line, but we didn't want to wake them up. We pushed onward and ended up on the last Level B road on the course. I told MG to park. We grabbed two beers and toasted to the end of the road for Trans Iowa. I stared around, trying to feel all the feels I could. I would never be on this "mission" again. Eventually we were freezing, as it reached a recorded 23°F in places that evening. MG and I jumped in the Subie and rolled into Grinnell shortly before 3:00am.

I got my truck and rolled into the parking lot at Miller Park where MG was already sleeping. I sat, freezing to death for a few minutes, then two other cars rolled up. One had Luke Wilson's girlfriend, Sonya, in it. I told them they were too excited. Luke wouldn't be back in Grinnell until well after Sunrise, so they took off for a bit, but later Sonya came back and slept in her car. I fought off sleep demons and intermittantly fired up the truck to get heat in the cab. Then I heard it again.....

The cold, lonesome call of the owl. Morning was coming, and Trans Iowa was ending.

Next: The Final Finish

1 comment:

Nigel Chang said...

It also looks like Mark Johnson was using...gasp...cantilever brakes. Well done, that man!