Sunday, June 28, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: The Emotional Roller Coaster Ride

A tractor caught by T.I.v8 photographer Steve Fuller
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Continuing on with more stories from Trans Iowa v8.....

There I was, a swirling mass of chaos inside a single cab, standard box 2003 Toyota Tundra 2 wheel drive truck with highway tires on it. I had wrappers, energy drink cans, cue sheets, roster on a clipboard, maps, and who knows what-all inside there. Driving East now on a road one mile South of the actual course so I could miss a Level B road and get back on the T.I.v8 course again.

The cell phone rings. I pick up and it is a rider telling me he is done. He no sooner gives me his name and race number when I look up from my roster sheet as the truck is about to go over a small hill crest. What I saw caused all hell to break loose.

I threw down the phone and grabbed the wheel with both hands, let off the gas to let the truck settle when it hit the road with all its weight, having been slightly unloaded by the cresting of that hill at 40mph or so. You see......I was about to dive head long into a muddy Level B Road! 

It was unmarked, so I was unaware of its presence, and it was totally sketch! I gently squeezed the throttle to keep my momentum up,but it was so greasy that the back of the truck started coming around on the left side. I stuck the throttle to the floor. It worked! I saved the truck from coming all the way around, but the back end just stayed hung out! I was spewing mud a mile into the late April sky like some mad moto crosser, like a sprint car racer at nearby Knoxville, but I was still going straight down the road!

I was amazed! I held it down to the mat and stayed the course. I had about a half a mile to a steep rise to a paved county blacktop crossing. But I had to get there first! I knew instinctively that at some point this power slide, this crazy dirt tracking move, was going to end when the truck would get a different grip and send the back end around the other way. Fishtailing, some would call it, and if I wasn't on the mark, I could still end up losing this ride in the ditch. But I was ready!

The back end started to move and I instantly let off the throttle full and counter steered the opposite way. Whew! Caught it just in time! Gently back into the throttle now.  Keep it straight! Now what about that sharp rise and road crossing? Well..........

My only chance was to keep the power on so I could get up the rise with the good amount of speed and momentum I had built up. But there was cross traffic! I ended up going across right behind and right in front of crossing vehicles, but no harm, no foul! I made it!

Riders cresting a chunky gravel covered hill on the T.I.v8 course. Image by Steve Fuller
That wasn't the only excitement I would have going into the afternoon and night of T.I.v8. There was all the leap-frogging I ended up doing trying to stay ahead of the Braun Brothers as they attempted, I assume, to break the 24hr mark for a Trans Iowa. I had to mark corners in a few spots and it seemed that I could not keep ahead of the ever dwindling group they had been a part of since the start of the event. It was making me crazy and frantic until I reached Checkpoint Bravo and Wally and George. Fortunately they were set up already and had things well in hand. That was a major relief right there!

I had a beer or two while chatting with the guys there, but it wasn't long before the Braun group arrived, so I had to bug out once again to keep ahead of things. Those guys made the checkpoint way ahead of my estimates, so I was a bit rattled by that. Then, I got a phone call from Charlie! He was off course and was calling to see if I could get him directions back onto the course. He had wandered off further South than he should have and was in a small town about ten miles off the T.I.v8 route. I started to give him the directions, but he stopped me and had me tell a local he had corralled to talk to me. Apparently, Charlie wanted a local to make sure my directions would be verified. It ended up that we had to basically give him road by road directions to get him back on line. It was one of those annoying, worrying things that arose, but I figured that Charlie would either drop out at CP#2 or miss the time cut. I mentioned this to MG and maybe the CP#2 crew of Wally and George to make them aware of the situation. Then I moved on to hang out at the "secret checkpoint" that year and thought all was well.

Corey Godfrey and Mike Johnson work on a flat tire while Mark Johnson rummages through a pack during T.I.v8. Image by Steve Fuller
 However; Charlie came back to haunt me in a big way. MG and Jeremy Fry were at the secret checkpoint, which served two purposes during T.I.v8. An observation point to keep tabs on riders, and as a 'convenience store stop' since there was no convenience store stop anywhere on course since long before CP#2. MG was telling me who was passing through, and when he was telling me certain riders had shown up who were behind Charlie Farrow, like far behind him most of the day, I started to ask questions. Where is Charlie?

I went back and confirmed with Wally and George that Charlie had left their checkpoint, and what time that was. Fortunately for me, I had very competent volunteers! Well, it didn't take a genius in math calculations to figure it out. Hopefully Charlie was somewhere between Checkpoint Bravo and the secret checkpoint. But knowing Charlie, it could be something else. Maybe Charlie was lost, sleeping in some ditch, or....... My mind wandered off to about six evil conclusions, none of which I wanted to consider.

I remember having a conversation with MG about Charlie and what we should do. By this point, I was over one hundred miles away at the Northernmost point of the course, in the middle of the night, tired, and drained. I was contemplating having to go look for Charlie when Matt asked if I wanted him to backtrack the course to look for him. I was sooooo relieved! MG then told me he would let me know if he saw any evidence of his passing through at any point. But it was dark, MG was tired as well, and...... there was that chance that Charlie could have gone off course again. If that was the case, who knows how long it might take to find him? 

Charles Parsons (R) and Corey Godfrey followed by three unidentified riders during T.I.v8. Image by Steve Fuller
 So, while I did not have to go back and look for Charlie, I was worried sick about him. It didn't take long to get word back, but those were some excruciating minutes for me in my truck all alone in the darkness of rural Iowa, wondering what happened, and having an imagination running wild. But MG called me back. Charlie was collected and all would be well. Wow! What an emotional roller coaster!

And then I ran off the last few cues, turned into the finish area, and parked my truck. At this moment, I knew. I realized that I had done what I had set out to do while riding the last miles of Trans Iowa v7 in David's Honda Element. I had put on the best Trans Iowa I knew how. Of course, it was about 3:00am in the morning and I had 11 hours to close out the deal. Anything could happen yet, but somehow.......I knew it. I had done it!

There was no one I could share this with. There were a few cars there in the area- Steve Fuller's truck was sitting there amongst a few other anxious wives and girlfriend's vehicles.  Support folks, waiting there to see their person finish Trans Iowa, but no one was awake. I was alone with my thoughts. I wanted to shout. I wanted to jump up and down. I wanted to share the moment, but no one was there.....

So, I threw down the tail gate, cracked open my last beer, and just savored the moment. It is one of those moments in my life that I regret not being able to share with anyone else as it happened, but I won't ever forget it. Maybe it was meant to be that I alone got to experience that moment, I don't know, but that's how it happened. It would not be the last time something like this happened during a Trans Iowa either.

Next: Flaming Out

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