Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trans Iowa V4 : It Blew Me Away! Part III

<===The leaders make the first checkpoint.

After the West Union stop, d.p. and I motored straight to the checkpoint to see how things were there. I met Bruce, one of our new volunteers, here for the first time. A great guy and he was a huge asset to us. Also reconnecting with Redgie and Steve was good. Everything looked settled and ready for the riders arrival.

Then they came. Always a bit of chaos whenever the front runners show up at a checkpoint en-masse. The guys handled it well though.

d.p. and I had to drive up out of Wadena to get a call that wasn't coming through. Seems that Wadena is stuck in the last century when it comes to communications. Not that it is a bad thing, mind you, it just is. This would become a sore point very soon!

<===d.p. ambles off a large mudslide on course.

We decided we better high tail it outta Dodge before the troops mounted up, so off we went back out on course. Everything was clicking well until we rounded a corner and saw a huge pile of mud, grass, and tree remains blocking the roadway. Amazing! A real mudslide in Iowa.

Well, we thought about trying to head off the riders at the checkpoint, but we remembered- no cell service! So, we tried going over the top. Good footing was found so we marked out a route for riders to follow.
Just as we completed the task, here came the lead group. We yelled at them to "hike a bike! hike a bike!" and they all dismounted with wide eyes. John Gorilla approached the pile first, but at a point we hadn't marked out. He hadn't seen the flagging yet. He stepped into the gooey mud and went up above his calf in brown ooze. Brian Hannon took one look at that and was scampering off to the ditch, crossing a barb wire fence, and running down the pasture to circumnavigate the slide of earth. Team Polska and a few others including Charlie Farrow and Joe Kucharski figured out the "path" was marked and smartly shouldered their rigs and disappeared over to the other side. Gorilla followed and then they were gone. d.p. and I were left behind with our chase vehicle to find another route around the obstacle.

d.p. and I had to go way out of our way to get around this, so by the time we got back on course at Volga, the riders had already passed through. We noticed our cues were incorrect, telling riders to turn into the river when they should have gone left. Well, we didn't see anybody wandering around confused, so we thought we would investigate. We found the riders up the road, on course, south of Volga. Joe Kucharski yelled at us as we passed them by and for good reason. We screwed that cue up. Our fault, and we knew it. The one thing I regret is that we didn't go back and mark it, but it wasn't too hard to figure out you don't ride into a river, I guess!

That and a couple of other miscues were the result of the winter and the inability of us to get out on course. It just wasn't possible with ice and snow blocking roads for months on end. Lesson learned. We do another T.I.- we get this part done before fall sets in. No exceptions!

We continued on to a point where d.p, and I had been before and exchanged a "B" road for a road a mile north that we thought had some cool hills. Well, I didn't recall that they were "killer hills"! As we drove them, the steepness and the fact that they were headed straight into the unceasing wind was overwhelming, and we weren't even riding! I understood why riders were taking so long to get to Winthrop after seeing this situation on course.

We stopped in Winthrop and grabbed some eats at a convenience store just off course. It was about 4pm, and we were waiting to see how the lead group would fare. Well, after waiting for awhile, we felt the urge to go up the road and we left with the knowledge that our photographer, Rob Walters was to be staking out there. A pair of eyes that would come in rather handy a bit later.

Our big concern here was a mile and a half section of B maintenance road that we were almost sure would be flooded. We were prepared to do a re-route and we figured the rest of the course would be fine. Well, after checking out the first mile section of B road that looked just fine to us, we got an eye opening!

We crested a hill and saw a lake. A huge lake that wasn't on the map. It inundated our course at its midpoint, covering a mile section of road with its waters that glinted in the late afternoon sun. It really was a pretty sight, but it horrified us. We quickly scrambled looking at the maps and planning a re-route that would be simple to follow and avoid any flooded areas. We busied ourselves with duct tape signs and flags, following the protocol we set up in Decorah the evening before. We called Rob and asked if he had seen any riders. Strangely enough, he hadn't yet. Wow! They were taking a long time! We told Rob to forward the info about a course re-route to any riders he saw coming through. Right then, he cut us off because he saw three riders coming.

We hung up with Rob and the cell phone buzzed to life again. This time it was Brian Hannon. He was reporting his DNF due to knee issues. I asked him if he was with any other riders. He said, "I'm sure no one else is up the road on us. You haven't seen anyone else, have you?" I replied that I hadn't, explained our situation, and Brian said, "Well, the other guys were just here, I'll run out and see if I can flag them down."

I felt we had done our best to get a heads up out there. Mostly due to luck than a plan, but none the less, there it was.

<===Actually, it was quite nice here.

We finally got the course re-route taken care of and we were back on track again heading for what we were sure was to be another re-route. Well, it couldn't have turned out better.

The B road was totally passable. Dry in fact. Weird! We couldn't get around a log that had been floated across the path by high waters, so we went around to check the backside of this sector of course. As we did, we didn't notice another SUV pull in behind us. Well, the roadway was so narrow, we couldn't even turn the car around. We were backing up when we saw the other SUV with a couple inside it. The guy jammed on his accelerator, whipping up mud and dirt as if he was angry at us. I found a wide space in the path, pulled over enough to let him by, and stopped. He saw that, stopped, threw it in drive, and stomped his pedal like a oversexed teenager with a hot rod and nowhere to go. Wow! I waved as he passed by, but I doubt he noticed.

Next: The second checkpoint and a bit of satisfaction.

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