Sunday, January 08, 2012

Trans Iowa V8 Recon Report

Okay, I made some big progress on the recon of the T.I.V8 course today. It was an all day, 300 plus mile slog behind the wheel of The Truck With No Name, but now I have only about 20-25 miles left to look at, and that's all going back to Grinnell. Very, very stoked about all the good roads and the route overall. (Remember: Clicky make biggy for better photo viewing experiences!)

On the road before the crack of dawn
The day was actually started on Friday evening as I laid out all my things and went over my goals for the Saturday drive. Maps were looked at, supplies were laid up, and I went to bed fairly early to get a good nights sleep before the long drive.

I got up while it was still dark, went and fueled up the truck, checked the tires, and hit the road. My plan was to be at the place I had left off at the southern end of the route by 10:30am. is a long, long way away from where I live!

I made great time, getting in place to start a full one half of an hour early. The day started out overcast, but by the time I got into position, it was brilliant sunshine and wispy clouds. What a perfect day! I even saw four Bald Eagles before noon all in different places. Cool!

The southern end of the course is all twisty-turny roads. Hilly, but ya'all would expect that, no? Well, it is, and driving here was a bit of  a challenge. Route finding was already done for this beginning section of the days recon, but with all the "Y" corners and confusing intersections, I had to be careful to document everything very specifically.

Densely wooded areas
 One unusual feature of the course down here is the woods. More wooded areas than farm fields, actually. It is really a different look to Trans Iowa than what we usually have with all the open countryside and empty, (during late April), fields.

The gravel was white, dusty, and otherwise in good shape down here. In fact, I would surmise that this part of Iowa has seen little to no precip for some time. Streams were low, and with no snow cover for the foreseeable future, I would submit that it would take a soaking of epic proportions this spring to turn this parched land to muck. But then again, never under-estimate the weather of Iowa!

I suppose I just jinxed T.I.V8 and we'll be subjected to torrential T.I.V6-like rain and mud mixed in with epic thunder and lightning. (By the way- why do we say thunder and lightning"? Shouldn't that be "lightning and thunder"?)

One lane bridge
 One thing I will probably have to stress over the coming months is that you T.I.V8 folks will be needing to be especially careful this year. Usually with the sort of speedy down hills we have, you have clear sight lines and you can see how you are going to run out long before you actually get to that point. Not so much this year. Clearly, (or not, as the case may be), you should use extreme caution when trying to descend these steep grades when you can not see where the gravel is deep, where the ruts and pot holes are, or what might be hiding just beyond your sight line in the way of cars, tractors, or trucks.

Now, think about doing this at night. gets real sketchy! Better make sure you don't outrun your lights capabilities to show you what is coming up. Trust me- some of these hills will have you topping out at 35-40mph if you decide to eschew your brake lever. Really.

Of course, you can  ignore all my rantings, like a couple of other guys have that stacked it up and put themselves out of Trans Iowas. Don't say I didn't tell ya so!

Old, old, old bridge. (Did I say it was old?)
Overall, I am pretty pleased, despite the danger level, of all the roads, with the exception of two places.

One is along a river valley where I could see that high water had washed out the roads previously. That isn't a good sign, and if rains come in earnest, I may have an issue to deal with out there. I will be planning a "B Route' to re-route by, just in case.

The other sketchy section may be this old bridge. Planks were loose and rattling as I drove across it. It isn't on a "dead road" though, so I am hopeful that due to the amount of folks living out here the county keeps from shutting this down. If they do, I have a re-route at the ready, includes a B Road! So, I'd rather have this bridge than not, but either way, I can make the route work.

And take a look at those planks folks. Those are skinny tire sucking machines there. Get your head on straight before you cross this one. Oh yeah.....most of you will likely be seeing this at night too!

About 50 miles from the finish....

So other than those two sections, I really am thinking this course is bomber. I did have to slide in an over two mile section of paved road to get across a certain geographical feature, but the five miles that come after it are so crazy good, it is worth it, I think. (In fact, I have gotten lost in this section twice now! Don't worry- you won't, since I have the directions down right now.)

B Roads will be scarce this year. There are maybe only three to four miles, and none in the last 150 miles, (unless I am forced to re-route, as noted above.) Why? Have I gone all soft on ye Trans Iowa competitors?, trust will understand after you have completed the course, if you complete the course. I think from a physical standpoint, this is probably one of the hardest courses I have come up with. Hills abound. Technically speaking, this course demands more from you in terms of the difficult corners and descents. (As outlined above.)  Depending on the weather, this could become an undo-able feat, since the course meanders in every conceivable direction, guaranteeing a head wind off and on all the way around. If it rains, even without B roads, this could become just about impossible to finish.

So, the bottom line was that I thought I didn't really need to throw anymore B Roads into this one. It just doesn't call out for them. Of course, the ones that are in it are at the beginning, so those Rookies will get their proper T.I. rite of passage ritual in.


Numbers: I have not gotten the very end of the route reconned as of yet. I have maybe 25-30 miles maximum to add in yet. I am shooting for 320-ish miles complete. There will be a Checkpoint at Mile 52, and another checkpoint in a rural location that has yet to be determined. Probably at around 170 miles or so, just like last year, I am thinking. That worked out well from a logistical standpoint.

The first checkpoint will get graced with an extra 15 minutes than last year to get there, and I think the cut off for Checkpoint #2 will be similar to last year. The bulk of the really gnarly, tough stuff will come post checkpoint #2 and that coupled with the navigational challenges made me not want to use B Roads throughout the last half of the course. So, if you get to Checkpoint #2, you'll be done with B Roads for the remainder of the event, but like I say, it doesn't mean it'll be easier without them.

Now I will plan out the very end of the event's course, and try and recon that soon. In the meantime, I will start writing drafts for cue sheets which will be handed out to two independent course checkers that I will accompany on two separate occasions to double and triple check every cue. (In fact, some of the course will probably be driven by a third independent source that will give me further feedback. This should insure accurate turns and mileages for all in the event. That doesn't mean that you won't get lost though. In fact, I suspect several folks still will get messed up. It always happens in these long events. It just won't be my fault for having bad cues. 

Okay, there will be more course updates, but that should tide ya over for awhile. feel free to ask questions in the comment section...

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