Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #13

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

Tim Ek at his 1st T.I.
 Editor's Note: Images courtesy of Cale Wenthur

Well, I'd already had enough drama for one weekend, but the event had not even started yet. I got up at 3am, left the motel, and checked out. From here on out I was up for the duration. (This wasn't a wise plan, as it turned out!)

Besides the getting up and starting at 4am, this Trans Iowa was unprecedented. In many ways it was one of the best ones I ever had the pleasure of being a part of. But I'll get into that later. This Trans Iowa was the first to start out of Decorah, and the first to be a loop. A new checkpoint staffed with a really good bunch of guys was going to be waiting for us 127 miles up the road. Of course, there was also Zach Dundas. He was waiting at the start line in a red Pontiac rental car. I think he slept in it all night long!

Much of the chief memories from T.I.V3 are actually recorded in Zach's excellent account in his chapter on the event in "The Renegade Sportsman". I'm not going to relate anything of those here. I will focus on the things Zach wasn't around for, either because he was resting, focusing on another part of the event, or sleeping.

There was the bit where I was trying to ascertain the speed of Ira Ryan and Brian Hannon as they sped along towards Checkpoint #1. I remember waiting for them not far from Fayette, Iowa, when a farmer approached me and asked if I had run out of gas. That actually happened on three different occasions during that weekend! It was always a half "wanting to help" mixed with a very suspicious, "what the heck are you doing out here?" feeling for the other half. I learned not to linger in one place for too long in the country in a beat up Honda Civic!

Checkpoint #2 in Brandon, Iowa
I recall getting to Checkpoint #2, being totally relieved that all was falling in place there, and having Redgie Blanco crack open a beer and hand it to me. That was a big deal then. Jeff wouldn't have ever went in for stopping for a beer. Not that this was a bad trait of his at the time, but a cold one at that point of the event, after everything else, made for one of the best beer moments in my life. It was awesome.

Then there was more waiting. I had been hopscotching down Southwards all morning, and standing along lonely, windswept gravel roads. No one to talk to. I was wondering where the heck Zach had gotten himself to, and then he reappeared. We stayed at the checkpoint until the leaders had zipped through, and then we were obliged to hopscotch around the Cedar River on a different route to the B Road sector South of Traer, Iowa where Zach and I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon.........waiting. 

It was all good, and I think during our hours of lounging around here was when Zach- he of such a different background and scene than I- really made a connection. Somehow something kind of clicked then, and it was something that made the rest of the event outstanding for me. 

How's the water, Skip?
Of course, there were things that I had going on out there that were learning experiences again. It was becoming obvious that the long route to a checkpoint was making the event two different events. The way the riders had to tackle the second half was very different than the "time trial" to the checkpoint on the front half. Then there was the "unknown" of the watery roads.

I didn't know anything about the flooding until after dark on Saturday evening. Ira Ryan was the leader, and had stopped in Janesville to resupply. He flatly told me about the situation with no emotion in his voice. I didn't know if he was pissed about it or what, but I was certainly concerned. More roads afterward were also found to be slightly flooded. All were fordable, but I realized I had to double check the roads ahead of the rider's progress next time, and have a reroute procedure in place.

Then there was the confusion in the middle of the night over a certain corner, which just so happens to have been on my 3GR ride all this past year! Anyway, I understood how riders saw things differently in the dark, and how perhaps marking certain potentially confusing corners might be a good idea. Of course, the mere fact that the cues were even close to being right was a minor miracle to my mind at the time, and even now looking back on it, I still feel that way.

My photo of Ira Ryan in Janesville, IA

That evening I was separated from Zach for awhile and the meeting with Ira and seeing a few others chasing was all done on my own. I flew solo for quite awhile into the night, wondering just what the heck happend to Zach again, and wishing he'd catch up, when the cell phone crackled to life and he called for directions.....twice! Apparently the grid of Iowa gravel roads was a maze too confusing for a Portlander to fathom after hours on the rural roads. He finally caught up with me after I had been sitting a long time in Hawkeye  Iowa, sipping several Red Bulls down waiting on him.

We had some more good conversation. We saw Ira roll through town, and then Marcin Nowak, the Polish native, chasing him. Zach was being overcome by the sleepies, so he bailed out into the back seat of his car for a bit. I stood vigil alone again on a cold April morning in the dark. After seeing a few more of the leaders pass through town, and after finding a suitable shrub behind the church we were standing in front of to relieve myself at, I decided that it was high time to head for Decorah and the finish line of Trans Iowa V3 where I had hoped a few more volunteers would be showing up to help out.

It was 4am in the morning and things were getting weirder and hazier by the minute......

Next week: The highs and lows from the end of Trans Iowa v3

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