Saturday, December 21, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #20

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....

Re-routing: Nothing was sacred!
 Of all the Trans Iowas so far, perhaps T.I.v4 was the most adventurous for me. There never was a dull moment, really. David and I were working our tales off at high stress levels just trying to save what we could of this one. To get as far as we did? I consider it one of my best achievements as an event director. Of course, I would assume David would say as much.

As if gale force winds, snow, freezing cold temperatures, flooded rivers, and mudslides weren't enough, we were really only halfway through the obstacles that were set against us.

I recall that we had gotten word that about 5, maybe 6 guys were still in the event past Winthrop. Who those all were was something of a mystery that wouldn't work itself out until later, but the wind and cold had basically shelled most of the riders off. In a way, David and I were somewhat relieved to know this. But then we forgot all about the riders for several hours.....

We crested a hill. I remember seeing a huge lake glinting in the afternoon Sun. A gravel road stretched out in front of us and disappeared under the jewel-like waves. Our course! We sprang into action with maps, discussion, and then decisions. Using our protocol for rerouting, we basically made a new course for probably ten to fifteen miles around the flooded area on roads we had never laid eyes on. Fortunately, everything worked out well that way. We were particularly afraid of what we'd find ahead at a B Road section we had in the course.

That image of the stop sign there? I remember that very well. I decided to stick the ripped duct tape strips up there. The wind was so strong, the sign was doing that side to side dance you sometimes see signs do in strong winds. There was an eerie humming noise all the while I worked on this as well. Like something of a moaning in the wind. It wasn't until I finished the tape job that I realized that the sound was being produced by a high tension electrical wire above my head.

Joe Meiser's rear derailleur: Image by Rob Walters
Then we sped on to that B Road. We feared what we would find and were already making plans for a re-route. When we got there, miraculously, it was fine! We couldn't drive all the way through it, but we did drive almost all of it, which we had thought would be impossible coming to that spot.

Okay, so with the huge re-route and the B Road okay, we forged ahead to Checkpoint #2 which was in Earlville, Iowa, right off Highway 20. We were finding the roads to be in pretty fair condition, and for a time, we were more relaxed. The volunteers at the checkpoint were grilling steaks and we had some beers. Some earlier drops and some other folks stopped by and made for good times. It was still cold and raw, the Sun was setting, and we had to take our leave. By now we knew there were indeed only five riders left, and we knew who they were. Things were looking pretty good, with the exception that we had found out one of our next B Roads, about 30-40 miles up the course, was 6 feet under water. No problem! We knew a good re-route.

However; when we pulled out of Earlville, the complexion of the roads was quite different. We weren't out of town 3 miles when we had to start in re-routing the course again, and it got worse the further we went on. In fact, the frost heaves in the road were so bad at one point we had to abandon the car to check the roads. There was a tree down across one road we needed to use, and David left me there to break off enough branches in the dank darkness so that riders could pass by on one side of the road while he forged ahead to check on another re-route.

Washed out road in the headlights. (Note David Pals standing in the washout)
It was getting later in the evening and progress was slow, We had not even made it to Edgewood by 10pm and that was only about a dozen miles on blacktop roads from Earlville. Just past Edgewood we found our way blocked again, and had to investigate another re-route down a long, wash-boarded descent. By this time David and I were exhausted both physically and mentally. It seemed that something was against us, and to overcome it was proving to become more and more difficult Re-routing in broad daylight was one thing, but under the utter blackness of rural Iowa skies it was mind-bending. Then we saw it and I stopped the car. A huge washout, probably 10 to 12 feet across, right at the bottom of a long, sure to be high speed descent for the riders.

We carefully considered our options. The stones in the washout were loose and footing was treacherous. Riders would have meager LED lights which would be hard to see by. David and I looked at each other and we knew this was the end of the road. Nothing needed to be said, but now it was time to arrange the end game.

Tomorrow: The Sprint Finish and Looking For The Lost Sheep

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