Monday, January 27, 2014

Announcing the 2014 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational

Official GTDRI artwork by Izabel Stevenson
The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational- July 25th-26th, 2014

I figured it was time to announce my annual Summer ride on gravel. This year's date was strategically chosen to coincide with the last day of RAGBRAI, which will give me a much needed respite from what I assume will be a busy time at the shop just ahead of the ride this year. The date usually is around this time anyway, so there is tradition in it as well.

What: A No-Drop Group Ride On Gravel. It is as simple as that.
Who Can Come? Anyone. The "invitational" part of the name is a bit tongue in cheek, since I invite any and all who want to try the challenge.
When: The Friday of the 25th is a gathering time, and it is not necessary to be there then, but it is good socializing time. The ride proper will likely start predawn on the 26th and last until about 6 or 7 in the evening depending on the group dynamics. I'm still hashing out details on the start, (see below), so that will be announced at a later date.
Where? The 2014 GTDRI will reprise most of the '09-'10 route. I am a bit disappointed to say that a major connector on part of the route has been paved since those days, so I am looking at re-routing a bit. Never the less, it will mostly be in Clayton County Iowa with a bit of Fayette County thrown in for good measure. Back then, when we first did this route in '09, we started at the remote and primitive Echo Valley State park near West Union. However; since there seems to be growing interest in this event, I am considering moving the start to either Strawberry Point or Edgewood. These towns have actual motels and are either right on the route or super close to it. I will make a determination based upon feedback from riders and research into the possibilities.

The route will feature climbs up to 15% gradient: Image from the '09 GTDRI
Route Details: 

The '09 version, the only time we finished the entire loop, featured 6 feet shy of 10,000 feet elevation gain. Several ascents were in  the 10%-12% range with one climb registering 15% on one of the guy's GPS units. I cannot vouch for accuracy there, but I rode this route and the climbs are brutal. One in particular, Fantail Road in Clayton County, is at least 3 miles long!

There are also a couple of outstanding B Maintenance roads on this route that I and others I know relish. One is Imperial Road off Kennedy Road which is a steadily climbing mile of two track dirt goodness. That comes only a few miles ahead of the really good one, Impala Road, which we take going down hill. It drops off a bluff over the Turkey River and at first you might think you are on a mountain bike course. The rocks at the top are pretty big! It goes down steeply at first, is very rutted out, and then gets more gentle on its two mile track to Garber Iowa.

History: Another thing I have come to appreciate is the historical element behind the route which is featured by our traveling on Mission Road. This road pre-dates Iowa's statehood, going all the way back to 1841 when it was commissioned as a supply route to the Camp located near present day Fort Atkinson from Dubuque Iowa, a distance of roughly 100 miles. It was to be a "most direct path" between the two points, thus neglecting the "grid" system that had been outlined previously for these territories by the Federal Government. The road helped to establish the Camp, and later the actual Fort installation at Fort Atkinson designed to protect the Winnebago Tribe from the Sioux, Sauk, and Fox Tribes, whom they had been warring against. (This also facilitated the immigration of White settlers into the area, obviously) Supplies flowed to and fro on this road until the rail road came through, largely along the same route. Pioneers coming to Northeast Iowa, Northern Iowa, and Southern Minnesota used this route heavily in the mid 1840's to late 1880's to settle this part of the country.

A portion of the modern day Mission Road as it appeared in 2010
Mission Road lives on in Clayton County as a gravel road which closely follows its original route. We'll ride part of it coming Westward into Strawberry Point and leaving Westward to a point a few miles west of Strawberry Point, near to an old trading post site. There we will leave the old road and go on back into the steep hill country.

Besides this, you'll note a ton of awesome scenic views from the tops of many hills that you will ride, (or walk!), up. This part of Iowa is really spectacular that way. There may also be Mennonite/Amish sightings, which are always fun. You definitely will see cart tracks on some of the roads. There is a stretch of the route right hard against the Turkey River that is pretty cool. This leads to Elkader, which is a very scenic river town with great architecture.

So, there will be more details and some figuring out of things coming, but this route is pretty spectacular, and at about 115-120 miles, (depending on a minor subtraction and addition to the route, isn't too long.The day of the ride, being on a Saturday, gives you a chance to hang out Saturday evening and not have to rush back home. I won't say it will not be difficult, because as the other two gentleman who attempted this in 2010 will attest, it is very hard and heat will make it nigh unto impossible. That said, if we are allowed to pass, it will be a ride to remember!

Stay tuned......

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