Saturday, February 22, 2014

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #44

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....

The "second" official header for V8 that Jeff Kerkove designed
 With all my efforts focused upon putting on the best Trans Iowa I could, a few things bear mentioning that were unusual for this event. First amongst those is the film, "300 Miles of Gravel", which would be shown for the very first time during the Pre-Race Meet-Up.  67 riders and support folks were the first to witness the unveiling of  Jeff Frings' hard work over the past year. It was a bit embarrassing for me, having had a big part in the show, but it was well received by all in attendance.

Secondly, the remote nature of the course was such that convenience store opportunities were scarce, and nearly non-existent for the last 140 miles. Because of this, and the fact that I had Gu Energy and Cliff Bar downloading tons of product on the event, I took a page from the Pirate Cycling League's Gravel Worlds and used their idea of a "Secret Checkpoint". What I did was I picked out a spot in a small village with about 120 miles to go and allowed volunteers Jeremy Fry and Matt Gersib to provide whatever goods they wanted to, along with the Cliff Bar and Gu Energy stuff.

Getting settled in to watch "300 Miles of Gravel": Image by W. Kilburg
Then there was the remote 2nd checkpoint, which was really way out in the sticks this time. I think the nearest village was 10 miles away! (Not on the route either, by the way.) I really liked this particular checkpoint and fortunately the weather cooperated to allow for it to be a great part of Trans Iowa V8.

The Trans Iowa vehicle would finally be "The Truck With No Name", since I had no co-director anymore. It would be just myself slugging it out for 35 plus hours.

Media: We had Steve Fuller pulling photography duties again for V8. He along with Checkpoint #2 volunteer, Wally Kilburg, took a lot of great photographs before and during the event. Trans Iowa V8 has a ton of photographic documentation, possibly more photographs were taken for V8 than the previous seven Trans Iowa events combined, at least on a "professional, for the event" level. We also had Dave Mabel with "Iowa Momentum Magazine" as an "in race reporter".

We had a wet, ominous start: Image by Wally Kilburg
The weather was crazy. It had been bone dry leading up to T.I.V8, but the night before we started, thunderstorms let loose and stayed around till right up to the start. It was super windy from the east as well.

I awoke in my motel room at 2:30am. So, a too early start for sure! I was nervous about the weather, and nervous about how it would all go down, excepting that I knew that everything I could have possibly accounted for had been covered. Not like any Trans Iowa before V8.

My main memories from the beginning were the lights, as always, of the long train of riders. I recall stopping for a moment on a hill to watch their glow coming up behind me and then like a small, brilliant bluish sunrise, the lights spilled over the lip of a hill behind me. That was cool to see. Then it was the wind, darkness, and me feeling very alone as I struck out to the first B Maintenance road 29 miles into the event.

Things went well, actually. Typical Trans Iowa stuff from the start through to Checkpoint #1, just without any drama whatsoever. No rerouting, no miscues, nothing like that at all. It was almost.......boring! Checkpoint #1 was well manned and executed by the volunteers led by Brent Irish. Kudos to that group. They were top notch volunteers.

A steep, gravel covered hill: Image by Steve Fuller
Again, things were going great, and better than I thought. I was pretty down in the dumps about the weather, but when Brent Irish called in with the Checkpoint #1 figures, I was dumbfounded.

Brent: "It looks like we had 55 go through the checkpoint."

Me: "How many?!! Are you sure?"

Brent, (sounding a bit  annoyed), "55- By my count we had 55."

I explained I was not questioning his abilities, but I was surprised to the point of flabbergasted. It was a big turnaround for me in my countenance and I was excited once again. Further up the road, Wally and George put on a heck of a checkpoint experience, with a great atmosphere, camaraderie, and even a fire to warm a cold body beside! I still remember John Gorilla telling me that there should have been a time limitation on how long you could stay at Wally and George's checkpoint!

Checkpoint Bravo and the campfire.
Going to hang out with MG and J-Fry at the "Secret Checkpoint" was another highlight point in the event from my standpoint. Good times there. Then moving up the road, there was the trouble with finding a good place to pull over to urinate.

Yeah, when you are in the country, there usually are several places to discretely relieve oneself. However; I could not seem to find a place out of sight, or find a desolate, car free enough area to get out to do my business. I recall pulling into Pella and finding a bicycle trail that the riders were to take into town. There was a public trail head there with a parking lot. Surely there would be a public restroom facility, a porta-jon, or a pit toilet? Nope!  Nuthin! I didn't want to stray to far from the trail for fear of missing the lead riders, but I eventually found a line of trees and brush to hide behind and this was a life saver!

Then there was the late night driving in Jasper County on their freshly graveled, loose roads. I pulled over to take a call from MG and the truck just about slid into the ditch! Of course, I had already, earlier Saturday, done a full mile of squirrely B Maintenance road dirt trackin'! Some folks that knew about my near misses were concerned afterward and asked me to consider having a ride along partner. But why would I put someone else at risk? Heck, I still am going to be pushing up against the edge while driving regardless of who is in the truck!

They call me the Stat Man! Yee-yeah-a I'm the Stat Maaaaan! (Image by S.Fuller)
 There really was only one tense, not very pleasant time during all of Trans Iowa V8 for me personally, and that was when we realized that Charlie Farrow was AWOL in the night. At some point between Checkpoint 2 and the Secret Checkpoint. Remember- he had gone off course already once before CP#2, and my mind was reeling with the possibilities for a not so great outcome to this development. MG said he'd backtrack the course to see if he'd left any traces of his passage, but in the dark on unfamiliar roads, I wasn't feeling too good about MG's chances. The deal was that everyone had passed through but Charlie and that he should have passed through in the time that had elapsed, thus the concerns. As mentioned above though, MG called me and said he'd found him and that Charlie was ready to call it a day, so that crisis was averted and everything was fine from that point onward.

Trans Iowa V8 claimed a few folk's rigs: Image by S. Fuller
I ended up getting into Grinnell in the middle of the night, about 2:30-ish, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. No snafus, no unplanned rerouting, the cues were spot on, and if anyone got lost, (and there were a few that did), they all knew it was their own mistakes that caused their issues. Now all there was to do was to wait and see who could finish the route. I'd done my job, and I felt it was the very best I could do. I sat on the tailgate of my truck, despite the cold, bone chilling East wind, and drank my last beer to celebrate.

This was a big deal for me. It was "my finish line" for a challenge I set before myself bounding down a gravel road in David's Element a year beforehand. I didn't need anyone to "celebrate" with. It was a "quiet victory" and it was a very satisfying moment for me. I won't soon forget that night.

So, with that done, I thought maybe I could catch a few "z's" before the finishers showed up after dawn. That never happened. I ended up being awake for the duration, which turned out to be a nice, pleasant time with friends. The finish, as the year before, was at the end of a road near the high school. It was supposed to have been in Lion's Park, right next door, the year before for V7, but Craig Cooper of Bikes To You kind of changed that for me and I continued to do the same for V8. It worked out real well, actually.

So, the last thing was the drive home. I was beat. I had been up for a full 36 hours and driving home on the highway was getting really sketchy. I pulled off on a gravel to relieve myself and as I did, I found that I perked right up. I ended up driving about 60 miles on gravel back home. Why not? 60 miles more was a drop in the bucket to what I had already piled on for gravel mileage for the weekend!

Next Up: Getting geared up for V9 at the same level as V8.......

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