Sunday, May 04, 2014

Trans Iowa V10: A Hop, Skip, and a Jump

Riders took to abandoned houses and barns in the storm: Image by P LaCava
12:16am Sunday April 27th: text from myself to Rob Versteegh-

"9 person group just went by. Fuller, Mike Johnson, Sarah Cooper, Ben Oney and others"

By the time that 9 strong group went by it was raining sideways a bit and the wind was ludicrous speed. You Spaceballs? 

Well, anyway, I had been sitting there for about an hour before these guys rolled up and then they and their little bubble of LED light were gone. Later on after the event, Steve Fuller told me he was very upset when he first realized it was me there in the middle of nowhere because he thought I was pulling the riders and ending the event. While it was touch and go there for a while, I ended up being right in that the storm only lasted a short time. (By my later reckoning it was about 40 minutes before the bad lightning moved off to the North.) It certainly added another layer to an already epic event. About an hour later I got the following text from Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey:

1:34 am: "Hey Mark! The nine of us are hiding out in a barn for now to wait out the worst of this storm. We plan on rolling again. We have Mike Johnson, Fuller, Joe Stephens, Josh, Sarah, Ben, Patrick, and Andy."  

So riders were getting under cover. Not too long after the nine had passed me up, Matt Gersib and two others rolled up. This was about the same time that the Slender Fungus finally found me after several missed turns. A surprise there was that I was expecting Ari and T.J., but the Bonk King and a rider also piled out of the vehicle! Well, I was in a hurry to help out the riders and invited T.J. and Bonk King to listen in on my instructions to the riders to economize my efforts. Matt Gersib, upon hearing the re-route instructions, put his head down and said, "Well, we know what we have to do, now let's go do it!"

Ben Oney, Joe Stephens, Steve Fuller (L-R)
Now it was a bit chaotic at the re-routing spot as everyone but myself understood that I was driving Gerald, the German rider Ari and the guys found out on the highway, and Ari back to Grinnell. Once I got that straightened out in my head, we stuffed Gerald in between Ari and myself in my standard cab truck and we got out of there just as a few more riders were coming up. It was really starting to rain hard by this time.

The scene was of high winds, heavy rain, and this crazy, colored lightning in red and orange. We surmised it was due to all the low level dust in the air being driven along by the East wind. It was hellish but spectacular and beautiful. I was glad to be doing something now after sitting at that spot in the road for probably two plus hours. So I had hopped into the truck now with a befuddled and very tired German and an amped up Ari. Gerald was telling us how he just needed to sleep, if even for an hour, during these longer events. Ari looked down at him and said, "Sleeping is for babies!". I jumped right in on that. I started in with "Yeah! This is America! We don't sleep here! 24-7!!!", as I pumped my fist in the air.

I am sure that Gerald was a bit concerned with his predicament just then. Stuck between two enormous, amped up, crazy Americans in a pickup truck in a storm of epic proportions in a foreign country in the middle of the night in rural Iowa. Yeah.......I bet that was exactly what he was looking for when he signed up for Trans Iowa! 

Well, Ari and I did settle down and Gerald spoke of his cycling experiences in Germany and about perhaps doing a similar backroad event in his homeland. Ari and I encouraged him in this. Then Gerald fell silent for a bit as Ari and I continued our chatter. Ari suddenly pointed to Gerald. His chin was bouncing off his chest in slumber. I remembered that he had spent an entire day on a bicycle in crazy winds on steep hills. It was the middle of the night now, and the rain had stopped, the lightning had moved Northward and Eastward, and the road was.......completely dry! 

Everyone that showed up this year got this cool Trans Iowa sticker!
That's just a testament to how hard the wind was really blowing. Plus, as Ari said, the storm seemed to be all bark and no bite. It really didn't rain all that much. That's not to take away from the wind and lightning part of it, which more than made up for the lack of rain!

By the time we reached Grinnell, Gerald was back awake and talking with Ari about places in Germany they both were familiar with. We pulled up to the motel and Ari opened the door and immediately I hear a crash of breaking glass. It was a bottle of home brewed IPA Mark Johnson had given me. Ari jumped out, let Gerald retrieve his things and he disappeared into the motel. Meanwhile, Ari is picking up bits of broken beer bottle glass ten feet in front of the Comfort Inn & Suites front door at 2:00am Sunday morning. It was kind of funny at the moment.

Ari and I then went to go see what was happening at the Barn, but all the lights were out. Ari then put in his lot with me for the remainder of the event. So we went and backtracked the course, hoping to overtake the leaders and see how far out they were from the finish. We would first see the B Roads coming into the finish stretch and we were thinking we would find some greasy, wet mud, but nothing of the sort! It was maybe a bit spongy, but completely dry and rideable. Crazy! Well, what was crazy was Ari and I hopping up and down on the dirt at 3:00am in the morning to see how soft the road was. I bet that was a sight to see! Ari and I then moved on. The phone started to take off again with DNF's calling in. We had gone into the storm with 42 riders but with the storm and rain, along with the mid-30 degree temperatures, many riders were suffering from hypothermic issues and were just not going to put up with anymore of Trans Iowa. Rider numbers were decreasing steadily from that point on.

We then worked our way backward to a longer stretch that the riders were going to have a headwind for. We were maybe 500 yards into it when we saw a rider. It was Greg Gleason, but we didn't recognize him. We thought we maybe had a new leader in Trans Iowa, but we were just not seeing things correctly. We finally put two and two together after about an hour or so. It was 4:30am when we saw Greg, and we kept going backward looking for chasers.

The chase group at dawn evening: Image by P LaCava
Towards the end of the headwind sector, (actually the beginning of it for the riders), we saw the chasers. Derek Wieder was leading them, still in bib shorts with a smile on his face. Ari beamed with pride at the site of his Slender Fungus rider pulling a small train along a windswept Iowa gravel road. We turned around, passed them, and headed back down Highway 146 towards the finish line only a hop, skip, and a jump away for us, but probably several hours yet for the riders we saw.

It was beginning to become light out again, my second sunrise of Trans Iowa. Generally I am about totally wasted at this point, but having Ari in the truck energized me and the hours of the overnight were filled with great conversation and fun. The situation with the riders dropping out was also keeping me busy, and Ari was helping me out with anything he could as we went along. Honestly, the whole situation with Gerald and then having Ari in the truck made for a Trans Iowa overnight that was the best one ever. A great way to cap off ten of these beasts!

Ari and I got back to the barn by a little past 5:00am in the morning and settled into waiting on Greg Gleason's arrival. Barring any sort of weird mechanical or some other mishap, it was obvious that he was going to win Trans Iowa. There were 33 individuals left and the question was how many would make it in. Folks were stirring at the finish line. A fire was being kindled, and it looked like we were in for a great morning.

Next Up: The Cherry On Top


gerrireggi said...

Hi Mark,

You are right- I met some crazy people doing crazy things 24/7 and that´s exactly what I was looking for. it was a great experience for me to ride these gravel roads with high winds and many, many steep uphills. Yeah !

Now, that I did not finish, I have " a suitcase in Iowa", as we say so in Germany....we will see.

I´m glad that I met you and Ari and the others, who picked me up- we had lot to laugh.

Now I realize, I must have been very tired.

many, many THANKS


Unknown said...