Monday, July 28, 2014

GTDRI Report: It Could Have Been Worse- Part 2

First Gravel Of The Day
The GTDRI of 2014 started out in the valley of Backbone State Park at 6:02am after some blathering by myself. I and the six others crawled up the paved road out of the park and into a hazy, humid, almost wet day.

The mood was good and we had a great group of guys gathered together. A couple of surprise showings in Dan Buettner, who decided to come over dinner the evening before, and Aaron Schnee who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, but was up visiting relatives in the area, so he drug along his bike and showed up to ride as well. Michael Lemberger was in from Madison, Wisconsin, and Jeremy, Mike, Tony, and I were representing the Cedar Valley. A really strong group of riders and I knew I had my work cut out to be able to keep up with them.

The first part wouldn't be too bad though, since it was relatively flat and there were paved sections coming into Strawberry Point and leaving there. "First gravel" wasn't hit until almost three miles into the route. We passed by the Backbone Bluegrass Festival, and it looked pretty busy there already at a little past 6:00am. While it was tempting to turn left into the venue, we kept rolling!

Our first "encounter" with RAGBRAI. It wouldn't be the last one!
Coming into Strawberry Point we saw lots of activity. Tractors, banners being unfurled, things being roped off, and the great smells of cooking outdoors as the community was readying itself for the onslaught of RAGBRAI riders. They would be going in the opposite direction than we were going. This prompted many a "You're going the wrong way!" comments from the locals and a few RAGBRAI front runners that had already made it to Strawberry Point. Our reply became, "No, we're going the RIGHT way!" Which bewildered the folks that heard it. No time for explaining, and we rolled Eastward out of town and quickly back to gravel roads again.

Our first major road was "Amission Road", or in old parlance, "Old Mission Road". It is an oddity in a state of roads set on a grid, since it was an early Army road, then an important route to ferry supplies and people to the Northern parts of Iowa as settlers came in after Statehood was granted in 1846. It wanders Northwestward out of Strawberry Point for several miles before it eventually disappears into the gridwork imposed by the government. Our time on Old Mission Road was notable for losing track of two of our riders, Michael and Jeremy. It turned out that their "nature break" ended up becoming a flat tire repair for Michael. We were just heading back  down the road to find out where they were when we saw them coming back to us.

Old Mission Road escapes the grid, but not forever!
Barns for Jason: Michael Lemberger checks out a family farm's barn.
Big views early into the ride near Volga, Iowa.
Leaving Old Mission Road behind we went North and the Eastward over some "roller coaster" hills that were a precursor to the fast descents and insane grades that we would face later on. Then it was the Right turn onto St. Sebald Road that catapulted us upward to a place where the views were spectacular. The cloudy conditions were breaking into a sky with patches of blue and the heat was slowly ratcheting upward. I found my Raleigh Tamland's gearing to be lacking. It was going to become a big liability on the hills coming up later. For now, I just had to get up and over these first bits and to a big sector of flats coming later.
A stretch along the Volga River
We made it down to Volga, a small hamlet on the Volga River, and cruised through and back Northward. The road bent West a bit as it hugged the Volga River and then it was past the hill where on Trans Iowa V4 we came across a mudslide that blocked the road and where we had riders scoot over the mud and debris. Oddly enough, Aaron Schnee was on that T.I. and remembered the incident.

Moving past that point, not very much further on up the road, we came upon a crest of a hill, and much to my surprise the riders in the front decided to stop and we all ended up taking a break. It was really humid, and the heat was beginning to make us feel our legs and I guess it was good to stop and cool down. I was a bit concerned about not getting to the lunch stop before 12:00pm, but there was plenty of time to go before we got to Elkader.

Wadena was our town to first stop and refuel and we were all wanting to get there to resupply on water and maybe find something to eat. The last stretch to Wadena was a straight shot Westward on relatively easy road, but as I remarked on the ride, I don't know why those miles there seem to take so long. Then it dawned on me. You cannot see anything off to the sides as the road is lined with trees for much of the time through there. It makes seeing progress harder. Or not. Just my theory there.

Next Up: Part 2

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