Monday, April 30, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: The Load Out

Packed tighter than a drum.
With just one more Trans Iowa to go, everything took on a new significance with me. The prep, the recon, the loading up of the truck the morning of the event. All of it- just one more time. 

Even writing this report is weird for me. Since, ya know, there won't be another Trans Iowa, (if you missed the announcement, back up a day and take a look here), I won't get all syrupy and what not with you. Besides, that would just make a mess out of you and I. No one wants that now, do we?

The "load out" is always significant here in the house since I have this practice of making a pile of whatever I need to take with me in the front entryway. If it is "in the pile" it is "off my mind" and ready to walk out the door with to be loaded into the truck. This practice really works well for me, but Mrs. Guitar Ted? Ah........not so much. She generally makes a snarky remark when I bring up another box or place another tote out there to go into the truck. Once they are gone the tension gets released and things are back to normal, kind of.

The boxes went into the truck and I texted a few of the volunteers to see if the plans they had made to meet me in Grinnell were still in place. I thought back to T.I.v8 when I did everything alone for the most part. Now I had trusted people doing things I used to have to cover myself. Heck, even the recon of the route the day before Trans Iowa had been done already by Wally. I had intel and time to digest it. But, I went down and drove part of the route anyway. I had the time and I wanted my own first hand viewpoint.

Beautiful? perhaps, but what you don't see here is the malevolent winds.
The wind was fierce. Unreal dust was drifting like snow and blowing up into the air constantly. I've never seen the roads in this dry a state at this early of time in the year. How would that affect Trans Iowa, I wasn't sure. I did have some advice, posted on Facebook, from Sarah Cooper, who was to be in this event, but couldn't, that riders should consider a dust mask or the like. I could certainly get behind that idea after what I saw on Friday.

The other obvious thing that would affect Trans Iowa was the fresher gravel laid down seemingly everywhere. The dust was elevated to epic proportions due to this. But more importantly, it was the roughness and slower speeds that the chunky gravel would impart upon the riders that would be the most impactful. Wally had driven further into the course on Friday and stated it was slightly worse in this way where he was.

Then I finally headed over to the Pre-Race Meat-Up. I met with the Mikes and MG, Tony, Craig and others. Folks started coming in, and the whole she-bang went off well. The overall vibe was that of excitement amongst the riders assembled. You could feel the good vibes there, it was very different than the year before where everyone felt it was "when" more than "if" they were going to bail out.

The dust was outrageous in the afternoon

The meeting went of well and then it was to our motel room to get whatever sleep we could. The chit-chat afterward was that the meeting went well. 95 folks signed on, and with cues being handed out in the morning we had quite a it different vibe overall.

Next: The Start

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reaching "The End"

"The End". The words that come at the end of any good story. Those were the words I was striving for after Trans Iowa v7. I had just come out of a very emotionally draining, physically taxing Trans Iowa which, in all honesty, was very flawed. I developed a fire in my belly to make Trans Iowa the event I always knew it could be right then and there. I gave myself goals to achieve, and I wanted to "get it right" by the time I reached v10, because that was my goal all along: To reach a decade of doing TI's and then just walk away from it. "The End" that I was striving for was this. This idea was something I think formulated in my mind around T.I.v5 or so, but the drive to the "finish" was found post v7. That's really where it came into focus for me.

Whatever gets started has to have an end at some point. I chose "ten". Ten was a nice, even number and I knew at some point I needed to cut back on several things that were wasting me away, taking a lot of energy and time in my life. Things which I was acutely aware of, and I knew I needed to address the situation. I backed out of doing the website work, editing, and reviewing for Twenty Nine Inches in 2014, which was a huge weight lifted off my back, but there was still a Trans Iowa. Why? I was supposed to have been done with that as well.
This- was supposed to be "The End". The last shot from T.I.v10

 Trans Iowa v10 ended at "The Barn" where a few previous Trans Iowas had ended. I felt v10 was a great event. The feeling of the "gravel family" really was brought into its maturity, at least for Trans Iowa, at v10. It was a rich event with great story lines and epic struggles all across the field of entrants. There was a weather factor, and we had a decent amount of finishers. So, it was the perfect Trans Iowa to just walk away from. I wasn't going to "officially"announce that "this was it", but the word got around. You know how families are. So it was that I was leveraged pretty strongly by several folks who begged and pleaded with me to continue. I capitulated only because I had one or two more goals left unfinished that I wanted to tackle.

Goal number 1 was to get a covered bridge on the Trans Iowa route somehow. I had seen them marked on the maps, and I almost figured out how to get one into TIv8, but it just didn't quite jive with the course. So, that was left out there. Then I wanted to go Southeast. Finally, I wanted to circumnavigate Des Moines as a way to give a nod to Gravel Worlds. So, I decided to continue with the event until I had achieved all my goals and wasn't having fun anymore.

Of course, v11 was a wash. No one made it to CP#1 on time but Greg Gleason, and he went 128 miles. If you remember where he ended up, you can guess which goal that version of Trans Iowa was trying to achieve. V12 was something that popped up in my head where I wanted to bring TI close to home here in Waterloo, and that obviously happened. It wasn't an "original goal", but you can be thankful that it extended Trans Iowa an extra year!

T.I.v13 was maybe the best, from my standpoint. I notched two goals in one event- Covered bridges AND circumnavigating Des Moines. I was really satisfied it came off the way that it did. So, then that pretty much was it. So why a v14 at all?

 Well, I wasn't very motivated for it, I will say that much. However; I wanted to end it in a way where the riders would understand that this was "it". There would be no cajoling, persuading, or going back. After v10, I realized "just walking away" wasn't going to work. This had to have a "hard point" to end it and for me to be free of any thought of ever doing Trans Iowa again. This post is part of that "hard point".

That didn't mean it was easy to continue and do "just one more". The wind had gone out of my sails, and honestly, putting on v14 was the hardest thing I had done with any TI since v3, probably. It was a total mental slog. I had motivational issues, and coming up with a basic course idea was tough. I finally decided to use a "Greatest Hits" sort of approach for the course. This also pointed out to me that "The End" needed to happen after TIv14. I wasn't having fun, and I had run out of goals to keep me going.

The end of Trans Iowa meant I would have a LOT of explaining to do to my "gravel family" who were enthusiastic and wanted TI to go on forever. Of course, that was unrealistic thinking, but the feelings are real. My plan going in to the Pre-Race was to not spend any time saying "why" I was doing what I was doing, but to ask, just one more time, that the riders give me a clean event. And so that brings up a secret fear I have had for years about putting on Trans Iowa. That being that something "terrible" would happen.

It was a very tough fear to put down every year. A huge risk, and something I never, ever wanted to live through. I always have had a big comedown after any Trans Iowa, and a lot of that was due to being so tense about riders and their safety. Many folks who don't know me color me as an uncaring, tyrannical, strict, and stubborn event director. They say I don't care, or that I am a masochist, or some other malevolent terminology is used to describe my style. Nothing could be further from the truth, and many that do know me and that have spent time with me during a TI can vouch for that fact. Running TI tore me up inside. I just wanted to escape that eventually and be free.

Then there was the family. Not the "gravel family", whom I love in a special way, but my blood family. My wife and two children. The kids are in high school now and in a few years they will be gone. Springtime will be filled with graduations and other stuff teenagers want their parents to be a part of. Trans Iowa stood in the way of a lot of that. I needed to clear my slate and be present with my kids and my ever enduring wife, Phyllis. So, I am stepping out of event promoting mainly to do what a good Father should do.

I think that about sums it up. I gave Trans Iowa my all. I did the very best I could do. I think I was successful, and I achieved my goals. Now others will have to write the legacy story of this event, because my time in it is over. Will I miss it? I am sure that I will. But I have rich, deep memories to last a lifetime and a LOT of people to get around to to give thanks. I am sure that will take a long time to get done. I look forward to seeing many of you in the years to come.

Finally- Thank you. I don't have much, but I can say this. I am deeply thankful to anyone and all who had any part in Trans Iowa over the years. There are too many people to list. Some will say that Trans Iowa was all about Guitar Ted's vision and dedication, but that is selling it way, way short. Trans Iowa was all about all the people involved. All of you.

The End.

The Touring Series: Getting Juiced!

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995.

 Note: The subsequent entries were all written in 2008. We now join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it stops for some refreshments near the end of a long, hard day.....

We scrambled across a busy roadway to a group of small wood framed buildings that made up the bulk of the town. The city was called Babcock, and it had one main attraction, the Cranberry Inn.

It was a white clapboard building with no real distinction other than the bar sign that hung off the upper story. Three or four steps led up to a door that led unmistakeably into a bar. A bar that was a happening place this late Tuesday afternoon. Troy was beside himself. He was not wanting to waste any time going in to a bar. However; Steve insisted that more "information gathering" was necessary and this may be our only good opportunity. Based upon what I saw of the previous miles since Millston, I had to agree. 
Entrance to Babcock, WI from a recent image on the web.

So first Troy and Steve entered the bar while I stood guard over the bikes. They were in there for what seemed like an eternity when Troy finally popped out and motioned for me to go in and " get Steve out of there!" Apparently Steve had availed himself of the offerings inside, much to the consternation of Troy. This would become a sticking point later on, as we shall see.

Inside was your typical bar scene- well, rural bar scene! Guys would "belly up" to the bar, order beers, and "BS" their way through conversations about various subjects. Smoke filled the air and loud, boisterous men sodden with "barley pops" were the over riding sensory inputs. I found Steve at the far end of the bar with an empty stool beside him. I plopped myself down and made some small talk with a few locals, sipped my Coke, and convinced Steve it was time to go. My main memory of the place was of a t-shirt that they sold emblazoned with the words- "I got juiced at The Cranberry Inn" Too funny and all too true for the majority of the patrons there that day.

By the time I got Steve extracted from the grips of The Cranberry Inn, Troy was fit to be tied. Wanting to get in some more miles before sunset, he set an infernal pace on the busy, wood chip laden highway that was none too smooth. It was getting on to be evening and we had about twelve miles to go to get to the next town of any decent size.

As we approached the end of the day, we saw a big, tall smokestack emblazoned with a "GP" on it. Georgia Pacific, a paper company, had a huge mill here. The city was called Nekoosa and it looked mean and dirty. It was late enough that the light was fading fast. We were discussing possible overnight stay choices when we saw a sign for a campground. Too bad it was another seven miles down the road! We just didn't have enough light to make it that far. Just when I thought all hope was lost, Steve spied a church with cars parked in the lot. Ever the optimist, Steve said he would go in and ask to see if we could camp there. He came back out shortly after, proclaiming his good luck. Apparently the pastor and the church board were having a meeting, and we were allowed access to the "back yard" of the church to pitch our tents on.

It turned out to be a beautiful strip of lawn bordered on one side by the church and on the other by the wide Wisconsin River. It was looking like a rain was going to set in as we started to download our gear for the night. Steve was busy setting up his tent, but Troy was looking around the church. It had about a ten foot overhang to the roof and about a seven foot wide cement pathway around its base. "Why not sleep here"?, Troy wondered, and I agreed that it looked good, and too easy! We chuckled at Steve as he set about getting his stuff into his tent.


After riding so hard till we got to Babcock, it seemed nice to me to sit in a bar for a bit, but in reality this stop burned up a LOT of time which we nearly paid dearly for in terms of setting up our overnight camp spot. The ride from the Cranberry Inn to Nekoosa was hard, fast, and fraught with busy two lane traffic in ever worsening light. I remember being pretty fearful of setting up tents in a total blackout condition in some wooded area up the road.  The chance meeting of that church board that night was a big blessing!

Next week: A Day For Ducks

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 17

A calf loose from its pen on the road. This would eventually become the basis for the T.I.v5 header art.
Ten years ago on the blog I was recounting the events of the fourth running of Trans Iowa. That one was quite the doozy! The event almost didn't happen as copious snow melt coupled with heavy Spring rains drowned the course and made a mess of things to the point that we almost couldn't use the proposed front half of the course at all.

This one had a little bit of everything that Trans Iowa could possibly throw at us. Snow (!!), heavy winds, cold, a mudslide that blocked the roadway, flooded parts of the course, major rerouting, monstrous frost heaves, and a curtailed event due to a bad road washout in the night portion of the event.

By the time David Pals and I had flagged, staked, cleared trees, routed over the mudslide, and came upon a very bad bridge approach at the end of a long down hill, we were exhausted and frustrated. We called off the end of the event knowing that further up the road one of our Level B roads was six foot under water. More rerouting in the middle of the night? Not happening. We set up a finish line in Edgewood and waited.

One of my all time favorite Trans Iowa images.
Somehow or another five guys figured out all the rerouting and ended up coming in to Edgewood. We had one lone straggler, Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey, who happens to figure heavily in Trans Iowa's history, by the way. He was delirious with fatigue and nearly lost in the middle of the night. We had back tracked the course looking for him, and when David spied his light, we stopped and chatted with him. Then I got the bright idea to lead him into Edgewood, flashers blazing, horn sounding, at three o'clock in the morning, much to the delight of his Lincoln Superfan crew that was waiting on him.

There were a lot of great tales sown into history that day and maybe they have grown a bit in the ensuing ten years, but that's okay. If we have half the adventure during this weekend's Trans Iowa I would be overwhelmed. I am still not sure how David and I- nor anyone in the event- survived all that madness.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday News And Views

Jamis Renegade Elite here on test
Carbon Or Aluminum:
The gravel scene has really come into its own in a very short period of time. When you consider that only seven years ago there weren't any dedicated gravel rigs out there. The Warbird was really the first one, then Raleigh made the Tamland, but now you can hardly turn around without hitting someone's gravel bike. And in most cases, it is carbon fiber or aluminum, not steel or titanium, like it started out.

I am skeptical for several reasons when it comes to carbon fiber gravel/rough road rigs. Why? Well, with these bikes you can find yourself in situations that no "proper" road bike would ever be ridden in. Mud, slurry, and sand, not for a half an hour race, not for an hour,  but for many hours straight, can put the hurt on frames. I've seen carbon frames, and titanium ones, for that matter, worn straight through due to abrasive conditions. Yes......"seen" as with my own two eyes. Not hearsay folks. This happens to gravel bikes.

Now, admittedly, carbon can be built and "armored" to withstand this, but then there is the "other" thing about carbon- stiffness. A lot of effort goes into the rear triangles of these bikes to bring some modicum of comfort but the forks......not so much. To my way of thinking, that is backwards. But maybe this Jamis Renegade Elite will be an outlier and actually ride well on rough gravel. I'm about to find out, as it hit the headquarters Wednesday. Post Trans Iowa I will be pressing this into service.Stay tuned......

Another American made headset choice by Wolf Tooth Components
Wolf Tooth Does Head Sets Now:

For the longest time Chris King was the only game in town if you wanted nice, anodized, colorful head sets for bicycles. Those are really good, and no one was willing to jump in against them until recently. First it was Phil Wood, then White Industries, and now, Wolf Tooth has decided to offer a head set choice.

Made in Minnesota, the headsets will be available in standard configurations for straight and tapered steer tubes and in several luscious PURPLE! Yaaaaasssss!

That said, my Raleigh is due for a new 1 1/8th head set and, well, purple wouldn't really fit the color scheme of that bike. So, a blue anodized one is on its way to me and will be installed on the Tamland soon.

Mike Varley's MCD prototype
Black Mountain Cycles MCD News:

I've gone on and on about Black Mountain Cycles and the Monster Cross bike I have from that place here for years. I've also teased this new "MCD" version here and said I would be getting one at some point. Well, I am making good on that and I have a PINK (!!) frame and fork reserved from the first shipment due at the end of June or early July.

You can get one pre-ordered now as well by checking out this blog post here.

I'm really excited about this bike. Yes......steel. You can see the above entry on the carbon fiber rigs to get the "why" for that enthusiasm. I have two or three bikes here that have been severely abused, and since they are steel, I don't bat an eyelash in worry about any of them. Carbon I would have killed long ago had I treated it like I have these other bikes, but well......speculation. I'll leave it at that for now.

But this Monster Cross, with the tweaks Mike Varley has made, should ride even better than mine and it will have the brake standard all my other bikes have making wheel swappage a piece of cake. That's a big deal to me. Maybe others wouldn't care, but for what I do, a test mule must be very versatile, and this one will be just that.

This means one bike in the herd will be going away and the "OG" BMC "Orange Crush" bike will get back to being a single speed again. I am loving that idea, and this will become a fun bike as a single speed. I know, because that's how I had it set up for a while when I first got it.

Trans Iowa v14:

Of course, today is the start of the "big dance", the fourteenth Trans Iowa gravel road cycling event which will get underway at 4:00am Saturday, but the Pre-Race Meat-Up is tonight at the Grinnell Steakhouse.

I'm gone traveling today. First off, I need to scout the roads for the first leg of the event so we don't have any surprises. Then I need to get to the Steakhouse to set up for the meeting which will officially get underway at 4:00pm.

Just a quick reminder that Trans Iowa Radio can be used to follow the event. Click Here. There is already a preliminary post from myself with my partner, Ben Welnak in which I give some last minute insight as to how things are setting up for this go-round. Don't look for any further updates about Trans Iowa here. The next post will be about post-TI stuff, the race report, etc. That will begin here after the weekend is over.

I will also be posting live updates via Twitter on my account- 2guitarted1961 using the hashtag #TIv14 for reference. Just type that hashtag into Twitter's search box to bring up all TIv14 related Tweets and Periscope live broadcasts.

Have a great weekend and pray that I come back from this one alive, if you would.........

See ya on the other side!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: The Final Day To Prepare

T.I.v14 rider schwag
Well........tomorrow is THE day. I'd better be ready to go by the end of the day or....... Well, we won't even think about THAT! I'll just make sure I am ready to roll tomorrow. I had all day yesterday off from work to tie up a bunch of loose ends.

I packed up tubs, cue sheets, made forms, roster sheets, and got some little details taken care of. I was running around most of the day doing stuff. And I still do not have the schwag items for the riders. I am hoping to take delivery of that stuff today. Then Friday morning I load up and head out down to Grinnell to put on another Trans Iowa.

I posted this image Wednesday on Twitter of the bottle opener that riders are going to get. Man! The reaction was crazy. So, just to head off any reactions or questions here, I want to let everyone know that there is a very limited number of extras of the bottle openers. Those are going to sponsors and very special "friends" to the event. So, they are pretty much all spoken for.

And if this whole deal drives me to drink, I'm covered there as well.
 Anyway, thanks to my partner, Ben Welnak for the goods and to Lederman Bail Bonds for the funding to get this done. Without them, none of this happens.

I feel pretty good about how things are coming together for this one. The weather looks like it will even be decent as well. That said, weather will likely play some factor in all of this before it is all said and done. Exactly what that is will be revealed later. But in the grand scheme of things, it seems unlikely that we will see any rain, or catastrophic conditions, ala T.I.v11 or 13.

Work at the shop today should be rather crazy. I'm sure we are way behind schedule since the weather broke. But I cannot do anything about that after 4:00pm today because I'm clocking out and then it will be Trans Iowa 24-7 until Sunday afternoon sometime whenever I manage to drag my sorry carcass home. Hopefully between now and then things go smoothly.

So, you can expect a scheduled ""Friday News And Views" post tomorrow, a "Minus Ten Review" on Saturday, and another edition of "The Touring Series" on Sunday here. If you were wondering about Trans Iowa's progress over the weekend tune in to "Trans Iowa Radio" where I and a lot of riders will be posting brief messages about how the event is going.

Now......I better go over that checklist again and get back to work!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Is A Gravelly Bubble About To Burst?

There is even a bike named "Gravel" now. (Image courtesy of Grannygear)
Well, the "dust" has settled after Sea Otter and the overall vibe from the show was that gravel "everything" was front and center. Well, that and the so-called "e-bike". Funny...... I haven't seen much, if any press coverage on that though. 

My partner Ben was there and messaged me during the festival over the weekend to say that road bikes are dead. "Nail in coffin. Rotting", was the way he put it. Another press report from the festival by the esteemed James Huang of "" echoed the same sentiment. Now, it should be pointed out that Sea Otter was, and is still, a mountain bike festival. Road bikes did feature in the event only due to the road races around the Laguna Seca Raceway there where the venue is. But if the vibe was that "road is dead", then that is saying something. Think about that for a minute......

Huang wrote in his Sea Otter coverage, "This is no fad; gravel bikes are clearly here to stay, and there’s a growing tidal wave of interest behind them." So, as he further went on to indicate, media outlets heavily weighted toward Pro road racing were now going to be covering gravel. And why wouldn't they? If consumer interests have swung over to doing gravel events, riding gravel, and especially when purchasing new gear related to gravel, then it only makes sense to, as they say, "follow the money".

Niner's controversial full suspension gravel rig. (Image courtesy of Grannygear)
And who can blame these companies? Seriously, it is what you are supposed to do when in business- sell what the consumer wants. You may think that this whole "gravel" thing is all just "marketing". (Read- evil intentions of heartless corporations to bilk innocent people of their dollars for no good reason) That isn't how this is working at all.

People are leaving the organized, licensed crit/road racing scene in the U.S. in droves. Just a few years ago, USAC, the sanctioning body for such road events, reported a precipitous drop in license sales and participation numbers in their events fell drastically. Sanctioned mountain bike racing has shown little to no growth for years. So where were all the people going? Were they quitting cycling altogether? Many did, but most went somewhere else, and by the numbers of events seen on gravel, it would be apparent that gravel/back road events are where people are spending their time and money. Of course the industry is going to chase that. You can only blame yourselves for this, cyclists. Stop doing gravel and the industry will drop gravel like a hot potato.

But that said, has the industry gone too far with offerings for this niche segment of cycling, or will it continue to cannibalize mountain and road bike sales into the future? How does the electric motor figure into all of this? Hard to say. But one possibility here is troubling.

Breezer Bikes has debuted a new adventure line. (Image courtesy of Grannygear)
Remember when fat bikes came around in an easy to buy, complete bike format in 2011? (Pugsleys were frame/fork only from 2005-2011) Yeah, then a short two years later everyone had a fat bike in their line. Companies with zero fat bike "cred" were producing corpulent tired monster bikes and trying to surf the fat biking wave. It didn't work out.......

That "bubble" burst in 2014 and sales of fat bikes, once a sure thing for Mid-Western shops, became a tough sell. Everyone that wanted one had one. Many companies have dropped fat bikes from their lines in the last few years or have severely curtailed their offerings. Fat bikes were once a runaway sales hit, and while they will never go away, it will never be like it was for three years or so there.

One could argue that gravel-all road bikes are on the same trajectory. Companies with no background in "adventure" style bikes are now jumping in with both feet into this market. Mountain bike companies that never really pushed road anything have "gravel bikes" now. Get the picture here? It sounds a lot like the same song sung in 2011-2013 with fat bikes.

My sincere hope is that road cycling just becomes "any road cycling". That the road racing style bikes be cornered into the niche place they belonged in all along- for the committed crit racer only. The "common road bike" going forward should be what we are calling "gravel bikes" now and that silly moniker- "gravel"- should just go away. The whole point, at least for me, was that a bike with capable tires and slacker geometry with fittings to promote versatility would become the de-facto choice for most cyclists all over the U.S.A.

But the cycling industry and media keep getting caught up in traditional pigeon holes and in chasing trends so much that they cannot seem to see where this could go. That's the biggest problem I see. If it goes like it has been, I fully expect the bubble to pop, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Country Views: Calm Before The Storm

Arguably the "first" day of Spring 2018 was Sunday.
You just knew it had to end sooner or later. Winter was chased out of the State of Iowa on Saturday and Sunday was gorgeous. Stunning blue skies, Sun in copious amounts, and the temperatures soared into the upper 60's for the first time in the year. (At least around here- Southern Iowa is a different story.)

I decided to head out after a late lunch since I had to play bass guitar at church Sunday morning. I chose to wear my Bontrager long sleeved jersey, a nice wool one, and it was very comfortable, but barely so! The wind, out of the Northeast at 15mph, (add more for being out in the country), was keeping me fairly sweat free. Had there been little wind it would have been a different story.

I decided to hit up Newell Street to the East of Waterloo. It doesn't have many good North-South turn offs until you get several miles East of the city. That meant I was up against the wind until Pilot Grove Road where I finally made the turn to the North.

The roads are fantastic.....well, at least they were on Sunday! The County maintainers will be out pronto to layer on the gravel fresh, thick, and chunky for the Spring planting spree that is sure to happen around here quickly now that the weather has finally cracked. Last year corn was all planted by Trans Iowa time and this year nothing has happened......yet! 

I stopped by the cemetery we stopped at late last Fall on our single speeds.
 The roads are incredibly dry. Really dry. The dust is in mid to late Summer form here. Once fresh gravel is laid on top of this the dust will likely be ridiculous. Trans Iowa will be really something else unless it rains, what with the dry, dusty gravel. Riders should consider face and mouth coverings. For real. It's gonna be a scene!

But then again, if it rains, and stays wet up until the event, then it won't matter. Who knows! I've seen it flip-flop for Trans Iowa before.

Barns For Jason

 Once I had the wind at my back the miles flew by. The roads were smoother than pavement, at least most of the time. I ended the ride by visiting the Big Rock of Big Rock Road and tacking my way South and West toward Waterloo again. Once I got back in the City it was crazy busy with traffic on West 4th. The construction season will have that street way too busy for cycling, I suppose, most of Summer.

These carbon 650B wheels from Irwin Cycling are pretty fun.

 The country is just turning the corner from Brown Season to Spring with the ditches just starting to blush green on the edges. Soon the dirt will be turned in the fields and new furrows will be made by the planting equipment.

Birds are still migrating through the state. I saw a huge flock of Red Wing Blackbirds Sunday. They haven't quite set up shop around here, which should happen any day now. When they do, the birds will be harassing me every mile out there! Turkey Vultures soaring in the air are not finding much to eat, not yet. When the animals start moving again we will see more road kill. Then those soaring scavengers will be busy again.

Hoping for some flowers soon. Nothing to see that way yet. Stay tuned.........

Monday, April 23, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: A Note On Riding Gravel


Okay, with five days to go until T.I.v14, here are a few things I think we will need to be keeping in mind for the event as riders.
  • The weather has finally broken and warmer weather has hit Iowa with a vengeance. This means that farmers will be trying to get out into the fields. This will be happening especially if we miss the rain forecast for Thursday and Friday. If that happens I will require that all riders dismount and allow Ag equipment to pass. Today's equipment is huge and takes up the entire roadway. Don't even think about trying to ride by this stuff. 
  • Of course, if it rains, especially on Friday, then all bets are off in terms of heavy Ag traffic, but there will be a lot of farmers moving things around getting ready for the planting season. This means that, more than ever, you must ride on the right side of the road! Especially when cresting hills. Anyone observed not doing so by myself or my volunteers will run the risk of being DQ'ed. We're taking this seriously. 
  • Another major issue we had a few years ago is emergency vehicles and riders not yielding to them the right of way. Yes......emergency vehicles on gravel roads. It happens. ALL riders will be required to dismount and stand aside on the edge of the road when emergency vehicles displaying lights and sirens pass by. If I hear of any violations, I will summarily DQ anyone in the vicinity of the incident. The last time this happened it took a week of back and forth with a volunteer fire department chief to get things settled down. I DO NOT plan on having to do this again. 
  • In the case of inclement weather, riders must ascertain what is the safe decision to make and  MAKE THE CORRECT DECISION! It isn't worth it to continue to ride if the weather becomes dangerous. In fact, the event well could be terminated early if weather gets too far out of hand. See Rule #16 for more.

So, Ride Right, get off the road for emergency vehicles, and get off the road for agricultural equipment.  Seems pretty simple, no?

Now for a few reminders.......
  • Pre-Race Meat-Up: You MUST ATTEND THIS! Doors open at 4:00pm on the 27th at the Grinnell Steakhouse where you must sign waivers and are encouraged to patronize the Steakhouse by buying dinner and/or drinks. Then at 7:00pm the meeting proper starts where you will receive your race packets and your race numbers. I will try to get you out of there well before 8:00pm. 
  • The event starts at 4:00am, but you MUST BE AT THE START AREA BY 3:30am! We will begin to arrange the riders in order to file them through the cue sheet hand out line where your race number will be observed on the front of your bike and your number matched with our records. Then you will receive a cue sheet packet and be told to line up behind the lead out vehicle. This process will cease at 3:50am. If you are late, you will not ride in T.I.v14. Don't even bother trying to get there late. 
  • At 3:55am I will make some final remarks.....
  • 4:00am the event lead out vehicle pulls out and T.I.v14 is underway. 
My goal for this Trans Iowa is that everyone be smart, ride safely, and avoid calamity. We can only insure these things if we follow the practices advised here, but in the end YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Touring Series: Heading Into Cranberry Country

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned last week, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.

When we last left the three intrepid wanderers they were in Millston, Wisconsin. Here they are about to go in for lunch........

It was called "Granny's Place", or something of a rustic nature similar to that. Inside we found a few people who stared wildly at what they saw as our outlandish appearance. They didn't seem very impressed. Well, the menu was not very impressive to us. Tit for tat! I could not find anything that I would have considered "bike friendly food". I ended up having a hamburger and fries, as did Steve. This was once again "food trauma time" for Troy. I think he had a fish sandwich, or something else that he found disgusting. I noticed that he ate it though! The thing that really made our stop distasteful was the dirty bathroom. Apparently there was fecal matter spread around in there, but I didn't go in. I was just disgusted with the high prices of the mediocre food.

Now we were back on the road, and in somewhat of a hurry, since it was now early afternoon. The County "O" road now took us on a rolling, turning path much different than before. We came upon great cranberry farms. They featured large, rectangular plots of flooded ground with cranberry plants growing in them. Many of these plots were arranged together forming large areas of flooded ground. Alongside of these were large expanses of flooded marshlands. The marshland waters were used to flood the cranberry fields in the fall for harvest.

Now Troy was pushing the pace. He was getting me acquainted with drafting techniques so we could go faster. It was getting breezy, so this came in rather handy. The drafting allowed us all to expend less energy and go faster. However; Troy never took a draft. He always lead, never slowing down unless we did. I was amazed at this and it made me feel bad that I couldn't lead and give him a break. Well, I could have lead, but not at the pace that Troy wanted to maintain.

The pace we kept was maintained by Troy calling out for average speed updates from Steve from time to time. Steve was the only one of us that had a computer. Heck, he even had a radio, which he kept on to take our minds off of the effort being put forth. At any rate, Troy wanted to maintain a 20mph average pace. Steve's computer was showing just slightly less than that. Well, you know what that meant! Go! Go! Go!

Well after all of that "go-go-going" we were soon out of Cranberry Country and coming into logging country. We came across a logging machine at work. It looked like an end loader fitted with giant hydraulically controlled scissors. It moved from tree to tree, snipping them off at ground level. It received bad reviews from Troy and especially Steve. They both vocalized displeasure with the contraption, so I didn't say I thought it was cool!

Now we found ourselves entering the outskirts of a town that we hoped we could stop at for a drink. We were hoping for a convenience store, but our hopes were dashed. The only things we could see right away were a pulp mill and wood chips everywhere. Well, in reality it wasn't all bad. For one thing, it was pleasant to see something other than pine trees and flooded fields of cranberries for miles! A town, any town- was a sight for sore eyes.

Notes: This brings us to the end of the original 27 page handwritten manuscript that I worked up shortly after the trip back in '94. (You'll notice that the last three lines of today's installment were in regular text) The story will be picked up now on my memories 14 years down the road. Fortunately, some of the most memorable parts of the tour are coming up. Things I won't likely ever forget! To help out, I have consulted a Wisconsin Atlas to jog my memories of places passed through and the roads we took.

You will note the note there, and I left it as it was originally only now it has been 24 years since I was on that tour! The cranberry country was really cool to see and I haven't ever forgotten that road or those scenes since then. Now it is hard to imagine how we kept those heavy touring rigs going at nearly 20 mph for stretches of up to 12-15 miles at a  crack. At least we stopped every so often to consult the maps, eat something, or drink. Usually all three. Had we been sporting navigation devices as we have today I don't doubt Troy would have ridden us into the ground!

Next: Getting Juiced

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 16

Rollin' in style outta SFO
Ten years ago on this here ol' blog I was showing my Sea Otter pics. I was rolling in style with the former owner of  "Twenty Nine Inches" at that time, Tim Grahl. The whole TNI gig thing was pretty sweet looking at that time and I was playing around with thoughts of quitting my bike shop wrenching gig and going full time on the blog/review trail. Glad I didn't do that then, cause I would have been very sorry I made that decision in about 6-8 months from that time. Anyway......

Sea Otter was amazing, really. I had such a great time with so many "firsts" for me. The first time getting grub from a Trader Joe's, the first experiences navigating with a smart phone, and riding at the venue was spectacular.

There were so many people to reconnect with and new people met there. It was very apparent that "Sea Weasel" was a different animal than Interbike was. The vibe was so much better there in Monterrey. The industry was gravitating more and more to this festival as a place to debut new product, where at about this time Interbike began its slow decline into meaninglessness. It was a palpable feeling then, and now it has been magnified to epic proportions. Sea Otter thrives in 2018 while Interbike strives to reinvent itself with a new venue. I'm not sure Interbike will ever be relevant agian, despite all the efforts it is making.

The scenery at Sea Otter was/is spectacular.
Jason Boucher, then head honch at Salsa Cycles, riding what was a prototype Big Mama
There were sneak peeks at upcoming product, newsy bits, and lots of work typing and posting content. We were pressed for all kinds of reasons and had little, if any, downtime. The three or four days I was gone went by in a blur of activity.

It was fun, but it wasn't ideal. I had a ton of stuff to do for Trans Iowa yet, and I could do nothing at all for a week while I was traveling. This was only a year after one of the most stressful situations I had ever gone through in T.I.v3. The Sea Otter trip would have been excellent any other time of the year, but just before T.I.? Not so much.

This year, the "Sea Weasel" featured a bevvy of gravel bikes and components for such bikes. Much has been said about the gravel/all road bike being transformed into a mountain bike-like thing. I'll have news and commentary which will illustrate my thoughts on this subject later. I just wanted to point out that the mere addition of a drop bar  to anything other than a straight up road racing bike or bikes like touring and cyclo cross bikes, used to make people's head explode.

Take this Tomac rig made to look like a modernized version of the classic Yeti John Tomac rode in XC races in the late 80's. I remember some folks thought it was a cool exercise in a way, but, you know, drop bars are stupid on mountain bikes. Remember, this was mere months before the Salsa Cycles Fargo debuted. there were maybe three flared drop bars, and no gravel bikes. Anything with wider than 33mm tires that had drop bars just wasn't taken seriously.

Now, a mere decade later, you cannot turn around without hitting the next 650B X 2.2" tired, drop barred, porcupine-like,  braze-on laden gravel bike. It's like the world went upside down. No wait! It's more like what happened in 2012-2013 with fat bikes. Yeah.......

And we all know what happened after that.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday News And Views

Pseudo Fenders:

You may have seen all these thin, plastic "fenders" that you zip-tie on fork crowns or snap into place on your seat rails. Ass Savers, a company known for such equipment, has now got something that attaches to your down tube that acts like a mud flap for your front tire. So basically you have a mud flap, but no fender. I know it sounds weird, but I am trying one out here.

Ass Savers calls it the Speed Mullet. They claim that it keeps your feet dry. doesn't. I know. But it does do a bang up job of keeping your face clean from spray from the front tire and it does, sort of, keep your drive train cleaner.

I mounted mine on my Twin Six Standard Rando with 42mm tires mounted in the 700c format. Let me tell you- there is absolutely zero room for traditional fenders with 42mm tires. So, clip on fenders are the only thing that will work with that bike with those tires on it. As far as having something to deflect spray from water and mud, this Speed Mullet is better than nothing, which would be my only other choice with this set up on this bike.

So, I see this as a very niche product. I mean, if you can fit fenders, then why wouldn't you? This little gizmo hardly does anything, but like I said, if this is your only other option, then it is better than nothing.

Full suspension gravel bike? Niner Bikes from Sea Weasel. Image by Grannygear
Niner Bikes Shows FS Gravel Rig:

Well, you know what I've said over and over again- "Any bike can be a gravel bike." Niner Bikes set out to prove a point with this design effort shown at Sea Otter. (Image thanks to my friend Grannygear, who is at the event) As far as I know, this is just a prototype now. I wouldn't at all be surprised if it comes out though.

Before you diss this and make some pithy comment, I thought something I heard just the other day on a GCN video made a lot of sense. They said that much of what they were seeing as "gravel tech" was actually recycled XC mtb tech from years ago. This bike would seem to be proof of such things. Certainly, it would seem that the short travel FS/hard tail XC 29"er/650B bikes are blurring the lines between them and gravel merely by adding a drop bar.

Oddly enough, I actually used a drop bar version of a Salsa Dos Niner soft tail bike in Dirty Kanza years ago. The thought of using a XC 29"er bike for gravel was definitely not unheard of back in the day. In fact, many times it was not unusual to see dual sus 26"ers in gravel events ten years ago or more. This makes me curious about resurrecting that Dos or my Fisher HiFi as an exercise in FS gravel travel. Maybe I will try it for fun. Stay tuned.......

My commute to work on April 18th, 2018. Are you kidding me!

Trans Iowa v14- The Count Down Begins!

It's pretty crazy to think that in one week I'll be on my way to Grinnell to put on yet another Trans Iowa event. I'll be busy packing things away for the trip and the event. Papers, numbers, supplies, cues, prizing, personal stuff, and more will all be getting arranged for the send off on the 27th at the Pre-Race Meat-Up and the event on the 28th-29th.

Roster numbers are about what I'd expect. We're down to 103 as of now, and I suspect a few last minute drops and that we will see something in the high 90's for starters. Well......if the weather seems good.  Last year the forecast looked dim and a bunch of folks bailed at the last minute. Which leads me to......

The weather. Yes- you just never know. Especially this year. It snowed the 18th, and with a week to go, it is forecast to be much warmer, but now thunderstorms are creeping into the forecast. Rain, and especially lightning, could really make things interesting. Winds will be a factor for sure, but what they will be and from what direction is anyone's guess at this point.

You can keep up with all of this via Trans Iowa Radio, (the number will be posted soon for the riders), and on my Periscope which you can access from Twitter @guitarted1961. I may even do a Facebook Live post. Who knows! It's going to be a big weekend so I expect that I will be quite busy with all the hoopla. Stay tuned......

Have a great weekend and ride yer bikes!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Getting More Than You Bargained For

Direct to consumer sounds great, but what you assume in responsibilities is not well communicated
The changing economy. It's the talk of the town and has a lot of people wringing their hands. We are no strangers to these changes in the bicycle industry. This has been happening for a decade now and things are not going to switch back to the way we used to do things. That said, a lot of what has already happened is not very well understood by the common person. When you carve out the traditional supply chain and short circuit the old economy by going direct to consumer, there are responsibilities that were once the realm of distributors and retailers that now fall into the end user's lap.

Again- these are not predictions of a future which consumers face. No- it is current reality. Or, at least it is if you engage in direct to consumer economic transactions. The following is just a sampling of what I have observed over the past ten years of being in the bicycle retail business arena as a mechanic.
  • Warranties are the responsibility of the end user. It used to be that warranty issues were facilitated by dealers, but that ain't so if you buy direct. The hidden implications of this are that unless you are savvy at mechanics and understand technologies, you'll not only have to cover shipping defective items, but pay someone to remove and install parts as well.  
  • Tune-ups, adjustments, and fitting issues are the responsibility of the end user. Again- if you don't have the time, skills, or both- those things will have to be paid for. Many times shops will not charge you for these things, or give you significant discounts, if you purchase from them.
  • Buying the wrong bike: Sizing issues? Got the wrong bike for your application? Maybe you bought a bike and six months later you decide that it isn't for you and you want to go a different direction? Too bad. You're stuck with the original purchase. Or, you have the hassle of shipping an item back. Don't forget your time and energy dealing with all of that. Generally speaking, a good local shop will work with you on issues like these so you don't have to. 
  • Bought the wrong parts: This happens A LOT! If I, as a mechanic, order the wrong part, it's on the shop. If you, as a consumer do that- too bad. That's your issue to deal with. Hopefully you don't value your time and money, because if you did........ Well, you get the picture. 
  • Bought direct to consumer bike- got the last decade's geometry, design, and tech: This is the hidden fault with many direct to consumer bicycles. Buyers of such rigs will get their dander up big time when you say that these bikes "aren't as good as LBS bikes". They generally don't understand that the geometry is wonky, hidden parts that generally are not considered are sub-par, and the technology, especially in rear suspension bikes, is archaic. But as long as they are  happy....... That said, there is always a reason those bikes cost less. That reason is- many times- the aforementioned things.
A warning found on the Scott Sports site
But these are not the only minefields consumers are now saddled with dealing with. Fake sites or low quality components masquerading as "real" brands are popping up all over. That Specialized, Pinarello, or Scott bike you got for "a really great deal" on-line may very well be a fake, and at best, an under performing product. At worst these bikes and components can be downright dangerous.

Even carbon components direct from Chinese manufacturers can be dodgy and stories of successful purchases are balanced by just as many failures if you invest the time to research out the myriad threads on-line about such things.

There is a great series of articles on fakes and how consumers and brands are having to deal with this on the industry trade site called "bikebiz". You can read the articles here. The issue is so massive it took 20 articles to cover! So, be ready for a long sit if you should jump over there to read it all. The point being- this has been going on for quite sometime, and if consumers continue to bypass traditional forms of retail, they can expect to have to navigate some pretty murky seas with almost no recourse should things go pear-shaped.

While traditional retail is certainly dead, I do not expect that your "traditional" bike shop will completely go away either. The shops will eventually morph into a new form, consumers will still patronize bike shops in their new form, and on-line retail? I think that is destined to change as well. One thing is for certain- the only constant is change!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sea Otter Cranks Up Again

More new "old stuff" surfaces- Yeti founder John Parker's new Underground Bike Works Revival
Sea Otter starts tomorrow in California and the press release machine is cranked up. But first- just what is this Sea Otter thing? Well, it is probably the single most important North American bicycle reveal/show/news event since about 2010 or so. Mostly mountain bike in focus, Sea Otter has road racing, mountain bike racing, group rides, a festival atmosphere, and a LOT of vendors showing and selling wares to the public.

There are a lot of companies that coordinate their releases around Sea Otter, even if they are not there. The news cycle created by the activity around Sea Otter has increased the amount of attention, and eyeballs, that the industry craves. So, it behooves any company with anything new for the season to announce it around Sea Otter.

Specialized announced its new Stumpjumpers, there was a 29"er downhill fork announced! Crazy stuff gets announced around this event. This year a lot of gravel oriented product will get announced and already has been announced. My partner, Ben Welnak is even out there for his "Mountain Bike Radio" gig and stuff.

I'm certain I'll have some stuff to share soon, so stay tuned....

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Old Idea Reborn: Cane Creek Cranks

The original Sweet Wings crank set in CroMoly
I saw an image on Twitter and I had to do a double take. Wait a minute! I checked the calendar. Yep! It is 2018 alright! I thought I was swept back to 1996 for a minute there. I look at the image on Twitter again...... Nope! It's 1996 again! 

Ah! The 1990's and mountain biking. You could hardly keep up with all the "new" tech that was burbling up out of garages, failed military contract company's materials technology, and whatever color anodization was in vogue at the moment. It was a seemingly ever flowing stream of "the new".

Of course, we didn't have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or the internet, (at least schlubs like us didn't), back in the 1990's. We had monthly periodicals. You might remember them as "magazines". Ya know........print media? Yeah, and it refreshed at a rate of once a month. It was really something else. We had a lot of time to do other stuff back then. Not like today where you are checking social media every half a second when you aren't answering push notifications between surfing the innergoogles and trying to eat lunch. Or something..........

Anyway, the Sweet Wings cranks were something that was the answer to a lot of our brainstorming about cranks and bottom brackets back in the old Advantage Cyclery days. My old boss, Tom, actually pretty much conceptually figured out two piece crank sets and outboard bearing bottom brackets one day while we were musing on the deficiencies of square taper crank/bottom bracket designs of the day. I never forgot that conversation, especially when Sweet Wings came about. They were the two piece design done right, not like Bullseye cranks, and they were light. At least for that time they were. A titanium version was teased back then, but I am not sure they saw the light of day before Sweet Wings kind of passed from the scene.

Cane Creek's eeWing Cranks in Titanium
Apparently, in the years that have since passed since those halcyon days of yore, Cane Creek picked up a brake design from a guy with a company called "Edwards Emnginerring". The brake was some CNC'ed masterpiece dubbed the "eeBrake". ("ee" for Edwards Engineering) Apparently this is the design source for the Sweet Wings crank idea, and so now we see in 2018 what you could call a modernized version of Sweet Wings dubbed "eeWing Cranks" by Cane Creek.

You can go read all the amazing hoopla about them here. They really are not a whole lot different than they were over 20 years ago. Same basic concept with some tweaks on the finer details. The big thing is the interface of the two parts of the crank arms. Instead of the splined interface of yore, Cane Creek has gone with a Hirth Joint, which is similar to how Campy road cranks are joined. Of course, the new eeCrank is made from Titanium, fully realizing Edwards Engineering's intentions for the design way back when.

So, why? 400 grams and a thousand bucks? Well..........yeah. You can spin this a thousand ways to Sunday and the fact is that these are insanely expensive crank arms. Cool? High tech? Yes. Better than high end carbon cranks? Probably. At least you shouldn't pull pedal spindle inserts out of these, like I've seen with a certain carbon crank a time or three. And 400 grams is pretty dang light, so......

Anyway, what is old is new again, only better. You could say that about a lot of current bicycle technologies. I just find the eeCrank intriguing as I did over 20 years ago when I saw its ancestor, the Sweet Wing crank. It's a really great idea, but it is just too danged expensive. So, in a way, that hasn't changed in the years since I was a younger shop rat than I am today!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: Cues And Random Thoughts

DON"T GET EXCITED- These are from LAST year's Trans Iowa!
On Cues: 

I've written reams about cues for Trans Iowa, so I won't get into all the finer details of things. However; there are a couple things I wanted to mention about cues for this year that are things you, (if you are in Trans Iowa), should understand.

First off, there will be a LEGEND provided for the cues that will include a LOT of info that you will need to keep throughout your ride in T.I.v14. This cue sheet page will come with the first set of cues and should be at hand for all the event, SO DON"T THROW IT AWAY OR LOSE IT!

It has the phone number for calling in when you are dropping out. It has the RE-ROUTING PROCEDURE on it, and I am going to try to get the T.I. Radio number on there as well. All of this will, or MIGHT BE , necessary IMPORTANT information that you will need to protect and keep track of.

Also- the cue sheets are 4" X 4 3/4"s in size, in case  that matters to you.

FINALLY- and of great importance: THE CUE SHEETS ARE EASILY DAMAGED BY MOISTURE! So, be careful handling them with wet gloves, for instance. Don't spill your energy concoction on them, and don't let them get wet from precipitation. Just don't let them get moist! It will be BAD if you do.

Cues are printed on a little thinner paper than we used to use the past couple of T.I.'s in order to save some money, so they should be handled with great care. We used to use straight up typing paper, and this stuff is heavier stock than that, but not by much, so just be aware of that. Cues will come in zip-loc type sandwich baggies. There isn't anything special about these, and they are NOT WATERPROOF!


 I was going to personalize the numbers this weekend, and it would have been a perfect weekend to do this, since it was really bad weather outside. However; a certain rider e-mailed me to say he "might not be there" since this individual has to deal with an injury sustained last month and isn't sure of himself for the event.


So, I put that off for a bit, I sent a reply asking for a decision, and hopefully I'll get the courtesy of a solid commitment one way or the other today. I mean, why even bother sending me an e-mail like that? It's weird, and it doesn't do any good for anyone. In my opinion, if you are iffy physically you shouldn't come to try a 345 mile bicycle race under stressful conditions.

But what do I know?

A "nice weather" Trans Iowa. Image by Wally Kilburg
 Weather Chit-Chat Starts Now:

The weather for Trans Iowa this year will start coming into focus now with about 12 days to go. Right now, they are saying Winter will finally die and a brief Spring time weather feel should appear.

Before I get ahead of myself here, I want to address the "weather legend" concerning Trans Iowa. This all got started with Trans Iowa v2, which no one finished.

It got to be kind of a thing there for a while. T.I.v3 was beautiful, T.I.v4 was awful! Strong winds and snow at the start of that one. Then T.I.v5- beautiful, maybe a tad windy, T.I.v6- terrible weather, and by this time the legend of the "awful even numbered Trans Iowas" was solidified. T.I.v7 was pretty nice, but then something started to swing the other way. T.I.v8 looked to be terrible. The thunder and rain carried on right up to before the start, but by mid-day that Saturday, the roads were perfectly fine, and wind was not a big deal. Wait! What? An even numbered Trans Iowa that was nice?!

Then v9 was what everyone expected, very nice, and v10 was tough, with bad wind and a tremendous squall line of thunderstorms overnight. But that was the last bad even numbered Trans Iowa.

V11 was as bad as it gets and the event was over before it started, really. V12 was perfect! So much for the curse of the even numbered TI! V13 was super tough, in terms of weather, so it stands to reason that this TI would be quite nice.

Hey! It could happen!

The main thing is, I don't want to hear anything about the "even yeared curse" anymore, because, obviously, it doesn't hold true. Add to that the extended forecast which says the high temperature for Saturday the 28th will be 71°F. Yeah.......instant Summer!

My only concern with this would be that this may be "rush hour" for planting activity. Tractors, trucks, semi-tractor trailers, ag equipment, all running to and fro in a frenzy to put crops into the ground. I just hope traffic isn't a concern for the riders. We will see.

And of course, the forecast will change five times before T.I.v14 anyway. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Touring Series: A Tale Of Hills And Hurry

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.
Today the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" rolls out of Sparta, Wisconsin on its way to parts unknown....

We once again noted how chilly it was for August as we made our way through the early morning traffic of Sparta. Once clear of the city, the terrain consisted of rolling hills and dairy farms. The road itself was clean blacktop with a narrow paved shoulder. Our bikes did not want to roll too well on this pavement though. We did not take much notice of this strange phenomenon, instead we delighted in making fun of the rustic names seen on each mailbox as we rode by. There were many of these names which, unfortunately, I can not note here. I was too busy riding my bike to write them down as I went by.

Soon our road sent us over some more difficult hills. the farms disappeared for the time being. We had come upon some sort of highland area. Suddenly I saw rising before me a very steep and tall hill. This reminded me of the hill outside of Preston, Minnesota, only this hill was not as long and was steeper than that hill. I was certain I could make it, but I was waiting to see how long it took my companions to drop me. As I gazed over to Troy, I saw him put his head down, shift up a gear, and walk right away from us. He crested the hill far in front of Steve and I, then he disappeared. I was busy in my granny gear again, this time holding my own against Steve. The dratted hill decided to steepen on me just then though. This was almost my undoing. Almost.

Steve managed to reach the top about fifty yards ahead of me. There he stopped to watch me as I agonized up the last section. My body screamed to halt, but I would not let this hill beat me! I made it to the top. I was breathing so hard that I thought my chest would never stop heaving. Once my mind cleared, I looked out to see the distant farmlands, but Troy was no where to be seen. Steve congratulated me on my victory over the hill. We had some water and pop tarts to celebrate right in the middle of the road. Soon though, we gave our attention to finding Troy. 

Location of Cataract, WI
 The long, fast descent was a welcome reward for us. We made about two to three miles pass beneath us before we saw Troy. He was parked at a fork in the road near a farm waiting for us. We got regrouped and took off once more. We were looking forward to reaching the town of Cataract and maybe a bit of something to eat as well.

We pulled into the small city only to find a small gas station/grocery store along the road. The day was partly cloudy and pleasant, so we took our purchases out to consume them by the road. A local woman stopped by to say hello, but when she spoke, it was apparent that she wasn't a native cheesehead. We were surprised to find out she was a native of Belgium. She expressed her countryman's love for cycling and how she did not find that here in the U.S. The three of us nodded in unison. She went on to tell us that she admired us for our goal of reaching Canada. She was the first adult that had dared to talk to us vagrants. We thought that was really nice.

We left and found out we were not out of hill country just yet. Just north of Cataract the hills were not so big, they were just ganged together! Troy and Steve pulled away and I was left behind. Far behind! At the top of a hill I saw Troy and Steve at least three quarters of a mile ahead of me. This made me quite irritable. Absolutely mad! This in turn motivated me to catch them. I had a long down hill, a flat space, and then a short steep hill after a left turn. Going into the corner I thought I might actually reel them in, but I just didn't have enough left in me to get the job done. I was mad again. Then just as things were looking pretty grim, I noticed that Steve and Troy had pulled up and were waiting for me. I was immensely grateful!

After a short rest stop at the top of the hill, we moved on again. It was decided that we would not continue on towards Black River Falls, as it was out of our way northwards. We took County "O" to the east, and that road was a very nice straight blacktop that had young, tall pine trees lining both sides for as far as we could see. This screened off the view, and the wind. We could only see up the level road and the sky above our heads. There was no traffic at all on this lonely stretch of road which allowed us to all ride together and converse freely. After awhile it seemed that this road would never end. We knew that the next town up was called Millston, but we had no clear idea of how far away it was.

Then we saw an alarming sight. Fall color! Not just a little bit either, but a whole grove that had fallen under Fall's powers. We stopped to take some pictures which didn't please Troy. Apparently "stop" was a word equivalent to "defeat" in Troy's mind.

That became very apparent once we took off again. Troy set a pace that was borderline brutal. This had been a tough day for me and it wasn't even noon yet! Finally we reached a turn in the road, which was cause for some celebration since this road was so flat, straight, and boring. Troy agreed to a stop here and we discovered the reason for the turn. It was a lake, which we took some photos of. I was thankful for the break, but I wondered where Millston was. It seemed that it really wasn't on this road. Not much later on though, we came to the outskirts of Millston, and I was relieved to see that town. Since it was around noon, we hoped to find a place to eat. We didn't find much, just a local joint, but it looked good from the outside.

Looking back on this I don't think it occurred to me that perhaps I was suffering from fatigue after two really long days in the saddle which were unprecedented in my lifetime. Then again, it is remarkable just how well I adapted to these long days. The Belgian lady was funny. She actually kind of sized us up before she gathered the courage to speak, but I am still glad that she did.She wasn't the first adult to speak to us, that would be the Stonemason of Peterson, but she was the first to actually have a conversation with us beyond a simple remark.

Next: Heading Into Cranberry Country