Wednesday, July 31, 2019

GTDRI '19: Thunder Roads Part 3

The "second stop", such as it was, along County F-17, was a welcomed respite from riding in tough terrain. Jon had been correct, the Level B roads past his "first stop" were the toughest and most technical on the day. Now the Level B's would be less, and the hills would kick in.

There is something about the area around Brooklyn, Iowa that makes riding tougher than around other villages. Well.....that something is hills. Steep, short, and never ending, or seemingly so. One after another. I often used this area in Trans Iowa to great effect. I knew full well what was coming.

I tried every trick I knew. Mental, physical, but there was just no getting around the fact that whatever I had done to myself by helping my neighbor, and exacerbated when I fell earlier, was making riding up hills painful and very, very slow. It may have helped if I had deeper gearing. I could have spun more, which is what I needed to be able to do. Pushing hard was not a recipe for success for myself at this point. It was brutal.

I got about two and a half miles from the last stop and I was cooked. The hills were what I have described. I needed to rest a bit. Then back on for a couple of really, really excruciatingly slow miles. Now here is where something happened that gives you faith in Mankind and hope for the future. Two of my riding companions weren't going to let me flounder alone.

It was amazing to me to see how much work the County was putting into a dirt road. Fresh grading, ditch work, and a low water crossing.
Now I want to mention two important points here. First and foremost- This shepherding of me by these two fine fellows in no way indicts the others on the ride. Their ride was tempered by the fact that the three of us were moving so slowly, and much to their credit, they were waiting on us up the road at two different points. That's by design. It is a "No-Drop" ride, and they were doing their best to balance that with getting the ride done.

Secondly, I actually didn't want anyone waiting on me. That was unwise, of course. The two guys waiting alongside of me knew this. Oh.....they gave me space. But had they truly left me behind, I would have crawled into the nearest ditch and taken a nap. I felt very tired  from trying so hard to pedal. So, it was probably a good thing that these two guys kept an eye out for me after all.

The group was waiting on myself and the two riders shepherding me on the other side of that bull dozer. 
One of the two guys that were keeping an eye out for me while I was struggling.
Well, after the big climb out of the valley where the Level B was being worked on came some big rollers on gravel for a few miles and then the town of Brooklyn. I had hoped to roll into this town knowing it would provide a chance to stretch out on the grass and get some rest for my back. But other plans were made on the road.

I was reduced to walking. I couldn't pedal anymore unless it was down hill. One of the two guys alongside me suggested that they could ride back to Grinnell and fetch their vehicle and come back to Brooklyn to get me, so I agreed, and I soldiered onward to that village. Once there, I was surprised to find the group still lounging around. I figured they would have taken off by the time I arrived.

Arrangements were altered and I ended up waiting for a different ride, but eventually I got back to Grinnell, and I stopped in to Peace Tree to find Doug, Rob, Michaela, and Jon, who was with me, there to have a brew with. After a bit of small talk, Jon announced he was ready to go home, and I was too. We had not seen hide nor hair of anyone else yet and were marveling that they were still out there. Rob, Doug, and Michaela were setting out to find supper, so we left them and I headed over to my vehicle courtesy of Jon's truck. Along the way we saw the guys had rolled in, but after one strong beer, I wasn't up for another and still have the wits and alertness to drive home.

So, that was that. The 14th Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational was over. I'll have some thoughts on gear and some final musings tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

GTDRI '19: Thunder Roads Part 2

Nick looking ahead at another mile of Level B road
At the rest stop at Mile 30-ish, Jon, who is a local rider to Grinnell and does a lot of gravel miles, was telling me the next few Level B sectors were some of his favorites. He also mentioned that they would be rougher, less kind to "bombing" down hill on, and actually were closed up until recently for "repairs". What repairs a Level B Maintenance road might need were something new to me, but Jon did mention a tractor went off one into a deep ditch, so...... That was encouraging! 

As the person who made the route, I was concerned that perhaps there might be a few riders not as well versed in handling and whatnot and that this section might prove to be their undoing. Fortunately, that wasn't the case, but let me say this: those Level B's were fast, rough, and dangerous! I was topping out at well over 30mph and the bike was getting hammered. Sometimes I'd get kicked sideways a bit, and I was puckering up, thankful I did not cut down a tire at those high speeds. In fact, I remember thinking that if anything were to break on this ride, it would have happened back on those roads.

In fact, one thing did break, just not on my bike. It was New York Roll, and- of course - it was a tire. That guy has the worst luck with tires. Anyway, we stopped and he got a tube in it and off we went again. In the rain. started raining. 

The thunder increased in consistency after the first stop for resupply and then as soon as we were off again it sprinkled and went to a very light rain. But that wasn't the worst of it. Nope. I saw lightning in the distance. I mentioned it at one point while riding alongside Tony and he said, "I'm not even going to look!" Well, because he didn't want to know if he was in danger? Maybe. This made me contemplate stopping the ride, actually. However; our little stop for N.Y. Roll's tire issues seemed to have allowed the storm to progress beyond our vicinity. The rain actually was letting up too. So I ditched those thoughts for the time being.

Now the route would go up North and into a short foray into Tama County to some ridge road I found on the map. Then it was back South to the county line with Iowa County.

Rain made the roads wet, but not too wet.
The rain moved on- for the time being- and we got a brief respite full of Sunshine.
I managed to find several multiple mile sectors of Level B roads which prompted Steve at one point to remark to me that he thought this was extraordinary. He was loving the route so far, and was amazed at the roads in Poweshiek County. Now, this requires a bit of background to fully understand the weight of Steve's comments.

Steve has done a few Trans Iowas, finishing a couple at least, and is well versed in the area around Grinnell as far as what I provided as routes for Trans Iowa. However; he was not aware of the rich amount of dirt roads in this vicinity simply because I could not put many of these roads into a Springtime event. They simply are not, very often, rideable at that time of year. So, I avoided these Poweshiek dirt roads like the plague, with rare exceptions. (They also were mostly on this route, by the way)

So, Steve's amazement at the roads is to be noted since many folks that have ridden in the area probably have done so in Spring. Summer riding in Poweshiek County opens up many more options, and I was taking full advantage with this fact for this GTDRI.

This picture is out of focus due to rain, but I liked how it turned out anyway. Almost like a watercolor. 
I didn't take too many images of straight up gravel roads, but this one turned out well that I did take.
Thunder rolled off in the distance, rain was intermittent, but up to this point it hadn't rained hard or anything near to it. We were all in good spirits, and although I felt a bit fatigued, my back, (remember the pre-event event I mentioned?) was fine, really. I was surprised I'd put in this many miles riding so well, to be honest. Long rides have been sorely lacking, and I was pushing my mileage out to the longest ride of the year if I could keep this up.

During one stop to gather folks back up, we learned that Doug from Lincoln wanted to bail out. Unfortunately at the point he was at, it was better for him to soldier on to the next resupply at mile 60-ish and then catch a ride with Michaela who was supposed to rendezvous with us there at a pre-determined point.

(L-R) Tom C, N.Y. Roll (shirtless, of course!), Dangerous Dan, and Jon.
Beautiful views from Blue Jay Hollow in Tama County.
The sector that took us up into Tama County was going to go up on a ridge, but before we got there I noted that, for some bizarre reason, I avoided a perfectly cool Level B road on 400th in Poweshiek County that we used in T.I.v14. I was pretty disgusted with myself for that omission. But the ridge road in Tama County made me forget about that quickly. It was, in a word, beautiful, even though it was grey, raining, and the light sucked. I'm going back to ride that again soon. It was that good. My shots here do it no justice.

We stopped here to get out of the rain, and to regroup.
The entire ride up on the ridge was in a steady, light rain. The roads had been so dry that this didn't matter, and in fact, it was knocking down the dust a bit. We were still kicking up dust despite the precipitation though.

Eventually we rolled up on the fast guys and saw that they were taking their leisure under some pine trees to get out of the steady rain. Tony had been riding with me and as I rolled to a stop, my front wheel caught a small rut and dumped me on the grass of the farm yard pretty heavily. Tony asked if I was okay, and I said I was, but......I wasn't really. That hurt my back when I hit, and after that. I wasn't the same.

Probably 100% sand here. It was the sandiest Level B I have ever ridden on.
(L-R) Nick, Tom C, Doug from Lincoln in the background, and David. Kyle is obscured here. Second resupply stop at Mile 60.
I soldiered on to the Mile 60-ish resupply. Michaela had a great selection of drink and chips! (Thank You!!) I knew something wasn't right here. My back was tightening up, and I was game to move on, but I knew it wasn't going to be good. Rob decided to bail out here with Doug, and so we were down to 12 riders.

Next: Thunder Roads Part 3, and the conclusion of the GTDRI '19 report.

Monday, July 29, 2019

GTDRI '19: Thunder Roads Part 1

I even remembered my shoes!
This year's Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational will be remembered for several reasons, but I've chosen to call it the "Thunder Roads" edition for an obvious reason. Well.....if you were on the ride, you'd understand. We'll get into that later. But for now I will say that this was the Poweshiek County version of the last two years of GTDRI's where the route was made up of a large percentage of dirt, or Level B Maintenance, roads. I started doing this as a homage, of sorts, to the Pirate Cycling League's "Tour of Dirt Roads", a ride they have held annually for 12 years, I think, and takes in as many Nebraska Minimum Maintenance roads (MMR's), as possible.

So, after two successful years of doing my version of that, I decided to move it down to Poweshiek County, and base the ride out of Grinnell, knowing full well that this would be a much more difficult route due to the hills. To that end I originally was going to make it a metric century (63 miles) or thereabouts, and not the 100 plus mile affair I generally do. However, after the second draft of the route I found some things I felt might be intriguing and it ended up becoming a 92 mile route.

So, anyway..... Almost a hundy! And with those big hills and potentially rough Level B Roads, it wasn't going to be easy. The forecast called for upper 80's, humidity, and a 25% chance of rain. In other words, typical GTDRI weather. At least there was to be some wind, which is always better than nothing and then having it hot and humid on top of that. That's a recipe for a brutal day.

Heading out on the 14th Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. Fittingly, there were 14 riders.
Well, despite my best laid plans, I managed to screw up my pre-event preparations by being a good neighbor. See, my neighbor and his assistant were trying to remove and move a fiberglass pick-up topper to his backyard. Seeing their struggle, I offered to lend a hand. Well, one thing led to another, a hand let go, putting the weight on me, and......tweaked lower back. There was no popping, or weird sensations, but I could feel the pain and knew I had compromised myself. Nothing I could do at that point but just show up and go as far as I could Saturday.

I had to get up at 3:45am just to make it down there on time. I was pleased to have the Silca Maratona Minimo bag which has helped me to remember stuff much better than before. So, no forgotten togs this time! I arrived with ten minutes to spare and there were 13 others that showed up including locals Tom C, Nick,Tom S, Tony McGrane, Dangerous Dan and N.Y. Roll. There were three guys from Grinnell (Tim, David, and Jon), and the "Long Distance Award" went to Rob Evans and his friend Doug who came with Rob's girlfriend Michaela who ran support for us later in the ride. They drove up from Lincoln, NE. Kyle P cane along again, and Steve showed up from Des Moines with his full suspension fat bike set up with 27.5+ wheels. He's training for a bikepacking race, so he had full kit onboard.

A few words were said, a starting line image taken, and then we got rolling a bit after 6:00am. It was breezy, partly cloudy, and comfortable at the start. The route headed off North to start and then kind of did a squirrely loop to the South and east before heading back North again. The plan was to get to mile 30 where Jon from Grinnell had kindly parked his truck with water for resupply.

Sunrise is considered by Tony as we headed North on the beginning of the route. 
Tony again, this time on one of the early Level B sections.
The early morning breeze was kind of keeping the temperatures at bay, and really, it was quite comfortable in the opening hours of the ride. I somehow was kept on the front of the group for most of the opening third of the ride, and keeping these horses under 12mph was a tough ask, but I did my best.

The riders hung together well at the beginning, but after all, the hills weren't very steep here and the Level B's we encountered were super smooth, bordering on powdery. In fact, it was very dry and dusty to start out with. Much dustier than I had thought about it being. Of course, that would get taken care of later on in the day, as we would find out.

Level B #2 on the day.
This isn't a barn, or a schoolhouse. It's a Grange. Look it up.
The route took us from the Western border of Poweshiek County and then back along the Northern third of the County to the east. We never went south of I-80, by the way. There just are so many cool roads that a complete survey of them all, just in this county, would take weeks. So, I kept the route up into the Northern third of the county. There are soooo many Level B Roads I actually had to miss several just to make a route that made sense.

Along about an hour and a half, maybe two hours in, we began to hear rumbles. It was like hearing a truck empty dumpsters through a building's walls. Far off, but unmistakable. We started to view clouds gathering to the Northwest of us. At one point, Steve had his phone out while we were waiting for everyone to get back together and mentioned it looked like the rain might miss us to the Northeast. I was hopeful this might be the case.

Rob Evans riding under the eaves of some distant thunderstorm.
The rumbling got louder, the skies became more foreboding. I was sure hoping that Steve's earlier prediction that the system would miss us was correct. Every time I assessed the situation, whether during a stop or while riding, I was encouraged by how far off the system seemed to be. At any rate, it was keeping the Sun at bay, and therefore, the temperatures weren't scorching, but actually rather pleasantly hot. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good so far into the ride.

Tom Claver, the only single speed rider in the bunch, cruising up a Level B.
Eventually we reached the truck of Jon''s at Mile 30-ish and his cached supplies of water. Not only did he have water, but a two liter bottle of Coca Cola, pastries, and Starbucks Double Shot Latte's! More of a cafe' in the hinterlands, I'd say. Thanks Jon!

Riders avail themselves of Jon's offerings at about Mile 30 or so. 
This concluded the first third of the ride. There were a LOT more Level B Roads, hills, gravel, and more to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming tomorrow of the "GTDRI '19 Thunder Roads" report.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

GTDRI '19: Barns For Jason

The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational went through Poweshiek County, for the most part, with short forays into Tama and Iowa Counties. There was a LOT of new roads to me covered this year, and as a result, I saw a LOT of barns. For those new to "Barns For Jason", it is a running series of posts/images that I collect from the saddle of my bicycle documenting the barns of Iowa's rural countryside. Structures that are becoming more rare by the year, as many farmers do not need barns, and so the ones that remain are often times in various states of disrepair. Added to this is the ever increasing amount of corporate farms which take over these old family farmsteads and either raze the existing barns, or let barns fall into disrepair.

Pardon the smudge, but it was raining when I took this image!
Of course, not all the barns are falling apart, nor are they all not in usage. The fact is that there still remains a good portion of barn structures that are in use and well maintained, and this is perhaps no better represented than by the barns in Poweshiek County. Most barns I saw were in excellent, or very good condition, and most looked as if they were still "working barns" and not restored for show only.

To be sure, there were barns in awful states of disrepair in Poweshiek County, but these seemed to be in the minority. One other thing- barns in Poweshiek County and a few surrounding counties have a very unique barn architecture. You'll note it most in the hay loft overhang. Some of the barns I have pictured from this year's GTDRI feature this unique look. I first noticed this when we brought Trans Iowa to Grinnell and having been all over in the surrounding counties, I can safely say the majority of these unique structures are located in rural Poweshiek County.

Finally, before we get into the images, this whole "Barns For Jason" thing was originally a contest between Jason Boucher, at the time the brand manager of Salsa Cycles, (he's since moved on to other responsibilities within QBP) and myself. The rule being that only barns seen while riding a bicycle could be employed in this "contest". Jason has since ceased posting any barn pics, but I have continued with the focus of my efforts being the preservation of barns in imagery. By the way, Jason has moved on to much better subject matter, and his images are stunning. If you'd like to check out his stuff, go to his Instagram page here. I hope that you enjoy these "Barns For Jason".

Trans Iowa Stories: Changes And Evolution Part 2

Among Jeff Kerkove's many talents was his ability to design graphics. This was for T.I.v2
Last week I detailed some of the lessons learned and the changes those lessons led to during and after Trans Iowa v1. Going into the first one, I was completely blind and awestruck. By the end of it, I had a steely determination to make things better. In other words, I felt I had little purpose or reason to be anything other than a "go-fer" at the beginning, but immediately afterward I had a focus and a fire lit underneath me which gave me the motivation to grab more responsibility for the event. Jeff could have pushed back, and rightfully so, but he had his own priorities which were drawing him down a different path. This dynamic is what eventually led to Jeff leaving me Trans Iowa and going to Colorado to work for Ergon.

Side Track Story: Ironically, Ergon played a big part in the first Trans Iowa and it was this sponsorship which Jeff secured for the event which began his relationship with the company he has worked for up until this very day. Ergon was an unknown company in 2004. They had a presence in Europe, specifically Germany, which was their home country, but in North America, in 2004, no one had ever heard of them. They were trying to crack the market here with a new, radical grip which they said would revolutionize cycling. They had made some overtures to the endurance crowd when, by some way I am still not aware of, Jeff made a connection with them. Whether or not Jeff instigated the relationship or Ergon did is not clear to me, but at any rate, they sent every registered rider a pair of grips to be stuffed into their "goodie bag". This was their initial introduction to the North American market, and it was a major coup of sorts for such a weird event to pull off that sort of deal.

But that wasn't the only big deal Jeff put together. He also was aware of an upstart eyewear company by the name of Tifosi. He managed to get them to send every registered rider a pair of one of their casual wear models, which, as I recall, were orange framed and kind of styled after the classic Ray-Ban glasses. So, for your $20.00 entry fee, which was what it took to cover our insurance bill and nothing more, every rider received about $80.00 worth of goodies, once you include the other bits and baubles Jeff procured from sponsors like Hammer Nutrition and others. That didn't go unnoticed by the riders, by the way.

During v1 I had time for lighthearted stuff, like leaving gnomes alongside the road.
But I digress..... By 2005 in the Summer I had plans to make the next Trans Iowa a much better, much smarter run affair. Jeff was in the throes of a busy, sometimes international, race calendar. The responsibilities of organizing some things began to be my realm. I actually did a recon or two by myself. Route finding was refined. How the checkpoint was going to be facilitated was radically changed with the drop bag idea. The finish line would become our responsibility, and the plan was for Jeff and I both to be there. There were to be two course observers within the last third of the course. We weren't going to miss anyone this time!

Furthermore, after much discussion with riders and the Decorah folks, we decided to move the start time to 4:00am on Saturday and to plan on a 2:00pm Sunday finish to facilitate the longer course and still have a relevant conjoined finish celebration with the Decorah Time Trials. Besides the finish ceremonies, we would have no connection with the Decorah event at all. This was mostly at the Decorah folks insistence, since we were not quite on the same page with regard to organization as that longstanding event. But that said, it was Richard "Deke" Gosen's idea that we have a "DNF call in number" that we were to enforce riders to use in the event of dropping out or emergency. This we did by using my personal cell phone number, which stayed in use throughout until the last Trans Iowa.

Other than upping the entry fee to something like $30.00 due to increased insurance rates, there were no other significant changes to discuss going into our second try at this.

Next: Tales Of v2 Part 1

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Landslide

Trans Iowa v4 was fraught with difficulties on my end, but one thing stands out.
Note: With the recent developments in this year's Tour de France, I was reminded of a story from T.I.v4 which seems relevant to tell now, even though it is a bit out of sequence with the timeline I've established. I hope you all enjoy this story.

When time came to run a Trans Iowa, you never knew what "Mother Nature" was going to throw at us. When Trans Iowa v4 occurred, it came after a Winter much like the one we experienced in 2018/19. We had a lot of snow late into early Spring, and then a fair amount of heavy rain followed that. The roads were torn up pretty badly, not unlike what we witnessed this Spring, and there were "other things" which we were quite unprepared for.

The Back Story For Today's Post: The Tour this year had an important climbing stage. The situation was that the peloton was to climb up to 2,770M and then descend a bit to a final climb which would end the second to last stage. With a Frenchman in the lead with two days to go, and a possibility of ending a 34 year drought for the French, you can imagine the importance of this stage to them.

From Twitter. A view of the mudslide that stopped the stage.
 The Frenchman, Alapillippe, led overall when the stage started, but stronger climbers were leading the way up to the penultimate summit. One of these, a Colombian by the name of Egan Bernal, had put enough time into Alaphillipe that by the time he reaches this penultimate summit he is the virtual leader of le Tour. This becomes a very crucial point.

Alaphillipe, obviously, is concerned, but being that he is the best descender in the peloton, and Bernal is merely adequate, he is banking on the long, technical descent before the final climb to claw himself back into the lead. But......

There was weather. Apparently a heavy storm had crossed the lower slopes there where the descent was to pass through and had dumped copious amounts of hail. This piled up like snow. It also caused a mudslide to occur. With riders careening down the mountainside at speeds you'd drive down the highway at, the Race Commissars were forced to neutralize the stage for the rider's safety. They took the time splits at the top of the penultimate stage as the final timing marks and called it all off for the day. Alaphillipe was "robbed" of a possibility to claw back into the lead by a freak of nature.

Now as I watched this, (at work- my boss runs the Tour replays on a big screen there), I was instantly reminded of Trans Iowa, and in particular, the craziness of Trans Iowa v4. This version of the Trans Iowa series of events has more than enough intrusions by Nature to write a small book. However; I won't drag all that out and unpack it here. That will be for later.

David Pals, my co-director for T.I.v4, scrambles over a freak Iowa mudslide. The route continues in the background.
We were at the checkpoint in Wadena, Iowa, a small village in Northeast, Iowa which is found down in a valley amongst the surrounding hills. Cell phone service, at that time, was sketchy at best in Wadena. Many riders were late to this checkpoint and had to abandon the event. It was due to many factors, but all that aside, we still had a healthy amount of leaders and they were all in a bunch yet.  This was unlike later Trans Iowa events, where everyone broke up into smaller couples, or were singly duking it out with the course and conditions.

So, David Pals, who was helping me direct Trans Iowa back then, and I decided we'd better get on up the road ahead of the racers as they were beginning to organize and leave the checkpoint themselves. We climbed up a hill, turned around it to the right, and then our jaws hit the floorboards of David's vehicle. What we saw was unprecedented. A landslide blocked our course!!

David is a trained and highly skilled geologist, so he hopped out, assessed the severity of the situation, and proclaimed that it appeared that the ground was firm enough for riders to cross over. I agreed, so we quickly found the smoothest crossing, marked it with surveyor's flags, and as we were wrapping up, the lead group came screaming around the corner. Their wide-eyed looks were comical, but we had no time for humor.

We quickly pointed out the flagged route, and as if on cue, the riders shouldered their bikes, tip-toed across, remounted, and were gone before we could even get a camera out to document the effort. One rider, who distrusted the pile of Earth, took off his shoes, crossed a fence, and ran around the mudpile! Either way, everyone was across. With that task taken care of, we backtracked to warn the remaining riders still in the event, and moved onward.

Thanks for reading! More "Trans Iowa Stories" will post on Sundays in the future.

Minus Ten Review 2009-30

Jason and the Fargonauts. Image by Ben Witt
Ten years ago this week I was in Minnesota doing the second Fargo Adventure Ride*. This was one week past my 118 mile GTDRI and a week's worth of RAGBRAI madness at the shop. (Back when that was still a thing) I arrived at Lebanon Hills camping area late and didn't sleep worth a hoot in the humidity. But that all did not matter as it turned out to be one heck of a fun weekend.

The ride started out with some of the QBP guys. (In image, Left to Right: Rob Walters, Mike "Kid" Riemer, Guitar Ted, Joe Meiser, MG, Sean Mailen, Jason Boucher, and Paul Zeigle.) Then they peeled off leaving Walters, MG, Boucher, and myself. We ended up doing a loop in Leb, then the River Bottom trails where the QBP guys left us, then we went on to Murphy-Hanrahan trails, then back to Leb and the cars. It was a 57 mile jaunt!

Walters had to leave, so MG, Jason, and I went to the Chequamegon area, met up with some other guys at a fancy-pants cabin, and the next day we all rode Rock Lake Loop. I didn't get much riding in because by this time all the lack of sleep, beer, travel, and accumulated riding had me tapped out. I recall that it was super-swampy humid. The day was bright and clear. As only a day near the Big Lake can be. There is just something about Northern Wisconsin. Anyway, the guys all came back to the car and we made plans to get back to the cabin for a barbecue. Then when it came time to leave, MG decided to stay behind while Jason and I left to come back to the Twin Cities. Then I had to be picked up by my wife, and a 200 plus mile trek back to Waterloo. Burnt out! Man, but that was a good time.

The Four Fargos: (L-R) Jason's is obscured by the fence, then Walters, GT's, and MG's. Note: Walters and MG have flat bars.
*NOTE: There is some debate about whether this is the second Fargo Adventure Ride or the first. I have maintained that it was the second one based upon the fact that I had been on a ride with Jason Boucher and Mike Riemer, (At that time the heads of Salsa Cycles brand), and almost everyone on the ride were either on Fargos, or prototypes of Fargos. We rode the River Bottoms and a few extra things that day, and that was in November of 2008. To my mind, this was the "first" adventure ride on Fargos, thus, the first Fargo Adventure Ride. But others say this ride in July of '09 was the first "called" a Fargo Adventure Ride at the onset.

Whatever. It's the second Fargo Adventure Ride. (HA!)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday News And Views

20mph, Bluetooth Speaker, $1250.00- Free Shipping-NO pedals
Because Easy:

Recently a "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article covered the lack of any enthusiasm for HPC (Hybrid Powered Cycles) or "pedelecs", as the industry calls them now, in the Taiwanese market. The reason given by those who are there is that the "e-scooter", which has connectivity for devices, storage compartments, and no physical input from the rider besides steering, is easier and more appealing to Taiwanese people. It doesn't help that these motorbikes cost the same, or less, than HPC's do in that country.

This is what I have been saying about these HPC's all along. That someday a vehicle that doesn't require pedaling and that has more amenities than any bicycle based hybrid powered rig has, would usurp any place a HPC might have in America. Not to mention our longer traveling distances and a climate, which in most areas, means people don't want to be exposed to the elements during large chunks of the year. Pedaling in any extreme weather, at least here in the U.S., automatically qualifies you as having "freak of nature" status amongst those who lock themselves indoors, either in cars, homes, or apartments. I won't even mention "safe places to ride".

I hopped on-line and typed in "e-scooter" into the search engine and the first thing that pops up are several vehicles like the example shown here. Cheaper than "pedelecs", has more amenities, (Bluetooth Speaker!), and doesn't require you to put any sweat equity into your mobility. All with free shipping. Besides- it can haul two people up to 350lbs total weight. The bike industry offers what? Really bad looking bicycles that happen to have an electric motor and cost 2K or more in most cases. No speakers, no nuthin'. Haul two people with a high weight limit? Ha!

While there may be a few examples that are nice for the price in the bicycle-like realm, the point I've been making, and continue to be convinced of, is that most people here in America are like the Taiwanese are. Not only that, but we are not set up for bicycles to be the main focus of transportation. If we ever get there, which would be decades in the making, I'm guessing, the electric vehicle market will be so well entrenched that "pedaling" will be seen as some arcane form of transportation that only a "freak of nature" would ever entertain using.

In other words, pretty much like it is today.

Hittin' the dirt tomorrow.
The 14th Annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational:

Four-teen freakin' years! I just thought about that. Holy Cow! That's a long line of these crazy rides in the country. Talk about "freak of nature". Most folks think I am insane for doing this stuff. Guess some things never change.

Anyway, it looks as though I have about a dozen confirmed crazy people to ride with. Maybe more will just show up? Probably. You never know with this ride. But whatever happens, it should be a good time. I just hope I can make the 92 miles!

Also- I never did a final calculation on how many miles of Level B Road there is on this route. Maybe if I am not too forgetful I can keep a running tab. I probably should fire up my Lezyne GPS device just to make sure it is charged. (These gizmos just do not capture my fancy, so I tend to forget about them) So, yeah.....a computer might come in handy! Makes following cues a bit easier.

So, the ride starts at 6:00am. I am driving to the start, so I have to get out of bed at 4:00am Saturday morning to make it on time. That means I have to be packed up today. No time to grab any last minute stuff in the dark of morning time. Then the hour and twenty minute commute to the start, and hopefully I won't have any issues getting there. Should be a scene at any rate. (Don't forget your clipless shoes, right? HA!)

Weather looks like it will cooperate. Not the coolest, but not the hottest I've had for this ride by far. 25% chance of rain of some sort. We'll see! Expect a full account come Monday.

Salsa Cycles 2020 Blackborow
Salsa Cycles Releases 2020 Fat Bike Info:

Short version: New colors, minor spec changes.

Annnnnnd.........that's about it. 

Reaction: Surprised by two things here. One- That Salsa Cycles did not jump on the chance to stick an electric motor on the Blackborow. Surly has that, and you'd figure that Salsa couldn't be far behind. The Blackborow platform would be- maybe- a great idea for hunters, and electrifying a Blackborow might appeal to those who drag all kinds of gear into the back country and need a rig to drag out carcasses of dead animals. I don't know- I don't hunt - but it makes sense to me that doing that to a Blackborow and targeting hunters would be a good idea.

The second thing that surprises me is that the Mukluk line has been cut down to two models. Hmm..... The Mukluk was the "expedition"/exploration fat bike for Salsa. This was their focus when they hit the scene back nine years ago. Now it seems racing (Beargrease) and long tailed "cargo" fat bikes (Blackborow) are the focus. Exploration and expedition stuff must not be too "Adventure by Bike" anymore, or something. Anyway, the feeling I get is that either Mukluk is on the way out, or being replaced by something new in a year or so.

Besides that, the "battleship camo" graphics have been retained again for another year. Not a fan, myself, but apparently some folks dig it. I like the straightforward look of beautiful hues of paint, like the Blackborow's deep green. I can get behind that. Besides that.....yawn. Make a titanium fat bike again, and then we'll talk.

And with that, I am done for the week. See ya on the other side when I come back with the GTDRI report Monday. Until then, enjoy the "Minus Ten Review" tomorrow and another edition of "Trans Iowa Stories" on Sunday.

Get out and ride folks! Summer is fading away...........

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Country Views: Fields Of Flowers

Big sky day in Iowa
Yesterday was another in a string of awesome, lower humidity days. A very welcome respite after the inferno we endured last week. I had heard from my friend Tony that Northern Black Hawk County was mostly "hero gravel" with spots of deeper patches where the county is still trying to fix the blowouts created from last Winter. So, I figured I'd better go investigate that, and see some roads I haven't been on all year.

I drove out to the North edge of Waterloo and parked at Gates Park where the city put in a small gravel lot a few years back. From there it is a short mile to Moline Road and gravel not long after that. I can be on gravel within ten minutes from parking, which is nice. Sometimes I ride all that way from the house, which adds about 3-4 miles, one way, of city riding. I wasn't interested too much in doing that since just this past Wednesday a guy got hit and run on his bike not more than a block from where I live and ended up in critical condition. These things have a way of spooking me. I'll probably get over it, but I was not going down that street. 

A truck going down a road I was about to cross. It's really dusty out in the country now. Recent rains notwithstanding.
 Moline Road was the "out road" on the old 3GR route I used to do every Saturday morning. I haven't used it in over a year since I ran into a big, what I think was a Great Pyrenees, dog that was pretty vicious. I have avoided Moline and used Sage Road since then. But I've heard that there has been no sign of late of the big, yellowish, hairy beast, so I figured I'd risk going the old way again.

Initially the gravel was as my friend Tony had reported. Very smooth, fast, and punctuated occasionally by short patches of deeper fresh gravel. Then I came upon Dunketon Road and after crossing it I rode on a fresh patch of the deepest gravel I've ridden on in quite some time. The Tamland was squirrely and fishtailing all over. Not a lot of fun, but it wouldn't be the last patch of that!

I'd forgotten how many places on Moline Road were lined with trees.
I saw several fields filled with wildflowers of yellow and purple. 
I rode past the place where the big hairy mutt had pinned me down a couple of years ago and saw nothing but a nice lady in the yard who gave me a wave. Hmm..... Maybe that mutt has been neutralized or is gone. Don't know- don't care. All I know is I was able to pass by peacefully.

So, I rode on past Denver and up another mile, then West. I rode only a mile of Ivanhoe and then peeled off South again on Killdeer since I had to get back to the house to get some things in order for my son's birthday celebration. He turned 16 yesterday.

Barns for Jason #1
Barns For Jason #2
The road I turned on was probably the fastest and smoothest so far. In fact, there was still evidence of frost boils and some dirt. It's a section of road with some big, roller coaster style hills that are fun to roll. Then you cross the Denver blacktop, and it is mostly down hill for quite a while. The thing was, South of the Denver blacktop the gravel was all fresh and very deep. Tony mentioned that Bremer County had laid the gravel down like this. He was right about that on this section! I came off a pretty good sized hill and hit the loose stuff and was basically at the mercy of physics. Good thing bicycles like to stay upright! The back end was loosey-goosey as I'd ever want it to get and the front wasn't far behind! Sorry about the technical terminology there, but that's the only way to describe it!

About two miles of the loosest gravel ever here. (And another Barn for Jason)
I worked my way back South and East until I made it back to Moline Road again, then it was a short jaunt to the truck. It was a very enjoyable ride and I think it possibly may have been one of the nicest days of the year.

Now I have to just get the Bubblegum Princess done up for the weekend, grab some gallons of water for the water stop, and get some good sleep tonight and tomorrow night then it will be off to the GTDRI. I felt pretty good during this ride, but as Mrs. Guitar Ted said to me later, I haven't been getting in many long rides at all this year. It will be a tough go to do 92 miles in the hills of Poweshiek County, but it is what it is.