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.

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