Sunday, January 12, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Three Quick Tales About v5

Looking back at a road grader during T.I.v5 recon in "The Dirty Blue Box".
"Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!\

In this edition of "Trans Iowa Stories" I thought I would share three quick tales from the v5 event.

The first was a lesson learned. David, who reconned the first half of the route alone, had done so always during the day. When T.I.v5 started in the dark, the roads did not look quite the same! This came almost to our undoing within the first hour of T.I.v5.

I was driving "The Dirty Blue Box" while David navigated from the cues. I saw a "T" intersection coming up in the headlights. "T intersection. Which way do I go?" There was a brief silence, then David said "Straight......We're supposed to just keep going straight." Well, obviously something was wrong. My heart was in my throat, and when I reached the intersection, David realized that there was a slight offset to the road at the intersection, so that in the dark, it was impossible to see the road continuing off just to the left of the intersection we were at.

We managed to mark the corner quickly with our DK200 inspired stakes and ribbons, but only juuuust in time, since as we were getting set to leave, we saw a bright, bluish light growing like a weird Sun rise, and then suddenly there they were! The leaders of T.I.v5! Whew! That was close!

Well, that precipitated the "jig-a-jog" cue for future Trans Iowa events, which helped to solve that issue. However, this wouldn't be the last time David and I would be found scrambling to mark the course ahead of the leaders right away in the morning, as we shall see later in this series.

Dust in the air creates a surreal effect. T.I.v5 image by Cornbread
Then there was the "Disappearing Banana Incident". This occurred after Checkpoint #1 at a convenience store in North English, Iowa. David and I were standing around in the chill morning air waiting on the leaders to come in, which we were certain would happen, because not one of them resupplied at CP#1. After what seemed like hours of waiting around in silence and peacefulness, the scene suddenly got tense and exciting.

Joe Meiser, a Salsa Cycles engineer, was leading with Charlie Farrow, who had been one of only five finishers the year before. After trying unsuccessfully to get answers to my questions about what was going on in the event from Joe, both he and Farrow disappeared into the store.

A few minutes later, they emerge, and this happens just as two other figures are rolling into the convenience store parking lot. One, a slim figure clad in black, starts yelling at Farrow. "Charlie! Let's go! Farrow!.......", he stops suddenly right by me, but I may as well have been a million miles away. The figures wide eyes are staring at Charlie. The mysterious figure produces a banana from a pocket, quickly peels it in two strokes, and with one bite......a single bite....he inhales the fruit and screams, "C'mon! We gotta get outta here now!" A befuddled Farrow, with a gallon jug of water and in the process of refilling a bottle, looks up, and without a word Charlie set the jug down, took his partially filled water bottle, re-mounted, and chased after the now disappearing figures of the man in black, Meiser, and another rider by the name of Dave Pramann.

Well, David and I eventually figured out who the manic banana eater was. It was Tim Ek, a finisher of T.I.v3, and Tim would come in a tie for second in this version of T.I. as well.

Finally for today we have the story of how it came to be that we quit announcing where checkpoint locations would be in future Trans Iowa events. That was due to some possible cheating we heard about later. But this same instance was also why we never took Trans Iowa through the villages of LeGrand and Gillman Iowa after v5. Well.......kinda. You'll see.

Checkpoint #2 of the three we had in T.I.v5 was set to be at a convenience store in LeGrand, Iowa, a small railroad village east of Marshalltown. The store had a pretty good sized parking lot on its east side which we figured would make for a decent, out of the way place to hang for our volunteers. One of whom was Matt Maxwell, who rode his bike over from Ames, Iowa to do the checkpoint, then he rode back to Ames afterward!

Tim Ek, Charlie Farrow, Dave Pramann, and Joe Meiser just after leaving N.English. Image by D.Pals.
Since we had announced the location of the checkpoint ahead of time, we found several cars and vans choking the area, leaving little room for true customers to park. Then the riders started coming in. The bikes lined the sides of the store as several riders were inside availing themselves of water, food, and the restroom. This spot also served as the point where many were bailing out of T.I.v5 due to a Westerly headwind and rough, fresh gravel which was taxing many of the riders into exhaustion. So, a LOT of people were milling about waiting to be picked up, as well as the riders passing through, which were a constant for hours. Now, let it be known that this particular, independently owned and operated store also served as LeGrand's pizza place. So, out of two total employees, one was dedicated to pizza orders and fulfillment. The other was a register clerk, and the place was swamped!

David and I were gone when this happened, but apparently the one employee got so angry and frustrated that she shooed away incoming riders and enforced a "no bicycle parking policy", made up on the spot, to ostensibly "clear the way" for regulars to get into the joint. Well, we weren't too very happy to find this out, and it made little sense, as we were obviously enriching the place with our business. But we also had news after T.I.v5 that a couple cyclists had received new tires, and possibly a wheel, from a support person there. Plus, support people were there in great numbers, which we witnessed ourselves. It was almost like T.I.v2 all over again.

Afterward David and I swore we'd never use, or go through, LeGrand again, and since the same owner of the convenience store there owned the one and only convenience store in Gillman, we also said we would never use that store for Trans Iowa either. (Although, the Gillman store was on one Trans Iowa route later, but by then a different owner ran the place.) Sure, we could have forewarned them that they may have extra business, but they also could have been a little more diplomatic about our presence there as well. Either way, we made the decision, and it stood. By the way, this event also contributed to keeping the lid on entries to Trans Iowa in the future. I didn't want to tax a convenience store with too many people and too much business either.

The next year, at T.I.v6, checkpoints after CP#1 were secret. We figured we needed to keep any chances for resupply by supporters to a minimum, plus, we had to avoid the setting where a bunch of T.I. voyeurs might show up, clogging up parking lots and interfering with local business. This led to a testy situation during T.I.v6 which I'll get to in another edition of "Trans Iowa Stories".

Next: The Legend Of Charlie Farrow


MG said...

Oh, those are some good memories... It’s interesting to hear your version of them as well. I was riding with the Cornbread group when we found Charlie near a cemetery later that night. He’d imploded riding in the front, and stopped at the Cemetery to nap. He silently rolled up on us and scared the heck out of us with a loud “Hey guys!”. We thought we were seeing a ghost. He promptly rode away from us at that point.

That North English checkpoint was a mess. Skip Cronin was dropping out there, and my rear tire was delaminating, so I actually took the rear tire from his bike and installed it on my own. I did all the work and we figured since it was from a fellow racer’s bike, we would be okay. FWIW, I finished on that tire. I should probably thank Skip again for his selfless gift.

Good memories...

Guitar Ted said...

@MG- The whole Charlie incident gets the full treatment in the next episode. Stay tuned.....

Rules of TI said that riders could assist riders, so what you did wasn't running afoul of the spirit of the event. It was another incident that I refer to here.