Sunday, February 09, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: New Things

A new header from Jeff Kerkove, a new venue, and back to April for the date.
"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!

If Trans Iowa v5 was a singular event, unlike the rest of the Trans Iowas, then v6 was the Trans Iowa that was the one with all the "new stuff". It was born out of the need to get a venue which we thought would be more amenable to having a cycling event which could benefit the community. We had a lot of good fortune over the almost decade and a half of putting on the event, in terms of acceptance, but for Williamsburg, we would have had a perfect run.

In fact, that was really the only bad thing about v5, the town. Almost everyone that lived there seemed to be dismissive of the event, and this made getting anything done as far as social amenities, or just basic needs, nearly impossible. David and I were not about to entertain navigating those unfriendly waters again. So, after a time, we began to discuss what we could do to find that town or city that would be friendly, or at the very least, helpful, to us and Trans Iowa.

It wasn't long into our discussions that David suggested we go and look around Grinnell. David's father, Darryl, had pastored a rural church at one time in the area, and David was somewhat familiar with the terrain surrounding Grinnell, and knew about some interesting features. Word got around we were looking at Grinnell, and Rob Versteegh, the Oakley rep, and a guy who was keenly familiar with the area, got a hold of us. He mentioned some possibilities. Told us to go check out Bikes To You, and made mention of a barn deal. We poked around Grinnell one time earlier, then we decided to head down again and pick the brain of the local bike shop owner, Craig Cooper, who ran Bikes To You.

I already had met Craig during RAGBRAI 2002 when we had to take refuge together in the cab of a truck to get out of a thundershower at an overnight stop somewhere on the route that year. I was crewing/mechanic help for a shop and Craig's Bikes To You was also a shop on the ride. So, when David and I stopped in to his shop on Broad Street on a Fall day in 2009, he was already acquainted with me, and we quickly jumped into what we were about and what we were looking for in a town to host the next Trans Iowa. I recall Craig rubbing his chin thoughtfully, then excusing himself to make a quick phone call to the Chamber of Commerce. He related that he felt they should know about this and that they "might be a good resource" for us.

Sheryl Parmely at T.I.v7's pre-race meeting.
Then an extraordinary thing happened which would impact Trans Iowa for the rest of its time as an active event. While Craig, David, and I were batting around ideas, a woman came in the shop. Craig smiled and welcomed her, introducing this person as Sheryl Parmely, of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce. She politely said hello, and with paper and pencil at the ready, asked David and I, "Now what are you looking for?"

I was taken aback, but I reiterated what we had discussed, David chiming in with a few things, and Craig reminding us of a few other points. Sheryl busily scribbled down a list, asked for my contact email address, and excused herself with a wave and by saying that we'd be hearing from her soon........

Uh-huh.......right. Brilliant! That was all good, and gave me some hope, but I wasn't hanging my hat on getting anywhere just yet. I figured we'd have to wait to see how welcoming Grinnell was really going to be in the coming weeks. With that out of the way, David and I bid Craig farewell, we had some coffee at a shop there, and then I made my way home, 80 miles or so to Waterloo.

When I got home, I checked my email, and there was one from Sheryl Parmely of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce! Not only that, she had a detailed list of businesses that might hold our pre-race meet-up, an offer for motel price reduction already bagged, and an offer that might result in coupons for riders to spend on meals in Grinnell! What?!! This was unreal! I was floored, to say the least. Could it all come true this easily? Was this all just smoke and mirrors? Remember, we had pulled up every stone in Williamsburg to no avail. I cannot stress how awesome I felt about Grinnell at that point.

The new vehicle for T.I.- "The Truck With No Name"- did its first T.I. duty for v6 recon.
And my relationship with Grinnell was almost like that till the end. I barely ever had to lift a finger if it involved the businesses, the city, or the Chamber of Commerce when it came to Trans Iowa dealings. It all started that day with Sheryl Parmely and Craig Cooper. I'll be forever grateful to these two individuals, and others, like Rob Versteegh, which made Grinnell the home of Trans Iowa for the remainder of its days.

This turn of events reinvigorated David and I. We were enthusiastically researching all sorts of things to make the event better. Then Rob contacted us and he had even more exciting news. Rob told us, as he had suggested earlier, we were cleared to be able to use the barn as a venue to start from or end the event. Wow! How cool would that be? Could this get any better? David and I were knocked out of our socks at the turn of events from the year before. The recent running of v5 seemed like a rinky-dink affair in comparison to what we might have going on here with Grinnell. Not that the v5 event itself was bad, it wasn't, but Trans Iowa would never be quite as "dirt bag" again as it was for the 2009 running of the event.

This was a stunning turn of events. In fact, Grinnell was the first town we looked at to move Trans Iowa to, and obviously we quit searching immediately after our first visit. It was a jackpot in terms of a venue for Trans Iowa. We "hit the lottery" on our first ticket, and we knew it. While some lip service was given to moving Trans Iowa in latter years, it never was a serious consideration. Grinnell Iowa was a slam dunk for a venue to hold a gravel cycling event out of, and it still is.

Next: History Rediscovered


Rydn9ers said...

Since the first time I visited Grinnell I've been a bit smitten by that town. For a town of it's size it's got plenty of things going for it in the way of businesses, tap rooms and places to eat. The cleanliness and architecture don't hurt either.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers - Yeah, it's a pretty unique town. I agree.