|John Gorilla at the impromptu finish line of T.I.v4 with a can of beer he found on the street.|
Now that I have told many stories up through Trans Iowa v6, I thought it might be a good time to take a breather to look at a few of the important characters from the time around T.I.v5-v6. I'll be getting to what I think of as the pivotal time period in Trans Iowa history with Trans Iowa v7 memories. Before we get there though, I need to set the table with my stories about these people. I will make a few comments about these folks, but please keep in mind- they are in no particular order.
John Gorilla. Yes- that is his given name. I'll never forget receiving his T.I.v4 post card and thinking, "this has got to be some kind of a goofy name, ya know? Like "Guitar Ted"!. Only it wasn't. At any rate...... That's the least of his impact upon Trans Iowa. John, while he contested the event, was a force to be reckoned with. A very strong rider, and very good at Trans Iowa. I mean, let's face it- Trans Iowa was odd and it had some strange things unlike other gravel events. John took to it like a fish takes to water. Plus, he was gracious, had excellent feedback from each event he was in, and overall is a really good human. I liked John. I was a bit dismayed by how T.I.v8 and v11 went for him, and he never contested the event in the latter years. Too bad. He never rode in the same T.I. as Greg Gleason, (with the exception of the ill-fated v11), but I bet that would have been an intense battle had they both shown up together. I'll always wonder about that...... My favorite memory of John will always be his T.I.v4 finish where he and his wife, Adele, walked up the street, found a can of unopened beer rolling in the gutter, dusted it off, cracked it open, and drank it while wrapped up in a blanket. That was fun!
|(L-R) Joe Meiser, Charles Parsons, and John Gorilla after T.I.v6 in The Barn|
Charles was tough, tenacious, but he knew how to have fun despite tough conditions. He ended up being one of those riders I always knew would "rally the troops" out on the gravel. Charles actually ended up relishing this role, and he was one of several guys that I knew would be a kind of "On Course Shepherd" for the Rookies in the field each year. Charles also ended up talking his wife into being a volunteer, and so that helped me out even further. I'm not sure Patrice saw the allure of Trans Iowa like Charles did, but she was always a really great asset to the event.
Funny story about Charles as told to me by fellow Trans Iowan, Mike Johnson. Apparently, during Trans Iowa one year, Mike wasn't feeling very "positive" and he was dangling off the back of a group during the difficult overnight hours. Charles drifted back and basically told Mike that unless he was going to straighten up and be positive he wasn't welcome in the group, (No Negative Vibes!) but if he was going to try, Charles would do whatever it took to help him get to the finish. I think that made a huge impression on Mike. Charles is like that, and that story illustrates why I was so fortunate to have him ride Trans Iowa.
Of course, Joe Meiser was a big deal to Trans Iowa back in those days as well. Joe didn't immediately impress, but as time went on he got better and better at Trans Iowa until he won T.I.v5. Between he and Sean Mailen, both engineers at Salsa Cycles/QBP, they tested out several ideas for gravel bikes at Trans Iowa which helped shape what we know as gravel bikes to this day. But more than this, Joe was a steadying force. His demeanor and easy going nature brought a calm over the event, in my estimation. T.I.v6 being a prime example of that. Of course, he could go on a tear and basically ride you off the wheel anytime he liked, but you'd never know that to talk to him. Joe's last T.I. was v6, and he's another one I'd have liked to have seen have a go in the latter years of the event. But it was never to be.....
|George Keslin, (L) and Wally Kilburg became friends of mine and vital assets to Trans Iowa.|
Wally was the instigator. He emailed me during preparations for Trans Iowa v6 and asked if he could help. Now, you should know that I was very reticent to take on unknown volunteers. I had to put a lot of trust in volunteers, and Wally, well, I just had no clue who this guy from Illinois was. He suggested that he could try and ride a moto to help, maybe be a course sweeper. I was very skeptical. How good was this guy on a motorcycle? For all I knew this was some yahoo that had no clue what Iowa rural roads could be like. So, there was some back-and-forth on e-mails. Eventually we settled in on having Wally do a moto course sweep, but as T.I.v6 got closer, we agreed that the weather was looking too poorly for anyone to be out on a motorcycle. Good thing! Wally wouldn't have had a very good time of it.
So, it wasn't until T.I.v7 when Wally brought up the idea of he and his fast friend, George Keslin, being volunteers at our remote checkpoint for T.I.v7, that he actually came to the event. By this time, I figured out that both he and George were accomplished motorcyclists and that Wally had a photography hobby at that time. Of course, the rest is history. But I need to say that Wally and George were vital to the success of Trans Iowa for several years. The photography was phenomenal, and the recon efforts were so helpful, and legendary fun. The time I spent with those two gentlemen will always be some of the very best times I ever had doing Trans Iowa. Thanks isn't enough......
Next: A Pivotal Version