Sunday, March 15, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Muddy Ends

Walking a Level B Road in Trans Iowa v6. Image courtesy of C. Godfrey
 "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!

Once I had dispatched the ornery potential spectator, David and I hopped back onto the course with renewed optimism. The day was drenched in rain, the air was humid, and every road was soft or muddy. The going was slow and arduous. A small lead group of about six to seven guys had broken away which included John Gorilla, former winner of v4, Joe Meiser, the defending champion, and Charlie Farrow. We passed them not long after leaving checkpoint #1 and noted that they were working really hard. David and I zipped ahead, checking roads, and stopped around noon at Pella, Iowa, the next convenience store opportunity on the v6 course. It was during the Tulip Festival there, and tulips were in bloom all over the small town.

David and I decided that due to the difficulties in traversing normal gravel roads because of their rain-soaked state, we would start taking out Level B roads on the course. We rerouted a bad one just East of Pella, but not before leaders John Gorilla and Joe Meiser walked the entire thing, and still retained their lead afterward. Then we went backward toward Pella to warn riders of the re-route that hadn't passed us. Eventually we ended back up at the convenience store in town. I recall that it seemed to be taking a very long time for riders to arrive, and when they did, they were coming in pairs, or singly. The difficulty of that course in those conditions put everyone left in survival mode. Attrition rates were high. I think we ended up having less than 20 riders attempting to get to Checkpoint #2 by late afternoon. Out of 57 starters, 30 missed the cut-off at CP#1, and now the numbers with any hope of making CP#2 were dwindling further.

As things progressed, we were becoming more concerned with weather. David was talking with his wife at that time and was getting updates from her on the forecast. It didn't look good. The weather was predicted to go steadily downhill throughout the afternoon hours and by early evening a hellish prediction of 30mph winds, heavy rainfall, and more possibilities for severe thunderstorms was being forecast. David and I could only hope that they would be incorrect,and we turned our attention to matters at hand.
The lead group plows through mushy gravel just after leaving CP#1. NOTE- Meiser and Gorilla breaking away in the distance.

Riders at checkpoint 2 in What Cheer trying to determine if they can beat the time cutoff to CP#3 during T.I.v6 (Image by K. Wilson)
We oversaw the setting up of the second checkpoint in the little village of What Cheer, Iowa, which had a convenience store located across the street. This was set to be the last checkpoint in a town on the route. The third checkpoint was in a remote location. Unfortunately, no one ever saw that, as the weather slid downhill and eventually ended the event. Not that it mattered much anyway. The conditions coming into Checkpoint #2 were bad and getting worse, making even getting through that time check unattainable for many left in the event.

(L-R) Dennis Grelk, Joe Meiser, Sean Mailen, and John Gorilla consider their fate in T.I.v6. Image by K. Wilson

  Gorilla and Meiser showed up after 4:00pm, and a small group of chasers were the only other ones that even had a prayer of continuing. Because of the lateness of their arrival to Checkpoint #2, which closed at 5:00pm, this small group had no "time in the bank" to waste. Getting to checkpoint #3, in those conditions, was a real questionable feat. Plus, everyone knew it was going to be bad weather-wise by this point. It already had started in to raining again, making the bad roads even worse,

This resulted in the T.I.v6 What Cheer Pow-Wow. There was a lot of going back and forth between the riders as to what to do, as I was told later by Paul Jacobson, a volunteer at the checkpoint. Should they press on? What about the weather? "The roads are bad, getting worse, we don't have time to make it."

Somehow or another, Meiser and Gorilla left to ride on. Eventually, the remainder of this small group all bailed on continuing. While they packed it in, six other riders miraculously made the checkpoint at the last possible minute and blew right on down the road. These included Corey Godfrey, Eric Brunt, Charles Parsons, Matt Braun, and the Petervarys on their tandem. The chase group then questioned their decision and a few of them deeply regretted not carrying on afterward.

I remember when I got the word that the chasers had quit that I was somewhat surprised. These were some stalwart riders. Tim Ek, Charlie Farrow, and others who were good at this Trans Iowa thing. Not guys I would have guessed would have thrown in the towel, but considering conditions and time...... Yeah..... Maybe, I get that. It was what it was, and it left eight intrepid souls plus David and I out there to do battle with the ever worsening weather and roads. Eight riders on seven bikes that cleared the checkpoint, (the Petervary's tandem team making that unlikely number of bikes vs people understandable), and the skies grew darker.

Next: Help Unlooked For

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