Sunday, March 01, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories:Thunder And Lightning: Part 1

David Pals (bd.sahib on comments about the course for v6
 "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!

It was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Trans Iowa v6 was entered in with a heart full of hope and a promise of the best event we'd engineered yet. It also came with a ton of stress and worry, with the whole thing nearly coming undone before it even started. (See last week's post)

The high was right off the bat with the "Pre-Race Meat-Up" at the newly minted Grinnell Steakhouse. This was a "grill your own" steak place where they had this enormous grill which they fired all up, especially for Trans Iowa, and let our riders, support people, friends, and volunteers use to enjoy some camaraderie and fun. This part of Trans Iowa I was very proud of, and the way the first one went, well....... "Smashing success"? Maybe "better than anyone could have imagined"? All I know is that compared to v5 the year before, this deal was astronomically better. It ended up being more than I had hoped.

Going in, all we were looking for was to create a bit of that early Dirty Kansas vibe. The "Small DK200", as I call it now, where things happened organically, and the field wasn't so big that you didn't get to at least say "hello" to everyone. David had been there, at the early DK's, and he was way into what we were doing too. The smiles on our faces as we watched the night unfold were wide and we felt very proud that evening.

As the crowd came in and mingled the room became full of chatting racers, support people, and some locals who were hip to the event. The vibe was definitely what David and I wanted, and then we did the pre-race meeting. That done, we were packing up our stuff and getting ready to head to our motel. That was about the time a young waitress came up, looking sheepish, and demurely asked us if we were coming back next year. That's exactly when we knew that the Grinnell Steakhouse was impressed with us. To say our stoke was maxed out would be putting things mildly.

The first Trans Iowa in Grinnell started in front of Bikes To You. The scene when David and I arrived. 
Just minutes before the 4:00am start of Trans Iowa v6
The start was electric. The tension was thick as the fog we were diving into. I remember the dichotomy of that Broad Street scene and what we were about to experience. First it was all bright lights and lots of people, and then only moments later, I remember being enveloped in darkness inside of David's Honda Element as we gingerly navigated soft, wet gravel roads. We were in 'Times Square', then we were in 'solitary confinement' in the matter of minutes. It was disconcerting to say the least.

But what was even more disconcerting, ominous even, were the sudden flashes of light I was seeing here and there. David did not see this at first as he was fully concentrating on not going off into a steep ditch. These roads were like roller coaster tracks- steeply up, then just as frighteningly steep going down, so he needed full command of all his faculties to steer the car and not fail. The thick blanket of fog did not help matters.

But then, after much debating about the light being a beacon on a windmill or not, we had to admit this was not anything but lightning. My heart was in my throat as we stopped atop the bridge over I-80 which the course used. I was looking at the radar on my phone, and it wasn't good. A severe thunderstorm warning for Jasper County. Dammit! Should we ride it out or call this thing off. The riders hadn't even gone 20 miles by this time into T.I.v6. David was more optimistic then I at this point. So we went forward. And then the skies unleashed their fury. I was about as low as I could go right about then. I felt terrible.

Next: Thunder And Lightning Part 2


S.Fuller said...

I remember watching and timing those "Finger of God" lightning strokes as they worked their way towards us from the southeast. My brain was split between heading east towards Newton and the safety of the truck stop and not wanting to waste any more time than possible, which meant riding directly south. I'm not known for making the smartest choices...

Dr. Giggles said...

I recall watching the skies light up with each lightning strike that morning, and like Steve, I counted the intervals between each flash of light and the subsequent arrival of thunder. I got extremely anxious as that interval decreased until the flash and thunder seemed to occur simultaneously. I knew I was in for a bit of bother after a sudden strike in a field not far off the road was followed instantly by thunder & rapidly began assessing my cover options--there were none since I was on open ground, unprotected, fully exposed to the storm. I dismounted quickly and got as low as I could in a roadside ditch as the fireworks show rolled over the TI course...the old "duck 'n cover" move. The ditch however was not the best of my choices that day since it was partially filled with water, but it was my only option. After the storms passed, I continued to roll towards Newton, only to encounter a completely saturated TI B-road [aka., a +1 mile long Iowa mudpit] & a HAB that ended my TIv6 ride before CP1, but that is another story...haha!!!