"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
Trans Iowa v7 was a pivotal one, and from where I sit, the major changes that occurred had to do with two things. Ironically, they were related to one seemingly simple thing- cue sheets.
Obviously cue sheets were central to how Trans Iowa ran. Without a marked course, a GPS track, and since I made new courses for every Trans Iowa, the only way to run the riders around the "big-assed loop
" was by cue sheets. Obviously, the task required to produce them was arduous, tedious, and time consuming. Without concise, correct cues, Trans Iowa would be an unmitigated failure. Of course, I took cue sheet production and the quality of those cues very personally.
If they were late, not right, or if riders became lost or frustrated due to poor execution of the cues, I would take that upon myself as the worst thing for me personally. So, keeping all of that in mind, I will continue on with what caused the end of a partnership and nearly undid a friendship.
You may recall that as I told the story about T.I.v6 that David emailed me with a frustration over cue sheets and that this nearly derailed Trans Iowa that year. You'll also recall that I largely forgot about that going into T.I.v7. However; after a fantastic Fall and Summer spent off and on with David doing bicycles and recon, he pretty much went "radio silent mode" for December through March. I couldn't get a hold of him, my emails went unanswered, and I became worried about the cues again, since he was in charge of that.
|Emily Broderson sent me this multi-part post card in sections that I had to assemble for T.I.v7 entry|
I became increasingly frustrated with the situation to the point that I had determined in my mind that beyond T.I.v7 I was going to have to be the only one that would do cue sheets. In my view, no one else was taking this as seriously as I needed it to be taken. That was my pre-T.I.v7 view. What I did not know was that David had been putting in 12+ hour days at work, suffering threats of cutbacks and potential loss of his job, and trying to hold his family life together. Unfortunately, he wasn't communicating this with me at the time, so all I knew was that the cues weren't being done, and that this was unacceptable. From what I knew, it was my opinion that David was incompetent. Unfair viewpoint looking back on it now as it was, but those were my true feelings at the time.
In the end, all I knew was that Trans Iowa had to be put on. Finally, David produced some cues and I was going to finish up the deed myself for T.I.v7. It wasn't a pretty exchange of e-mails to get to that point. However; it got worse. David, in an effort to get his part of the course done, just ran cues off a poorly formatted GPS mapping site which had multitudinous miscues and was totally unusable. It was probably due to his state of affairs at the time with work and such that this occurred. At any rate, it was obvious that he hadn't checked the cues against his part of the route plan.
I was deeply alarmed and angry. I cannot remember the details, but somehow we managed to get better directions for his part of the course, and Trans Iowa was, somehow, able to go on. That said, this poorly vetted section which David was in charge of came back to bite us. Plus there was another unforeseen snafu waiting in the weeds for us as well. But before we discovered that, I had the film crew of Jeff Frings and his wife to deal with and there was a situation that I found puzzling in regard to that.
|Friday before T.I.v7 was foggy, wet, and dreary.|
David had once again expressed displeasure in how he had sort of a backseat presence in terms of Trans Iowa. He didn't like that I had referred to him as "d.p." on my blog, and he wanted more of a "say" in things. I was a bit puzzled by this, because when Jeff Frings offered to do a short interview just before we left for the Pre-Race Meat-Up, I asked David to join in. He declined.
In the back of my mind in that moment I was flummoxed. How can you be a bigger part of Trans Iowa if you don't want to get out there and be "the face of it"? Getting on camera for the film was, as I saw it, the perfect opportunity for David to jump in. Also, in my mind, he was already a bigger part of the event behind the scenes. In my view, at that point, he maybe had too much of a part in the event, because I was under the impressions that he couldn't even produce cues that were decent. I was completely confused by David at that point.
Back to the film- Jeff Frings didn't want to intrude upon the natural state of affairs, rather wanting to capture things 'as they would normally be' for a Trans Iowa. So there was no script for David and I to follow. The impromptu interview before the Pre-Race Meat-Up was really the only chance to 'get a word in
' regarding the film. So, the result was that I got on the film, ended up being a major part of it, and David barely got any screen time at all. Trust me- it wasn't a plan going in.
It was just how it was with David and he seemed to avoid the spotlight wherever possible.
Then there was the bridge out at Mile 7 on course the following day. Sheesh! That was a big surprise! Of course, it resulted in an off-course excursion for most of the T.I.v7 field, leading them up an unnecessary Level B road, and essentially put a lot of riders into arrears time-wise. Many missed Checkpoint #1 because of this. Included in that bunch was Jay Barre, who is the very disappointed fellow in white in the film "300 Miles Of Gravel
". That scene "gets" me every time I see it. Now you can probably guess why that is. Anyway.....
I had photographer Steve Fuller drive the course previous to T.I.v7 and he had reported no issues. But I hadn't checked it.
So afterward I instigated the policy wherein I drove to CP#1 the day before a Trans Iowa every year. Sometimes further, just so I would never again have to deal with THAT situation. And if that wasn't enough......
|Morning dawns on Easter Sunday during T.I.v7. David and I were searching for two lost riders.|
This happened to be another time when David insisted we try to get some overnight rest. So we had reconned far ahead of the riders and it was apparent by the cues in the latter half of T.I.v7, which happened to be the part David was responsible for, that there were many shortcomings. Once I realized this, it reinforced the feelings I had about taking complete control of the cues and recon. This was just too much for me to deal with again in the future. In the meantime, we went on with recon ahead of the riders until we went back to Grinnell, and finally we tried to get some sleep.
|We met the riders coming in as we backtracked the course Easter morning of 2011.|
Again, I don't know how much sleep I actually got in, but it wasn't much. I do remember getting a phone call while it was still dark out from an angry Matt Gersib who took me to task for poorly written cues, getting riders lost, and making their hard training efforts worthless by misleading them on some wild goose chase across Iowa that was unfinishable. Finally, Matt added that he and his riding partner were lost. Of course, I was deeply alarmed and took it very personally. I had failed Matt. So, I made David get out of bed and we were going to backtrack the T.I.v7 course to find Matt and his riding companion no matter what it took.
Reading cues backwards is hard enough. Reading cues backwards on little to no sleep is nigh unto impossible. Add in goofy miscues and it is no wonder that, at one point, my brain was so twisted around that I had to have David stop the car and I had to get out and clear my head. David insisted he knew which way to go, but I was so upset I wasn't going to trust anyone's judgement in the matter other than my own. So we stood there until I was satisfied I had it right, then we continued. David was fairly nonplussed by it all by outward appearances, but I am sure it made him angry looking back.
We forged on with less issues and after awhile, we were actually having a pretty good time. Occasionally we would stop and chat with incoming riders, and to a person the feeling was that it was an awesome event. However; I kept hearing tales of a broken down bridge where riders had to tightrope walk across some open decking on supporting timbers across a creek. Internally I was horrified. Someone could have easily fallen and gotten injured or worse in the dark. Apparently it was all due to another miscue on David's part of the course. Had I known this was in the course, I would have rerouted it out. But what was done was done.
|David Pals, (back to camera) chatting with Eric Brunt (L) while John Williams attends to his bike.|
We continued on route and everyone we passed by finished eventually. We came upon the final two riders, Matt Gersib and another guy, in North English. MG shot me a glance that could have killed. He was livid. Needless to say they did not finish either.
I was crestfallen. My friend was angry and had every right to be. But now it was off back to the finish line to see who would come in. I missed Dennis Grelk winning the event. The only other time that happened that I missed seeing the winner come in was at T.I.v1. (On finish-able years, that is) I was sorely disappointed, but I do remember both David and I cheered when we received the news from the finish line.
Once Janna Vavra and Scott Bigelow came in, David wanted to leave immediately. There was only a few minutes left till the cut-off, and those two riders were the end of our concerns, so I get it. However; I wanted to hang out longer, but the tone in David's voice made me feel like we had to leave right away. So, I got a word in edgewise with Janna and a pic, then we had to scoot, because David said he had to be somewhere. I think now that he was just fed up with me, Trans Iowa, and all that was going down in his life and wanted it over. I'm spit ballin' there, but I bet that's not far off the mark. David brought me back to my truck, I got my stuff and he said goodbye and walked briskly back to his vehicle, started it, and drove away. It was the last time I'd see him for many years. No agreements to do anything again. No looking back, no commentary, he just sped away and never looked back.
Immediately I was furious with him and for several days my anger burned and I was searching for ways that maybe I could release him from his duties. I had the "Dirt Rag
" feature article to wrap up right after T.I.v7, and then about mid-June, I got the proofs of the article back from then editor, Josh Patterson. I hadn't heard a thing from David since T.I.v7 ended.
|Wally Kilburg and George Keslin ran CP#2 for v7. It was the start of something great.|
But I had heard about him. His father, Darryl, often frequented the shop where I used to work, since he lived not far away. He told me about David's troubles with his job, and that things were rough for him. Well, I was softened toward him greatly by this news, but perplexed as to why he felt the need to solely bear his burdens. Still, I wasn't at a point where I could let him have the sort of responsibilities he used to have, but it was time to reach out. The proofs of the "Dirt Rag
" feature were a good excuse to do just that.
So, I sent the article proof along with a question: "Are you still in to do another Trans Iowa
?" David responded that "....yeah, I think my TI days are over.
" And to tell the truth, I was greatly relieved. Now I didn't have to delicately work around how I was going to have to be the only one in control, because now David had made the call himself to quit. While I was saddened to see our partnership end like that, I was unburdened and lighter in my spirit than before.
It should also be said that David related that he was upset that post T.I.v7 only four individuals (including myself) had reached out to him after Trans Iowa v7 was over. Once again, his dissatisfaction with being seen as not a part of the event worth being grateful for was expressed. But leaving that aside, while I was relieved that there would be no further tensions between he and I and Trans Iowa, I knew that his absence would be felt keenly. Not by anyone else, apparently, but by me? Yes.
And then there was Matt Gersib. That friendship reached the threadbare state when after T.I.v7 Matt went on a tear on my blog commenting about the event in a negative way. I had a lot of behind the scenes email and conversations with Matt, and eventually we got the fences mended to the point that Matt decided he would be a volunteer at T.I.v8 to monitor my corrections to the event.
I'll tell you what- that whole post-T.I.v7 thing undid me.
Now I am so glad I made the effort to be Matt's friend, and I am really proud of how Trans Iowa changed because of the things I learned with David Pals. But at that time these things were some of the most difficult things I had ever had to deal with. Boy! Was I ever glad to have the events of Trans Iowa v7 behind me!
Next A Fire In The Belly