Sunday, March 21, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Face In A Window

Greg Gleason at Checkpoint #1 during T.I.v11 Image by Wally Kilburg

 "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 clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy!

 Greg Gleason sped away from Checkpoint #1, raised his fist in the air, and disappeared. then everyone looked around. The faces of the volunteers were aghast. Was this it? Now what happens?

Gleason was at the checkpoint long enough that by the time he left it was over. No one else was going to make the time cut. We were preparing for the arrival of some riders, but how many would actually push on to the checkpoint? Surely most of them knew that they were done. 

About ten minutes later, a water-logged Bruce Gustafson rolled in alone. Then a few more minutes went by and a foursome rolled up including former Trans Iowa winners John Gorilla and Eric Brunt. John told me then that they purposefully waited a mile or so out to make sure they missed the cutoff! It was that miserable out there! But upon further reflection on this, I think John was cagey and wise enough to understand that a Trans Iowa course was going to have enough difficulties that pushing onward at the edge of the time cut-off for CP#1 was a recipe for failure further down the road anyway. Why incur further potential damage? While I don't know for sure that this was his thinking, I am sure that he was aware of that and possibly based his decision to purposefully make sure that he missed the cut-off due to those thoughts. 

After those four rolled in and were accounted for, riders started trickling in. Some alone, others in pairs. Soon we had a shelter house full of shivering, rain soaked, and muddy racers waiting for rescue by their support people. Phones were pulled out and several conversations were going on at the same time. It was becoming a bit of a chaotic scene. Steve Fuller manned the roster sheet and I ended up being the phone contact relaying information to him. We saw about a 50/50 split between riders that showed up and those that either turned back or were getting picked up out in the country between Guernsey and Grinnell to the West. 

Things were hectic for a bit there. While Wally and Jason seemingly disappeared, I had the forethought to document the scene as it unfolded. 

John Gorilla leads in three other late-comers to the checkpoint shelter.

Mark Johnson, a strong single speeder from Illinois, smiles after arriving at CP#1.

The chaos increased as vehicles piled into the checkpoint, riders were carted away, and volunteers tried to make sense of who was accounted for and who we still needed to find. The phone was going nuts as I was taking calls from riders and now from worried support people trying to navigate the sodden gravel roads around Guernsey, Iowa in search of abandoning riders. 

My two stalwart volunteers, Tony McGrane and Mike Johnson were cruising the course in search of anyone in need of assistance or directions. Tony related to me how at one point he was trying to help a rider short-cut their way to the small village where he was to be picked up, but that he was so out of sorts that he couldn't follow Tony's instructions. Eventually this rider was picked up safely. 

A rider at CP#1 with a thousand yard stare induced by the brutal conditions of that morning.

It was not uncommon for reports of riders on the verge of hypothermia and disorientation to come in to me that day. We also were watching riders waiting for rides that were 100% spent. Exhausted by their efforts to reach the checkpoint in time. Shivering, staring blankly, and incoherent, they were all eventually plucked from this normally quiet Iowa village and brought to a safe, warm place to gather themselves back up again. In fact, later on Wally reported to me that a few Guernsey residents ventured out and were bold enough to ask him a few questions. When they were appraised of the situation, they were seemingly chuffed that such heroics were being played out in their otherwise forgotten corner of Iowa. 

Occasionally I still get stories brought up about this Trans Iowa. Recently Warren Weibe, a veteran of eight Trans Iowas, reminded me of the story he had about v11. He was walking the heinous, muddy Level B before the checkpoint like everyone else. When he exited the road and reached gravel again, his spirits lifted briefly as he attempted to mount his bike. Now he could make some progress and ride! 

As he went to clip into his pedals, he realized one of his shoes was missing! How long he had walked without it on, he did not know. But he did know he'd have to go find that shoe, which could be anywhere in that mile of muck. Fortunately for Warren, he found it rather easily, since, as he put it, "It was sticking up out of the mud like a half buried car at the Cadillac Ranch".

Back at the shelter house in Guernsey, it was a busy scene until about 10:00am, a full hour and a half after the checkpoint closed. Then things started to wind down. MG called me and said he was feeling much better. He decided to come out and meet me at the checkpoint and then we'd go out in search of the last rider. Meanwhile, vehicles full of wet, muddy riders were pulling away. One, a pearl white Escalade, was packed full, and as I watched it slowly start its journey back to Grinnell, I saw a familiar face peering out. It was Tim Ek. He was a figure that was prominent in many of my Trans Iowa experiences, both during the events and in between them. We had several great email exchanges, and he was a very encouraging, supportive person during Trans Iowa's formative middle years. 

He waved at me from that foggy window as the Escalade rolled away. It was the last time I ever saw him as a Trans Iowa rider. 

Next: The Last Rider

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