Sunday, March 07, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Good Plan Goes Wrong: Part 1

A rare clean-shaven G-Ted. Image by Jason Boucher.
 "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! 

The lead-up to Trans Iowa v11 was pretty smooth. I did the cue sheet printing- for the last time ever- on my home machine. My wife and a family friend both helped stuff the cues into their neat little baggies and everything was a go by two weeks out from the event. I had processes in place to make things very smooth in as far as how things were done. All refined to a knife edge since the Trans Iowa v7 event when I felt things were somewhat of a disaster on several fronts. Things that gnawed at me. All forgotten now by this time. 

One of those newer things that were being done for this version of Trans Iowa was that the Slender Fungus- the loosely knit fellowship of cyclists who all had some connection to Trans Iowa- were doing the number plates this time around. Another first would concern something many had worriess about for several years- that being my solo driving and event directing during a Trans Iowa. This time Matt Gersib, my friend for several years, was to be my driver, taking responsibility for my transportation around the course while I ran the show. 

Matt and I were to meet in Grinnell, do the whole Pre-Race Meat-Up shindig, and then we were all set to board up in the loft apartment of Craig Cooper's above his shop, Bikes To You. This would put us at the start line easily. All we had to do was to roll out of bed at the proper time, walk downstairs, and we would be there. Perfect! Matt was stoked. I was stoked. This was going to be a lot of fun! 

Matt was going to drive his Subaru and we were going to have almost two full days of hanging out with each other. It was definitely going to be epic on several fronts. We had chatted via email several times and the excitement level was high. When we met at the Pre-Race, it was all smiles, despite the gloomy forecast, and with all the processes and logistics nailed down, I now had so much freedom to just hang around it was ridiculous. 

Thanks to volunteer help like MG, (L) and Mike "The Bonk King" (R), I could breath a lot easier.

Thinking back, it was probably at this Pre-Race for v11 where I first felt the oddness of not juggling five different things at once and having the stress of the event on top of that. I had the registration table manned by trusted volunteers, the pre-event set up was all handled by the Slender Fungus guys, Matt (MG) was there to help out, and several others pitched in wherever they could to make v11's pre-event scene so different for myself.

Previously I was so concerned about everything being done right, and that I had to be the one that made sure it was right, that from v8-v10 I really didn't have a lot of fun at the pre-event. Not so with v11. People were telling me to relax, go have fun, and take it easy. I had a few beers. It was great to connect with folks a bit more than usual. 

Craig Cooper of Bikes To You recounts the tale behind this pre-War Paramount.

The Pre-Race went super-smoothly. As the years went on, this meeting got more streamlined and shorter. I liked to be finished by 8:00pm, but generally we'd get out of there by 7:30pm if not sooner.

After the v11 meeting, MG and I decided to head down to Bikes To You, where the loft apartment was, and we hit up Coop and heard the tale of a Pre-War fixed gear Paramount track bike a resident bought new and rode everyday in Grinnell. 'Every day', as in 365 days a year, for decades. Craig was the last mechanic to care for the bike, and ended up with it after the gentleman that owned it died. After this amazing story, Matt and I went up to that loft apartment, settled in, and prepared for our 2:30am (more like 2:00am) wake-up call to get ready to get this show on the road. 

Of course, you never just go straight to bed! No, MG and I stayed up later, had something more to drink, and I think we could have talked all night had we been at unawares of the time. Once we broke off our yakking, it was time to try to sleep. And then it happened...... This is something I never heard much about from the racers, since they generally stayed about two miles South, along the I-80 motel strip, and not in Grinnell proper. Good thing that they usually never did stay in town. That damn freight train! Every year I stayed downtown, it came through at around 1:00am and it's engineer hung on that blasted horn at every city block intersection. Of course, this was only a few blocks away from where the loft apartment was. Dang! I never really slept well when we stayed up there, but it sure was convenient. 

And the night of T.I.v11 was no different. I got bits and pieces of sleep, but before long I was up and at 'em, looking to get downstairs and get the ball rolling. Matt was up as well, saying something to me about it being hot up there all night. I guess I didn't mark his comments until much later. At the time, I just wanted to get the event started and get going.  

Wally Kilburg takes an image of me giving "The Fatherly Advice" previous to the start of T.I.v11.

The start was always something that started out chill and the tension ratcheted up every minute until at the stroke of 4:00am, I would be off. This time in MG's capable hands. However; as the minutes ticked off, MG, who had said he needed to hit the convenience store a couple blocks away for some last minute things, was not back at the start area. I grew increasingly concerned. Then, he showed up. Finally! Man! Was I really tense that it was at the last minute. 

But then my intensity at Matt's missing turned to grave concern. Matt was sick! Really sick! I told him to stay put. I know he felt tortured inside because he felt he had let me down, but there was no way he was going to be well enough to help, and he needed to look after himself. I asked one of the guys that was staying behind to look after him, and then well..... it seemed rude, but I had a race to get going. 

A last minute change in plans! I rolled with it, I'd done this before, so it wasn't out of my wheelhouse. Behind all the immediate concerns with getting T.I.v11 underway, I was very concerned about my friend, and very disappointed that he felt so badly about letting me down. But no time for niceties. I rolled my truck up to the start line, got everyone lined up behind it, and tried to make sure I had all the things I needed to run the event in my truck. Good to go at the last minute!

Honk-honk! Trans Iowa v11 was off, and the good idea to have someone drive me for the event would have to wait for another year.

Next: A Good Plan Goes Wrong: Part 2


baric said...

Another calling. A face just made for Craft Brew ads. " Before the big Race, it's Bells Ale time!". Speaking from the standpoint of a former professional craft brewer many moons ago, that photo was classically perfect. Now you did serve those beers up in proper glass receptacles and at proper ale temperature right? Just kidding on that last point.... sort of.

Guitar Ted said...

@Baric - Now that you mention it- that does look like a craft brew ad! As far as the receptacle- I believe both bottles went straight down the hatch there. Oh well.....I don't always get everything right!

MG said...

Man, that was a rough day... It started so well, but then turned really bad at the worst time. I still remember puking in the rock ‘garden’ beside the bank in downtown Grinnell as you were doing the pre-race talk. I was gutted, both literally and figuratively.

In retrospect, we still got our car time together... It just had to wait another year.

Love ya, Brother.

Guitar Ted said...

@MG - We did make up for it, didn't we?

Love ya too, Brother!