Sunday, July 25, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Tale Of Two Trans Iowas - Part 6

Michael Roe, aka "Dr. Giggles" riding T.I.v12. Image by Celeste Mathias

 "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!

Past Checkpoint #2 I don't recall much right away. We had to check on a bit of bike trail going into Grundy Center and then we stopped at a Casey's Convenience store there. Past that point we started heading South more until we reached the next major feature in the T.I.v12 course. That would be the Level B Maintenance road section on 270th in between C Avenue and D Avenue. It was maybe a half a mile section, but what a half mile! Two descents, two climbs, and much of it flanked by steep embankments covered in vegetation and trees, sometimes reaching a height of two stories at its peak. The 'road' at this point was nothing more than a car and a half wide slot with two deeply rutted out tracks at many points. The ruts are sometimes two to three feet deep. 

This was the section first used for Trans Iowa v7, and ironically, MG had ridden that event and so he was curious to see the road once again. He was one of the few riders that year to actually ride most of the section. But then, MG has talents and skills on a bike few possess. Plus, he has the daring to use those talents, sometimes beyond the limits. His many screws and plates in his body today being a testament to that. It was this daring characteristic of MG's that gave me a bit of a thrill as we sat at the base of the first climb, staring up at it through the windshield of the Subie. 

The only shot I managed to get during MG's crazy climb and descent of 270th.

MG was leaned over the steering wheel, peering up and assessing the road as I was telling him that during recon a week before that we had to talk George out of driving this in his big F-150 Ford. I mean, who would be so crazy as to think they could actually drive up this? Right? 

Well, MG has that characteristic, as I've said, of being a dare-devil, and the next thing I knew, he had started up the first climb. I sat amazed for a second, wondering if I should shout to him to stop. This was madness! But in that moment I saw in his eyes that the game was on, and the right thing to do was not to resist, but to aid him in any way that I could. So, I took on the role of spotter on my side of the road, to keep the Subie out of those tire swallowing, deep ruts, and off we went! 

The trickiest part was that first ascent. That was where the ruts were deepest and most dangerous to us. The final descent was a bit narrow, rocky, and loose. MG had to take it quite gingerly to keep the Subie pointed in the right direction. At one point on the way down we heard a very loud thwack! against the body under my door opening, but there was no time or even space to get out and examine what had happened. We had to wait until we hit the intersection with C Avenue before MG stopped and we could get out and inspect the damage. It turned out that we must have turned a broken off tree limb with the front wheel into the rocker panel. A nice dent sat there as a result. 

After a quick shot of whiskey to celebrate our conquering of the 270th Street obstacles it was onward toward our unique, under-the-road crossing of Highway 330 near Melbourne, Iowa. This was a resource I used first for Trans Iowa v9. I had spied a bike trail along HWY 330 on trips to Des Moines and as I tried to discern where it started/ended on the South end, I kept losing the trail at Melbourne. I then noted that it appeared to go under the highway. Through some messaging back and forth with recon partner, Jeremy Fry, it was confirmed that this was indeed a tunnel under the four lane road at that point and the trail's Southern terminus was on the West side of the road leading to gravel. Perfect! 

Greg Gleason leading Walter Zitz somewhere near the Marshall County line. Image by Wally Kilburg

 So, when we used that feature for v9, we went through from the Southeast side of HWY330 to the Northwest side, essentially having to go through Melbourne. We found at that time that the trail petered out into a gravel parking lot next door to a county maintenance shed. So, as MG and I made our way down to this point, we utilized the parking area as a sort of rest stop during our travels. We would see the riders coming in as we were using this in the opposite direction as we had for v9.

Looking to the West from the parking lot MG and I were parked at during v12.
I suppose it was around 4:00pm in the afternoon by this point. MG backed the Subie in so we would be looking out toward the direction the riders would appear from, and then we sat. Of course, I had a few riders call in to quit the event. Wally would text me updates on the two leaders, Walter Zitz and Greg Gleason, who were at least an hour, hour and a half up on the rest of the riders. But otherwise it was just me and MG. It was quiet. We were relaxed, sitting in the sunshine of a perfect April afternoon, and I loved it. 

I had a rough morning, and this respite from chaos, worry, and fear was quite a change. MG even busted out his ukulele and sang me some tunes he was working on. It was the best time I had experienced on a Trans Iowa in years. In fact, it was almost as if we weren't even running an event. Everything seemed miles and worlds away. This is what I was hoping for. This is what I dreamed might happen if MG would drive me around the course of Trans Iowa. It was a healing moment for me in many respects. The pairing of MG and I was one of the main reasons I wanted to keep doing a Trans Iowa after this. Just to grab a few hours like the ones we had there in that gravel parking lot. 

It was a balance to what the morning had for me. A tale of two completely different experiences. It was as if Trans Iowa had an evil, alter-universe. The riders were reveling in the great weather. Sure, things were tough out there. It was still a triple century plus, but as far as Trans Iowa events went, this one was perhaps the best for riders. The numbers afterward point to this as being fact. But on the other side of this alter-universe was my having to bear the brunt of the events in the background. That was the 'other' Trans Iowa many never knew was going on behind the scenes. But for several hours at a nondescript gravel parking lot near Melbourne, Iowa, I was able to escape. I am still very thankful for that!  

Next: A Near Miss - A story about Trans Iowa's mythical sub-24 hour barrier.


DT said...

I always thought it was pretty clever to use that path to get under 330. It's nice to finally hear the origin story of how it came to be. Of course, Gravel Graves found a way to neutralize your planning. He nailed the turns perfectly getting under 330 and along Melbourne, but he accidentally crossed back OVER 330 before realizing "hey, I was just here!" and getting back on course. Of course, it was 4am by the time he got there, and I suppose he can be forgiven after 24hrs of riding lol

Guitar Ted said...

@DT - Thanks! I was relieved to NOT have riders passing across that highway. In fact, had it not been for that crossing, I probably would not have gone West over 330.

Graves and a WHOLE bunch more folks can be forgiven for a bit of confusion during Trans Iowas! Myself being chief amongst the bewildered.

MG said...

That was an incredible day, Brother. Thanks for your kind words. I think it was one of those rare occurrences where we knew how good it was, even in the moment. It didn’t take the perspective of hindsight for us to realize how amazing it was. The Subie wasn’t any worse for the wear either. That said, I haven’t tried to repeat those antics in it since…

Love you, Brother.

Guitar Ted said...

@MG - Yeah, I agree with that. Love you too...