Sunday, September 26, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Going The Long Way Around: Part 2

The digitized version of the Trans Iowa v13 logo.
 "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! 

Finally, I've been treated to some great Trans Iowa stories and memories from riders recently. I am collecting these to - hopefully - put into a book at the end of this series. If you were a Trans Iowa rider and have any memories that you'd like to share, please do and send those to Maybe your tale will also end up in the Trans Iowa Book Of Tales!  

Putting the pieces together for T.I.v13 was a big challenge. I took on the task in bite sized pieces to make things easier. First, I knew I wanted to circle Des Moines in an anticlockwise fashion. This meant that I could re-use portions of the route I came up with for Trans Iowa v8, which went East of Des Moines, but used a return route to Grinnell which would make sense for Trans Iowa v13. I did use some of the same roads near Des Moines but I veered away from the v8 course near Pella and used completely new roads to Trans Iowa from there.

Coming out of Grinnell was another easy thing, comparatively, to do for v13's route. I planned on going backward on v12's return course to begin with, and Baxter, Iowa was earmarked as the first checkpoint. That town was used as the first checkpoint for v7, and made for a perfect segue way to get to the underpass of HWY 330 at Melbourne Iowa. From there the route would be all new roads West and South to aim toward the Northwest edge of the Des Moines metro. This eventually would get the route into an area I was already quite familiar with due to having ridden the Renegade Gent's race for several years, which uses the gravel roads North of Des Moines and South of Ames, Iowa. 

One of the vital bits of road for v13 near Des Moines.

I identified a route then which would use the High Trestle Trail's bridge across the Des Moines River, thus eliminating a huge geographic obstacle, and then......getting around the Northwest corner of the Des Moines metro! Uggh! That caused me no end of headaches. 

Many dead ends, many ideas died, and frustrations with high traffic areas where I feared to put riders at risk made this part of T.I.v13's route a nightmare for me. Now I was on my own here. This is something I think not many people really considered when they think about my way of doing things and route finding. 

Since it was absolutely imperative that no one knew where the course was going, I had no real way of asking anyone about good routes or advice on roads. I might steer conversations and messages to places that would reveal information I could use at times, but those communications had to be 100% organic and I needed to be very careful not to tip my hand. So maybe I found tidbits I could use, but most times I was left on my own to figure out the route. I could only trust Jeremy Fry with ideas and as a sounding board to get any feedback on my ideas, and he was indispensable in that role for me. 

Besides that, I stared at county DOT maps and Google Earth for nights on end, working things this way, then that way. I turned over possibilities in my mind many times. This mostly had to do with either choosing to go through a bit Granger or trying to go around it. However, Highway 141 was a super tough obstacle, and in the end we kind of skirted Granger and I found an oddball overpass which led to gravel heading South. Whew! One part of the puzzle solved!

Next up and just down the road was Waukee. I tried a few ways to get folks across busy Highway 6, and eventually settled on something I wasn't 100% satisfied with, but I was stuck in so far now on this idea that there was no pulling out of it now. This was either going to work or I was abandoning the entire route. One more hurdle was cleared, and the next one, which was just a few more miles down the road, proved to be another pickle. 

The Level B that almost was put into v13, but wouldn't have been in it afterall.

This was a double-whammy situation. I had to clear Interstate 80 on a gravel overpass, which I had found two of that would keep the route mileage down, and the other obstacle was the Racoon River. Both things having to be cleared within a few miles of each other. The overpass was easy, but the Racoon River? That was tougher. I basically had two choices. One was to go through the little village of Van Meter. I didn't really want to go that way because it added pavement miles. Too many for my tastes. The other way was much more rural and led to a killer Level B road and then towards a bridge after a short bit of pavement. Then directly after the bridge there was a gravel road to the South. 

But afterward I learned that a development for an internet computer service center was requiring new paved roads to be built in the area, one of those new roads looked to be taking out the very Level B road I had in mind. This development was being debated, but I preemptively decided against the more dirt/gravel option. Which, as it ultimately turned out, was a good decision on a couple of levels. One being that the road in question did end up becoming taken away, and two- even if it hadn't, conditions for Trans Iowa v13 dictated that this Level B would have been a liability anyway. 

However; I wasn't liking all the pavement that my Waukee and Van Meter options were injecting into the route. Eventually I took a flyer on another idea. This was a bit further out of the way, but it eliminated a couple of risk factors, crossed the Racoon River, had less pavement, and it avoided Van Meter altogether. This route went through Adel, Iowa. In the end, that's the way we went.

So, the route around the Northwest side of Des Moines was a pickle to figure out, but there were more surprises lurking out there which we did not realize until we actually did recon in October of 2016. 

Next: Going The Long Way Around: Part 3


Gravelo said...

That logo has always reminded me of some kind of Japan-only Van Halen LP. I have to believe that if Edward ever got into bikes he would have had some old Ross frame with a bunch of janky parts on it, friction shifters, maybe a spring saddle? Naturally, you can imagine the iconic paint scheme (with Schwinn paint, naturally)

Guitar Ted said...

@Gravelo - I will admit that I took a lot of inspiration from the early Van Halen logo for that and the V-10 logo as well.

Skidmark said...
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