|A rutted out Level B Road East and North of Indianola, Iowa.|
When I finally got the route details and recon figured out, it was mid-March and I still needed to do a final run through with the drafted cue sheet set. Wally and George were onboard once again to do this job. The plan was to meet them early on a Saturday. April 8th was the date agreed upon, and so I got up at about 4:00am to head down to Grinnell to hook up with them by 6:30am. We were on the road by 7:00 and headed off to CP#1.
Doing this recon was fun. Typically Wally and George had stories, jokes, and were quick witted and humorous. It was something that made the miles go by swiftly. In between there might be some stopping to check on a photographic opportunity, since Wally had planned to be the event photographer for the day. I could also always count on them to be real and upfront with me concerning the route. If something looked sketchy or did not make sense, Wally and George wouldn't sugar coat it for me. Nope! I got it raw and without any holding back. But that did not happen often during the five years they did this with me, and when it did, I needed to hear it, and more importantly, heed their advice.
|This long incline was just after the crossing of I-80|
This time nothing of the sort happened. Things were light and we were joking around, having a great time. Wally was impressed with the course and saw many opportunities to grab some cool imagery.
We eventually got to a point on course where the road went over I-80 and just South of here we stopped for a bit to relax and stretch our legs. I'm not real sure why this stop still resonates with me to this day, but for whatever reason, I can feel that Sun and hear Wally talking about how he wanted to climb the embankment to get a good vantage point for shooting the riders. Anyway....
So, not far from that Wally got a phone call from his son. Then Wally's voice got tense. He was angry, and we had to stop so he could speak privately with his son. After the call, things in the truck were heavy. There was no longer any joking around, or conversation. Just me calling out route turns and Wally in the back seat steaming.
You see, Life has a funny way of dealing us cards that intrude on our best laid plans. Rightfully so, in many cases. Wally's wife had health issues. Early onset Alzheimer's, to be specific. I don't think Wally minds my saying so now. It was a situation that made Wally upset because he wasn't there to take care of things, and here he was, gallivanting about the countryside, doing something which in the grand scheme of Life was totally unnecessary.
After awhile we stopped in a place where there was a Level B Road that George decided he'd drive. At this point the mood had lifted a bit. We did make it through, but we made a big mess of George's truck and we had stopped to take a look at the carnage. While Wally and George were comparing notes from this escapade with past 4X4 endeavors that they had undertaken, I noted an old car heading our way. I had a funny feeling we were about to be asked some questions!
|George's truck, post-messy B Road crossing.|
After a bit we climbed back in the truck and headed up the road. It wasn't long before the tense atmosphere from before came back. Wally had more texts and another couple of phone conversations. It grew very quiet in the truck. We reached Indianola and stopped to eat, but there was no cheer. Wally was really regretting having come out that day. I felt like a heel.
I cannot recall the last bit of recon, but as we returned to Grinnell, the mood did lighten up and I know we had some good conversations. Once I arrived back at the motel I was invited by Wally and George to join them out back of the motel. There was a small picnic table on a cement pad and we sat down there. Wally and George had a few beers left over from the night before and they offered me one. They both whipped out cigars and we sat and talked for a couple of hours about all manner of things.
I was late getting home that night, but more than having the course verified, I was so happy to have spent those moments with Wally and George. I should have done that beforehand. I thought we'd probably get that chance again. But you know how Life is, right?
|I took this shot as I left Wally and George to remember that special moment we had.|
As it turned out, this was the final time Wally and George would come out to do this final recon of a course with me. I did not know that then, just as I did not know that I would never recon a course with Jeremy again. Life is funny that way. You get the chance to make something special, but maybe you pass it by because, you know, we'll see ya next time, right?
And maybe you won't.
I know I'll always cherish that last recon trip with those guys, especially the way it ended.
Next: More Troubles