Sunday, December 26, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Waiting For A Light To Shine

Greg Gleason arrives at CP#2. (L-R) Unknown, Steve Fuller, Gleason, MG, and Dan Buettner.
 "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!  

Since I had to be running Trans Iowa, that meant that Matt and I had to move along, checking roads ahead of the leaders, and keeping track of them, so that we could not just sit around. Fortunately since Hughes sat down for a pizza, we did get to hang out in the Cumming Tap for a little bit. But the time came that we had to get along. We didn't leave until the chasers- Greg Gleason first, then Matt Aker and Walter Zitz, came in and we felt that it was time to get going and try to track down Hughes again. 

Matt Aker, (L) and Walter Zitz roll into CP#2 just before we had to get out of there to track down Dan Hughes.
Matt and I had gotten word that Mike Johnson and Tony McGrane were in the area and we ended up stopping at a bridge crossing a few miles South of Cumming and we had a brief chat. They would be the last folks we saw that we knew until about 3:00am in the morning, about nine hours later. Well.....we saw Dan Hughes. Once. But besides spotting him, we were slowly swallowed by the oncoming night and the intensity of the storm. 

But before that we did get to experience the calm and peace from even the storm that seemed to have relented for a short time. We lingered at that bridge for several minutes. I don't remember what was said, but I do remember the brown water swirling under the bridge deck. Soon I was shaken back into a reality of peering out of a dirty windshield trying to find tire tracks in wet gravel. Looking for some evidence of Dan Hughes' passing.

The bridge where we last saw Tony and Mike on Saturday.

Matt and I drove some rain-soaked roads going South and then East over big rollers. These would take us into Indianola and the last real convenience store stop on the entire route of v13. There were others, but as far as the riders up front would be concerned, those would likely be closed when they passed through that town. Matt and I kinda figured we would see Hughes in Indianola, but we were a bit surprised by his pace, as we did not find him in town. 

We stopped at the convenience store to re-fuel the Subaru. We picked up some snacks for the evening as well. Then we headed out via the route towards the East. Not far from town we saw fresh tracks, and then, finally, toiling up a roller in near blackness of night was Dan Hughes. He was weaving and not riding real smoothly, but what can you expect after 200+ miles in less than ideal conditions? 

Then, as if on cue, it started raining. Heavily. The wind was whipping the rain up into swirls and waves which would appear in the head light wash of the Subaru and then disappear into the inky blackness of the night. It seemed that the only reality was whatever the Subaru's lights could illuminate and anything else was empty space. Driving was difficult as the roads were mushy and the wind battered the small car about. For a minute there, I thought I might have seen snow swirling in the headlights. 

Another cool old gabled bridge on the way to Indianola along the v13 route.

 Nah! I was just really tired! Matt was as well. We had a check when we were not sure about where we were. So we stopped for a bit. Talk moved to Dan Hughes. How could one so under-dressed for the conditions survive this onslaught? We also knew that he had about three miles of absolute clay mire and mud to navigate through, which would certainly be sapping his strength even more. We had no idea if he could finish. In fact, we were thinking he would not finish. 

We were very concerned about Dan and whether or not he might fail. So concerned that once we reached the small hamlet of Attica that we'd wait to see if he'd make the small town by 11:00pm, which, by my volunteer's calculations, he should have done, based upon his earlier pace. That was about 35 miles past where we had last seen him. So, Matt and I sat.......and waited.....and we got more worried. Finally, I could not take it anymore, this unseen Hughes character, and I determined that if we backtracked the course to where it crossed the last major highway we'd seen before Attica, we should be able to see his glow of light coming up on the other side of a hill before he could see us. And there we waited...... 

Lots of riders bailed at the CP#2 stop at the Cumming Tap. Image by Ari Andonopoulous.

 It was nigh unto a half an hour into waiting, at that point in the middle of nowhere, that suddenly a blueish glow of a bicycle LED light could be detected growing stronger and stronger. That was all we needed. We turned and flew down the road to Attica. Hughes passed through Attica as we watched him undetected at around 1:00am, taking a full 4.5 hours to cover 35 miles. Those Level B roads had taken their toll in speed. 

Hughes wasn't the only rider in the event and this manifested itself to Matt and I at the time in several DNF calls along the way. Once the checkpoint in Cumming closed I got a flood of calls. It seemed that we had almost lost all the competitors. We were down below 15 riders going through the night, and more would end up not making it before it was all said and done. 

Meanwhile, Matt and I were somewhat amazed, somewhat relieved, and very concerned yet about Dan. He was obviously still moving, so we headed out ahead of him once again, his head light having given us some assurance of his capabilities yet in this torrential rain and wind storm. What next? How fast would he make it to the next point we chose to gauge him by? 

Note: there is a complete lack of any imagery for Saturday evening but for some images taken by Ari Andonopoulous at the Cumming Tap. So, I apologize for the lack of images here. We were very concerned about Dan Hughes and not really worried about documentation at the time.

Next: Punch Drunk In Pella.


MG said...

That was a crazy night…

Derek said...

Wow. Haven't read your blog in a while, just happened to be thinking about it today and took a look back. I laugh because TI v13 was my first attempt. What a year! The few finishers were true beasts. I made it only to Adel that year, but it lit a fire in me and I returned for a finish at TI v14! Happy New Year and thanks for the great memories, GT.