Sunday, January 09, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Setting Up For A Brutal Finish

Zombie status activated. The view from the Subie on Sunday morning.

"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! 

Dan Hughes was off and riding towards Grinnell, Iowa at about 4:00am from Pella, Iowa. A ride of approximately 58 miles, as we had it drawn up for him. Sure, it was dark, the winds were contrary and strong, and the roads were softened and wet from over a day's soaking previous to his passing. But 58 miles...... It didn't sound too bad until you account for the facts of what Dan Hughes had already accomplished before he shoved off down 128th Place out of Pella. 

Dan Hughes had already ridden nearly 300 miles. Without resting for more than a half an hour when he did stop, which wasn't often. He had ridden through torrential rain in bone-chilling cold weather that had already knocked out many other riders. Some cases of hypothermia were being relayed to me at the time and Dan, in his minimalist outfit, just kept on truckin'. How he did it still eludes me to this day. 

Those 58 miles maybe would take a normally fit, fast athlete around two-two and a half hours to ride on a good day on dry roads. But this was Trans Iowa, and the roads were horrible, and the wind was brutal, and Dan was taxed beyond the measure most anyone else would have endured. It was 4:00am when he set off on those last 58 miles, but he wouldn't get back to Miller Park in Grinnell for many hours. 

Meanwhile, Matt and I took our leave of Tony and Mike. We trudged along in the dirty Subaru Forrester. Up one muddy hill, then another. Turn here, turn there. Directions were muttered and Matt robotically complied to the commands. No other conversation occurred for the nearly two hours we drove the course back into Grinnell. We were just far too strung out and tired. 

Once we returned to Grinnell a suggestion was made, and I cannot recall who made it anymore- maybe it was Tony- that we should convene at the local Mc Donald's for breakfast. No one was going to be finishing Trans Iowa for several hours, we knew that much. So, there was no need to man the finish line at 5:00am, as we had originally planned. I recall there being several people there connected to Trans Iowa and talk was centered around how few folks were still left in the event. 

In fact, I was able to confirm that less than ten riders were left in Trans Iowa v13 at the time we were having this get-together. The night had taken a toll on the remaining riders who had toughed it out to leave the Cumming Tap what seemed like an age ago. Stories were told then of what had gone on while Matt and I were chasing down Hughes in the dark. The chaos of the Cumming Tap, the deliveries of several riders from their wet, muddy nightmarish experiences. More would come to light later, but what we were hearing, Matt and I, was astounding. The goodness of people who gave their efforts, resources, and time to help some dirty, wet, crazy bicyclists was very touching. 

But now we had less than ten riders still struggling to get back to Grinnell. We needed to get down to Miller Park to await the arrival of Dan Hughes, Greg Gleason, and whomever else could gut out the last miles of Trans Iowa v13. At this point I was approached by a local Grinnell resident, Jon Duke. He asked if it would be okay if he back-drove the course to take some images with his camera. I did not expect a whole lot, but I had the presence of mind to understand that documentation was lacking for this event. So, having recognized this despite my degraded mental status, I allowed Jon to take whatever images he wanted, but I asked that he share them with me for use afterward. He was happy to oblige me, and I am happy that I allowed that. If I had not, well, there would be a lot less imagery which would have hidden the struggle of those final miles into Grinnell.

Thanks to Jon's talents, we have those shots for this story, and in the next chapter of the story we will start to get to see those shots. 

 Next: It All Came Down To This

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