Sunday, January 22, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: Death Cookies

"The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

After the fourth Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational was over, I was pretty dejected and saddened that I didn't ride the entire route. That loop out of Echo Valley State Park is crazy hard though. And I may have been a bit hard on myself, this is true. At any rate, I was determined to come up with a course that was a bit less arduous and one I thought I could do in its entirety. 

As always, I was busy with a lot of things in 2011, not least of which was the seventh running of Trans Iowa. That was, as I have written elsewhere, a very stressful Trans Iowa and the aftermath of it was stressful as well. This affected the GTDRI to a degree as I didn't get around to doing most of the recon for several bits of my route until July, weeks before the actual event. 

The date of the event was also something that is notable here. For a few years, I had been changing the date around for this event. Early on, I was trying to fill a spot in August, but in 2008, the Pirate Cycling League fired up an event dubbed the Good Life Gravel Adventure. They chose mid-August as their date. I had attended and ridden in the 2009 (and last) version of this event so that made me move the GTDRI up into July. By 2011, that Good Life Gravel Adventure was now a big deal and was called "Gravel Worlds". I tried pushing the GTDRI back into a second/third week of July thing, but that prompted feedback from riders that told me this interfered with their RAGBRAI plans. That event always being on the last full week of July. 

Checking out the route in late June after a derecho had blown through this area.

Eventually I was advised to put the ride on the last weekend of RAGBRAI, if I had to have it in July, because that would likely be a better way to do it for riders that also wanted a big portion of RAGBRAI riding.

So, that's how this ride ended up on the date on the calendar it was held on afterward, with the exception of the very next GTDRI, for years. I got a little gas about it from those who wanted to do the entire week of RAGBRAI, but overall it seemed to work. I remember a few riders telling me that they had done a portion of RAGBRAI and then had a "cleansing" with the riding of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. 

The "Missouri crossing" of Salt Creek on P Avenue

Another remarkable thing about this particular GTDRI was that it occurred shortly after a major straight-line wind event that happened across Iowa on July 11th of 2011. It was the first time I ever recall meteorologists using the term "derecho" for this sort of storm. 

This was a bad event in Iowa, but at that time, I hadn't heard about it at all. I discovered the after-effects of the storm on my first big recon of the new GTDRI route in mid-July via bicycle. I started out in Traer, went South, and suddenly I was seeing trees ripped apart, snapped off mid-trunk, and lots of bits of tin roofing, siding, and the like all wadded up against trees and fence lines. 

Now, localized damage from a severe thunderstorm that looks like what I saw is common. But I noted that this seemed to go on for miles. That was weird! It was eerie, and I felt a strange unquiet within, and sensed a bit of despair without, as I saw people cleaning up the mess. Many fires were burning on different farms as farmers were trying to dispose of all the downed tress and branches, and other refuse.  You could see columns of smoke rising all around out on the prairies of Iowa. 

I had to dodge utility poles and wires for miles heading back to Traer on this recon.

This all hit me the hardest as I rode through Clutier where the wind speeds had reached nearly 100mph for a sustained amount of time. Buildings, houses, and grain bins were destroyed. The roads leading into the village were all blocked off to traffic, and big trucks, cranes, and chainsaws were busy helping to clean up the area. 

As I rode through on my bicycle, I was aware of a feeling of guilt. People glanced at me and I perceived their looks as being not very friendly. As if I were an affront to the desperate times these people were experiencing. The contrast between my joyful cycling activity and the efforts of these concerned, sweaty, toiling men and women, was a stark one. I wanted to hide. 

National Weather Service map of wind speeds in the damage area for the 7/11/11 derecho event in Iowa.

That was a very memorable experience and one I was not at all prepared for. On the way back to my vehicle, I saw entire groves of tress which were blown down by the winds. I had to dodge utility poles for miles and crawl under hot lines with my bicycle. It was a weird obstacle course! 

When I returned home I had a message from Tim from North Dakota saying he wanted to know how many people might be showing up. He was planning on coming and was going to bring home made cookies for everyone! 

Death cookies? Sure, why not! 

Next: Fat Tires And Zebras

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