Sunday, January 29, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: Fat Tires And Zebras

 "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!

There are certain rides one does that always stick with you. Maybe you had such a fantastic time with friends that this ride represents a relational highlight for you. Maybe you overcame a personal barrier and went beyond anything you could do. Or, maybe it was a ride where you got lost and ended up having an unexpected adventure. The latter is why this ride I am going to talk about in this edition of "The GTDRI Stories" sticks out for me.

This particular ride was a recon of the upcoming Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational course. I had been eye-balling some roads North of Toledo, Iowa for quite some time. This was an area we went through for Trans Iowa v5 a few years earlier, but we had just skirted the roads I had a mind to check out. So, I made a run down to Toledo to check out a way to get ourselves out of town using the least amount of pavement possible. 

I decided also to make this a recon by bicycle. So I grabbed my new Mukluk, as it had rained the night before, and I knew I might be in for some Level B Action or soft roads. I also was curious at that time as to how a fat bike might work out for gravel riding. I don't think I was the only person on that wavelength! The new fat bikes from Salsa and Surly were causing quite a stir that year, as they were the first fat bikes you could buy as complete, turnkey bicycles with the 3.8" tires. 

My 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk as it appeared in 2011. A triple crank? You betcha!

I drove down a long bit of black top road to the Northwest of Toledo looking to find a connector road to gravel to the North, but I was thwarted by a truncated road and even more so by a few downed trees, maybe leftovers from the recent derecho, or newly fallen after being weakened by that event. I could not say, but the point was, I had to turn around and come back the way I had went out.

I went back and looked at the maps and decided to park on the gravel North of town, just off HWY 63, and ride out on a loop I had tried to memorize which would encompass a few roads I was interested in. These roads were not really "on the grid", so there were a few confusing turns that were out there waiting to bait me into making a wrong turn. You can guess what happened next!

I found some pretty spectacular roads on this recon!

The first bit was fairly flat, and then the road went up this really steep hill with a rural church at the summit. Then it went into this gnarly, rutted out Level B Road which was perfect for the fat bike. This was a unique road in that it had a dogleg in it and no other roads crossed its path for almost two miles. 

Love me some wild flowers!

After that fun, I headed back toward the truck, or at least, I thought I was! I made a turn that I thought was the correct road, but it kept on going on, and on, and on! I had no maps with me at the time, not even on my cell phone. So, I was kind of at the mercy of fate for a while and I just had to keep going. I mean, that road would dump me out somewhere, right?

Finally I decided to take a break where the road seemed to start to tip downward a bit. I figured it would be best to rest at the top of a hill than at the foot of some unseen climb. As I looked around, I noted several outbuildings of a farm. A small barn, some sheds, a corn crib. Wait..... Zebras?!! 

Yes, zebras. 

This farm raised zebras. Okay.....that was so random and cool that I had to figure out where I was and somehow put this on the route! But....where was I? That was the big problem that needed figuring out. So, back on the Mukluk and down the hill. It eventually dumped me out on a flat plain at an intersection. Good! I could memorize the street sign, but just in case, I took a photo of it. Alright! I see a highway! Off I went.

As I got to the pavement, I thought I was West of Toledo and intersecting old Highway 30. If that was the case, I needed to go left and I would be back in town in a jiffy and then I'd have to ride North to my truck. But I went about two miles and I came across the road I had originally parked on! Wow! Was I ever turned around! But that meant that the "zebra road" would work for the route. I was stoked! Now all I had to do was finalize the cues and do the ride the following week.

Next: The sixth GTDRI

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