Sunday, February 05, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Sixth One - Part 1

 "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!

The lead-up to this Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational was a lot more encouraging than it was the previous year. Already I had commitments from individuals coming from Michigan and North Dakota. I had seen some chatter beginning in the Winter anytime I mentioned the ride on the blog. One fellow in particular here was Courtney who said he was committed to coming to the GTDRI way back in January, six months ahead of time!

Some local riders were also expressing interest in showing up, so I was thinking we may get a few folks to show up the night before, as I was camping in Hickory Hills park again this time, and that maybe we'd see some folks show up in the morning.

Friday of the ride came and I got off work, headed home, spent a bit of time with my family, then I bugged out for the park, set up my tent, and ran into Courtney not much later. We gabbed together for several hours, but as the Sun set and it was getting on toward time to get into my sleeping bag, I was again fearful that all those commitments were just talk and I was going to have only a few folks riding.  

That all got swept away when I noted two really bright  lights heading toward my tent. It was Ken and his friend, Scott, who had set up camp across the hill from us. Whew! Now I could go to bed and feel as though that this was all worth the effort. 

A lone rider gets ahead of the pack as we left on the sixth Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational

In the morning there were some surprises. First of all, the Michigan rider brought a friend. Adam got Matt, a coworker at the time, to tag along, so this was good! In fact, both of these guys worked at Velocity U.S.A. at the time, the rim and wheel maker, so it lent another level of credibility to the ride to have these two along for the ride that year.

Then there were Jeremy, Doug, Mike, and Robert from Waterloo. Robert had ridden down, (of course), and was only going to ride for part of the loop and then turn around and ride back to Waterloo. Tim showed up from North Dakota as well, so we had a nice group of 12 riders. Mike was on a fat bike too! The surprise rider for this edition of the GTDRI was a young man named Stephen who had heard about this and was a new transplant to Waterloo. He was riding a bike with full coverage plastic fenders. I remember the rocks sliding between his fenders and tires occasionally during the ride.

The ride went from having the least ever the year before to a new record.

So, we had a pretty big group. Four times the amount of people from the year before and the biggest head count in all of the rides in the series up to that point. 

Of course, when you schedule a ride for the last weekend in July, you can expect very hot, humid conditions. That's exactly what we were going to get too. Not unlike most GTDRI's, if I am honest. However; this version had that really great ambient feel to it due to a heavy blanket of fog in the hollows and valleys of the rolling hills. 

I guess I could have been freaked out by the weather since I had failed the year before in similarly hot, humid conditions, but having this bigger group and having to be in charge of the ride took my mind off of things. It wasn't like I didn't get hot and wasted- I most certainly did.  But, I finished the ride and got a 100 miles in. 

The riders of the sixth GTDRI look like ghosts as they negotiate a closed bridge on the course.

And another sort of common thread in the GTDRI rides was the morning fog. that was probably due to the time of year I landed on, starting with the fifth one, which was the last weekend in July. The corn is at maximum height and has tasseled out. The beans are getting mature. All that plant life produces more humidity, and with cooler night time temperatures, mornings in Iowa can be a glorious mix of ghostly fog and golden light from a low angle Sun. 

Convenience store take-over. Traer, Iowa

 The group dynamics of even a smaller group like we had in 2011 are interesting. People would ride in smaller clusters, or drift back and forth between pairs and trios of riders to get into conversations. These sorts of things were always very satisfying to me as an organizer. This was- and still is today- what is needed. A non-race ride on gravel where people disconnect from technology, rub shoulders with one another, and become friends for at least as long as the ride lasts. Where else do you see folks put away their devices and - you know - actually engage with one another? 

The group waits while Adam went back to Traer to find a lost set of keys.

 A group of racers do not act in that manner, nor would they be amenable to waiting to allow another rider to fix a flat, or as in the case of this GTDRI, wait for another rider to ride a 4 mile round trip and search for a lost set of keys at a convenience store. Oh, and by the way, we did have to stop twice for flat tires!

I guess looking back on this time, I am struck by the camaraderie and care the riders showed for each other. It was rather remarkable, actually, and for me, it was the main thing I found attractive in the gravel scene. The year before there were three of us, and we stuck together, and that is perhaps not very noteworthy. But to get a group of 12 guys to do that? I think this is outstanding. 

And keep in mind that this was a group that came from disparate parts of the Mid-West. Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, and Iowa. Most didn't know one another until they met on this ride. They were from wildly different backgrounds, different age groups, and different vocations. 

We had bicycle industry folks, a pastor, John Deere employees, a teacher, and a philosophy student, that I know of, in that group. Yet there was not a hint of acrimony, argument, or discord amongst us. We were humans doing a thing together out in nature. It was, in a word, glorious. 

When the ride was like this, I wanted it to last all day, but I also respected those folks time and commitment to my ride. I felt at once at peace with stopping a lot, and we did that on this ride, but a sense of urgency to make the ride end "on time", whenever that was. Sunset, I suppose. It was a bit of a concern for me, and although I was at times soaking in the experience, I think too that I worried a bit too much. If I could change anything, I would relax a bit more. 

That was a great morning on the bike. But we had the noontime and al afternoon to go yet. Things got a bit chaotic and disorganized for a while there, but the group - this particular, wonderful group - took it all in stride. 

Next: Part 2 of The Sixth GTDRI.


Exhausted_Auk said...

Just wish I had been able to attend more of these.

Guitar Ted said...

@Exhausted_Auk - I am glad that you rode the ones that you could. It's always a pleasure to be able to ride with you!

Rydn9ers said...

That store in Traer must make a repeat in later GTDRIs, it looks familiar.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers - Oh yeah! I used that convenience store a LOT on many routes over the years. It's kind of my version of the "Malcom General Store", if you will.