Sunday, April 02, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Seventh One - Part 3

"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!

This will wrap up the tales of the seventh running of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. I mentioned in Part 1 that this one was a "classic" GTDRI. Perhaps in the running for the 'best' one, so that's why there are three parts. This one means a lot to me personally, and I know the riders that took part in this one were very appreciative of the experience. 

Now after the near thunderstorm miss and after getting rained on lightly, the weather turned back to its previous job of baking whatever crawled on the Earth that day in Jasper County into a steamy pile of near-dead flesh. In other words, that moisture dropped by the storm was now evaporating and conditions went from wet and warm to hot and steamy in a big hurry. 

We were on the Northernmost end of the second loop and heading East when what I thought would be a Level B Maintenance road turned out to be a gated Level C Road. Briefly, the difference between C and B in Iowa is that you can't ride without permission on the C and you can pass freely at your own risk on a B. The adjacent landowner(s) are the people in control in these instances of Level C Road permissions. (You can read in more detail about Level C Roads HERE if you want a deeper dive.)

The gate was open, and we went in. A Level C Road in Marshall County

Once we all realized we weren't looking at a Level B Road, but something different, confusion started to creep over the group. What should we do? Going around this meant more miles, and by this point into the ride, we weren't into that idea at all. However; the Level C sign there stated clearly "No Trespassing", but.....the gate was open, so.....

This is where Jeremy Fry repeated his previous GTDRI performance. He looked back at the group with a somewhat disgusted look, and stated, "Well, just like last year, I'm going in!", and with that he pedaled off down a gravelly two-track. The rest of us shrugged our shoulders, and sheepishly took the path after him. I was left wondering if we would end up getting yelled at by a local landowner, or worse. 

The group coming up on the exit of the Level C Road

We did see a farmer outside of a house when we exited the road, where the gate was opened up on at that end as well. He looked at us with surprise, and no wonder. I mean, how often would you ever expect to see six colorfully dressed cyclists coming out of the rustic road that passed your very rural farm? Probably never, right? 

At least he didn't yell at us!

Now we were on the highest elevation for the route, which oddly enough was one of the flatter portions of this route in Southern Marshall County. We passed a wind farm, a few cell phone towers, (that's when you know you are at one of the highest elevation points around when you ride rural Iowa roads), and finally found our South turn towards Gilman Iowa and a long awaited convenience store rest stop. 

At the Gilman Iowa rest stop: (Clockwise) Jeremy Fry,(standing) Matt Wills, Mike Johnson, Guitar Ted,Cody Mathias, John Mathias. (Image by Celeste Mathias)

At Gilman we took our leisure behind the convenience store near the walled off area where they kept their dumpster out of site of the public eye. This was a nice, cooler shaded area and we were all needing some down time. By this point we had put in over 100 miles and it was over 100°F again. The heat was oppressive!

There were less than 20 miles to go, and I figured it would pass by quickly, but when you are hot, tired beyond belief, and have been sweating it out for nearly ten hours the miles creep by slowly. I was wishing for the end not more than two miles out from Gilman. 

The last Level B road on the 2012 GTDRI

I was lagging waaaay behind everyone else at this point. I imagine my tongue was wagging out of my mouth like a dog and I probably had a thousand yard stare, but somehow I kept pedaling onward. The miles crept by and at some point, there I was, back in downtown Grinnell. The smiles on all our faces said it all.

Finished! (L-R) GT, Matt Wills, Mike Johnson, Jeremy Fry, Cody Mathias, John Mathias. (Image by Celeste Mathias)

The finish line up photo was not a usual thing for any GTDRI. But we all had the sense that something special had just happened, and having this image taken was an appropriate thing in light of the accomplishment. I'm glad that we did this now, looking back. I find that this image still makes me smile with the remembrances of what we all went through on that ride that day.

This is why I ride gravel roads and why I find this form of community something special. This GTDRI, to me, represented why gravel riding became so popular. We had not been racing, because none of us could "win" that sort of competition. Ours was a competition within ourselves and without against the elements and the roads. We had no reason to quit because the prize wasn't reserved for just one. The prize at the end was awaiting each of us if we could persevere. 

I'd say by the look on those faces in that image above that we all were "winners" that day.

Next: The path forward after the seventh GTDRI.

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