Sunday, August 13, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Eleventh 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!

Well, once again, on the last day of RAGBRAI, (which is what I settled on thereafter for the date for the GTDRI rides, I rolled out of my own bed at 4:00am to do a big ride on a very humid day. That's one thing I almost always get wrong. I never get a good night's sleep before any big ride. I know that you should, and that you should all the time anyway, but I never get that bit right. 

So, we met at Prairie Grove Park, and I guess you could say this GTDRI had more than one surprise rider. It had several, actually, and most of this crew were "rookies" to the GTDRI. But that didn't mean then what it used to mean a decade before this ride. Ten years before a "rookie" GTDRI rider likely had never ridden a gravel event before. Now? Pfffft! 

Scott Sumpter, a veteran of Trans Iowa and who was one of the few people to ever finish the Trans Iowa Master's Course. Jon Duke, a man who had ridden the gravel around his home near Grinnell and was familiar with Trans Iowa. A trio of guys from the Des Moines area in Rick Chalfant, Brian Terhark, and Dave Schnieder had all ridden in gravel events before. To call these new guys to the GTDRI "rookies" was basically nonsense. Then you had Josh Lederman, Tony McGrane, and myself, all seasoned gravel riders. 

It was an odd morning, but in a case of irony, it was much like the very first GTDRI, not only in the choice for the course, but in the fact that it was very foggy and muggy to start out with. In fact, the two days were so similar it was eerie. 

There really wasn't much of anything to tell about this ride in its beginning phase. It was going along at a fine pace and with no issues. People were getting along well. Typical stuff. It wouldn't be until later on where things started to get much more interesting. 

I suppose the heavy air and gloomy skies didn't help, but whatever it was, this ride doesn't register with me until later on into the day when things got a bit more adventurous and a little more difficult for me. Oh! And the Sun came out. That's always my undoing when it is so humid on top of that.

270th in Tama County

There are some crazy, crazy roads in Iowa, and Tama County is home to a fair share of those. One of them that I have used several times for rides is 270th between C and D Avenues. I did not use it for the first GTDRI because this was where I made a wrong turn during that first ride and ended up adding mileage. Plus, we went around the section of dirt road I wanted to have in the route. So, this time I rectified the mistake by making sure we rode, well.....mostly walked, is really what we did. Anyway, we experienced that part of the route. Let's put it that way!

What is more, this road, due to its heavy tree cover and shelter from winds, was very wet. And Tama County has very clay-ish soils, so we were all clagged up with mud on our feet and on our bikes after getting through the 3/4's of a mile of goo. 

I know that to a lot of people this may sound like a really bad thing to have to experience, and it can be, especially if you don't take the time to appreciate the wildness, the remoteness, and uniqueness of the situation you are in. We are constantly surrounded by technology, easy life, and a disconnection from nature, and well.....dirt. Traveling across a muddy dirt road at bicycle/walking speeds in an area, one of the few anymore, that has zero connection to the outside world, is, in my opinion, an amazing opportunity. One that should be savored and relished to the utmost. Yeah, it'll slow you down, and there is a fair amount of risk to equipment, but to my mind? This stuff is what gravel riders - not racers - live for. This is a big reason why we ride gravel, and the Level B, Minimum Maintenance, or whatever you call it in your area, represents that whole experience for many of us. 

It is why the group rides that feature a bunch of dirt roads gets riders all excited to this very day. It is more than just a dirt road. It means a lot more than that. But I'll leave it at that and move on. This is about the GTDRI. 

The group clearing out mud from frames and cleats

In my opinion, this was one of the major highlights of the 2016 GTDRI. Maybe it was because this was where I started to fall apart in terms of my performance, or maybe because this is when the Sun started coming out. Probably both. Anyway, we had to roll on across the rollers in Tama County toward Gladbrook and our mid-day stop. 

I recall suffering all the way there and I had a gut feeling I was in big trouble as far as making a go at the entire loop. But, as usual, I soldiered on and did as well as I could. But yeah, the whole "death" part of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational was in full effect for me from this point onward. 

Preparing to depart from the Casey's in Gladbrook, Iowa.

North of Gladbrook, Iowa, we would make a left turn to the West and hit a Level B Road which featured in Trans Iowa v9. This ride, the GTDRI, often was a preview, in part, of Trans Iowa courses, and it started right out of the gate, although it took several years for that dirt road to make it into a TI, it did. 

The first time I rode this road in 2006 the corn was planted right up to the edges of this dirt road.

This was a big push Westward that would take us to Eldora, Iowa. This was not a part of the original route plan, but Steamboat Rock, at that time, did not have a convenience store, so I rerouted over to Eldora, which worked out nicely. It was rough going for me, and the Sun was beating down on us all at this point. Brutal humidity made it feel as though we were cooking. Not a good deal!

Josh Lederman, (L) and Scott Sumpter (R) chatting at a stop to gather up riders just before getting to Eldora.

I was dragging behind the group by this point and I was not only feeling it physically, but now mentally I was feeling bad for dragging the group down. Everyone was very supportive though and I cannot ask for, or could ever ask for, better people to ride with. Despite my not knowing several of them well, that didn't matter. Everyone was very kind and considerate. This was something I always appreciated about this ride. People that attended were always very kind. Not just to me, but to each other as well. 

Next: The final bits where I totally unraveled and had to send the group onward on their own.


Ben said...

That section of 270th St. was such a fun place to ride - although Tama County is full of fun B roads, that one is pretty unique for the area in how rugged it is and how steep the "walls" are. Unfortunately, when the derecho went through a few years ago, it trashed it and now there are a bunch of trees down across it, making it pretty much impassable unless you really want an adventure!

Guitar Ted said...

@Ben - Oh, yeah, I suppose that did cause a bunch of damage. I can see that happening there. Too bad!

I met a guy one time on that road. he was on an old Ford tractor and he said he was the guy that kept that road open. I imagine with the difficulties of the steep banking he just doesn't have the wherewithal to do anything about it.

The county certainly won't do anything! I would almost bet that gets declassified to a C Maintenance road because there are two field entrances off that road which could be reached from the West end more easily. But I am speculating there on that access.

Things change. That's why it is good to relish the experiences you get when you get them.

Exhausted_Auk said...

I see that one of the riders was on a Mercian!