The passage of I Avenue was seemingly going to be the highlight of the ride. I figured we'd ride about five, six more miles, get to Garwin, hit that seedy little convenience store again, and then it would be on to getting the last bit of dirt roads in before we climbed up the nasty hill North of Wolf Creek and back towards Reinbeck.
But things don't always work out the way you might think they are going to. Usually that is accompanied by a foreboding of misery, bad happenings, or something undesirable, but in this instance it was a wrench in the works that seemed bad at first, but turned out to become the highlight of the ride.
But let me just tell it how I saw it from my seat. Of course, by this time I was pretty sapped by the malfunctioning SRAM drive train. So, I was laboring up hills in too high a gear trying to catch back on to the main group who were still flying down the road like dogs off a leash. The group ride mentality was in full effect and I wasn't very happy about it, but by this point I wasn't in charge anymore. That much was obvious.
So, as the few stragglers and I rolled into Grawin from the South, we were expecting to round a corner and find the main portion of the group already at their leisure slurping down Gatorades and munching on convenience store vittles. Instead, all I saw was an empty parking lot.
WTH?!! Where was everyone?!!
Just then one of the riders who had been with me had noted a group of what looked like cyclists up the street toward the business district of Garwin, such as it was in this small village. "Hey! I think they are up here!", he cried, and we headed off East up toward what looked like a smallish crowd of people standing in the middle of the street.
|And what do we have here?
|A bicycle event?
Turned out that the lead group came into town the wrong way, (another reason to wait for the ride leader), and they came across some local Garwinites having a little bit of fun. Seems that the local bar owner had partnered up with a few locals to put on a bicycle race. The start was a mile to the West, just out of town. There were several mandatory "checkpoints" along the way, with the last being a card table set up in the midst of the boulevard section of Main Street, about a block and a half from the convenience store we were supposed to have stopped at.
The "finish line" was just around the corner at a bar called the Garwin Bull, a bar owned by a native from Wales who, it can be said, had little regard for local laws. See, she had what looked to be lemonade in plastic pitchers on the card table. But the innocent appearance of the liquid was belied by tasting it, which revealed the lemonade to have been spiked by vodka - ie:potato water.
Several locals and most of my group were now availing themselves of this "potato water" and since supplies were dwindling fast, a few of the women were getting nervous as they had to whip out fifths of vodka to replenish the pitchers. When a car or truck would come by the natives would again get nervous because they didn't have a permit and the county sheriff may not approve of their activities. It was a bit like a teenage woodsy in the middle of a village.
|Eventually we had to leave Garwin and head back to Reinbeck
It was a fun totally unexpected happening and everyone got a kick out of the locals and their hospitality. But we ended up having to move along eventually, and this was when the entire group ride thing was thrown out the window. We had people all over the place and I don't think I really rode with anyone after leaving Garwin for more than a few minutes.
My balky drive train was the main reason why, and I was really upset about the bike. Overall, I liked it, but specifically to the drive train, it was a nightmare. Turned out to be the fiddly set up of the rear derailleur that SRAM is famous for. There was no time to deal with it on the ride, since my focus was on trying in vain to keep the group together and then after that failed I was in survival mode for about twenty miles.
|The Otso Waheela S I rode in the 2018 GTDRI
I made it back to Reinbeck, had a couple of beers and drove home. It was a tiny bit anti-climatic, to be honest, but with what happened in Garwin, there was not much of a chance that anything would top that experience.
The ride, overall, was an unqualified success and again - the best GTDRI ever, in my opinion. I did not like that many took to running the end of the route like it was their personal training ride and that they left the "no-drop" mentality in the proverbial trash can. Again, afterward I had my feelings confirmed when I heard rumors that this ride was a great "training ride" for some of the attendees and that put me in a really sour mood. The GTDRI was a lot of things, but "training ride"? No. Absolutely not. And I was ready to quit inviting people if that was where it was going.
But again, even with all of that, the ride was awesome. To me it represented the then new complexities of the gravel scene. On one hand you had the explorers, pioneers, the riders that were in it for the ride. Then you had others coming in that were making it all about Strava and competitions within what used to be "just riding a bike". You know, ya gotta be training for something! Big events, bucket lists, and all of that....
I get it. there is room for everyone, but the times had obviously changed.
Next: the fall-out from the 2018 ride.