Monday, December 04, 2023

Virtual Turkey Burn Challenge Report: Thomas Claver

 This is the first of three Virtual Turkey Burn reports I received this year. I VERY lightly edited this where I found a mistake, but this report was sent in formatted perfectly with a lot of imagery and cues as to where to put all the images in the body of the report. I hope that you all enjoy Tom's report as much as I did!

The Setup & Shakedown Ride

I attempted this year’s Virtual Turkey Burner Event on my Crust Scapebot for several reasons. Firstly, this is a bike that I put together less than a year ago, but hadn’t attempted to take it on a century ride. Secondly, later on in the week, as forecasts for after Thanksgiving started to get clearer, it was evident that snow may be a possibility. Seeing how this is currently the only bike I have put together with the widest tires (27.5x3 Surly Knards), the Crust Scapebot just made sense. 

After spending time with family over Thanksgiving, I arrived back in Waterloo on Saturday afternoon. When I got back in town, I promptly started to outfit the Scapebot with how I planned to ride it for the century ride. Some notable pieces from this setup include a Wald 137 basket affixed to a Surly 8-Pack Rack, a Dark Realm Roll-Top Basket Bag, and a half frame bag from Outer Shell. If you didn’t know, leopard print bags make you go faster. Much like racing stripes on a car. 

For lights, I zip-tied a Knog PWR mountain to the side of the Wald basket. This was done because the roll-top basket bag obstructs much of the beam if the light is mounted on the bars. My zip-tie job was ugly, but the shakedown ride proved the mounting solution to be rock solid. 

Taken during the shakedown ride: the Knog PWR Mountain zip tied to the side of the Wald Basket. It’s ugly but rock solid!

I mounted two bottle cages within the inner triangle of the frame. I figured I could store some bottles within the basket bag to prevent them from freezing, as the forecast for Sunday appeared to be below freezing for much (if not all) of the day. 

I trialed this setup on a shakedown ride the night before the turkey burner without much fuss. Everything was tight and felt good to go for the impending long haul I had planned. The shakedown ride ended in the dark while getting snowed on, so I even got to trial a bit of the conditions I’d be riding in. 
Taken during the shakedown ride: The Crust Scapebot in “Turkey Burner” mode.

The Turkey Burner 
I woke up Sunday Morning well-rested and eager to take on the challenge. As soon as I had my morning cuppa Joe, I ventured outside to the garage to tinker around a bit. That’s when I realized that we got wayyyy more snow than I thought we were gonna get! If I had to guess, I figured we got about 2” or so. 

The temperature was forecast to be in the mid-20s to low-30s with a stiff wind from the west. I wore two baselayer pants underneath 3/4 bib tight, arm warmers, a wool long-sleeve shirt, and a gore windstopper jacket. For gloves, I wore (2) thin liner gloves underneath a pair of Burton Goretex gloves. On the head, I wore a skull cap and buff. On the feet, a pair of neoprene wet socks, with a pair of wool socks over those, underneath a pair of Goretex Shimano MW7 boots. 

Once I was all geared up, it was showtime! Around 7 AM, I hopped on the bike and made my way towards the Sergeant Road Bike Trail. The salt trucks had already been out in full-force at that time, and the roads were already full of that yucky brown slush. 

Even pushing through a paved bike trail took an effort. I was averaging about 10 MPH and spinning like a hamster. Being a singlespeeder, I appreciated the 11 gears I had on my Scapebot! Even though it was slow-going, I found my groove and it felt comfortable.

About 5 miles in is when I finally hit the gravel on Hoff Road in southern Waterloo. The roads had been mostly undisturbed at this point. 
The Crust Scapebot at the bridge on Hoff Road.

The plan was to head west until I started to get sick of the wind. No fixed destination - just spin and enjoy the country views! 

I made my way to Quarry Road west of HWY 63. As I was climbing a hill, a car was coming in the opposite direction. The driver was waving at me, and that’s when I realized it was a coworker of mine! He was out driving around looking for deer after responding to an earlier EMT call. He had asked how far I’ve ridden, and that’s when I realized that I had only 18 miles in about 1 hour 45 minutes of ride time. That’s when I realized this was gonna be an all-day affair! We parted ways after some brief conversation. Seeing a friendly face out there was motivation to keep moving forward! 

A few miles later I decided I needed to eat and drink, which was around mile 25 or so. I really hate hydrating during the winter. Drinking that cold water is such a chore, but a necessity. I stopped to slam a bottle and a few gummy worms. I also took the opportunity to snap another image. I couldn’t stop for more than a few minutes at a time because it was so cold. It feels like my body takes another half hour to “warm up” again after stopping, so I tried to be intentional with when I did stop. 

Taken on Quarry Road during a refuel break. Most of the snow was undisturbed like this until about 11 am or so.

I hopped back on the bike and made a decision to ride into Reinbeck. I figured it would be around mile 40 at that point, and I could use the opportunity to warm up and get some real food. 

The sun popped out for a very brief moment around 10 am!

I rode into the Casey’s in Reinbeck and got a sandwich and some chips. Outside the store, I made small conversation outside with a local, and he wished me well on my journey as I started back up on the bike.

I remember this was about the hardest point during the ride. I immediately headed west, right into that howling wind. I was second-guessing what I was doing at this point, but I knew I just had to let my body warm up after a couple moments of rest at the c-stop. Around mile 45 or so, I headed east and into some much forgiving tailwind. That’s when my mood flipped like a light switch! “Game on!!!”, I thought. 

I headed towards 110th Street, a stretch of B-roads that I learned of during the GTDRI 2018. This stretch of road has always been one of my favorites. This ride I found them snow-laden, which proved to be a challenge as these B-roads are often riddled with ruts. I had to ride cautiously even though the tailwind was giving me a very generous push. 

A snow-covered 110th street!

At this point, I was having a blast. The wind was howling, but at my back. It had started to snow a bit as well. I knew I had to “face the music” with more headwind later on in the ride, but that didn’t matter. I was feeling thankful for having the opportunity to ride my bike.

I crossed back over HWY 63 and made my way towards 115th street, still heading east-bound. I stopped around mile 60 at the rear, gated entrance of Hickory Hills Park. I took the opportunity to refuel and take a video. At this point is when I realized it was snowing quite a bit. I also had to make a push back north into some crosswind, but I was feeling really good at this point. 

Gated, rear entrance of Hickory Hills Park on 115th and X Ave.

After a quick break, I hopped back onto my steed and headed north. The wind was really howlin’ at this point. My rotors were whistling, which is usually a good indication of strong-ish winds! 

At around 2 PM, I had around 65 miles in. If I wanted the full-on century, it was gonna require some riding post-sunset. My experience with how these roads slick up at dark, and that I wasn’t rolling studs, made me second-guess the hundred. I did some quick “bike math” and re-scaled my target to 90 miles. That would get me into town shortly after sunset, while maximizing the amount of time riding during daylight.

I snaked my way back northwest on the gravel. It felt like the majority of the afternoon was gloomy and overcast, but the sun finally popped out over the clouds around 3:30 PM or so. During those moments of intense sunshine, I usually make a point to stop what I’m doing and admire the beauty of it all. 

Taken on Petrie Road. A moment of intense sunshine after several hours of overcast skies. It is during these moments I stop to think what I’m grateful for.

I made my way back north and towards Sergeant Road bike trail, but not without stopping one last time to admire the skies. 

Taken on Acker Road heading northbound, around 4 PM.

On the Sergeant Road Trail is when I realized scaling the ride back go 90 miles was a solid move. The bike trail was slicking up a bit at this point and I could feel my rear wheel squirm and fishtail a smidge. 

I made it home slightly after 5 PM! With over 9 hours of ride time, 80 miles of which on gravel and dirt roads in treacherous conditions, I was super happy with the effort. 

The bike was perfect for the challenge, and I’m thankful for your opportunity to provide me with a turkey burner challenge that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise! Thank you, GT!

The Route.
During the ride, I thought a lot about how privileged I was to have the opportunity to have a nice Thanksgiving meal with my family, and ride my bike afterwards - all for pleasure and self-serving purposes. I used this ride as an opportunity to pledge a donation to the local food bank to benefit others that may be food insecure within the community. 

I appreciate the opportunity, GT! Happy Holidays!

Thanks for reading! 

Tom Claver

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