Donnerstag, 8. Mai 2014

Gravel Riding

Endlich ist mein Bericht fertig geworden und ich kann mich wieder neuen "Abenteuern" stellen.
Mein Englisch ist nicht so gut; so dass Ralf (der "HFS- Engländer") Korrektur lesen musste.
Und das sah dann so aus: --Let's start me tell you from the beginning.-- sechs setzen!

Der Engländer - Image by W. Kilburg
 Ok, aber warum ein Bericht in englisch in einem deutschsprachigem blog?

Nun, der Randonneur Ostholstein versteht sich als Weltbürger, besucht und schreibt Berichte auch über die Grenzen Ostholsteins hinweg. (das ist jetzt nicht politisch - macht einfach nur Spass!)

Und damit auch andere Trans Iowa Teilnehmer den Bericht lesen können....

Es gibt auch eine deutsche Version:
 deutscher Text

nun zum Bericht:

Thursday 1. May
Back in germany. A great event and an adventure is over.

After a long time of preparation, in the end I  looked forward to go to Iowa.

Each day I  checked the weather forecast. It seemed to be not too bad. Guitar Ted has warned us quite often and  I thought that he exaggerated a little bit. But now I know....

Let's start  from the beginning. Ralf and me came to Chicago on Wednesday, hired a car to go to Grinnell on the same day and checked in at the Comfort Inn & suites. We got a special rate- so everything went fine.

Thursday 24.04.
Had breakfast- lots of coffee in a styrofoam cup. I have to buy one of ceramic later!

We assembled  our bikes  and our first ride on Iowa's gravel roads took us first to the barn at the finish line and then to Grinnell´s bicycle shop"Bikes to you", where the race should start on Saturday 4 am.

We met Craig, the owner of the shop, preparing his bike for the race. He´s going to take part for the first time, too. So lots of talking about the race, the bike and others started.
We changed the place- the "black alley deli" is not so far next door.
We got a good coffee and cake twice. I bought a coffee mug at the shop for a reasonable price, because I can't drink coffee from a styrofoam cup all week long!
On Thursday it rained a lot and we hoped the sun and the wind would dry the roads until Saturday.

Friday morning,
breakfast with coffee from a proper cup. Afterwards we tried one B- road north of Grinnell and found out that we could not ride them at all. We had a lot of work to get our bike cleaned after that.

The pre race meet up. Shaking hands with Mark- he was busy. 100+ starters are a lot.
The dinner- Upps, we had to grill the meat on our own!? At home I  leave to others the job
Much talking about the race, the bikes and other things ...  the restaurant was very noisy.

Mark told us about the race- I could not understand much but I guess it was about the race, the bikes....

The Trans Iowa T- shirt is really nice- and I got different one from a sponsor after I was called up.

After that, we went to the hotel ...some last preparations on the bike and I felt asleep soon.

Saturday 2 am.
The hotel offered us a breakfast at that early time. Thank you for that.

We rode our bikes to Grinnell- it was warm in the early morning- stars were twinkling and the American flag at the road showed a light eastern wind.
The wind unfortunately wouldn't stay like that

In front of the bike shop the riders came together for the start.

Image by W. Kilburg
 Each start of a long distance race has its own atmosphere- this was filled with the sound of Mark's “truck with no name”- a real big bass sound.
hear this

I rode in the front, as I do mostly to avoid accidents. Just before we came to the first gravel road, Mark stepped on the gas and let us out into the dark rural gravel roads.

The riders around me did not talk much. You could here the sound of the gravel under the tires. The roads were dry and even the first part of the first B- road was. But then we had to walk. I shouldered my bike.
I hurried up because I wanted to make a good pace up to the first checkpoint.
Iowa is definitely not flat- Mark told us so...

I arrived at checkpoint 1 at 7:30. Fine! I filled up my water bottles- drank a Cola at the convenience store- and payed cash – It took me less than 5 minutes and than I hurried up.

The wind was picking up - headwinds from hell spiced up with many short but steep climbs.
It was hundreds of them, I guess. I was not very happy with my 36/25 gear ratio and I saw that most of the riders had a 32 or 34 teeth sprocket.

The sun was shining, blue sky, and I had a lot of fun riding these gravel roads up- and downhill with the terrible headwind. Living in the northern part of Germany, I am quite familiar with strong winds.
I rode in a small group looking for a good pace.
I  stocked up again at the second gas station- drank a coffee and continued on my own. Sometimes it is better to do your own pace to recover but the other riders of the group caught up with me later  just before the headwind turned into tailwind for some time to make a speed of  25 m/ph and more. My maximum speed was nearly 40 m/ph one time downhill- Upps! There was loose gravel coming!

Before checkpoint 2 we turned into eastern direction again. A beautiful B- road was easy to ride because it was completely dry. That time I did not think about what the forecast said about tonight!
When I left checkpoint 2 I noticed a puncture in the back wheel. I fixed it in the back of the car, because of the strong wind.

B- road

The break at the third gas station took me longer than at the other ones, because I wanted to recover a bit.
I had Coffee, Cola and Energy drink- eat Pizza and so...
I get off at 8 pm with a small group- but we didn´t have the same pace.
My plan was to stop after 30 miles, take a short break and go on up to the 4th gas station- witch would be closed but should give me shelter to sleep a little bit.
While riding these 30 miles it got dark and I got more and more tired - first I tried to ignore this but when I stopped after 30 miles the desire to sleep was on my mind and I couldn´t get that out.
Meanwhile the thunderstorm was coming up! The heaven was illuminated by many lightnings at the same time. I´ve seldom seen something like that. A nice view for sure but also a little bit scary.
Now I remembered the forecast: heavy thunderstorms during the night- and I could not rate or compare this with thunderstorms like in germany.
I looked for a place to shelter and recognized that there was none. I felt like lost in the plains...

....and the hotel was not so far !

I rode on a little bit, looking for a place to sleep and to take shelter from the thunderstorm. The gas station was still about 33 miles to go and I crossed a highway.
Grinnell must be south- west. That's the moment I quit the race.

On the paved roads westwards it was easy to ride at 25 m/ph. At the next crossing I went south to Toledo.
At the gas station I asked for the way to Grinnell- I was on the right way. Tama, further on to the Highway 6 and then again west. Half the way a car with Ari and two other members of the Slender Fungus (sorry, I forgot your name) stopped and asked if they could help me- but they  had to go north to assist Mark, because  of a  bridge was off. The hotel was about 15 miles to go but I thought this would be interesting too.
So they picked me and my Surly up. It was not so windy in the car- they offered me some rum and immediately I felt comfortable. After a while we found Mark- he was redirecting some riders, because a bridge was off..

After a while I changed to the "Truck with no name" meanwhile a heavy rain starts dashing
almost horizontally.
Mark and Ari, with me in the middle of the truck, now drove to Grinnell. We talked and had a good lot to laugh on this way- meanwhile Marks phone rang. More and more riders gave up.  At 2am I dropped me into bed. Thanks Mark, Ari and Slender Fungus for the help and the crazy night. I will remember  24/7.
Ralf was already asleep and after a small breakfast in the morning we went to the barn to chat with the people and to see riders coming in.

104 Riders started in the morning- 19 Riders finished. Congratulation to them.
Now here at the barn, talking to people, I was a little bit disappointed about my surrender.

I could have done the race, because I had a lot of time left: 15 hours for 120 Miles...
I heard that the group I was in when we moved away from the 3th gas station found a barn for shelter as the thunderstorm came up. If I would have stayed with this group.... but maybe is a maybe!
And the sleep deprivation….. That’s my weak point, I knew that before.

On the other day we rode our bikes straight eastwards at first for about 10 miles. The gravel was wet because of the rain and there was fog in the air....the weather conditions could have been worse than on Saturday on the first 2/3 and I thought we were lucky with this.

Trans Iowa was a great experience for me. A very special bicycle race and we met so many friendly people...

Back in "black alley deli" later on for some coffee and a chat with Craig, we analyzed the race once again.
And a little flame comes up....I´ll come back....maybe....I have to collect some money....maybe....

The rest of our holiday we spent east of Iowa with further relatives of Ralf.
We did some sightseeing at the river Mississippi, watched birds, visited a big quarry to see more gravel and relaxed.


  1. Norbert5/09/2014

    Hi Gerald,

    good to have you back safely in Germany. Before you started I sometimes thought, that I would have liked to do TI V10 too.
    But as I listened to Trans Iowa Radio I was glad to ride the good old trails in Germany.


  2. Hi Norbert,

    danke für deinen Kommentar. Hoffe wir fahren mal wieder zusammen demnächst.
    Im September mache ich einen 200er, wahrscheinlich HHX Bungeberg.
    Muss mir noch einen Termin überlegen.