HC was a proud sponsor of Trans Iowa 6 this year, and Jim and I drove to Grinnell, Iowa to help out. By volunteering, you are guaranteed a spot in next year's race (if there is one) and Jim has this quaint notion of attempting it. I have his back but am not sure I will be joining him.
What is Trans Iowa? It is a race of just over 310 miles that must be completed in 36 hours. There are 3 checkpoints with cut off times and you have to make it by the time or you are out. What makes this particular event so insane is: 1) most of the route is on gravel or the far more challenging "b" farm roads (more on that in a sec); 2) you don't know the route for the next section until you get to the checkpoint. You can't scout it using Google maps; 3) You cannot receive any support whatsoever. You are completely on your own. Break down in the middle of some road at 2AM? No one is going to come get you. And finally, it snows and rains in Iowa in the spring so the road conditions can be absolutely horrendous, as you shall soon see.
58 riders massed at the start in downtown Grinnell this morning at 4AM.
Ken and Scott raring to go
And they're off.
Jim and I were assisting at Checkpoint 1, located in the small town of Monroe. The riders had to cover 45 miles and arrive no later than 8AM to stay in it. It had been raining most of the night and the drive down there was through heavy rain and lightening. It continued to rain for almost three hours.
The first riders made it to the check point at about 7:20. This group contained last year's winner, Joe Meiser as well as some other heavyweights of the this type of event. By my calculation, they averaged something like 12 mph to get to this point, no small feat considering the conditions. Riders reported that lightening struck the ground very near them and they were forced to walk a 1 mile stretch of "B" road that was impassable. B roads are essentially farm roads that get no maintenance -- they are what they are.
The fast group took off immediately and more riders came in as the 8AM deadline drew near. Of the 58 riders that started, only 21 made it to checkpoint 1 by 8AM. Ken and Scott missed it by several minutes but were in good spirits despite the fact they had to ride the 40+ miles back to Grinnell and their car.
All of the bikes and riders that made it to Monroe were covered in thick brown mud. Many reported their brakes were already on the way out and drive trains couldn't be far behind -- and they still had 267 miles to go!!
Once all the riders were through, Jim and I planned to do some riding of our own. We opted to retrace the race's route back to Grinnell, and either ride from there or nearby. The first 15 miles or so took us through gorgeous rolling farmland over roads that were soft but drivable.
Remember that section of "B" road the riders walked? This is what greeted us at the beginning of it:
Jim and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and drove on. The absence of other tire tracks should have been the clue we were idiots.
Good progress was made despite mud that was inches thick.
We made it most of the way up that big hill but completely lost traction. We managed to get the rig turned around and were on our way out when we got stock trying to re-cross an old wooden bridge covered in mud.
And, no cell phone coverage. So I hiked a ways out and up a hill until I could call AAA. AAA is awesome but they don't cover towing morons who get their vehicles stuck on roads they should not be on. But Angie of AAA did call me a wrecker that arrived about an hour later. Two guys, both of who I know were laughing inside, carefully pulled me out of the ditch and I was able to drive the rest of the way back to the county road. We followed them back to Monroe where we could settle the bill.
Here is how the exchange went as I paid the bill.
Ronnie: "What were you doing Bajaing down that road?"
Me: We were trying to retrace the route of that bike race.
Ronnie: "It's a good thing you didn't get caught over that first hill. We'd have to send the big wrecker".
I can only imagine that it resembles this:
So, if you're traveling the "B" roads of Iowa anywhere near Monroe and need a tow, call Ronnie at Hewitt's Service Center and tell him Baja sent you.