People think Iowa is flat. I think that notion is spread by Iowa folks themselves. Allow me to explain.
The "Geezer" ride was born from the idea of putting on a s-l-o-w gravel ride on the same roads that are used for the annual Trans Iowa Race held in and around Grinnell Iowa. Some of us would love to experience the world class gravel riding but can't even approach the pace and fitness levels needed to do a 300+ mile gravel course like Trans Iowa. But we are dumb enough to try a simpler, more flat, slower paced ride. So the Geezer Ride was born (with assistance of more than one beer at Lonnsky's) - for us old Geezers that pedal slow and mostly sure. The course routing fell to my good friend Guitar Ted (thats his real name! Not.) who is the High Chancellor of Iowa Gravel and partly responsible for the Trans Iowa Race that has become one of the premier gravel events in the world. Mark, his real name, told us the Geezer course was pretty flat, about 46 miles long, and took in part of older Trans Iowa courses. He assured me that old ladies in wheelchairs had recently completed the course and had no issues whatsoever.
So there I am Saturday, suited up and after a hearty breakfast and greeting a few old friends, twenty-four, yeah, 24, people gather with bicycles in front of Bikes To You, a top bicycle store in downtown Grinnell, and we take off. I'll switch to the short version here, and say that at about mile 13 after a steady pace of 10-11 mph on the "flat" gravel roads, and climbing the "flat" hills at a 5-6 mph pace, I asked Mark where the flat parts he spoke of were. "This is it," he says, "the hilly stuff thats like straight up and down is coming up as we turn north then back south to Brooklyn". Ok. I'm about beat now. I hopefully have a return trip to town in me and I start calculating how that will happen. Mark then suggests that I have done pretty good for my first bicycle ride since last summer but I might want to tail off ahead and head south, then connect with some roads heading west back to town. That calculates to about 30 miles for me and my riding bud, George, who says he is in. So we peel off at the next cross road, bid Mark adieu until we all gather back in town and off we go. George and I find some more flat hills and the wind now kicks up. The cool part about climbing the flat hills are you can hit like 24-29 mph on the downside! That is you can unless you are pedaling into the Iowa wind. That fast downhill of 24-29 mph becomes about 14-15 mph and on smaller flat hills, 11 mph. Climbing them is more like a 4-6 mph effort for my beat down legs. But we take our time, we stop and eat Clif bars, drink water and find the jewel of Iowa unpaved goodness - B roads. We found about 3.5 miles of B roads on the way back which are "Enter at your own risk" unmaintained, often rutted, hard packed stretches of dirt with ungraded hills. They are awesome to ride if they aren't wet. So we did that and finally managed a very tough ending set of miles into town where we parked our butts on a park bench for 15 minutes while we soaked in the glory of how beautiful George's truck looked. A sight I dreamt of while covering those last few miles.
Hard ride, for sure, but worth every pedal stroke. I would not change anything. I had fun. I rode for at least 15 miles with some good friends, rode 15 more with my best friend, we had a fantastic weather day save for the wind, and I wasn't working. We enjoyed a beer and sandwich afterwards after the others trickled in about 30 minutes later. Then George, Mark and myself headed out to do what we had originally decided to do a few months back. Drive the Trans Iowa race route, checking for cue sheet accuracy, road conditions, hazards, etc. I also use the drive to waypoint and plot out possible photography opportunities throughout the ride.
I won't get into much detail about TI (Trans Iowa) #11 since it is coming up in just under two weeks. I am sworn to secrecy for anything covering the route, more or less. I'll say its a different sort of route just as the 10 before it have been. Its interesting and Mark and his cohort Jeremy have done a nice job laying out something the riders will appreciate - after the race. I'm pretty sure during the race they will use many colorful adjectives in describing the route and Mark/Jeremy. Weather is always the factor. Some years, its 30 mph wind, 40 degree temps, and in others its been 10-15 mph and near 90. Most times it seems to rain at some point, some years we get tornado like weather. Who knows? Thats what makes it so much fun (?) and I'm just glad to be a small part of the magic it has become.
Photographically, the route layout is so different and due to the directions it runs at sunrise and sunset when the riders are there to photograph, its not the most photo friendly its been. This year, I'm planning to try and shoot the race in a different way. I can never manage to get a shot of each and every person. The course (331 miles) is too long and the riders too spread out. I apologize, but I do carry the rider numbers with me and if I can, I will try and get a shot of those that I can. This year Mark asked me to bring a few pictures from past races, so I have a few prints I use in my studio, and I plan to bring along a flat screen TV I can set up with a slideshow of the TI races I have covered. I will have this set up at registration in the meeting room. As with all past TI races, I will post an online gallery of pictures, and the web sized images are always free to download. I will also offer an ordering system this year, also online, where you can purchase larger pictures, have them mounted, or not, and delivered to your address. The prices will be heavily discounted, since I'm not interested in making anything off these except perhaps a little bit to help cover gas expenses. Order what you want, if you want to. The offerings will be limited though, so if you do decide you want something larger, or different, like a canvas, metal or acrylic, then let me know and we can cover that. I also have a guy local to me that can do larger prints on a cool plastic media using waterproof inks which work well for fitness and work out areas. Shipping can be an expense though. But they do look cool. See you all in Grinnell in a few weeks.