Friday, June 6, 2014

Trans Iowa Part III "Come in," they moooo-ed. "We'll give you shelter from the storm."

Sorry for the substantial delay in submitting Part III of my personal narrative involving the running of the Trans-Iowa. In my defense, I have been super busy getting my dear Seniors ready for graduating from Esko High School.  Here is an observation just to set the record straight, today’s youth are just as compassionate and connected to the world around them as we ever were. Of course, that’s not necessarily something to brag about, still I find joy and humor in my interactions with the vast majority of the teenagers that I deal with each and every day.  Don’t believe me? Check out this recent article, published by The Dailybeast ( ).   

During these last few dayz I have spent with these fledgling adults, one message to them was to quote from the great American poet who just recently passed away; namely Maya Angelo— “Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity.  What this is, is aging.”

Appropriately, I then cautioned them to resist the insidious, but all too common inclination of modern adulthood. Which is to continuously complicate their lives with superfluous endeavors and ravenous consumption. I offered several examples as my starting point for an emotional long-winded rant, one was about the current state of cycling.  One of which was the absurdity of the marketing of shiny widgets and techno-contrivances the bike industry offers up to the fanatical consuming bikers each year.  This year’s gadgets include offering digital derailleurs that will save you a ton of weight and only cost $800... Ultimately beseeching my captive audience to join me in my quest to start a Neo-Luddite movement where simplistic micro-communities reign, where people engage in face-to-face conversations about books their reading, and where the populace doesn’t buy into every new and shiny trinket the capitalists’ offer up for mass consumption…But I digress…

Perhaps it is a good thing that I have had several weeks to gain perspective on the running of the tenth Trans-Iowa.  On reflection, one thing that pops into my mind is how hobbled I have become in the last few years and how much faster the fast guyz have gotten.  Back in the day, if the conditions were doable, I would race the Trans-Iowa with an eye on finishing up in the top five or at least in the top ten, of course back then it attracted only the most dysfunctional and marginalized of Midwestern riders—in the early races, normal people did not sign up for the Trans-Iowa.

It is to Guitar Ted’s credit and commitment to the absurdly irrational, that this race still attracts a relative high number of nerd-do-wells, bohemians, and misfits—it’s why I keep coming down to Iowa every April.  I suspect it is also why many of you also come back each year or want to experience the event in the future. Just think about it; early on, some ten years ago, back then when GT and his buddies put this thing into motion, if you were a really talented cyclist with a bright future ahead of you, you would not risk it on such an unglamorous and potentially damaging event as the Trans-Iowa!  Even today, where the canvas is a different color; wherein gravel endurance events have become vogue, and consequently expensive, even extravagant affairs. Where “the Industry” produces special carbon and titanium bikes made specifically for gravel; cutting edge bikes that one can pay many thousands of dollars for…All in an effort to enjoy an advantage over those other old men in one’s age group and also where full-on sponsored pros grace the tops of the results page. No the Trans-Iowa is not a glitzy affair or a big production and I doubt it will ever be and that is just fine by me. And I suspect you agree with me.  The Trans Iowa is about defeating ones demons…Defeating them alone with no fanfare or support!

In any event, this year I rode solely with the goal being to just try and finish the damned thing.  When I think about how fast the top guyz were going this year, even against very significant headwinds, including the performance by Troy Krause on a single speed, (not to mention Barre riding a fixed gear bike), it really puts my forlorn effort into perspective.  It should come as no surprise, but for those of you that don’t know me personally, I have never been “exceptional” at anything in my long life, but due to several recent debacles (this race included) I have grown even more humble in the assessment of my achievements and yet also more respectful of the really exceptional achievements of those of whom I have known over the years.  In the context of the Trans-Iowa, I am thinking of two guyz associated with this event over the years.  In my mind, Troy Krause and Mike Johnson have become synonymous with the characteristics needed to do well in this event, namely mental toughness and physical perseverance. This year they once again turned in most impressive results.

To be honest when I think about this year’s Trans-Iowa, essentially three peculiarities come to mind.  The first two were essentially acts of God while the third involves a reaction or a manifestation of these acts of God.  I remember strong headwinds.  You know, the kind of incessant wind that make that distressingly disturbing relentless roaring sound in ones helmet, all the time wearing steadily away at the resolve of even the most stoic of willful riders.  The second was the rain that came with nightfall. The third was the generosity of cows...

At one point, well into the evening hours, the rains became torrential and spiteful in its delivery.  At its peak, the downpour was so intense that Jay Barre and I sought “shelter from the storm” within a large metal sided barn-like structure.  The large barn doors were locked, but the doors were old and badly rotted away at their base, allowing for a jagged gap just large enough to allow us the opportunity to squeeze through, crawling through the barnyard muck on our stomachs. Once inside we were treated to a small mountain of fresh hay bales and a gathering of scared calves.  I nodded a sincere salutation in the general direction of our newly befriended bovines, grabbed a few broken hay bales and fashioned a soft bed. Resting my old bones in the supine position, I smiled the smile of sweet salvation. Nothing mattered to me at that brief moment of respite other than the contentment of non-movement and good cheer directed towards my partner.  I looked over at the youthful Barre, who was involuntarily nodding, fighting the good fight to stay awake.  I remember thinking that it doesn’t get any better than this…

At this late date, that’s what I most vividly remember about the tenth running of the Trans-Iowa.   Hanging out with Jay Barre, late night or maybe early morning, in that barn with the cowering cows, while the Demons of Despair outside tried to conquer us…


  1. You were blessed to be hanging out with Gravel Jesus. I already miss you and hope to see you before april. We have grown to be family after all these years. Thanks for telling these stories. Some of us hurt when we read your words.
    thank you,

  2. A memory I will always cherish. Great times.

  3. Charlie- In light of conversations held behind the scenes with Mr. Ek and Mr. Andonopoulous, along with a few reactions sent along to me by some other fine folks, I must give you a tip of the hat and a knowing wink regarding some of your content within this post. There seems to be a small consensus of opinion that I felt compelled to acknowledge here, and with that I cannot say further. That is all on that......

    Thank you again for gracing Trans Iowa with your spirit, grit, and attitude which are all very much appreciated throughout the Trans Iowa cycling fellowship. I think I can speak for all of us that have had contact with you via Trans Iowa that you are one of the principal characters of the event over the past ten years. As you have alluded to yourself, you don't have to be one of the "fast guyz" to be one of the Good Guys.

    Thanks Charlie!