Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Touring Series: Dealing With The Consequences

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995.

The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" fellowship had been broken up in the last entry. Now the two remaining tourists wake up to Day Five.........

______________________________________________________________________
When Troy and I awoke in the hotel room the next morning we quietly got ready with plans to hit up the Perkins next door for breakfast and a brainstorming session on what to do for the day. There was no sign of Steve, or evidence that he had stayed at our motel. I asked Troy what he thought we should do. Should we call his girlfriend, go look for him, or what? Troy's response was quick and given with a note of finality. "He's a big boy. He can take care of himself." By the tone of Troy's voice, I could tell that further discussion would only be futile.

So, we checked out and sauntered over to Perkins. It was cool, but partly cloudy. It looked to be an excellent day for riding. Fortunately for us, we had a Wisconsin map to plan with, but Steve had the better map with the roads marked out for traffic count that we had gotten back in Sparta. I suppose he needed it more than we did.


As we sat with our breakfast, pouring over the map, I saw something that caught my eye outside the window of the restaurant out in the road. It was Steve walking his bike across the road towards us! I suppose he spotted our bikes outside. I alerted Troy, and he said, "We're going to ride him into the ground today for what he did last night, okay?" I nodded in agreement. Although I was glad to see Steve, he did put us in a bit of a pickle the night before.


Steve came in and said hello. He didn't apologize, but then again, he may not have remembered what had transpired over the previous 18 hours. He said he had stayed in a hotel across the road that cost him $80.00. Troy chuckled and told him our room cost half that. Steve waved off breakfast, so we left and prepared to mount up and leave Steven's Point.


Troy's plan was to head out of town on the East bound highway, then catch a county road northwards. The night before, Dave the Skateboarder and his friends had warned us about our previous plans to go through Tigerton to the northeast of Stevens Point. They strictly warned us to steer clear of there because of some right wing nut jobs that they claimed would sooner "mess with us" than say hello if we were found out on the roads near there.


This would send us north out of our way, but we had already had enough trouble on this trip to last us a month. We weren't looking for anymore. So we went out of town in single file headed to the county road north bound. Troy, then myself, and then a very hung over Steve not far behind. Not long after leaving the main road, we lost the hustle and bustle of the city. Now we were back in the bucolic, rural environs of Wisconsin. The night before seemed like a dream. A bad dream for Steve, I'm sure!
________________________________________________________________________

The day starting out without Steve and for me, no idea of how I would be able to deal with Troy alone. I was willing to see how it would go though. Obviously, I ended up not finding that out, but things did switch around at this point, as far as my "standing", as it were, amongst the two more seasoned cyclists. 

I think it might prove to be a good point to remember here that in the beginning of this tale I was a rank amateur cyclist trying to keep up and not drag down two accomplished cyclists. At the moment we left Stevens Point, I was suddenly seen as more of an equal. Both by Troy and by Steve. Then there were the group dynamics.

In the beginning, Steve was my ying to Troy's yang. I found that there was a balance where Troy was the driving force and Steve was the the one that brought a balance of calm and relaxation to that. After Steven's Point I was the the one that had to be the counterbalance to Troy. Steve was the one that was became the one that was holding us back. But in the end we shall see that this Stevens Point experience was just an outcome of what was really the thing that stopped us in the end from reaching our goals. In the end, it was all just that bad, rainy day that turned all of our fortunes.

There was still three days of riding ahead, and a lot more surprises and difficulties to overcome. Plus a long trip home. Anything could happen......

Next: Getting Buzzed

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Shimano Changes A Longstanding Standard

That ubiquitous free hub spline pattern may be a thing of the past now that the new XTR is here.
Yesterday the big news in MTB circles was the release of the new XTR group by Shimano. It went to 12 speeds, a major focus on 1X, and introduced new derailleurs, cassettes, and hubs, none of which are backward compatible with anything we have now. See the particulars in this excellent Cyclingtips post HERE.

But the biggest news, to my mind, and a sea change moment in cycling, was the "Micro Spline" cassette body. This small part will radicalize cycling for years to come, just like Shimano's cassette body standard did in 1988.

When Shimano moved the free coasting mechanism from the cog set to the hub, it made every wheel set in existence in 1987 and before obsolete. Cassette technology overwhelmed the cycling industry so quickly that by 1990 free wheels were dead.

This may not happen so quickly with wheels today. Shimano has made this technology a "closed system", meaning that it would have to be licensed from Shimano for others to use it. Shimano has allowed DT Swiss to use the design for its free hub bodies though, so an aftermarket choice will exist there. This does two things- First it controls who gets to use Micro Spline, and secondly, it keeps Shimano's current free hub design relevant for the short term. Shimano doesn't necessarily want the current free hub design to be tossed aside like free wheels were in the late 80's, since it would be a huge strain on the company, not to mention the bike industry, to just dump the old for the new today.

This stuff won't hit the market till the Fall, so effectively not until next season, but I look for it change our wheels entirely within the next five to ten years. How this affects smaller, "artisan" wheel brands like Industry 9 and others will be interesting to see. But make no mistake- wheels will never be the same again. 

Minus Ten Review - 21

A Diamondback Overdrive hard tail I tested for Twenty Nine Inches
Ten years ago on the blog this week I was writing about three things that caught my attention now in 2018. First and foremost was a realization that I had one morning ten years ago that really rad people are into cycling.

Sure, we squabble about whether or not e-bikes are this or that, whether we need 12 speeds and 1X drivetrains with rear cogs the size of road bike front chain rings, and let's not forget the baggies vs Lycra debates.

But in the end, we all seem to be, in my estimation, pretty rad folks. I know I am blessed by all of you out there and I get excited about seeing old friends and meeting new ones anytime we cyclists gather together.

The next thing I noticed that it was ten years ago when I started taking Wednesdays off to be dedicated to my website work. That didn't pay off very well for a long time. But now it has, and I'm grateful for that. Plus I got a lot of extra family time due to this decision. But the point is, I made a decision that has significantly affected my life ever since.

Finally, on a somber note, I noted that it has been ten years since the devastating F-5 tornado in nearby Parkersburg, Iowa. It was a striking reminder to me that I was a survivor of one of these tornadoes myself, and how I could "pay back" the efforts made on my behalf by volunteering to do clean up in Parkersburg, which I did.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday News And Views

Trans Iowa v14 Video Surfaces:

The other day I received a message from my friend Ari who found the following video and posted it on his blog. It is a film concept featuring a rider in need of a "gravel fix" (Played by Nicholas McColloch) and then morphs into a music video and GoPro footage from the event itself. I've posted the YouTube link below here. 

It's a little rough in the beginning, but the event footage is telling. You get some pre-dawn riding from Grinnell, a scene of the group rolling into Hartwick which was CP#1, then some convenince store shots of Casey's in Brooklyn, Iowa and North English, Iowa. Then there is the brief appearance of a barn with a barn quilt, which is the remnants of Hinkletown, Iowa. After this you get a couple views of the chunky gravel in Johnson County, the torn up road North of Kalona, and then the fade into night. Nicholas stopped at CP#2, so there was no footage past the fall of night. 

All the while, Nicholas and his merry pranksters, including Charles Parsons and Trenton Raygor, take shots of whiskey along the way. Enjoy this unique look at a Trans Iowa!

Shimano Shows Heavy Investment Into Gravel Cycling:

Screen shot from Shimano's
I was cruising the "innergoogles" the other day and came across the new Shimano webpage all about gravel cycling. Check it out HERE.

A bit of background is in order here. First off, Shimano is a company that doesn't just "jump into stuff". They study things, do research, and test theories before announcing anything publicly. This is why a lot of people mistakenly thought Shimano was sleeping when SRAM introduced 1X. They were not sleeping, they were doing their homework. So, the "sudden appearance" of a gravel website should tell you that Shimano has been working on gravel specific components and accessories for years. In fact, if you dig into the site, you will find out that this has been in  development for two years already.

Secondly, Shimano sent over a contingent of employees from Japan to ride in the recently completed Almanzo 100. I actually saw a few of them come through Cherry Grove. Shimano also had a few of its new "Gravel Alliance" riders in the event who were supported by a Shimano course support van. (boo! Almanzo was supposedly a self-supported event at one time.) "So what?!", you say? Well, in reality, Shimano doesn't generally do this. That's why this effort to come to Almanzo was a very big deal.

You can bet that Shimano studied the riders, their gear, the needs of riders, and took in a ton of information which is going to get dissected in Japan and end up being stuff you and I can buy. They already are well on their way in terms of developing things if we are getting a "public display" (website presence, rider advocates) of their "gravel focus". Yes folks, this will be a big deal. It will also drive OEM product in the future as well. In fact, this nay be a result of OEM inquiries. Either way, gravel isn't going away, and if you thought there was a lot of product now, just wait.........

Raleigh's Tamland iE Step Over
Electric Gravel Boogaloo:

While it isn't the first e-gravel bike I've heard of, it may be the most refined version of one. Yep......electric gravel mopeds. It's coming  to a race near you, unless some wily promoters don't allow it.

Check it out on Raleigh's site HERE , but if you want the particulars, here they are. Pony up 4700 bucks and get assisted stroke that will take you to a breath taking 28mph maximum and go as far as 50-80 miles on a single charge.

Not specified- Weight. What happens when you are 20 miles out and the battery goes kaput? Maybe the gravel was fresh, causing higher resistance, or maybe you had a 20mph head wind. Well, your ride will really suck now, pedaling that heavy beast to town. Also curious: Do high profile events now have to provide charging stations at checkpoints, or do we get neutral battery support?

Seriously- I really don't care if you want an e-bike anything. But make no mistake- you are not experiencing cycling like I and many others do. Whether that is "good", "bad", or whatever is still up for debate. But what isn't up for debate is that e-cycling isn't the same as riding a human powered vehicle with two wheels. So, my take on this Raleigh is that it isn't in the spirit of cycling, or  gravel cycling in particular, where self-reliance on one's wits and athleticism is one of the tenets that I hold dear. Your mileage may vary.

MCD frame clearance with a Nano 2.1 mounted to an i23mm rim. Image courtesy of Mike Varley
 Getting Excited:

There is going to be a "new bike day" for me this year as I am acquiring a Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross Disc", or MCD, for short. It is a design similar to my "Orange Crush" rig, but with a bit different cut to its jib. The frame will have disc brakes instead of rim brakes, of course, and it has a much more severely sloping top tube/shorter seat tube than the original Monster Cross.

The frames are apparently quite popular. Check out the latest from Black Mountain Cycles here.  I am in for a pink one, and I am pretty excited about it too. Of course, when this frame and fork comes in, there are going to be a lot of changes in the Guitar Ted stable. Here's what I envision happening here:
  • The Twin Six Standard Rando is up for sale already. I will be transitioning the original build back onto this bike soon, but if you are interested it is on my Garage Sale Page already at a bargain price. 
  • I'm likely going to retire the Tamland. It looks as though gravel cycling is going all in on through axles and I need to swap the wheel fleet over to that direction. The frame is getting pretty beat up, so after 4 years of abuses it is time to hang it up on the wall. It is never going to get sold, as this represents a design I had an influence on, so I think I'd better keep it around. The "official" retirement ride will happen later this year. 
  • The Orange Crush will get made into a single speed. I set this bike up that way at the very first and I loved having a single speed gravel rig. The rim brake fleet of wheels will get SS'ed and be exclusively used on this bike with the possibility of one wheel set getting sold or used on a completely different bike. 
  • There may be a wheel set for sale or two.

Hey! It's Memorial Day Weekend! Stay safe and get out and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Country Views: The Greening

The Year With No Spring. It's definitely Summer out there now
Wednesday and rain........Bah! But the good news was that it was going away and by late morning we had glorious Sun and wind. Yes, we had lots of wind. Right out of the Southeast to begin with, but that would change.

I got out to the North of town. Yes......not good planning in terms of wind. Or was it? I'd get worked pretty hard, and actually, that's exactly what I needed. I have to buckle down on some fitness here because Spring is gone and Summer will be too before long. I need to be getting miles into my legs.

This poor excuse for Spring kept me off the gravel more often than not, and when it was good, well there was Trans Iowa or planning for that. Last weekend was supporting Almanzo, so zero bicycling for me that weekend. Man! Gotta get going on the riding. It's been way too long since regular miles have happened. It's not just me either. My buddy Tony said that riding the Almanzo 100 doubled his miles for the year. Yeah.....

So, North of town I went and I made some mileage East as well. The roads are like total hero gravel right now up that way. Well.......not for long though. I met the maintainer again. This time going North on Schenk Road. I don't doubt that truckloads of gravel are on the way too. These roads looked like post-Winter roads, not mid-May roads. This year has been so jacked up, it isn't funny.

Stopped to visit the Big Rock at the corner of Big Rock Road and Sage Road.
I was riding a pretty nice rig, at least, and it was light and felt fast. The Jamis Renegade Elite I am riding now is on test for RidingGravel.com and I will be doing a review of it in the next couple of months. It actually has a decent riding carbon fork. I was pretty impressed with it so far, but again- the roads were darn near better than pavement most of the route I took. I am holding out judgement till I get more typical Summertime gravel road conditions.

Barns For Jason
Crops are emerging and the landscape is going from browns and blacks to hazy greens.
Of course, going with the wind makes you feel like a super hero. I was cranking out a rhythm in the big ring and having my way with the Jamis Renegade as I flew down the road. All the while I was well aware that the piper would have to be paid at some point. Would the legs be there? Hard to say.

Barns For Jason- A small barn with two barn quilts.
Eventually I was too close to Dunkerton and decided to head back North and then West. I turned into a heavy crosswind, but it should have been a quatering tailwind. Hmm..... Wind was changing up on me. Fantastic! Oh well, nothing to do but to keep the pedals turning over.

Barns For Jason- With bonus sheep!
I ended up cranking back Southward and by this time the wind was a full on Southwesterly. It was pretty intense and I ended up doing a few intervals into it for good measure. The roads all were decent after the little bit I came across that the maintainer had disrupted. It was hillier coming back into Waterloo as well, which made for tougher pedaling. All good for the legs and lungs. Money in the bank to withdraw later.

Flowers are just starting to pop here. I didn't stop to photograph any, but next time I may do that. Stay tuned for more Country Views coming soon......

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Piece Of Iowa History Comes Home

The coin has "Poweshiek County 125th Anniversary" and the dates 1843 and 1968 on it.
Every once in a while I get an actual "snail mail" letter from someone. They usually are even hand written. So, for any of you out there wondering- yes, people still do send letters. It's actually 100% more fun and meaningful than e-mail, and I would say a lot more intentional as well. Anyway.....

This letter comes to me Monday afternoon and has an odd weight to it. I opened it to find the coin pictured today along with a letter from a blog reader here. Basically, here's the gist of the story.....

This coin was minted as part of a 125th Anniversary of Poweshiek County, which Montezuma, Iowa is the county seat. The court house is depicted on the one side and on the other side are these words: "Good For 50c in trade redeemable at Centennial Headquarters July 20, 1968".

Now how it got into my hands is the really amazing part of the story. A reader here, we'll call him "Mr. T" for the purposes of this story, lives in Montana. He wrote to me to say that he found the coin while riding outside of Helena, Montana. He noticed the glint of something shiny mixed in with the gravel along the edge of the road, so he stopped to investigate. Here was this coin. Obviously Mr T pocketed it and decided that I might have an interest in it. So, he sent it off to me with a hand written letter. He stated he didn't know if I'd ever been to Powesiek County or Montezuma, but since I was from Iowa, I might be interested.

Ironically, as you long time readers know, I have been to Poweshiek County on numerous occasions for Trans Iowa and to ride on that county's excellent gravel roads. I've also been to Montezuma several times, mostly on Trans Iowa business or as part of the event, since it was a checkpoint for v8 and this year as a pass through town. Also noteworthy is that it has been exactly 50 years since the celebration which is commemorated by the coin. So, yes, this actually seems like it "should be". The coin has somehow found its way back to Iowa.

This might seem a little odd to share here, but the coin was found while bicycle riding, and both Mr. T and I are cyclists, so I think it's appropriate. What becomes of the coin after this point, I am not sure. We'll see what is most appropriate. I just think it is amazing this even happened. Thanks "Mr. T"!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Is A Level C Maintenance Road?

We LOVE to ride Level B Maintenance roads in Iowa, so what about Level C's?
Recently I have become aware of a trend I hope doesn't take root here in Iowa. This situation may exist in other forms in other states, but here we have what is termed as "Level C Maintenance" roads. They are kind of like Level B Maintenance roads, which you probably are well aware of from events like Trans Iowa. Level C was something I hadn't ever come across until 2005-2006 while doing recon for Trans Iowa v2. Since then my understanding of what these roads are has informed my stance against riding them. This post is a "PSA", if you will, to other riders to learn why you should not be riding these specific "roads".

First off, a little brief history. There were no classifications on gravel and rural dirt roads until the 1980's when the Iowa Legislature had to react to lawsuits being brought against the Counties where drivers had driven on these primitive roads and had been involved in accidents resulting in damage to property and loss of life in some cases. Certain roads were then marked as "Level B" maintenance and signs were posted at the ends of these sections of dirt and poorly maintained roads to warn drivers that to "Enter At Your Own Risk" would mean that you would be liable for your own actions. Obviously this was done to avoid liability to the State and Counties for loss of property, damages, and personal injuries and/or death resulting from driving on these roads. That's all well and good, but what about "Level C"? What is up with that classification in Iowa?

The warning on every Level B road is there to absolve the County from liability
Well, Level C is something more recent in Iowa road history. Here are a couple of excerpts found from the IDOT site when I searched the term, "Level C Maintenance".


"The Level C classification was added in 1991 by HF 419. This third classification was developed to provide a
means to limit access to roads that primarily serve adjacent farming operations and there has been resistance to
vacating them. This legislation included language stating that stated Level C roads may only be established by ordinance or resolution.

In addition, Area Service C classification roads shall adequately warn the public that access is limited. Access to the road shall be restricted by means of a gate or other barrier."

Most Level C Maintenance roads I have seen are gated, and many have a white, rectangular sign near the gate. These roads are not open to the public to drive or ride on. The gate is there to restrict access, and it is my understanding that the adjacent landowner to the road is the "local authority" when it comes to granting access to any Level C Maintenance Road.  The bottom line here is don't ride on the Level C's! It isn't worth the risk, not only to you as a rider, but to the gravel bicycle riding community at large. Here in Iowa we have 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt we can ride on. Don't spoil it for everyone else by riding stuff you shouldn't be on. 

Example of a Level C Maintenance sign. Courtesy of IDOT
  I get why folks want to explore and see what is out there, but remember, these Level C's are the only way the State and County keep a possibility for a renewal of that right of way to become a road for the public again. It is also one step away from being annexed to the adjacent land owner's property, and is treated as such by those land owners. They get a bit testy sometimes if they see strangers on Level B's, (ask me how I know), and you can imagine that seeing strangers on bicycles on gated, "no trespassing" Level C's isn't going to be taken lightly by them. 

In the end, I cannot prevent any cyclist from making a bad decision, but there is no arguing that making the decision to ride a Level C is a bad idea. Yeah, you think no one will ever know...... until they do. I mean, I found out about this recently because some people were posting on Facebook that they had ridden a Level C in Butler County. So, yeah, we need to be careful out there, folks.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Almanzo 100 2018: Cherry Grove Report

Arrival at the Cherry Grove Community Center, a former school house, was a bit early.
"Gee, you're here kinda early, aren't ya?", said the salt and pepper haired man. He was a local, and had been loading up a motor scooter on a trailer from what was once likely a thriving business 100 years ago, but was now serving as a storage shed. The village of Cherry Grove, Minnesota is not much on retail business these days. The man with the salt and pepper hair was curious as to what we were up to and I think he figured out we were with the Almanzo 100 in some capacity, so he sauntered over to have a word with my son and I. I replied to the man by saying, "Yeah, I like to be early." I said that because he was right, by the way. We were a bit early.

My son and I arrived in Cherry Grove a few minutes past 8:00am. The Almanzo 100 did not start until 9:00am. Riders probably would not begin to show up at our location until after 1:00pm, but I wanted to be there in plenty of time to help my partner Ben, who had driven down from Northern Wisconsin the day before. He had just texted me saying he was going to wait for a table to become available up in Spring Valley, the starting point of the Almanzo races. He would pick it up before he made his way on down to meet us. So, I was not really needed there that early. We'd have plenty of time to wait around, as it turned out. Meanwhile the curious local had left me and my son was off messing around somewhere behind the community center.

Don't blink.....you'll miss it.
The village is one of those typical rural crossroads with a few scattered buildings. Many are unoccupied. Many are mouldering away to being untenable as useful for anything. A glaring exception to this would be the Cherry Grove Community Center, a building dating back to the late 19th Century. If there is any hope left in a rural community, it usually can be detected in the condition of its former school and/or churches. The Community Center was well taken care of, clean, and restored to its final version as a school house. Since it falls conveniently at approximately three quarters of the way around the Almanzo 100's course, it makes for a perfect checkpoint for the event. Right at that moment though, it was still just another building in the sleepy hamlet. Just as quiet as it usually was in Cherry Grove for the other 364 and a half days a year.

As the minutes ticked away to 9:00am, all I was seeing were songbirds flitting by. Robins, Red Wing Blackbirds, and various other feathered creatures warbled in the grassy yards and trees. A dog yowled a lonesome call which reverberated off into the distance. The local cemetery is across the street and boasts of the former residents of Cherry Grove's past. Hundreds of the tombstones sticking up like uneven teeth out of the green gums of the Earth. Silence is a peaceful sound in rural Southern Minnesota, only occasionally broken by the odd agricultural vehicle, car, or truck coming through on Fillmore County Road #5.

Ben Welnak, (L) sets out food and snacks while Jacob Stevenson, (R) cooks some of the 35lbs of bacon for CP#3

This would all soon change as riders would soon be filtering in from the East, crossing County Road 5, and then make their way West through Cherry Grove, right past our position. Ben eventually arrived with the table plus a pickup truck load of supplies including snacks, beer, soda pop, and 35 pounds of bacon. We then started to set things up in preparation for the riders which would be showing up after the leaders would go through. You see, the lead group never stops. 

It's kind of an odd thing. The Almanzo was at one time an unsupported event. Riders had to stop in the only "real" town on the route, Preston, and re-supply from there to finish the route which has a lot of climbing. However; in later years the Almanzo has developed into a route with aid stations. Then there are the folks trying to do the event as fast as possible.

Essential fluids: (L-R) Pickle juice, Fireball whiskey, and Jack Daniel's. Oh, yeah, and soda, beer, and water too!
I noted this during our first stint at Cherry Grove in 2016. Not long before the lead riders would steam through the village, various cars with "support" people would appear. They would strain their eyes down the road to the East, looking for any sign of their riders. Once they came through, musette bags, water bottles, or food hand-ups would be passed off and without stopping the riders would continue to hammer toward the finish. Fortunately only a small handful of riders deem the free-to-enter, no prizes given, Almanzo 100 worth winning, so the press of cars is not too overbearing. However; if much of this sort of thing spreads, it could get ugly out there. I think this is what the checkpoints of the Almanzo help prevent, but "support cars" were seen coming through all afternoon.

At about 12:50pm, the leaders blasted through Cherry Grove, not stopping, as expected. We saw about 20 go through, but a surprising thing happened. A few of those later riders actually stopped for water, bananas, and a couple quick snacks. The day was turning out Sunny, hot, and we heard the gravel was pretty chunky coming into Cherry Grove. Perhaps this was putting a bit of hurt into the legs of these speedy fellows. I was positioned at the cross roads helping to wave riders through if the road was clear of vehicles. Thank you's were heard and the general attitude of gratefulness was felt from then on from all the riders I met that afternoon.

Early riders into Cherry Grove take advantage of the offerings on hand. Not surprisingly, the bacon was very popular.
Once re-supplied, riders rode of to the West toward the finish of the Almanzo 100.
Once the first group trickled through I was standing waiting on riders to cross the County Road 5 intersection and was having a great conversation with a young lady from Decorah named Raina (sp?) who was waiting on her husband, Luke, to appear. She was lamenting having to miss riding her local gravel since she was pregnant, but being a part of the event with her husband seemed to make up for that a bit. Then there was Mary Grove, the wife of RidingGravel.com contributor, John Ingham, himself also riding the Almanzo. It was fantastic to be able to get to know a little bit about her, and through her, John as well.

The caretaker of the Cherry Grove Community Center, Ross, (here in a salmon colored polo) with a plate of fresh asparagus.
 Along about this time the caretaker of the community center, Ross, sidled up to me and asked, "Do you like asparagus?", to which I enthusiastically replied, "Yes!". It seems that Ross was good at harvesting wild asparagus in the ditches and had gathered 30lbs of the stuff. Later I noted he was offering spears of the freshly cooked greens to riders and they were gobbling it up. I got a few spears myself, and I don't mind telling you that it was the greenest, most flavorful asparagus I've ever had.

Ross also had another ingenious idea. He appeared out of the community center with a card table and a poster board. He asked if we thought it might be okay if he sat out the table and poster board and gathered autographs of the riders. We were excited about this idea and we were also dumbfounded as to why it was we hadn't thought of doing that before. Ross ended up getting two poster boards full of autographs which he is going to proudly display inside the community center this Summer.

Business picked up from about 1:30pm all the way up to about 5:30pm at Cherry Grove
Things started hopping at this point. Jacob, Ben, and I were busy refilling coolers, setting out more snacks, and gabbing with riders. Ben spent most of the time frying bacon, which ran out about 4:00pm. 35 pounds of bacon.......gone! 

Of course, I was gabbing my fool head off with lots of new faces and many old, familiar ones. Hugs were offered and given freely. Balvindar Singh, the only person to ever finish a Trans Iowa on a fat bike, was there and we talked for a while. (Thanks for the socks, Bal!) I saw Kate Ankofski and she was beaming. She gave me an awesome hug and made it through to finish later. Of course, I met John Ingham, as mentioned, and the joy in his eyes was palpable. I saw Northfield resident, Marty Larson, who was riding strongly. Tony, my riding buddy from here, also came by for a brief chat. There were so many others, and I am sorry if I missed you, but the afternoon was so busy I did the best I could do.

Things were winding down along about 5:30pm.
It is maybe cliche', but there really is a "gravel family", and the checkpoint, aid station, or whatever you want to call it, at Cherry Grove was a "family reunion" of sorts. New connections were made, like with John, Mary, and Raina, and old ones were continued, like with Pete Jaros, Joe Meiser, (even though I only saw him for a minute!), Andrea Cohen, and Trans Iowa volunteer, Kyle Platt. It is really about the people you meet. That's the special part. Taking a small, supportive part in the Almanzo is a really gratifying experience for me. Thanks to all of you who stopped by!

But as with Trans Iowa, or any good thing, there is a time for it to end, and the Cherry Grove checkpoint was winding down to a close at about 5:30pm.

We were condensing down towards the finish, but people kept streaming in, maybe not in the droves that they were earlier, but in smaller groups of twos and threes. Even without bacon and some pickle juice we were getting heartfelt thanks for being there. It was hard to be pulling down things while this was going on, but we were running out of stuff!
A tuckered out Ben finally gets to sit down at the end of a long day.

Earlier I had my picture taken with Joel Raygor, the father of Trenton Raygor, and part of the team that puts on the Filthy Fifty and the DAMn event. Joel was telling me almost everyone calls him "Trenton's Dad" now because Trenton has a bit of exposure as the race director of these two Minnesota based events now. Well, Joel was having a good time with that, and told me to be on the lookout for Trenton, but as we were closing up shop in Cherry Grove, and things were about to go back to being sleepy and peaceful there, I was wondering what had happened. I hadn't seen Trenton, and now it sure looked like I wasn't going to either.

The last riders we helped at Cherry Grove head out to finish the Almanzo 100.
I snapped an image off and was coming around my truck, ready to hop in and leave. Ben was already packed up and was giving a rider who was not feeling good enough to finish a ride back to Spring Valley. I looked up to see a rail thin, six foot plus man coasting up to me. It was Trenton! He immediately hopped off his bike, and with his breath coming in heaves, gave me a big hug.

It was a great way to end the Almanzo 100 for me. What a day! We were so glad for the great weather and the opportunity to serve the "gravel family" there. And Ross? He was also an integral part of the experience for the riders. Not only did he hand out that amazing asparagus, but he toted water out from the community center from mid-afternoon on after we ran out. He had a ball, by the way. What a great guy!

I was tired and beat, it was a really long day. Jacob and I were the last ones to leave, fittingly, at 6:40pm. Yep, it was "kinda late" late now. We left Cherry Grove just like we found it- a quiet Southeastern Minnesota hamlet on County Road 5 in Fillmore County.

Till next year........