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'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 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........

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Touring Series:Taking A Turn For The Worse

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.

Today I can share an actual souvenir from the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". It is the doodle that "Dave the Skateboarder" drew the night we were at the "Mission Coffee House" with him. I tucked this away in my bags and it survived the trip home. I actually still have this somewhere in my personal archives.

This was a very unusual thing for me since I am not generally a souvenir type of guy, but being that it was a doodle, and thus artwork right up my alley, I asked Dave to let me have it and he heartily agreed to allow me to take it. So, that's why it survived the rest of the trip and up to this day. On with the story.........

 Today we rejoin the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" in Stevens Point, Wisconsin as Troy and Mark leave to look for Steve......

Art by "Dave The Skateboarder"- I still have this somewhere.
So, we took leave of Dave The Skateboarder and went back to that corner bar to get Steve. When we arrived, we found the bar in "full court press", full of college kids and loud music. We asked about Steve at the bar, but apparently the shifts had changed while we were gone. No one seemed to recognize his description. Finally, someone came out of the back to say that they recognized our description of Steve and that they thought he had left some time ago!

Needless to say, Troy and I were in panic mode! We rushed outside to grab our bikes, wildly throwing out ideas and theories as to what had become of Steve. Just as Troy was pronouncing some unrepeatable malediction against Steve, I spied his bike across the street in front of another bar.

Relieved, we walked across the street and entered the bar. Our feelings of relief were short lived though. As I walked in, I noticed a bar with large, powerful looking men in work clothes seated around it. One of them immediately motioned me over to himself.

As I approached he asked, "You know that guy?", as he pointed with his large man-paw in the general direction of an open area by the bar. I didn't need to ask him who he was talking about. I saw him immediately, wavering like a willow in the wind. It was Steve, being very loud and giving some guy some grief about something or other. Umm.........this wasn't good, not at all!

The large man spoke to me again, "You better get him outta here......NOW!" I could easily see that the request was not an optional one. The anger was palpable. I perceived that Steve was only moments away from something ugly. Really ugly!

Troy was incensed and I decided to get him out of there to wait for Steve and I outside. I tried talking Steve out, but he would have none of it. "I'm already in a bar!", he snorted, "Why do I need to go to another one?!!" Steve was apparently proud of his ability to slight these men without their reacting. What he didn't realize was that they could turn him into a wadded up mess in a heartbeat, and they knew it. It was only their strained capacity for mercy that was saving his bacon at that moment.

The patrons and the bartender started in on Steve then, telling him to get out. This only made Steve more obstinate. Things looked to be reaching a breaking point, when I suddenly had a plan. Now I'm not one to intentionally mislead folks for my own personal gain, but this situation called for desperate measures. I blurted out to Steve, "Hey, this bar has topless waitresses! The gals are naked!"

What can I say? Sex sells!

Steve backed down immediately, seemingly interested. I took the opportunity to get him out the door as fast as I could. Once I got out the door, I gave Troy the "high sign" and he caught on and played along like a champ. We escaped! Now it was back to The Mission Coffee House to see if Dave The Skateboarder could help us. When we got there, Steve wasn't going in because it wasn't the topless bar, obviously. So we had to have Dave come out and he graciously gave us detailed directions to the area where we could find the "topless bars", (Motels and Hotels!).
The opposite side of the card above.

Now we were on our own, with a very inebriated Steve in tow. We had two or three miles on four lane streets to get there. Fortunately, the streets were quiet at this time of night. Steve was having control issues now, spontaneously swerving across two lanes of traffic without notice and miraculously not dumping it. After he narrowly missed taking us out, we put him behind us, and fretted about him the rest of the way.

Once we got out to the area where the motels were, Troy and I picked one out and rode up to it. Steve figured out what was going on now and would have nothing to do with it. He wanted to find these "topless bars" or whatever. Troy told him in no uncertain terms that he was on his own, we were going in to sleep. I tried to reason with him, but Steve mounted up and rode away. We turned our backs to him and walked into the motel, secured a room, and hauled our heavy touring rigs up the elevator to our place of rest. After some reflection on the evenings happenings, we turned in, not knowing what had become of our traveling companion.

Okay, obviously this was one of those, "you had to be there, it was so weird" deals that seem unreal, but it really went down like this. We were literally seconds from a bar fight, and I was so relieved when we got out that I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe we made it out unscathed.  But now Troy was livid. Absolutely furious. So on one hand I had to placate a drunkard, on the other hand I had to negotiate on the fly with a man that was about to do something murderous.

Then Steve, literally weaving so hard it was unbelievable that he didn't crash, was belligerent enough to just walk away from us when we reached the motel. This was a moment I won't forget. On one hand I felt we should do anything to preserve the trio, but Troy had had enough by this point. There would be no reconciliation, no searching. On the other hand, here I was, left alone with Troy and I felt under-prepared to deal with his forcefulness and physical acumen. I was not ready for this......

Next: Dealing With The Consequences

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 20

It is uncanny how similar 2008 weather and conditions are to today's.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was trying to get into some semblance of shape to do the Dirty Kanza 200. I was out riding a single speed and hitting the Post-Trans Iowa fatigue issues. Things weren't going well.

But what strikes me is how late planting was and how the roads are now really match up with how they were ten years ago. It's almost identical, and it seems weird.

I was sure I'd find some mention of Almanzo but you know, it was only in its second year and a pretty small event at that time. I probably was aware of it, having already started cataloging the events I could find on gravel, but Almanzo was just another grassroots ride at that time not unlike several others happening in 2008. Since it wasn't the icon that it is now, I suppose there wasn't really any reason to single that event out yet at that time.

Now it is a huge event drawing well over a thousand riders on a good weather year. It will be interesting to find out what the official count was for today's Almanzo. I do know that they only started seven individuals for the 380 mile Alexander at 5:00am on Friday morning. My bet is that the numbers for the 100 will be pretty big this year, but we will see. Stay tuned for Monday's report......

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday News And Views

Image by Jon Duke
A Trans Iowa Soliloquy:

I was fortunate to have had the most awesome volunteers throughout my tenure as the RD of Trans Iowa. One of those people was named Craig Groseth. I met Craig at Odin's Revenge, fittingly while riding a bicycle, and we became friends. Craig lives way out in Western South Dakota, but made the trip out just to be immersed into Trans Iowa as a volunteer. Since he decided to do that, I put him into a few different situations to make his trip worthwhile.

Another great thing about Craig is that he is a pretty good writer and posts on his own blog. While I am not normally one to push anything about myself in terms of personal things, the article Craig wrote about Trans Iowa after his experience does something really well that I never was able to tell due to my perspective. Craig's take is from an outsider's view and it nails many of the things I was trying to get across about Trans Iowa. Anyway, he did a great job, and instead of having it just be sitting there in a corner of the internet, I thought I'd link it here today. Click Here.

Cherry Grove Checkpoint. My son is standing on the corner.
Almanzo 100 Weekend:

This weekend my son and I are making the short trek Northward to the tiny hamlet of Cherry Grove, Minnesota to man Checkpoint 3 of the Almanzo 100.

This will be the third year that Riding Gravel has been tabbed as the sponsor of this Checkpoint. I sure hope that we get better weather than the first two times. The first year it was chilly and very windy. Last year was simply just brutal. Cold, windy, and rain all afternoon. Yuck!

This time it looks to be a lot better. So, I expect that we will see a LOT more riders than we did the previous two years. We will be ready. I expect Ben will be bringing the same sort of set up  we've had the previous two years and that my son and I will be very busy helping out riders and yakking with all sorts of folks.

In fact, if the weather actually holds up and is decent, I'm not sure what to expect Saturday in Cherry Grove. A "nice weather" Almanzo is something I've not yet experienced. Well, whatever happens will get reported on here come Monday morning. Stay tuned........

County maintenance is happening- Here is the evidence!
Grading The Gravel:

With the big wave of corn planting done the soybean planting is now in full swing. I was out Wednesday and saw evidence of planting going on along with emerging corn plants. The greening up of the Iowa countryside is happening now and it won't be long before we're riding down halls of eight foot high corn and rows and rows of bushy soybean plants.

Another "second wave" that is happening now along side of the second wave of planting is the maintenance of gravel roads. The ag machinery pretty much wastes the gravel and pushes it off to the sides. Well, that is being redistributed across the roadways by the big grader machines.

I caught a freshly graded road in Southern Black Hawk County and eventually passed the grader coming back North on Beck Road. The gravel was deeply distributed across the roadway and all loosey-goosey. Running in the tire tracks was the way to beat the mushy gravel which tried to make my tires swap ends. I found Aker Road wasn't a whole lot better, by the way.

This will probably get us through the soybean planting phase and given no long, soaking rains, I suspect regular gravel maintenance will start up late in May. Get out there before they dump even more crushed rock!

Late Edits & Updates: 

No, your eyes do not deceive you. This is the new Lefty Ocho
Cannondale Introduces The Lefty Ocho (And Some New XC 29"er Too.....BUT THAT FORK!)

A rumor was swirling around late last year that Cannondale was going to unleash some new technology on the mtb world for 2018 and that one of those things was to be a new Lefty fork. Well, today Cannondale let the cat outta the bag and here you see it- The Lefty Ocho.

Of course, traditional media already has this fork (and the bike it comes on) and you can read the reviews as well as I can. I will only pass on a few tidbits I have gleaned from the Cannondale rep that serves the shop where I work.

First, and most amazingly to me, despite losing the triple clamp of yore, the fork's original prototypes were too stiff and the designers had to go back and design in some compliance. Secondly, and probably most importantly, the fork is now compatible with bikes using a tapered steer tube- not a proprietary steer tube as before, or limited to specially modded crown/triple clamp mods. So, Cannondale has always sold aftermarket with Leftys, but now they are pursuing this more overtly. Expect to see Leftys on all sorts of bikes in about a year. Not only has the fork been made more universal in terms of fitment, but now Cannondale can use head tube lengths appropriate to whatever bike they want to design, and not have to fit the triple crown length specifically.

Of course, you may be so weirded out and/or repulsed by the Lefty Ocho that none of this matters, but this still represents a major innovation in fork technology, and it works well. My thought is that a travel reduced version might easily be adapted to a gravel bike. Hmm........I bet we see that too. 

 New Post On Riding Gravel:

I generally don't push content here, but I am particularly proud of the effort put in by contributor John Ingham on his latest essay for the site entitled "To Cosmos and Beyond". If you decide to check it out, be forewarned- it is a long read. Get your favorite beverage ready beforehand!

Okay, this weekend could be quite a doozy. Things are happening behind the scenes which could make things real interesting! Get out and ride yer bikes folks!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ergon ST Core Saddle Review- Part Two

The Ergon ST Core Saddle continues to get use on my Surly 1X1 fixed gear commuter and I figured it was time to give an update on how things have been going with it so far. I got this saddle in February and started riding it before the month was out so I have a solid two and a half month's worth of riding on it now. (See the first part of this review HERE)

The conditions have ranged from sub-freezing, snow, rain, and have now included temperatures as high as 80°F and lots of Sun. Basically everything you can throw at a saddle for conditions, this saddle has seen it. My commute also takes in several potentially muddy sections, LOTS of busted up pavement, curb hops, and even a grassy field.

First off, the saddle has come through remarkably well in terms of its condition. It looks as new, save for a few wrinkles in the cover where the nose of the saddle flows back to the sit bone area. I have an image below showing this. It is a minor thing and it points out something I will detail further into this article.

Secondly, I think it is pertinent to remember that the bicycle I have the ST Core saddle mounted to is a fixed gear bike. The dynamic forces on the saddle are quite different than if I had a freewheel and it is my opinion the fixed gear riding puts more stress on the saddle. Since there is no coasting, the saddle sees pedaling forces 100% of the time I ride it as well.

You can see the slight wrinkling in the saddle cover here in this image.
Saddles are intensely personal. One saddle that your friend raves about may be your worst nightmare. So, I hesitate to say that the Ergon saddle here is "bad" or "good" in this regard. I can only relay to the reader what I like and what this saddle does or doesn't do to accommodate that. Then you have to think that over and come to your own conclusions.

In my case, the ST Core is a bit too much in the back half for my rear end. I compared it to saddles I like, (WTB Pure, SST, Brooks C-17, B-17) and it gets wider sooner in its length than those other saddles do. This may be why I find it hard to sit on the back end of this saddle and why it chafes me some where you see the wrinkles above.

I was forewarned that this is a saddle that is to be used in a more upright riding position, and I cannot think of a more upright seated bike than my 1X1. So, in terms of how I am using this saddle, I think I am well within the parameters as set out to me in the beginning. Fit issues aside, this saddle does have great attributes for those whose posteriors do fit the mold of the ST Core.

The shape is pretty broad from the mid-point on back here.
First off, the Core technology works. You will think you have a half inflated tire the first time you ride an ST Core saddle because it has a lot of give built into it. This smooths out the cracks and crevices in any road so well you hardly think about unweighting the saddle and standing on the pedals. This works on sharp hits and higher vibration inducing chatter as well as rocking in tune with your pedal stroke. It all adds up to comfort that isn't obtrusive or that messes with your cadence much at all. I only noticed excessive bounciness when I out ran my fixed gear and was spinning wildly. That said, even then the ST Core absorbed a lot of that self-induced bobbing.

I think it is also noteworthy that I used this saddle almost exclusively with street clothing. I wore my usual denim jeans, Dickies, and shorts when it got warmer. In fact, I don't think I ever put a chamois to this saddle once. So, besides the minor fitting issues I had, I believe this saddle would be the bees knees for a commuter, city biker, or recreational cyclist with an upright positioned bike and a penchant for a broader saddle. The channel in the saddle wasn't noticed at all while riding, so I guess it worked. I never went numb, just for the record!

The Ergon ST Core saddle as mounted to my Surly 1X1 fixed gear commuter rig.
Conclusions: The Ergon technology used in the ST Core is impressive. It works when it is cold and when it is hot. It works in rain and in snow. After almost three months of hard use it shows hardly a wrinkle. The ride you get from this saddle is definitely smoother than it would be without it and using another saddle. You can think of it as sprung, but not bouncy. The material used to absorb vibrations seems damped to a slight degree. Well enough that bouncing out of the saddle is rare and only happens on sudden, jarring hits that would send you flying using a typical saddle.

Such a great saddle but.......sigh! That fit...... It just doesn't quite fit the ol' Guitar Ted rear undercarriage. I would love to see a pared down. sleeker, "bucket style", maybe less foam-infused version for my gravel bike. I think a performance oriented saddle of this nature would be a great idea.

However; if you have an upright seated position on your bike and you gravitate to a wider saddle profile, this may be for you. MSRP: $149.99

Note: Ergon USA  sent over the Ergon ST Core saddle at no charge for testing and I was not paid nor bribed for this review.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Back On It

I visited Petrie Road again.
This post-Trans Iowa period took a bite out of my riding. I wasn't in any shape to go out into the country again until last week. My first post-Trans Iowa ride was down to visit Petrie Road, the only through-Level B Road in Black Hawk County which isn't linked to pavement or dead ended into a limited access highway.

I'd heard a rumor this section of Petrie had been declassified to Level C Maintenance, which means it gets gates and access is only allowed by the local farmers. I can see this happening someday as the farmers that live around this road are stumping for that change. Especially one farmer that we ran afoul of during T.I.v12. (It all turned out okay in the end.) They are tired of getting visitors in the dead of night that have gotten stuck trying to traverse this nasty strip of Iowa dirt, clay, and sand. I get it. But I hope it doesn't ever happen, for selfish reasons, and I admit that.

The ride almost was a bust right out of the gate, as I completely forgot to bring any water. I didn't realize this until I was well into the ride I had planned, so I couldn't turn back home and grab a water bottle and still have time to do what I wanted to do. However; I figured out how to make my route swing through the city of Hudson and the Casey's that is there. That made the ride doable without putting myself into water deficit. Onward to Petrie Road! The bonus was that I now had the wind in my favor as I made my way there.

Not a lot of greenery out here yet.

I found that the rumors of Petrie's demotion to Level C were wrong. That was a good thing to see. The road had water pools, mud, sand, and ruts a plenty. The agricultural activity has been high on Petrie's Level B section and those machines have the sandy bits churned up pretty well. You had to pay close attention to the ruts as the wrong choice might lead you to a dead end into grassy strips along the road's margin's or lead you to a wicked transition between ruts. The Vittoria Terreno Dry tires are really champs out here in stuff like this. I was glad to have had them on.

It was great to get out again. I missed it terribly. That said, it's been slim pickens for riding time due to various obligations, family time, and weather. Plus I have basically had to start from zero with training. That's another thing Trans Iowa always did. Knocked me backward a couple months in training. But now I am looking forward to more regular riding times.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The 50th Anniversary Of The Charles City Tornado

An aerial view of Charles City, looking North, after the F-5 tornado on May 15th, 1968
There are certain days that you will never forget. A special birthday, a wedding, a birth of a child, a job promotion, a bicycle ride, or what have you.

One of my "burned into memory" days is May 15th, 1968. I was a first grade student at McKinley Elementary school, living in a different house, having just moved across town, and the child of a stay at home mom and a father who worked at the Oliver Farm Equipment factory. My sister, who was four, was at home with my Mom, not old enough to attend school yet.

May 15th was a hot day. I remember walking home from school the new way. Only the third time I'd done it, since we had moved the weekend before. The walk took me by the local towing service, Leon & Gene's Texaco, where smashed cars from accidents would sit in a row behind the station. I stopped and examined the latest fender benders. Then I walked across the fairly new Brantingham Bridge, the newer elderly housing projects were just to the west on the South side of the river. The road over the Cedar was Highway 18, and it was a very busy street. My new home was on this highway just a few blocks North of the Cedar River on 4th and B Street's corner. I remember staring over the bridge railing looking at the running waters of the Cedar River, and I was thinking it was humid and pretty hot that day. I was looking forward to watching the cartoons on the T.V when I got home.

From near the Floyd County Fairgrounds about six miles West of Charles City
You see, we had no video, computer, or other media distractions then. Just two grainy T.V. stations and afternoon cartoon shows which were sandwiched in between the afternoon soap operas and the evening news. My show was called "Bart's Clubhouse" on KGLO, a station out of Mason City. The host, Bart Curran, was the station's meteorologist.

During the show, Bart broke in and told the viewers that there was a bad storm on the way and it was going along a line marked by a ruler he was holding on an Iowa map. The ruler went directly through Charles City. Of course, being seven years old, I was sent into a tizzy by this information and was running around trying to get my parents to "do something", but all they did was brush me off. Meanwhile it got darker and darker and it started in raining.

Along about the time we were supposed to sit down to the evening meal, it was dark as night, hailing, and then the lights went out. Having never been in our new house's basement, my Dad picked me up and, just before ducking into the dank blackness, I turned to see a huge three story high basswood tree fall on the highway. A few minutes later the world I knew was turned inside out.

After the tornado I couldn't wander around due to all the debris everywhere in the town.

The city was forever changed. I didn't know the city well then, so for me, it was just a bummer since all this cool stuff was going on all Summer and I was limited to the house. But in reality 13 people lost their lives, many hundreds were injured, and millions of dollars of property were damaged. The city was wrecked and it needed a lot of help.

Later on I grew to understand the gravity of what had happened. In 2008, when a neighboring town called Parkersburg suffered an F-5 tornado, I was able to be a volunteer and help those victims clean up. It was the least I could do after having benefited from similar aid in 1968, despite my being unaware of it

Today marks 50 years since that day I won't forget. I'll be especially mindful of that day long ago on this anniversary.

For a more in depth look at what it was like that day and shortly afterward, the "Mason City Globe Gazette" ran this story Sunday about the anniversary of the Charles City Tornado.