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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
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Trans Iowa: Right Where I Belong
Five times I’ve trained, stressed, and obsessed over Trans Iowa. Trans Iowa, a race I fell in love with as a budding, fresh-faced endurance cyclist, looking for an adventure that would go beyond anything I’d ever done.
Heading into TI v9 this year, I hoped and planned for my fourth finish of the event. I’d been fortunate enough to finish in second place in two of the previous additions. There’s a point where those finishes don’t really mean all that much, because just completing Trans Iowa is a monumental feat in itself. Those finishes did give me a boost of confidence though, and it meant that now I wanted to win! As I headed down to Grinnell, Iowa from my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, winning was on my mind, but just finishing remained the primary goal.
My wife Amy and I loaded up my Warbird Ti and headed to Iowa one more time. Amy would serve as my “support” for the race, which isn’t quite the same as what support means in other races. Trans Iowa is a self-supported, nonstop, 320-mile gravel road race. Riders are not allowed to accept outside assistance. They must fend for themselves, using resources such as gas stations, bars, or stores for resupply. However, competitors are allowed to help each other. Amy would provide “support” for me in that I would know she was back at the hotel waiting for me, listening to the updates via the Internet, sending me positive thoughts, and looking for me at the finish line. Just knowing she was there would prove invaluable as I took on the struggles that go hand and hand with the TI.
“Do you mind if I sneak in here?” I asked as I found my place in the front row at the start line. Ultra-fit athletes surrounded me as I chatted with some familiar faces. My nerves simmered on low while Guitar Ted, the race director, moved through his vital last minute instructions. I felt his voice drift into the background as I became lost in my own thoughts regarding the race, or more accurately adventure, that I have come to love so deeply. I’m not sure how or why, but Trans Iowa had wiggled its way in, grabbed hold of me, and it wouldn’t let go.
I scanned through the field and saw riders re-checking gear and quietly asking questions of each other. ‘They’re nervous’, I thought. I was pleased to see them with the jitters as this race is not to be taken lightly. A lot can happen and things can get serious in a hurry. Being nervous means that the situation has been accepted, at least the best that it can be. My nerves weren’t as high as I thought they should be. Would I be able to ride the distance completely if I had not mentally come to terms with it? I told myself that I’d done it before and I could do it again. While fumbling with my GPS, Guitar Ted’s voice came rushing back into my head, “BE CAREFUL!” he shouted and then disappeared into his truck. ‘We’re close’ I thought. Just then I heard the horn sound and he began the lead out. I turned my cranks over for the first of possibly a million revolutions. I was underway in my fifth Trans Iowa. I was right where I belonged.
With the race starting at 4 a.m. I knew that staying safe early on was paramount. Also, experience has taught me that TI always goes off like a rocket…more like the start of a two-hour mountain bike race, than the start of a daylong effort. v9 wouldn’t be any different. We hit the gravel and within a minute I was on the rivet as racers traded surges at the front. I told myself that it was all part of it and that soon enough we would settle in. I just needed to be smart and keep up. Familiar faces were all around me as we jockeyed for position within the group. The speed was high and I was content to just be in the group. I knew I wasn’t as strong as some of the other riders, but I also knew that I had experience and mental toughness on my side. Plus, I’ve built a reputation that says I can take the pain. I hoped these assets would play to my favor.
I found comfort in knowing the Salsa kit that seemed to always be near me through those early miles belonged to Paul Errington of Newcastle in the United Kingdom. Paul and I met last year while competing in the Dirty Kanza 200, another premiere gravel event held in Kansas. Paul and I had talked the night before and I told him that I felt we had a good chance of riding together and that I hoped we would. Paul shrugged this off stating that he had no expectations in the race other than finishing. I let him know we were on the same page. I also knew that if I wanted to ride with Paul I would need to be on my game as I’ve seen him in action on the gravel. He’s smooth, controlled, and he can run his big motor wide open whenever he needs to. Most importantly, Paul is calm and I wanted that calm around me.
It seemed that my partner in the Salsa kit was shadowing my early moves, sticking to my wheel as I did my best to run in third or fourth position, high enough up to cover sudden gaps, but deep enough to hide in the valuable draft. Jim Cummins, director of the Dirty Kanza, was cruising comfortably in this lead group as well. Jim defines ‘salt of the Earth’ and would be willing to give up his good position in a race if it meant he had a chance to drop a compliment your way. He’s the type of guy you want to be around in a race like TI so that’s what I did. The position felt good, the speed was a bit high, and the gravel a bit soft, but the company I kept was what I was hoping for. I liked how the first few hours had unfolded and the good news was that my first sunrise of the event happening off to my left was a sight to behold. ‘It’s happening, TI is giving us our first gift’, I thought.
The pace was finally settling a bit. Truth told, I recall thinking ‘Finally I’m at about 85% effort and it’s only taken 2.5 hours to come down to this point’! I was handling it, but the pace would have to slow at some point. A glance to my right while climbing one of the hundreds of hills and noted Paul moving past me in a fluid motion as if the hill was just a slight inconvenience. Suddenly, the gravel felt unusually soft and squirrely, so much so that I began to check the road. Everything seemed fine, but my steering was wandering. It took about two seconds for the sickening feeling to hit my stomach. My front tire was going flat!
Without mercy the lead pack motored on. “Ahhhhh, I’ve got a flat!” I yelled as a gut reaction. Immediately, I spotted a good spot to pull over, but something struck me as odd. Off the back end of the disappearing group, a Salsa kit was slowing and the rider was looking back with concern. Paul from the U.K. was stopping for me. “Paul, you don’t have to stop. Go on!” I exclaimed. In his British accent, he calmly stated that it was fine; he’d wait for me. Soon, the gravel came alive with the sound of another rider approaching. Jim Cummins pulled up and asked in his Kansas drawl if everything was okay. He quickly assessed the situation and started to gather up my maimed tube in an effort to help, while I desperately and hurriedly worked to make a smooth change. “Solve the problem, solve the problem”, I kept repeating to myself as I searched the inside of the tire for a sharp object that might be stuck in the rubber, but there was nothing. With what seemed like a thousand flats in the past I knew that tires just don’t suddenly go flat for no reason and punctures that occur without leaving evidence are rare, but still I found no culprit. I chalked it up to one of those rare occasions…when a flat is just a flat…with no rhyme or reason. In a few minutes the new tube was in and I hit the valve with a blast from a CO2 canister.
Paul, Jim, and I left the side of the road together. I had one thing on my mind, ‘Get back to the front!’ We rode with purpose, but not over our heads, and it wasn’t long before a large group of riders appeared ahead of us in the distance. We’d join this group, slipping into their company like guests arriving late to a party. I was confident that holding steady with this crew would bridge us back, maybe not to the lead group, but definitely up to the business end of the race. The hours rolled on as the crispness of the morning was wearing off. I felt the heat building in the ‘night’ clothes that I started the race with. It was time to drop some layers.
My mind was clear of worry as the early flat was behind me. I was looking to the future and beginning to auger in for the long haul that lay ahead. Cruising comfortably, conscious of the draft, I stayed in good position within the group as I knew that conserving energy was a top priority. The surroundings were bucolic as we moved through the farm country of Iowa. Trans Iowa had opened its arms and welcomed us into the world we’d all worried about for so long. A good feeling rose up inside me as I watched rookies embrace TI much the way I did that first time. Then, without warning my front tire wavered again and was losing air fast!
A second flat on the same tire? Something was definitely wrong. It was just too much of a coincidence. Again, my heart sank as I sprung the news to my group that I had another flat. Once again, Paul stopped to wait. As I contemplated his gesture I noticed the entire group had stopped. I was flattered by their consideration, but I needed to get to the task at hand. Former teammate and friend, Matt Gersib, went right to work on the problem with me. Like a panicked child I desperately tried to explain to him that something must be stuck in the tire. Calmly he told me to remove the entire tire off the rim and he would examine it. “But, I checked it before! I checked it! I don’t understand! What is wrong?” I franticly ranted. We inspected the rim and tire, nothing appeared out of the ordinary, so we put it all down under the fluke file and pushed on.
Now I was a wreck, completely consumed by thoughts of another flat. I couldn’t stop checking my tires, bouncing on my bike, as my uncontrolled paranoia ran amuck. ‘If I make it two hours with no problems I’ll buy into the fluke theory and be done worrying about this’, I told myself.
An hour and a half later, my concerns were slipping into the past as I began to feel some of the miles in my legs. I hadn’t been eating regularly as my worry over the tire had gotten the best of me. As I centered my mind on a better plan to manage my nutrition it happened again! “PAUL!” I yelled in an effort to stop him. I was out of tubes and I was hoping he’d donate one of his to my cause. He stopped yet again, curled back to me and in a stoic calmness flatly stated, “Another one?” I asked him if I could have one of his tubes as he was already removing one from his bag. I wanted him to leave me, to pursue his own race now. He’d done more than he should have for me. I felt that I was ruining his race and it hurt. My second thought was, ‘I’m done! I’m going to quit!’ Just then a car pulled up with a happy young driver curious as to what was going on. “A bike race,” I snapped. Pulling myself back together I checked my tone. “We’re in a 320-mile bike race that starts and ends in Grinnell.” He looked confused and tried to make sense of it with a few more questions. Instead of answering him I asked, “Where’s the closest town?” “About four miles down the road is Union”, he said. I looked to Paul and told him that I was going to push my bike to Union and call Amy, and that my Trans Iowa was over. Paul tossed me a half smile and muttered something I didn’t understand as I often had trouble with his accent. He wouldn’t leave, so I told him that we had to go through the tire more thoroughly than before in order to find the problem or else it would be game over.
Again, I stripped the tire completely off the rim and together we turned it over slowly in our hands. Two dirty men standing in the middle of Iowa on a lonesome gravel road, face to face under a brilliantly blue sky studying a piece of rubber as if they were performing brain surgery. Anything that seemed out of the ordinary I honed in on, but they were always false alarms, just little stuck pebbles. I turned the tire with Paul and suddenly noticed a cut in the tread. Immediately, I spread the cut with my fingernails and noticed the back end of a miniscule dagger. “WAIT, I’VE GOT SOMETHING!” I told my partner. I worked out the little gravel knife and placed it in the palm of Paul’s hand. It was no larger than an ant’s head, and shaped like a triangle with a sharp point. My eyes slowly raised up to his, our faces no more than eight inches apart as I stated, “I’m back!” Paul hesitated, then as a small smile crept across his face he simply said, “Back in the race.” I flew through the reassembly and accidently put the damaged tube back into the tire. Luckily Paul caught the mistake and soon we were back on the road, back on track in the Trans Iowa, right where I belonged.
Confident now that my Warbird was sound we pushed on toward checkpoint two, 170 miles from the start. The miles passed as slowly as the scenery. We moved side by side and one in front of the other for hours, sometimes without a word spoken between us. Accompanied by a strong group that had picked us up on the road we rode in a pack. Blessed with veterans and rookies our group fit together nicely. Charles Parsons, a familiar face to me and strong TI rider, Steve Fuller, a super fit, talented ultra-distance rider, young Ben Oney, who reminded me so much of myself in my first TI, Jay Barre, who has broken onto the endurance scene with a vengeance but with a demeanor that would never let you know it, and Mike Johnson, future Tour Divide finisher. This was the core of our group with visits from Chris Wells who showed me that he has never heard of the word “quit”. Paul and I moved with this group for hours and hours like a solid unit, subtly changing positions, and sharing the load. I regretted not being able to stay up front more, but losing the lead group and the rash of flats had shaken me. I had dreamt of winning Trans Iowa but was coming to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to happen. I felt myself sinking lower emotionally as my relationship with this race seemed to have fractured. How could it have happened? How could I not be vying for the win? Hadn’t I earned it by putting on nearly two thousand miles racing on Iowa gravel? Why wouldn’t TI give me a chance to win? I felt like I was in a bad break up, being left without a good enough reason.
Thoroughly shelled I saw the checkpoint ahead and my old friend and TI veteran, Jeremy Fry, working off the bike this year. Jeremy was volunteering and I envied his position while I reviewed my condition. His words were direct and to the point, I appreciated that as I had no room for the nuances so often shared between friends who don’t see each other often. Jeremy put the information that I needed in my head in a manner that slammed it home. I had no questions for him and I liked that. As I clipped in to depart for the next convenience store Jeremy let me know in a lighthearted way that he thought the Coke in my bottle cage was a good idea, we exchanged smiles and I led the group out of the checkpoint, toward the much-needed resupply of a gas station ten miles down the road.
Paul was the first to mention “taking a break” at the store. He was barely done with the sentence when I agreed with him. We were all weary and the pretense that we weren’t was long gone. I ran through my checklist of what needed to be purchased and what needed to be done to my bike over and over. This list included sitting down with my back against the wall of the store and resting for at least 15 minutes. 182 miles is a long way on a bike no matter who you are, and when the first 70 of those are a hard effort, it takes a toll. We were shelled!
The break at the convenience store was needed and it felt good to stop riding. I worked through my list and finally, I had my chance to get those 15 minutes of just sitting. Eating a bag of chips, I surveyed a gaggle of fellow racers strewn about the oil-stained gas station entrance, some with their shoes off, some working on their only link to the finish line, their bike. I ate each chip and savored the much-needed salt that came with it. Jason Boucher was photographing the event and he seemed to buzz about like a mosquito while my world turned to the surreal. Some of his photos centered on me, but I wasn’t concerned about my appearance or if my position would lend itself to a good shot, I just wanted the next chip.
Exhausting my food and feeling like my fluids were topped off I felt it was time to go; this thing wasn’t going to finish itself. I approached Paul, his shoes were off and he looked comfortable as he socialized with a handful of riders lounging in the late afternoon sun that shone on the front of the store. “How ya doin’?” I asked. “Is it time to go?” he asked. I replied, “We should get moving.” He snapped into action. Jay Barre noticed our stir and asked if he could have a minute. “Of course”, I said. Then, it hit me. I was riding with a crew of guys who were now bonded. It reminded me of TI v3, my first effort. In that race my goal was bent solely on finishing. I was scared to death of the distance and I was scared of doing it alone. I joined a group of riders and we all took care of each other, and that experience changed me. It felt that way again and I watched, almost outside of myself, as the group looked after each other, offering help or comfort. I was transported back in time and I realized that the TI had taken me full circle. In that moment, I was in it for the very same reasons I had been when I signed up for something so big that my local newspaper did a story about my TI dream. Trans Iowa was sending me its final message and I was listening.
We left the store with a vast 145 miles remaining to the finish line. At times I felt alone despite the fact that I was with such a tight knit group. I was lost in thought, riding at the back, contemplating all that I’d been through on this day in Iowa and so many in the past.
The sun slipped away as we pushed on, the only sound was the quiet roar of gravel grinding under our tires. Men surged ahead as their most recent nutrition intake hit their systems, while others struggled to hold their wheels as ours wore off. Unexpectedly, a new element emerged in the form of a deep, damp chill. Obsession over the forecast had me believing that the low would be 46 degrees so the clothes I had with me matched that temperature. I tapped the screen of my GPS to light it up as I questioned the cold feeling of the air. The display read 36.1 degrees F! “I can handle it”, I told myself as we dealt with a breeze that was dropping the indicated temperature even further. Soon I couldn’t lie to myself any longer, I was really cold. I was experiencing deep, full body shudders as I involuntarily attempted to shake off the chill. Deep into the night we went, pushing the state of our bodies out of our minds as the miles disappeared under our wheels. Reminders began to come from riders in the group that at 90 miles into this leg we’d hit a town and another store: salvation. At this store I planned to buy whatever clothes they had in stock in an effort to warm up.
Finally in the distance, we saw the lights of a town. We were about five miles out. However, on arriving in the small hamlet we noticed it was like a ghost town. Sure, there were houses obviously occupied, but all the businesses were closed. We continued to follow the cue sheets, but soon we were on the edge of town and still no sign of an open store. Distant dogs barked as we huddled in the middle of a street contemplating our situation. Men were low on water, I was severely cold, and the fatigue was beyond real. Confusion reigned supreme, as we seemed to be trying to wish a store into existence. We considered calling Guitar Ted, but cooler heads prevailed. I began to examine the cue cards more closely when I realized a note on the line marked mile 109 (for that leg), it said “C-Store”. Young Ben Oney came alive with an alarm that got my attention. He hadn’t spoken for hours and suddenly he was expressing the concern that we all felt. It was as if we’d run a marathon and we were on the 25th mile when the race director announced that the finish line had been moved to mile 32. Our hearts sank. Then, in most impressive fashion, Mike Johnson, our navigator, took charge. He simply stated, “We need to push on to mile 109. Everyone open your bags and eat what food you have.” I protested as I was sick and tired of my food, and then someone suggested we eat each other’s food, so we did. Trans Iowa looked on as grown men began to help each other. Despite my condition I knew I was right where I belonged.
The snap of cleats locking into pedals was all that could be heard on the desolate street as we prepared to head for mile 109 of this section. I was faced with 19 more freezing miles and doubt began to creep in. I had to do it. Humbly I asked, “Does anyone have a spare jacket, shirt, anything they’re not using?” I didn’t want to impose, but with my extra light kit I was not prepared for the 36-degree temperature. Soon, Jay Barre spoke up, “I have a sleeveless Merino wool base layer, if that will help.” Then Steve Fuller, “I have a short sleeve base layer Tim.” I accepted them both and pulled them right over my wind vest, thanking them though I realized those thanks would never be enough. Again, a gesture of compassion among a group of men that barely knew each other, I felt TI smile down on us as its spirit dug deeper into our souls.
I vowed not to look at my mileage as we silently went in quest for what we felt was our deliverance from this desperate situation, a convenience store that, as Guitar Ted had put it, was “lit up like a Christmas tree”. We slid through the night, my mind darting around my body assessing each area of pain. My fingers were frozen and sore. My head was freezing as well, but also maintained a splitting headache at the point between my skull and helmet light strap. My lower back protested against the hours and hours of riding, but my left knee had been bothering me a bit since sun down. I played mental gymnastics with the problems as I attempted to keep them at bay. It became apparent that my knee was at the top of the list as it seemed to scowl at me like an angry child sitting in a corner, promising revenge.
The cold persisted and I resolved to accept my situation of misery. True to form the course seemed to evolve into an endless series of huge rollers that had us digging deep for the summits and coasting wildly down the chunky gravel. The pattern continued and the cold penetrated deeper into my knee. I tried to keep the complaining to a minimum, but I’m sure my comrades could hear the groans from me as I resumed pedaling through the flats between the rollers. Coasting seemed to lock up the tendons, which were clearly swollen, and then as I pedaled out of the downhill the pain would take my breath away. I soon began to adjust my stroke so that my right leg would carry about 80% of the load, while the left went along for the ride. Charles Parsons, showing no signs of trouble, drifted back in the pack to see how I was doing as if he sensed I was hurting. I unloaded my pain on him in the hopes that maybe he could somehow take it from me. I explained that pedaling was excruciating and that I needed to find a way to suppress it. He suggested that I take some of his Aleve, so I took him up on the offer, letting him know that I currently had about ten Ibuprofen in my system. I appreciated his generosity, but more importantly I appreciated him listening to me, and his display of empathy. At one point he suggested I raise my seat a ¼ inch as I had told him that a last minute change of shoe choice might have affected my seat height. I barked back at him that it was probably the 270 miles I’d ridden, not my seat height. It was the pain talking and he knew it. He shrugged off my tone and encouraged me to hang in there.
The lights of the convenience store lit up the sky above it and we poured into it like college kids entering their first bar. It felt good to be off the bike. And for me it felt good to not be rotating the leg any more. Fueling up on hot food and good laughs we all confirmed that we were a mere 41 miles from the finish, which seemed like a few blocks compared to the distance we’d ridden. I can’t be sure how long we were in the store and it didn’t really matter to me. I was with the guys I wanted to be with and I think they wanted to be with me. We were getting it done and doing it for the right reasons. I watched them in that store as they joked about the amount of food they were buying, how they teased Mike Johnson for buying a Mountain Dew sweatshirt to keep warm. It was as if we’d been riding together for years.
We pushed out of the parking lot and I noted how my partner Paul coughed and sputtered the dust from his lungs. “Look at that”, he said gesturing to the asphalt at what had just come from inside him. I shook my head at the pile of mud on the cement, “Gonna take a while to get all of that out of us, huh?” I said. We chuckled as we began to roll out toward the first of the 41 miles to go. Ten minutes later I tapped the screen of my GPS, 5:00 a.m., 25 hours in and I could feel the pain seeping back into my knee joint. I was having a hard time breathing due to the stabs of what felt like bone churning on bone. “Sunrise will warm things up. Maybe my knee just needs to be warmer,” I told myself, but I knew that it couldn’t be that simple.
The sun rose and I didn’t even notice, nor did I care. My mind was now 100% consumed with the pain. I was falling behind my group and there was nothing I could do about it. Once again, Charles Parsons drifted back to check on me. I vented to him in gasps while he offered more of his medicine. I took him up on his offer and ate all that he had, apologizing as I returned the empty container. Twenty miles out I was most certainly dropped by the group and could barely get my leg through a revolution as my heart rate would sky rocket up and down keeping rhythm with pain. I was living in the stratosphere of agony when I finally broke down. Tears began to stream down my cheeks as my world came crashing down around me. I pulled over to a cattle gate in a last ditch effort to do something to alleviate my struggle. “1/4 inch. I’ll raise it ¼ inch, maybe the change in position will…” I told myself.
Putting my tools back into my frame bag I looked up to see no one. I could hear a slight breeze blowing through open plains. I looked up to the blue sky and took a deep breath, scared to get back on my machine. Eventually, I pushed off the cattle gate and back onto the gravel. I dared myself to rotate the leg. Finally, I apprehensively allowed my foot to follow the path of the crank arm. There was no pain! Out loud I said, “What?” I turned over my legs again and no pain. Slowly I began to apply pressure to the pedal and things seemed to be okay. I rationalized that the change of seat height offered my tendons something different. “Thank you Charles!” I yelled. Up into the big ring I went for the first time since late afternoon the previous day. As I tested the leg I found more and more success. A glance at the GPS had me moving at 20 mph. I cruised through the rollers until I spotted my boys cresting a hilltop about two miles ahead. “Catch them”, I told myself. My inspiration to join them turned into a quest for the finish line. I moved through a few of them that had lost contact with the main group as I kept my eyes forward. The miles were counting down now and soon my Trans Iowa would be over.
Soon, I was in touch with Charles Parsons, Jay Barre, Paul Errington, and Steve Fuller. I rode with them briefly until the draw of finishing became too much. I lit the afterburners once again, which sparked a wild back and forth between Charles, Steve, and I. To feel the race turn into a race felt good. Soon enough our positions were determined as we were only a couple miles out, but most importantly I knew that we had done it! Although some of us were strung out along the road we’d made it together.
As I rode through those last few miles what had been stirring in my mind since the start line was now staring me right in the face. 1,800 miles of Iowa gravel was now behind me. I’d competed in five Trans Iowa’s, finishing four of them. I’d made friends that will last a lifetime. I’d found things within myself that I never would have discovered. I could feel Trans Iowa letting me go, telling me that it was okay to turn and walk away. I could hear it telling me that I’ve helped others find a passion for the event. I’d be leaving my beloved Trans Iowa now, no longer competing, but always knowing and telling others what can be found in all those miles of tough Iowa gravel. I wasn’t sure what I’d do at the finish line…what I’d say to my good friend who most know as Guitar Ted. I guess I just planned to look into his eyes and without actually saying a word, I’d say thank you.
The finish line came into my view as I backed off the power. Overwhelmed, I tried to control my swirling emotions. As if in a dream state I took in the scene. I saw and heard Amy call my name; she was clapping and beaming with pride. She moved in slow motion as I passed. Then, ahead I saw Mark holding a clipboard, noticing that it was me who was approaching. We smiled at each other and I got my chance to say “Thank you”.
Pushing my bike back to our waiting car I held my wife’s hand. I took one more look over my shoulder and watched Guitar Ted check another finisher in, shaking his hand while congratulating him. Tears were in my eyes as I took in the moment and thought, ‘Here I am at Trans Iowa, right where I belong.’
Special thanks to my wife Amy who supported me through all the training, as well as the race, without question. Thank you to Tim and Mike at Salsa Cycles…your last minute assistance with my “wheel crisis” was amazing. Thank you to Jeff Clarkson of Schwalbe Tires, your investment in my success is truly appreciated. Thanks to Chris Lupo of Rudy Project. Thank you to Lynda Wallenfells for her support and answers to my myriad of training questions. Thank you to Guitar Ted and his wonderful volunteers. Mark, I know you don’t want to take credit, but you introduced me to something bigger than all of us, something this world needs more of. You, my friend, are “One of the Good Guys” and you’ll always have a piece of my heart.
To Trans Iowa, you’ve shown me all that I could find on your wet, muddy, and dusty roads. You’ve broken me down and built me back up again. You’ve always brought me back stronger than when I started. You’ve helped me and so many others find compassion in an often times busy, surly world. No matter what your weather I have always seen your light shining down on me…so long my friend…so long.