We see a town in the distance…convenience store! But what town is it, kind of weird having no idea. As we ride through the little town we see “Home of the Rebels” everywhere. Frankly, from the look of the houses we pass, these people do not look very rebellious. We’re almost through town when we see the water tower, Gladbrook!

There are about 8 bikes at the Caseys when we rolled in most were familiar faces, Dan, my Cirrem friend, Agatha, who’d cooked by us earlier in the day, Agatha’s male riding buddy (more on him later) and the broken pedal guy. Shortly after we arrived our British buddy and Brian with the giant head rolled in.

I don’t really remember what I ate here. It all starts to run together. Pizza, pretty sure, chocolate milk, I remember having it somewhere and probably some more Gatorade. Mixed my last dose of Perpetuem, more chamois cream, more chain lube. Temp was dropping so put my wool t-shirt base layer on and most of my outer layer. Another weird thing we noticed, the temperature was warmer than the start the morning before but wearing all the same stuff wasn’t enough, I was freezing. Good thing I had the wool t-shirt and another outer layer to add. I ended up wearing every stitch of clothes I brought.

Lights on, roll out. Two old guys figuring out how they were going to be able to read the cue cards at night was pretty comical. I had spent a bunch of time getting a flat plastic magnifier the size of a credit card. I figured I could attach it to my handlebars and hold it over the cards to read them. It didn’t work at all so I ended up riding all night with my reading glasses perched on my nose. Attractive. Had to align my helmet light and glasses just right to read the cue sheets but could manage. Brad took a different path and had a mini light strapped to his hand. When he shown it on the card he could read the turn. I liked his solution!

We heard plenty of stories about getting lost at night so we were super-careful but it still took two of us to navigate. What was easy in daylight becomes a real challenge at night. Both the bike and the light are bouncing so you take these fast glances at the cue sheet and hope you read it all correctly. We can’t remember the next turn for more than 10 seconds so we constantly double check each other but it seems to work and we stay on course.

It’s a beautiful night with about 5 million stars shining above us. There’s no one else in sight either in front or behind us so we roll on and enjoy the view. Seems like there’s a significant amount of fresh gravel on these roads and they’ve gotten hilly again, great. The loose gravel means we really have to pay attention and hold back on the descents. Just in case the star show wasn’t enough, a full moon starts to rise in the east. It’s an amazing site and gives us a little background lighting.

At some point we stop to take a leak and get something to eat from our packs. As we’re standing by the side of the road we see a lone light top a hill and then disappear in the valley, someone’s catching up to us. They’re pretty close to us so we wait to take off so we can see who it is. It’s Agatha’s friend but sans Agatha. Brad asks him if he wants some company, he says sure, so the three of us take off together. We’ve got about 100 miles to go at this point and we’ll ride with Derek until the end.

Derek’s from DeKalb, IL and is just a kid. He’s in his last year of college and thinks this race is great fun. We learn that Agatha’s dropped out. Derek says her body was willing but mentally she’d lost it. Brad and I are excited because we’ve got some young eye’s with us now that can read the damn cards!

At some point we reconnect with Alex (broken pedal), Christina (ss from Portland), Christina’s support guy and Andrea (Iowa City). I can’t remember if they just pedaled up to us or if we were stopped again and they caught us. We all chat for a while and then the three of us, Alex and Andrea pull away from Christina and her friend. We’ve covered a few miles and are riding at a decent pace when we realize Alex is missing. Can’t figure out what happened to him. I thought he must have sat up and waited for Christina and the other guy but we find out later he pulled off to take a catnap in the ditch.

So now there are four of us. We stay together and cruise along until Andrea just pulls off the front by herself. That girl can ride! Right before Andrea left us, I come very close to going down. The car tracks on gravel roads get packed hard like cement and you can really fly down the hills. Brad and Derek were on the right side of the road and I was a little behind them on the left. They were cooking along so I figured all was good and did the same. What I couldn’t see, until I was in it, was the fresh gravel on just my side of the road. Both tires sliding around at 25 miles an hour, in the dark, isn’t good and my mind starts to prepare my body to go down. I brake as gently as I can and somehow stay upright ending up on the far left right at the lip of the ditch. Wow, that was an orifice puckerer!

We grind through the night and enjoy coyotes, owls, chocolate covered espresso beans and Jack Daniels. Well, Derek enjoyed a little Jack, for some reason that didn’t sound good to me at all.

My lights start to fade but I don’t want to stop and change batteries so I tuck in behind Brad or Derek and mooch theirs. I can just see the faintest light on the horizon so I figure I can gut it out until sunrise, which I do. It’s been 80 miles since the last convenience store. We know there’s one more and we think it’s coming up in another 10 miles. We are ready. Everyone’s cold and hungry and looking for a little break. I’m ready for some coffee!

We see a town in the distance and we can tell we’re heading towards it, success! Turns out to be Brooklyn, Iowa, they have a Casey’s and at 6 am, it’s open. No pizza but the Casey’s breakfast sandwiches, which are normally lousy, taste great this morning. Fill bottles, lube chain, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, Rice Crispy treat to get me home and we start the last 60 miles.

Guitar Ted has saved the worst hills of the race for the last 50 miles, thank you very much, Mr. Ted! They’re steep and they’re non-stop. No choice but to grind up and roll down, over and over and over. My butt is really getting sore now so I’m standing up a lot and doing some serious fidgeting to try to find a spot down there that doesn’t hurt.  A nice farmer we meet sticks his head out of his truck window and reminds us, “it’s all uphill to the finish”. Thanks for the words of encouragement!

It’s getting hot so we strip off the rest of our outer layer, Derek lightest layer is a heavy long-sleeved jersey. Didn’t that boy check the forecast! He peels off his jersey to expose a pretty nasty sunburned back from the afternoon before. I talk him into putting on a jacket and leaving it open. We roll by Christina and friend again; she’s going to make it! They must have passed us when we were at Casey’s in Brooklyn. That chick never stops!

We come to a 2-mile stretch of B road, which breaks the monotony. They are totally rideable, can’t imagine what a drag walking them and carrying or B_Roadpushing your bike would be at this stage of the game. After we get off the B road, we can see Grinnell in the distance, I can’t freakin’ believe it, this is about over! We pass through the southern tip of Grinnell, then cover the last three miles of gravel to the finish. Our elapsed time is just over 32 hours. My wife’s there cheering for me and looking better than ever. She’s my biggest fan and has my unending devotion. She’s also a saint for putting up with all my training, races, expenses and craziness.

Finishing feel’s fantastic. Guitar Ted’s there to congratulate us and make it official. There are a few other riders hanging around but most finisher have taken off for a shower and some food pretty quickly. My buddy Rob is there with, what’s that, a cold beer! Oh yea. We load up and go home where I immediately head for the shower. I keep nodding off under the water so figure a nap is order. Two hours later I wake up drooling and disoriented.Finishing

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