Midwest Tandem Rally 2014

Courtney Johnson


Thursday August 28 and Friday August 29

    Driving...and driving...and more driving.  That basically describes our journey to Fort Wayne Indiana.  We ate at a... you guessed it... Mexican restaurant before leaving town.  I stayed awake for quite awhile and even drove some but at some point, I was just exhausted and fell asleep.  Our motel for the night was ratchet, as teenagers would say nowadays.  We couldn't get into the room with the key provided and for some reason and they ran out of new keys. Go figure. The one we finally were able to get into had no dead bolt and it smelled like smoke.  It was obviously the left over room for emergency use only. Now, if you smoke, more power to you, but I personally do not enjoy the smell of tobacco thus I was not exactly jumping for joy when our NON SMOKING room smelled as such.  

    The following morning I slept for three hours after eating at Taco Bell for breakfast.  It was great.  I continued reading Devil in the White City for English class while we made our way to Fort Wayne.  Lunch was at Subway.  That's basically all there is to tell about that.  We found the Hilton and decided to park the van in the parking garage (discounted parking for guests). The problem with said garage is the height limit of 7 ft.  We barely cleared the height requirement and some of those cement things are very very close to hitting, like an inch or two away.  We did get it parked in there, however, and checked in at the desk.  After dragging all of our stuff up to the room we decided to try out the ice cream ride.  

    Two things that should be standard at tandem rallies: do not, under any circumstance, put tandems on a trail that is difficult to navigate with hairpin turns, blind corners, and poles all over the place.  Don't do it.  Second, mark your course, come on.  During the ride we got off multiple times because we had no idea where the heck we were supposed to be going.  The trails would turn into sidewalks and there were not markings anywhere.  Fantastic.  At some point we gave up and turned around, ending our short little ride at 8.4 miles with an 11 mph average with another tandem or two trying to follow us after having their own difficulties.  

    We ate dinner down the street at J.K. O'Donnell's, an Irish pub restaurant with delicious orange soda that was fantastic.  Can I get a life time supply please?  I ate a chicken sandwich, Natalie had a salad, and Julie went for a veggie burger.  Dad ate whatever the rest of us didn't eat.  Although our waitress was a complete grump who didn't want to do anything, I did like the restaurant quite a bit.

    We got back to the hotel and went to sleep, anticipating the next day to be busy.

Saturday August 30   

    I was the official time keeper this morning and got everyone out of bed.  Breakfast was at, you guessed it, Taco Bell.  When Julie and I went back to the room, Dad and Natalie went to a convenience store to find sunscreen, one item that was left at home accidentally.  They were unsuccessful in their venture but we were able to find a small tube in the basket.  We got all of our gear on and pulled the bikes back out of the van, and headed over to the start.  With many tandems there, we decided to start towards the front.  Our police escort led us a lot further out than I expected but he did keep everyone in the group together for the most part.  When he did pull off, we were right by a group of tandems that would be a quick draft group for close to 20 miles (from the start).  At some point we did drop off the back but within five miles was a SAG, where we got off for a moment.  SAG food was actually good this time around with fresh fruit, trail mix, Gatorade, chips, you name it.  

    When we followed a trail out by the main road, they wanted us to cross the grass and a small gravel lot onto the street.  Not totally believing them, we kept going on the path to where it looped back around to the shelter.  Fantastic.  We ended up getting off the bike and walking across the ditch and onto the road.  We caught a fast paced group of tandems and rode with them for a long ways past towering corn fields and much smaller bean plants.  I had no idea corn could grow that tall.  It's insane.  We were done fighting wind for a lot of the ride and so the more favorable conditions helped morale all over.  We made it to the lunch stop and decided to take a quick break before starting out on the long option, which was a twenty mile loop.  The first half of the loop was fine until we turned into the wind and I dropped my water bottle.  Great.  Dad and Julie went back for it (chased us down - thanks guys) while Natalie and I continued on.  The wind was definitely picking up and I was not exactly enthused by this wonderful weather condition.  

    The lunch stop was very nice to see again but there should also be a rule against wraps as food.  I'm sorry but it seems like every single rally has terrible food for the lunch stops, and I'm not a wrap person to begin with but those are just yuck.  They did have Mountain Dew available for riders, which was very considerate of them.  We got going again in much better spirits and feeling slightly better after munching on food.  Peril struck our water bottles again as Julie's top bottle decided to take a dive for the asphalt.  We kept going when they went to go get it.  That same tandem group went by again and we jumped on the back, drafting our way back into town.  Those guys run fast, let me tell you, they don't fool around.  The corn rows slowly changed into manicured lawns and eventually we had to jump off onto a trail.  Most of the group missed this turn (everyone but Natalie and I, Dad and Julie, and one other tandem).  In the end the others would catch up to us and we would all go by the Hilton in a group.

    After the ride, Natalie and I went swimming at the tiny pool in the big hotel before all of us went to a pizza place down the street.  We ordered an extra large bbq chicken with green olives.  It was quite delectable.  The restaurant was decorated with flying pigs of all things.  When pigs fly...

    We walked around admiring the courthouse down the street before going back to the Hilton in search of pictures taken by the ever fantastic Miles.  We were successful and then went back to the room where everyone chilled out.  I, however, finished the CANDISC story, HHH story, and finished the first day of MTR.  Boom.  Super awesome.  I'm going to bed now...  

Sunday August 31

    Good morning people!  We are ready to head out once again on a very nice morning!  The start was busy, as usual, with many a tandem team waiting for the signal to "GO!"  We made our way out of town in a different direction this morning on a road that could use a little bit of TLC.  It was kind of cloudy to start out with but it kept the overall temperature down some.  The route to start out with was very interesting.  There were a lot of stop signs and turns so hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait.  The main peloton split into multiple groups fairly early on but we were with one of the groups in the front.  Even with all of the turns and slowing down, we were able to finally get a stretch of road where we could ride without turning for quite awhile.  A SAG wasn't far ahead and our nice group of thirteen or so tandems split up once we reached the stop. 

   There was not much of a group once we got going once again.  We meandered our way through some very tall corn fields on a country road that wasn't much better than the road out of town.  Eventually, a group of tandems began to go past us so we decided to ride with them for some company.  We were able to get on a better road around this point in time, although it did have a little bit more traffic.  Once we turned right to the town, that was home to our lunch stop, we had a nice downhill run to food... except there were speed bumps at the park entrance.   WHYYYY does the world hate me so much?  Even the line for lunch was long.  Rawr.

   We decided to do the long loop instead of waiting in line so off we went... up the hill we just came down.  The long loop route took us through some more corn fields but once again, the road was a little rough.  There were a few small hills occasionally but nothing huge by any means.  It was a fairly nice ride but I was hungry for sure.  A couple tandems rode past us and we tried to ride with them for awhile but they were going about three mile per hour too fast for us to hang on.  I was really starting to feel the effects of yesterday's ride. 

   Lunch was just on the horizon but the food wasn't necessarily the most appetizing.  Food did help get us going down the road in short order, however.  We rode through a small town that had a building decorated with coffins and a grim reaper.  It was a little strange. Natalie and I admired the grim reaper carving from afar and continued down the road while Dad and Julie stopped to get a couple of pictures.  Not too far down the road, we came across a triplet and a tandem (one family) riding together.  We rode with them for a little while and once the captain of the triplet saw that we were drafting, he started to pick up speed.  At this point in the ride, we didn't have the most favorable winds and our corn fields weren't as much of a wind block as we would have liked.  Anyhow, we drafted off of the tandem for a bit while they drafted off of the triplet.  The tandem would slow way down and then catch back onto the triplet.  Did you really think you could get rid of us that easily?  At one point when they slowed down, I just went around them and started drafting off of the triplet myself.  At that point, they began to pick up speed to see just how well we could hang on.  They even dropped the tandem that was with them.  Dad and Julie kind of hung off of the back and let Natalie and I do our own thing... or as one person on the tandems list put it, they were "unceremoniously dropped".  Not exactly but that made us laugh :)  We hung with the triplet until there were signs telling riders to get off of their bikes due to a really rough railroad crossing.  One of the signs even said "listen to your stoker!"  Go MTR sign people.  Dad and Julie flew up ahead of us to check out the crossing situation and I got the "yeah, get off, this track sucks" from Dad over the headset.  AWESOME. 

   That track was super nasty.  Like evil.  We got off for a couple of seconds to wait for the triplet once all of us crossed the track but they were going to wait for the other tandem team to get started.  The lady on the back of the triplet even asked if we raced.  Um, no but thanks! 

   We got back on the bike and continued down the road to where we saw a SAG up ahead.  At this point, we had been on the bike for about 20 miles without getting off so we decided to take a short break but just as we were about to turn, the group of tandems we rode with in the morning were pulling out of the stop.  I asked Natalie what she wanted to do: stop or keep going so we could ride with a group.  We got in with the group and rode all of the way into town.  Although the last stretch was a tiny bit hectic with all of the traffic, the riding was good and everyone stayed together through town. 

   After the ride, we went and found Miles to purchase some photos.

   The drive back to Kansas City was rather uneventful.  I finished up Devil in the White City, my AP English novel and we ate at a Mexican restaurant for dinner (surprise surprise)


   Thanks for taking the time to read through my MTR ride report!  I hope you enjoyed!  (Sorry it took so long)