Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for March, 2007

More commute thoughts, water purification plant ride

Friday, March 30th, 2007

One thing I try to be conscious of when riding my bike to work is to have as little impact on other workers as possible. It’s sort of like the “leave no trace” philosophy applied to my workplace. I think the better I can do this without inconveniencing anyone else, the less likely I’ll be to have any problems. Not that I’ve had any problems — in fact, everyone has been very supportive of me in this endeavor.

I park my bike in a storage room. I try to keep the amount of dirt I track in there to a minimum, which should be easy. My tires stay pretty clean through the whole ride … that is, until I reach our parking lot.

Parking lot
Our brick parking lot is filthy.

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but our parking lot contains a lot of dirt, gravel, and sometimes mud and standing water. I’m sure it’s difficult to clean, since it’s brick, but I’d really appreciate it if someone cleaned it. Thanks in advance.

Last night, I did the water purification plant ride again — I know that name doesn’t make it sound appealing, but it really is a beautiful route, it just happens to end up by the Water Works. I can optionally go down to the lake from there, but I usually don’t, because that would mean going down a big hill, turning around, and going right back up. It might be worth it to spend a few minutes at the park there, though.

Anyway, on my way out to the plant, I was riding on Smith Road, as I have many times before. I saw a rough spot in the pavement ahead of me, but it didn’t look too bad, so I just continued riding.

Rough spot on Smith Road. Also notice the signs; they make this road look more treacherous than it really is.

Well, the spot was rougher than I realized, and my bike shook a bit as I rode over it. One of my water bottles popped out of its cage and landed in the road! Fortunately, it rolled off the road, and I don’t think the car behind me hit it. I went a little further to find a place to turn around, and then went back to get the water bottle.

My water bottle laying on the grass

No harm seemed to be done to the water bottle. It’s a nice, insulated bottle, a Polar Bottle, and the lid did come loose a little bit (well, not really loose, but the threads were off). But even so, it only leaked a small amount of water. I tightened the cage and went on my way. I realize now that I’ve been putting my coffee mug in that cage, and I probably stretched it a little bit.

I also passed a teepee that I’ve seen many times before, but never photographed until now. I have no idea what its purpose is, but it’s just standing there in the middle of a big field. A couple on a tandem passed me as I photographed this teepee.

Mystery teepee

As I was getting close to the water purification plant, I was riding along and suddenly heard this scream in my ear. I looked to my left and saw a big pickup truck full of rednecks. And I do mean full, it was at redneck capacity. There were at least 3 in the cab, and at least 4 more in the bed of the truck. These guys were obviously really cool, all piling in a pickup truck and screaming at cyclists.

Patchwork Road
Patchwork road

As you can see, this road is pretty rough and hilly. But those things both really just add the the challenge, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not too rough to be a problem, but there are enough rough spots to keep you on your toes. You have to be careful, or you might lose a water bottle!

It was a great ride and a beautiful evening for one. The only complaint I have (other than the rednecks) is that there’s just a ton of roadkill out there right now, much of it decaying. So a lot of areas smell bad, and you have to be on the lookout for carcasses. There are also a fair number of bugs, which are a lot of fun to run into at 30 miles per hour. I’m getting better about keeping my mouth closed, but apparently I’m a real mouth breather when I’m riding, because it takes a concerted effort to keep my mouth closed so I won’t spoil my appetite with bugs.

Adjusting to commuting; hitting the trails again

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

I’m still enjoying commuting by bicycle a lot, although I haven’t done it as much this week as I’d like. I worked from home yesterday, and attended a Microsoft workshop on architecture and design patterns in Indianpolis with a coworker on Tuesday.

In fact, I was driving somewhere with Sarah the other day, and there was a fair amount of traffic (by Bloomington’s standards) on Third Street. Sarah said something to the effect of “This is insane!” and I agreed. I was reminded of how I used to drive that way to and from work every day. It’s worst in the evening (more people go home from work than go to work in the first place, it seems), and I realized that I actually save time on my trip home by riding. It takes a little bit longer for me to get to work on the bike, so I had assumed that I was losing some time overall — but figuring in the time savings in the evening, I’m pretty sure I actually spend less time in transit.

I almost drove to work today, as I was running late, but I decided to ride anyway. I’m glad I did, because I was in a pretty weird mood this morning, and riding always makes me feel better. I waved to another guy on a bike — it turns out, he works at the bike shop where I got my bike. I am bad at recognizing people when they have their helmets on. But I had to go into the shop on my lunch, and he mentioned seeing me that morning. In the shop, I also ran into a consultant who built a site semi-related to the main one I work on — he was picking up his new bike. It’s cool how many people ride, and what a small world the cycling community is.

On Tuesday night, I finally did some mountain biking again; the last time I attempted to do so was February 11, and the last successful attempt was February 5. I had put some new tires on my mountain bike (a Kenda Nevegal in the rear and a Kenda Blue Groove in the front, both 2.1″ wide). They worked extremely well — my traction was excellent. I took some parts of the trail pretty fast, and I never felt the tires slip once. In fact, if anything, I think the Nevegal in the rear might be overkill — it felt like it was adding a lot of rolling resistance, and really I don’t mind a little slipping in the rear occasionally, so long as the front is solid.

I did pretty well, considering I hadn’t done any mountain biking for a while. I actually felt I wasn’t doing that well while I was riding, until I realized that I did the whole North Tower Loop without using my small chainring once, and I didn’t have to stop every half mile or so like I did when I was in terrible shape. The thing is, even when you are doing well, mountain biking is just a lot harder than road riding.

I ran into (not literally) a guy on the trail who had stopped to rest. I made sure he was OK, as he seemed pretty beat. He said he was about to bonk, and I offered him a Clif bar. He said he was OK, that he was trying to quit smoking. I told him how I did the exact same thing last year, and it worked great, and I encouraged him to stick with it.

The trails were in pretty good shape. There were only a few muddy spots, but those were messy. I got pretty muddy on this ride, even though 99% of the trail was dry. I like mud, though, and it’s nice to have something to show that I pedaled through the woods.

I struggled a bit with the Aynes climb, as always, but only had to stop once on the way up. It was particularly beautiful, and I took a couple of photos from the top. They didn’t turn out great, Sarah’s old digital camera didn’t capture how orange the sun looked — but it was still worthwhile. I rested for a few minutes and chatted with a guy who I talked to at the bottom of the hill a little. He beat me to the top, but was still there by the time I arrived.

Top of the Aynes
View from the top of the Aynes hill

The Aynes descent was a blast, as usual, and I made it back to the parking lot 10 trail miles and 100 smiles richer, a little bit before the sunset. I drove through the park on my way home, and saw another gorgeous scene. Again, the camera didn’t capture the orange that well, although this one is a little better.

Sun setting over Brown County
Sun setting over Brown County State Park

It felt so good to ride on the trails. I was starting to feel a little down on mountain biking, and just needed a trail ride to remind me of how great it is. Still, I’ll probably continue doing mostly road biking. My rationale the other day when deciding what kind of ride to do sums it up pretty well: I can drive for half an hour, ride 10 miles, barely finishing my ride before it gets dark, and then drive home 30 minutes in the dark. Or, I can ride 20 miles and be home and done before the sun sets.

I chose the road ride.

Still, when I can find time for it, mountain biking is a lot of fun, and a harder/different kind of workout.

Commute/ride update

Monday, March 26th, 2007

My bicycle commuting has been going well. I’ve really been enjoying getting to ride in the morning and after work, and I now have a Banjo Brothers Pannier, so I’m not dealing with the backpack anymore. I only ordered one pannier, their waterproof model, so I could try it and see if I like it. I think I am going to like it, and will need to order a second one. I probably should’ve just ordered both at once. When I was pushing my bike, it felt unbalanced and awkward with a pannier on just one side, but riding this way proved not to be much of a problem. Still, I could use two to carry more stuff and better balance the load.

IU Fountain
Fountain on IU’s campus (photo taken last week)

Campus dogwoods
Campus dogwoods (from today)

I rode about 50 miles over the weekend. On Saturday, I rode out to the water purification plant again. This is always a fun ride, and Saturday was no exception. I had driven there earlier to show Sarah the route, and took some photos of the plant. We also went down to the nearby park by the lake for a while and took some photos there. I haven’t posted any of those yet, although frankly not many of mine turned out very well.

On Sunday, after Sarah and I had explored the near ghost town of Patricksburg, Indiana (I’ll write more about that once I get the rest of my photos), I rode out to Fairfax State Recreation Area, which is about 15 miles from our apartment (making it a 30-mile round trip). This was the longest ride I’d done so far this year, and was a lot of fun.

I rode by a spot where there was a deer carcass the previous day, but I didn’t see it anywhere. Not that I wanted to see that carnage again, but I was puzzled when it seemed to be missing. I thought perhaps some redneck had hauled it away, or maybe it somehow got pushed back further away from the road. I didn’t think much more about it and continued on my way.

On my way down to Fairfax, I went down a big hill and hit 38 miles per hour. It was pretty incredible, I’ve hit speeds close to that before, but this was different. It was a smooth, straight road, and I was riding the road bike, of course, and once I reached a certain speed, it felt like I was floating. I gained more speed and felt like I was about to take off! It was exhilarating and a little intimidating, but my bike showed no signs of weakness, and its strength inspired confidence.

I rode around the recreation area for a bit, stopping to rest and enjoy a spot near the beach.

Bike at Fairfax (Lake Monroe)
My bicycle at Fairfax SRA

I found a spigot by a restroom and filled up a water bottle I had finished. Then, I started the climb back up the 38 mph-inducing hill. It was a long, long climb, but fortunately not too steep most of the way. I made it all the way up without stopping.

I had a bit of a tailwind on the ride home, which made riding easier. And somehow, the trip home always seems shorter than the trip to my destination, whether I’m riding my bike, walking, or driving. There were some great scenes along Fairfax Road on the way home, so I took some more photos.

The wrong side of nowhere
The wrong side of nowhere

During part of my ride back, I was going pretty fast and really in the zone, and my vision consisted of the road in front of me, and flashes of other images as my eyes checked the periphery, looking for cars, other bikes, and anything else worth seeing. This kind of vision is common when I’m really into it; some day I’d like to make a video to express it, with the main imagery being flying over the surface of the road, and pictures of things ahead and to the sides flashing over it, superimposed.

While I was in this state, I passed the spot where the deer carcass used to be — only this time I saw it, further back from the road, and a huge bird that looked like a bald eagle was tear at its flesh. I doubt it was, in fact, a bald eagle, but its head was definitely different from the rest of its body (I’m thinking it was probably a turkey vulture). It was incredibly surreal, though, because I saw this image for a fraction of a second, and then saw the road going by beneath me. It took me a minute to figure out what had just happened.

I did well on this ride; I’m glad I was able to pace myself. Sometimes, I get carried away and put forth too much effort at once, forgetting how many miles I have still to ride. I caught myself doing that a couple of times, but quickly corrected it. I do need to get a new saddle and probably change the angle of my seat, as the setup I have now isn’t working for me.

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