Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for May, 2007

Nashville Ride

Monday, May 21st, 2007

First of all, Bike to Work Day (which was Friday) was pretty nonexistent here, as far as I could tell. I didn’t see any more cyclists than usual. There may have been some kind of event, but I’m not even sure. I just rode to work as usual. I rode the Water Works ride Friday night like I usually do, and hardly saw any other cyclists. I guess Friday evening isn’t the most popular time to ride.

Saturday morning, I rode the Nashville Ride with the Bloomington Bicycle Club (“BBC”). This was a 55-mile ride to Nashville, Indiana, and back. I had been wanting to ride to Nashville for some time, so I was pretty excited about the ride. I found an already-existing Routeslip map that covers the route we took.

I was running a little late getting there, because it was colder outside than I realized, so I had to put on a jacket and leg warmers and use my rack bag instead of a smaller saddle bag so that I could put my warmer clothes in it when it warmed up. I’m a bit surprised at how a lot of other cyclists will only use tiny saddle bags — how do they carry their stuff? It seems like a lot of them shove lots of stuff in their jersey pockets. I really don’t like having stuff in my jersey pockets (it’s uncomfortable), and opt for bigger bags to carry stuff instead. It does slow me down a bit, but I’m not trying to be the fastest one out there. Does anyone else out there feel the same way?

The Mad Dog Division was in full force this time; when the ride started, a number of riders darted out of the parking lot and disappeared into the distance, never to be seen again. I didn’t even try to ride with them. There were several different groups this time; I started off riding with the group behind the Mad Dog Division, but soon ended up in the group behind that. However, I felt like they were going a bit slow and broke off at my own pace. I saw a guy riding alone a ways ahead of me and realized I was keeping about the same pace he was. I decided to try to catch up with him. It took 5-10 minutes to catch him, but I was pleased that I was able to do so. I’m also glad I decided to break away from the group and go my own pace for a while. There’s no reason to go too fast or too slow just so you can ride in a bigger group.

The route we took was pretty different from the one I take when I drive to Nashville, taking State Road 45 to some smaller roads, including Bear Wallow Road, which has a really challenging hill. It’s one of those hills with long, fairly steep sections, but it levels out 2 or 3 times, so you think it’s over. Then you go around the next turn and see that you have a lot more climbing to do. Once we got to the top, I heard someone say “That was so much easier than such-and-such a climb!” Great. So we took the easy way, and it damn near killed me. On the other hand, there was a great descent waiting for us on the other side of the hill.

Since we took a different route than I’m used to, and the scenery was different as well, it took me a couple of minutes to realize we’d reached Nashville. This made it a bit anticlimactic in a way, but it was still very rewarding to realize I’d ridden my bicycle to Nashville. Of course, the ride was only half over at this point. We stopped at a gas station to get some more water/Gatorade, use the bathrooms, etc. After a short break, we headed back toward Bloomington.

We took a different way back, Helmsburg Road to South Shore and then across Lake Lemon. I talked to a couple of people from the club some more, and one of them gave me some advice about riding in groups. I have tried to ask various people for such advice in the past and not gotten a lot of help, but Stan was pretty helpful. He also told me about the ride they were doing Sunday, an 80-mile ride to Bloomfield and back, but I told him I needed some recovery time after the Nashville ride. Besides, I’m not sure I’m ready for an 80-mile ride just yet.

I’m still noticing that climbing is my biggest weakness. I think that the biggest problem is my weight. Even though I’ve lost some, I’m not there yet. As my fitness improves, I find that my weight really seems to be the limiting factor. The flipside is that even if I fall behind on climbs, I can almost always catch up on flat or downhill sections.

I broke off from the group on the way back to take a slightly more direct route home. The BBC guys were more friendly and encouraging on this ride, saying it was good to ride with me and to come back. I will. There was a strong headwind on my way home, and that was probably the hardest part of the whole ride.

When I got home, Sarah was walking Rob, and I saw that her friend Julia, her daughter Sammy, and their dog Roxy had arrived. We spent Saturday with them and had a great time, even though I messed up trying to find the place with the tigers and drove in the wrong direction. We missed out on the giant cats. We stopped at a flea market, and I managed to resist buying one of several vintage bicycles I saw and test rode there. We hung out with Julia’s cousin Saturday night, going to the Upland Brewery, eating dinner, and drinking some beer. He has done some mountain biking and is interested in trying to do some computer music, so we hit it off pretty well.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast with Julia and Sammy, and they left. Sarah and I hit a few garage sales and flea markets. Sarah bought a cool mirror and some small sailor magnets, and I bought a small bike pump. We went home and took a nap, and the rest of the day was pretty low-key.

I also found a Routeslip map of the Paragon Ride I did with the BBC a few weeks ago.

Sloth and parking

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

For some reason, I’m feeling pretty sluggish this week. Last week was a low-mileage one, I only rode about 75 miles. This week may be similar, although I’m hoping to get more mileage in by doing one or two longer rides.

I’m also at a standstill right now in terms of weight loss, which I know is related to my sloth, but it’s still frustrating. I weigh about what I did a week ago, I guess it’s good I haven’t gained any weight, but I stopped losing it, too. This is made more frustrating because I wasn’t exactly sluggish over the weekend, hiking over 8 miles and mountain biking 15. But that brings me to the other problem: it’s also getting harder to follow our diet because … well, I’m just hungry all the time. I thought this would get easier as time went on, but so far, it’s only gotten harder as I get hungrier every day.

Sarah and I rode to the public library last night, a ride that is mostly a subset of my commuting route. She hasn’t ridden much yet, so I wanted to show her a way to get to the library, where she has an internship. I don’t know if she’ll try riding to work or not, but I think she was surprised how easy it was.

I think Sarah wants to build up some more confidence before trying to ride to work, and I don’t blame her. It can be scary out there when you aren’t used to dealing with traffic. Hopefully, if we ride more together, she’ll get used to riding in traffic and learn how to do it safely. She did very well last night, the only mistake I noticed was that she rode in the door zone briefly, and she promptly corrected her mistake. I need to get Sarah a new seatpost or something — the one that came with her bike was terrible, so I replaced it with an old one I had on hand, but that one keeps slipping.

I took my mountain bike in for some service last night. The rear brake hardly works, it probably needs a new pad, but the shop had to order that. I also need to replace my saddle, as I bent the rails on my old one when I crashed on Sunday. The guy was trying to sell me on this $65 Specialized saddle that seems really nice, and he’s going to let me try riding it around the neighborhood first. I actually don’t mind spending that much on a saddle if I won’t have to buy another one for a long time. I just wish I could try it a little more first.

I’ve been observing lately an aspect of motorist behavior that baffles me, even as a motorist myself: people sure can be weird about parking. I started thinking about this yesterday as I pulled into the parking lot on my bicycle and found that the lot was so full that I could barely navigate it, even on two wheels. Cars were parked very close together, some even double-parked.

You might assume that they have no choice, but there is a parking lot with plenty of space right across the street — and we can get free permits (free to us, the company pays for it). If you get a permit, you’re asked not to park in the lots on either side of our building, and so are committed to parking across the street, but it’s not even a very busy street. I simply don’t understand why people would rather fight for a space right next to the building , possibly getting trapped, rather than park across the street with no trouble at all.

This also makes me think of people who will drive around for 20 minutes to find the closest possible parking space, instead of parking slightly further away and walking. What’s wrong with walking? Don’t people realize that in some cases, they’d actually save time by parking further away? Are people so lazy that they can’t walk a few hundred feet?

I’m just glad I never have to worry about stuff like this when I’m bicycling. I do still have to deal with the drivers who speed to a red light. Why the hurry to stop? If it looks like I’ll have to stop, I’ll slow down so I can keep moving at least a little bit, and hopefully by the time I reach the light, it will have changed. It’s easier to keep moving, even if only a little bit, than to have to put a foot down.

Sycamore Loop, Mother’s Day, and mountain biking

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Last weekend was an incredibly full one. In short: Sarah and I hiked over six miles on Saturday, had a picnic with my family for mother’s day on Sunday, along with a two-mile hike, and after that, I did 15 miles of mountain biking. One thing was conspicuously absent: road biking.

Hiking the Sycamore Loop
Sarah and I hiked the Sycamore Loop trail at Hoosier National Forest on Saturday. We intended to get up early so we could get an early start, but ended up sleeping later than we expected, and then eating a pretty big breakfast. This trail is pretty remote, about a 20-minute drive out of town, and then another 6-7 miles down a gravel road. We didn’t start hiking until probably around 1:00 pm. Scroll down to see a video with some photos I took; this one is a little different from the Photobucket Remixes.

There were more cars than I expected (10 or so) in the parking lot by the fire tower where the hike starts. Still, we only saw one couple as we started our hike, and aside from a few people camping along the trail, those were the only people we encountered during the whole hike. The Sycamore Loop is in the Charles Deam Wilderness area of Hoosier National Forest, and camping is allowed near the trail, in marked camping sites or wherever you see fit to pitch a tent, with a few restrictions. The Sycamore Loop trail is also one of few hiking-only trails in Hoosier National Forest — most are multi-use.

We really enjoyed the Sycamore Loop. It starts with a brief hike down a fire road on Terrill Ridge, and then you turn onto the Sycamore Loop trail. Almost immediately after we turned onto the trail, we saw a box turtle. We had been hoping to see a turtle on our last hike, but we never did, so we were glad to have seen one. The trail winds its way across some ridgetops for a while before descending into a valley. The trail felt pretty different from some of the other ones we’ve hiked because it’s more remote. We couldn’t hear any road noise or other signs of human life — only the singing and chattering of what must have been thousands of birds. Strangely, we couldn’t see very many birds; I suppose the forest canopy was just too dense.

My favorite thing about this trail was the variety of the terrain and wildlife. As we hiked along, we suddenly realized we were in a pine forest. I’ve seen this happen on the Nebo Ridge trail, where I sometimes go mountain biking, but it always surprises me. The pine forest has a completely different feel from the rest of it, and even different hiking challenges since the trail surface is covered in pine needles and has a lot of roots. And given the windiness of this trail, it weaves in and out of pine forests, so the surroundings are constantly changing. It also follows and crosses some creekbeds, which I always enjoy.

Creek in Sycamore Loop trail
Creek by the Sycamore Loop trail

If there’s anything I didn’t like about this trail, it’s the fact that it descends into a valley, winds through it for a while, and then begins a two-mile climb out of the valley. There really isn’t much in the way of ups and downs, just one long descent and one long climb. I generally like rolling terrain, but this was still very cool.

Once we got back to the fire road, we followed it down to Terrill Cemetery, a rather small cemetery with some recent and some very old graves. Some of the headstones were so eroded that there was no longer any writing on them. I hope someone has records of who’s buried there. There are also quite a few gravestones from children who didn’t live very long, particularly in one family. Life must have been a lot more difficult back then.

After that, we hiked a little more to a lake. It was bigger than I expected and covered in lilly pads. We rested by the lake and talked about our hike. On our way back up the fire road, Sarah saw a snake, which I believe must have been the same kind as the one we saw last weekend, a black rat snake (thanks, Marty!)

Lake at Terrill Ridge
The lake by Terrill Ridge

The hike back on the fire road was, as I put it then, non-trivial. It was longer than I expected, and it was all uphill. It was only steep in a couple of spots, but we were pretty tired by this time and were getting anxious to get back to the car.

Here’s the video with my photos:

Mother’s day

Sarah has a great post on her blog about how we spent Mother’s Day.

Mountain Biking at Brown County State Park

Later Sunday afternoon, I went mountain biking at Brown County State Park. I hadn’t gone mountain biking for some time, instead opting for road riding most of the time. Sometimes I forget just how much I love mountain biking. I was also riding really well, better than ever. It seems like every time I do hit the trails, I am able to ride more and more of it in the middle chainring. My climbing abilities have improved a lot, and I can just go faster in general. I pretty much flew through the North Tower and Aynes loops, and then debated whether I should ride Hesitation Point.

Aynes Loop Pond
Pond on the Aynes Loop

I don’t ride the Hesitation Point trail all that often, mostly because I’m intimidated by it. In the past, I’ve had a lot of trouble with it, mostly because it’s a lot of climbing, some of it fairly steep. This time, I had relatively little trouble with the climbing. In fact, I was riding better than ever. Some parts I had labored up in the past weren’t that hard because I was able to keep my speed up and use momentum to get over them.

However, the last mile or so of Hesitation Point has a lot of “features” — technical obstacles such as rocks, logs, tight switchbacks, and rock gardens. I’ve never been able to clear most of them, and in some cases, I’m not sure I ever will. I did better than I expected on some parts, but I didn’t wheelie enough, or at the right time, to get over one set of rocks, and my front wheel got stuck. I went over the handlebars, but didn’t really get hurt. When you are going uphill and fall on the uphill side, you don’t have very far to go. I brushed myself off and kept riding, but I had to walk some more of the “features.” I did make it around a particularly tight switchback and clear some sections I’ve had trouble with in the past.

Finally, I reached the top. There’s an amazing view that I’ve photographed before, but I feel compelled to take a picture every time, if I have a camera with me.

Bike at Hesitation Point
The rewarding view once you reach the top of Hesitation Point

I rested for a few minutes and then headed back down. I attempted to hop this weird log/rock obstacle on my way down, but I messed up and — you guessed it — went flying over the handlebars. This time, it seemed to happen in slow motion, and I remember thinking through the entire process. “Noo! …. shift your weight back … not enough! you’re going over … kick the bike out from under you, don’t let it land on you. That looks like a soft spot, try to land there. Splat.”

I wasn’t hurt badly, but I did fall further this time, and scraped my knees a little bit. I was covered in dirt, mostly on my knees and my right forearm and shoulder. My left knee was bleeding a little bit, but not much. I took a few minutes to calm down and continued riding. Later, I considered taking a photo which I would call What it looks like when you fall and scrape your knee and you don’t have anything to clean it with and you start bleeding right into the dirt and then the blood dries and you have a mixture of dirt and dried blood — but I decided that some things are better left unphotographed. I had to walk over a few more “features” on my way down, but I rode well the rest of the way back.

I stopped a couple of times because my saddle felt weird, so I checked the height and made sure it was straight. It never felt quite right. Once I got back to my car, I realized that I had bent the seat and it was on an angle. If you look a my bike from behind, you can clearly see that one side of the saddle is higher than the other. I laughed pretty hard when I saw that … no wonder adjusting the height wasn’t helping. I also tore up my gloves a bit, which were getting pretty worn anyway. I’m doing fine now, I just have a skinned left knee, a few scratches, and my right arm is sore for some reason.

One day last week, my friend Dave told me that he had ridden Hesitation Point and he didn’t know why he was always so scared of it. I was hoping I’d have the same experience, and in terms of climbing, I did. However, I got some pretty good reminders of why I find the Hesitation Point trail intimidating. These “features” give me something to work toward, I guess, but I really doubt I’ll ever think they’re fun. It’s a shame, because the rest of that trail is incredible, fun riding with great flow. I get enough challenge from the terrain itself that I don’t see why they felt the need to make it more difficult by throwing rocks in the way.

Anyway, it was an incredible and full weekend. I feel like we didn’t waste any of it. I am still pretty tired from all the crazy stuff we did, but it’s a great feeling. Best of all, I got to spend most of it with Sarah and spend some quality time with my mom and my nephew. I’m looking forward to doing more of the same.

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