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Archive for August, 2007

Two thousand miles

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Friday night, Sarah and I went for a 10-miles bicycle ride at Morgan-Monroe State Forest. I rode my old mountain bike, which is still a lot of fun to ride. This is the longest ride Sarah has done, and she did a good job. It was also a milestone for me, as I reached 2,000 miles pedaled so far this year. It’s still hard for me to believe that I’ve ridden so much. 2,000 miles … that’s from here to Los Angeles! Many others ride more, but I just started riding last year, after many years out of the saddle — and that was mountain biking. I didn’t even get a road bike until late January.

Needless to say, I feel pretty good about this. Getting back into bicycling has changed my life — I quit smoking, lost a bunch of weight (and I’m still losing more), and I just feel better. It’s also a lot of fun and has led to a lot of adventures.

Our ride Friday was very pleasant. We drove up to the state forest and parked right inside the entrance, then rode to Cherry Lake, which is near the office, and back. The roads there have been recently resurfaced and are very smooth, there’s little traffic, and the road gently winds across a ridgetop, passing through several different kinds of forest.

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Sarah riding through the state forest

We rested for a few minutes and enjoyed the lake before heading back.

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Goofing around by Cherry Lake
Anyway, the rest of our weekend was good, too. On Saturday, we slept in, which meant I didn’t get a long ride in, but I still got to ride about 25 miles, taking Shilo Road and then going by Lake Griffy on Headley Road. This was a nice change to my route, and didn’t add much in the way of mileage, but did add a pretty good climb.

We also took Rob to a beach on Lake Monroe that my friend Dave said was a good place to take a dog. He was right. We hadn’t taken Rob swimming before, but he loved it! He acted more like a dog than he ever has, I think.

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Fetch!

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He kept shaking and getting water all over me. I decided it was time for payback.

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It was a pretty place to  play, too

We also wandered around the “beach” (actually, it was more rocks and mud than sand) and collected some geodes and fossils. There were thousands of fossils, some separate, and some in huge clusters.  We had a good time.

Sunday morning, I went mountain biking with Dave and some guys from work who were on their first ride, Aeyai and Chris. Aeyai was in a little better shape, but Chris had better bike-handling skills, so they were about equal in their abilities in the end.  They did a whole lot better than I did on my first mountain biking ride. We started at the North Tower and rode the North Tower Loop. Each had a little mishap, Aeyai going into a turn too quickly and riding off the trail a bit, and Chris falling in a switchback with loose some loose dirt/rocks. Nobody was hurt, or even discouraged.

We rode back to the North Tower and talked for a little while, after which I went out and rode the North Tower Loop again, and added in the Aynes Loop. I hadn’t been mountain biking in over a month and while I’m in a bit better shape, I had forgotten how rough part of the Aynes Loop can be. There’s a very rocky section that I did OK on, but I didn’t clear it as gracefully as I could have.

On Sunday afternoon, Sarah and I went to the pool in our apartment complex, where we mostly stood in the water. It was very refreshing and fun. I’m glad we went.

Finally, last night, we made some plans for our trip to the Smokies, realizing that we just plain won’t have enough time. We contemplated ways to add more days to our trip, but I doubt that’ll be possible. Alas. We are getting very excited (we leave Thursday night). I also talked to my friend in Charlotte, and it looks like our plans there are still on track.

Not as bad as I expected

Friday, August 10th, 2007

I went for a ride last night, even though it was extremely hot and muggy. I did the Water Works ride, with a twist: I did the loop portion in reverse, taking Moore’s Creek over to Handy Road first, instead of going back that way. This left me with less of a downhill, but a more difficult and longer (better?) climb.

It was hot, but I was lucky and had a tailwind for part of the ride. Sometimes, I forget how much a tailwind can help me ride faster, since I don’t often get them. It also helped keep me cool. Of course, it meant a headwind on my way back, but even that made me feel a bit cooler. I saw some deer, first a pair of does, then a doe and two fawns. I waved at them as I rode by.

I’m still trying to get my Brooks saddle adjusted how I want it. I can’t seem to get it lined up right, it’s either too far to the left or two far to the right. I’m also unsure about fore/aft position and the angle of the nose. I might need to take it into an LBS and get some help, because it’s getting frustrating.

It was fun doing the loop in the opposite direction I’ve been doing it in lately, especially remembering when the road was all frozen over back in February/March. I didn’t take any photos this time, but here it is back in March.

Do you think this road is closed?
Moore’s Creek Road, frozen over (from March)

I misjudged the time, and it was getting dark on my way home. I really should have brought my lights. I’m going to need to start taking them with me more in general as the days get shorter.

I’m glad I braved the heat and went riding anyway. I had a good ride, and while it was hot, I handled the heat pretty well. I think getting the initial motivation to ride is harder than actually riding in the heat sometimes.

I rode a bit over 23 miles, passed 1,800 miles on the road bike, and *almost* hit 2,000 miles of total cycling so far this year. I would have hit the 2,000 miles on my commute this morning, except I ended up having to drive to take care of some family business.

A Midnight Rider (almost)

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Until yesterday, I hadn’t ridden all week, except for commutes and a few errands. I normally do 2-3 recreational/training rides during the week, but the heat and humidity had pretty much killed my desire to ride. Sarah and I had some things to do around town yesterday, and we got back sometime a bit after 10:00 pm. I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go for a ride. I gathered all my light sources and put them on my bike. This included a rear blinker (Blackburn Mars 3.0) and two headlights (Blackburn Quadrant, in blink mode, and a CygoLite Hi-Flux 100 steady-beam light).

In other words, I was lit up like a Christmas tree.

I could tell Sarah thought all this was a little nuts, and I reassured her that drivers would be able to see me. I planned on doing my Mount Gilead ride, which is part State Road 45, which sees a fair amount of traffic at times (although not too much at night) and part remote rural road (Mount Gilead Road itself). Even though I could tell Sarah was worried, she was trying to be as cool as possible about this, and she succeeded. I appreciated it.

As I started riding, I was pleased that I was able to see fairly well. I had done night rides before, but only on mountain bike trails or very brief neighborhood rides. The road directly in front of me was illuminated well, but I couldn’t see off to the sides. A light on my helmet would’ve helped.

It was still hot, and a lot more humid than it is during the day. Still, it felt great to get out and ride, and I’ve always loved the night. I was greeted with some fantastic rural earthy nighttime smells. The air was thick from the humidity, but I felt myself cut right through it. A glance to the right gave me a glimpse of a deer — the only one I’d see, due to the limited light, but definitely not the only one I passed. Occasional heat lightning punctuated the sky, an orange glow to the west indicated the way back to the city, and some backlit clouds attempted to hide the moon from my view. Insects chirped and squeaked all around me.

As I began the descent on Mount Gilead Road, I kept my speed down (although I’d later see that I still hit 34 mph) since I couldn’t see too far ahead of me, and I was worried something might run into the road in front of me. I love this descent because it’s always a few degrees cooler once you get down in the valley. At the bottom, it was flat for a few minutes, and I tried to look around a little more, hoping to see some wildlife. It was very dark, and my lights weren’t bright enough to see anything. Mount Gilead lacks street lights, which to me was welcome. There’s something great about finding true darkness.

I started the climb out of the valley. It was pretty weird to climb up a hill without being able to see more than a few feet in front of me. I’ve ridden this hill many times, so I knew how long the climb was, but not having much visual confirmation of my progress was a little disheartening. As I reached the top and rode into a clearing, heat lightning flashed above, seemingly congratulating me on my victory.

The rest of Mount Gilead Road is gently rolling and winding and goes by some farms. It doesn’t take long to reach State Road 45 once you finish the climb. By the time I got to 45, I was glad that it’s a little better lit than Mount Gilead. Being someplace that dark has its charms, but so does being able to see. The fact that there were more cars on 45 didn’t bother me because I knew I was visible, and their headlights provided some additional light. And they were all very courteous.

45 has some rolling hills and winds around a bit, and is a pretty fun ride. I especially enjoyed it then, at night, not having ridden in so long. As I rode, I could see sweat glistening on my arms. It actually looked pretty cool, in a way. I started to feel a few drops falling from above. It was starting to rain. At first, my gut reaction was disappointment, but it actually felt pretty good. It rained a little harder, and it felt cool on my face and my arms. I saw some lightning again and told myself it was just heat lightning, but now I’m not sure. If it wasn’t heat lightning, maybe it was dangerous, but it seemed distant and it was very beautiful. I really enjoyed the rain … if it had rained any harder, I might have had to do a no-hands, leaning back with arms spread open and letting rain fall on my face thing like that scene from Shawshank Redemption. I felt great.

The transition from rural area to town took me by surprise. It always used to do that when I moved back to Bloomington, but I got used to it. However, at night, there are fewer visual cues to remind me that I’m getting close to town, so suddenly, I was upon it. There’s a fun little descent and a banked turn. I hammered it and just flew through. A few minutes later, I was home (around 11:45), but the experience has stuck with me. I’ll have to do another night ride soon. They are more challenging rides, but they’re a unique experience that can’t be duplicated any other way. It may have only been about a 13-mile ride, but it had a lot of impact.

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