Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for September, 2007

Pansies

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Pansies. No, I’m not talking about those pretty little flowers. I’m talking about my fellow man.

It’s been raining here yesterday and today, but I’ve ridden to work anyway. I’ve lucked out and it hasn’t rained in the morning — usually, I decide whether to ride based on that. I don’t mind getting wet on the way home, but I don’t want to show up at work drenched.

There were some storms rolling through the area yesterday afternoon and around 5-5:30 pm, it was very dark outside, raining hard with some thunder and lightning. I heard someone complain, “How am I going to get to my car?” There are two places you can park if you work for my company: right next to the building or right across the street. I thought to myself, “You’ll walk! And you’ll get a little wet. Who cares?” I heard various other complaints about getting a little wet, and even one person debating whether it was safe to drive. What the hell?

I mentioned I rode my bike to work, garnering astonished looks from a couple of people. One of them offered me a ride home, which I appreciated, but politely declined. This brought more astonishment. They seemed to be thinking, “What kind of masochist would ride a bicycle in the rain?”

Honestly, I was looking forward to it. It’s still warm outside, so I can take my preferred approach to riding in the rain and just accept the mantra, “If you ride in the rain, you’re gonna get wet.” I wear clothes that won’t get too waterlogged and that dry quickly. But I get wet and I dry off and change my clothes when I get home. I don’t understand this fear so many people have of getting wet. They aren’t going to melt.

People act the same way about the heat in the summer, the cold in the winter, the dark during the night, etc. They ask things like, “How can you ride in the (heat/cold/rain/dark/snow/mud)? Won’t you get (hot/cold/scared/snowed on/dirty)?” The answer, of course, is YES. If you ride in the heat, for instance, you’ll get hot. You can dress appropriately and try to make it more comfortable, but if you go out in those conditions anyway, you’ll get used to it. You might be a bit uncomfortable, but so what? Why let the weather stand in the way of doing the things you love? I know that sometimes the weather really will make it impossible or undesirable to do some things, but why is so many people’s threshold for discomfort so low?

I do understand how sometimes weather will make people lazy. It almost happened to me this morning. It looked like it could rain at any moment, so I wasn’t sure whether I should ride or drive to work. I decided to ride, and I’m glad I did. It was a beautiful morning, with the smells of the rain we got overnight. It was overcast, but everything basked in a warm glow. It was pretty muggy, but I rode slower and I was fine. It was a perfect morning to ride to work, and I got more astonished looks when I walked in carrying my bicycle helmet. I’ll probably get rained on again on my way home — and I am looking forward to it.

Limestone Tour

Monday, September 24th, 2007

It was a hot weekend. I went mountain biking on Saturday and tested out the WTB Rocket V trial saddle the bike shop put on there for me. It was pretty good. I rode Hesitation Point, then the Aynes Loop backwards, and I was going to ride the North Tower Loop as well, but I was getting pretty tired and really hungry, so I went back down to the parking lot.

I picked up a copy of one of the Bloomington Bicycle Club‘s map books, and I’m glad I did. I have been riding a fair amount lately, but not writing much because I’ve done the same routes a lot and they’ve become routine. Now, I have around 50 new routes to try — and there’s another map book they put out that I don’t have yet. I looked through the book and chose to do the Limestone Tour, which goes by four limestone quarries on the southwest side of Bloomington.

To give you some background, one thing this part of Indiana is known for is limestone. In particular, Bedford, IN is known as “Limestone Capital of the World.” This ride didn’t take me to Bedford, but it did go a bit in that direction. The local limestone and cycling fanaticism were captured in the 1979 movie Breaking Away, which is set in Bloomington and has scenes of teenagers diving into and swimming in quarries, as well as hanging out on huge slabs of limestone and contemplating the meaning of life. I wouldn’t say the movie’s portrayal of Bloomington was particularly accurate, but there are some things it got right, including the pride so many here have in the area’s limestone. Heck, many of the monuments in Washington, DC were built out of Indiana Limestone.

While I am not really a part of the limestone culture, it’s impossible to avoid it completely, and I find it rather interesting anyways. So, this Limestone Tour appealed to me on a number of different levels. And while I’m not a huge Breaking Away fan, I do enjoy it, and rides that makes me think of that movie can be a lot of fun.

My ride got off to a bit of a rough start. I had trouble following the map/directions to get to Victor Pike. I knew a couple of ways to get there, but I wanted to see the route the directions suggested. It was pretty convoluted, but I eventually made my way to Victor Pike. Next time, I may go my own way instead, although this route went through an interesting area and right by the excellently-named That Rd.

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That Rd.

I rode on Victor Pike once before when I did the Hobbieville Ride back in July. It’s a hilly road with some great views from hilltops and some pretty difficult climbs.

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View from Victor Pike

After a little while, I came to Fluck Mill Road, which has the abandoned Fluck Cut Stone Company. I rode by it and checked out Fluck Mill Road, which is a narrow, curvy country road. There was a cool one-lane trip under a railroad bridge. I should check out Fluck Mill Road more in the future.

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Going under the bridge on Fluck Mill Road / The abandoned Fluck Cut Stone Company

I got back on Victor Pike and rode through some rolling hills, and then up a huge climb to the Victor-Oolitic Stone Company. I saw this quarry before and took some photos then (including a panoramic shot), so I didn’t take a lot this time. Across the street is BTI Crushed Stone Sales, with a fleet of trucks.

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Victor Oolitic sign and a cool limestone wall

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BTI Trucks

This area smelled like limestone, and there was a lot of limestone dust.

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Limestone dust

I rode on, and suddenly a big dog ran out from behind a house and started chasing me. I had a water bottle in my hand, and debated whether to try to spray him with it, swing it at him, or put it back in the cage and ride like hell to get away from him. I chose the latter and started riding really hard. But very quickly I could tell that he just wanted to chase me. He didn’t seem like he would run out in front of me or try to bite me, so I slowed down a little bit, and he quickly tired of chasing me. The neighbors witnessed all of this and told me I should “Get some pepper spray and spray that motherfucker!” I laughed my ass off as I rode away.

The route remained familiar and took me onto a couple more roads, but then took me into a different loop than I had done before. There was a huge climb up Breeden (I don’t know how this is pronounced, but I like to think it’s like breedin’). After that, there were a pretty good downhill run and some rolling hills.

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An abandoned house and an old tree

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An incredible manor in the area

The route got a little complicated, but I managed to follow it through some strange turns. The map was about as clear as I could expect, given the convoluted roads in this area. I didn’t have confidence in the turns I made, but I trusted the map, and I ended up in the right place. I found myself by the Van Buren Fire Department, Station No. 19, and was reminded of the controversy about the Indian Creek Fire Department and a trustee getting their funding cut and having this station cover the Indian Creek Township, even though the stations are far apart. It was interesting that this ride took me by both stations. I stopped and got some more water from the vending machine at the fire station.

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Van Buren Fire Dept. Station No. 19

I spent a very short distance on State Road 45 and felt like I was approaching civilization again (alas!), but that didn’t last long as I followed a road back to the middle of nowhere. It was a really beautiful, remote area with a winding road and some more rolling hills. It almost reminded me of my ride in the mountains in Franklin, NC, only without the actual mountains, of course.

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Silo and a bunch of cows

It had been a while since I had seen any of the quarries, and I had a ways to go to get to the next one, but it was a truly beautiful area and a fun road to ride on. Kurtz road was especially awesome. There was a big climb, but the payoff was absolutely incredible, with a descent that had me up to 41 mph — but I was just getting started. There was another climb, but it was smaller, and I was able to carry my momentum through it, and then the road went downhill again. I kept my speed up through 2-3 more hills. It was a great run and one of the best payoffs for a lot of climbing in recent memory.

I passed Pick-A-Chic Farms, which took me a bit by surprise. I didn’t really know where they were located, but went near there a lot as a kid, as we had family friends who lived in the area. I smiled at this blast from the past and continued riding.

Soon, I came to the Independent Limestone Company and took a few photos. I had already ridden by the coolest part of it before I started shooting. I’ll have to return sometime and take more photos. It was getting pretty dark anyway, so I wanted to keep moving.

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Independent Limestone Company

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Part of the quarry

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Panoramic shot of the quarry (view it large or original size)

I still had a ways to go, so I turned on my rear blinking light and my headlight. I passed the last quarry, the C&H Limestone Company, but all I could see from the road was a sign, and I didn’t get a photo. It was probably too dark anyway. I rode back into Bloomington and missed the turn the directions specified, instead going by work and taking my commute route home. I rode the last 20-30 minutes in the dark, but since I had both lights and was close to town by the time it started getting dark, I wasn’t worried. I could see fine and drivers were very courteous. I think they were a little unsure what was approaching when they saw one blinking headlight. I rode about 40 miles total, but they were some of the hardest-earned miles I’ve done. The hills on that side of town are brutal — I need to move some of my training rides to the other side of town.

Winona Lake

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I took Sarah up to Fort Wayne to visit her family this weekend. I brought my mountain bike so that I could go ride at Winona Lake, which is in Warsaw, IN (about an hour’s drive west of Fort Wayne). I had tried to ride there last year, but that didn’t work out. Needless to say, I was excited to ride on this trail. It was also a bit of a scouting mission to help decide whether to ride in the 24 Hours of DINO race.

The first thing I noticed as I was getting ready was that it was cold. I wasn’t really prepared for how much cooler it was there. I was pretty comfortable, though, even in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. I felt a little bit cool, but I don’t mind that. Of course, the first thing the trail did was go through a creek. By the time I had gone less than a quarter of a mile, I was already drenched and freezing. I knew I’d warm up and dry out, so I wasn’t worried. It was really hard to shift right from the start; I did a number on my derailleur cables on my last mountain bike ride, which was very dusty (see the Pre-Breakdown Shakedown).

Winona Lake is an interesting trail because it has numerous points where there are more difficult sections of trail, and you can choose whether to go on the harder part or take an easier bypass around the obstacles. I checked out the first difficult section, and it had a pretty big drop-off. I decided against riding it. I knew I could probably make it, but the consequences for messing up would have been pretty severe, and I was riding alone. If something happened, getting help would have been difficult. So, I backtracked and took the easier way instead.

I got a bit confused a couple of times about how to follow the trail. It’s an overlapping network of trails, with signs, and I had a map, but it was still pretty difficult to follow. I figured out a good way to go. I rode some more and came across another difficult section, and rode it. I went flying down a hill, up a ramp to a narrow wooden bridge, and then dropped back down and crossed a big log. The trail wound around, and I had a little trouble keeping good traction. The soil was sandier and looser than what I’m used to, and it took me a while to figure out how to keep good traction.

The trail wound around some more and spit me back out on a paved road. I saw that the trail continued on the other side, and kept riding. I saw a drop-off coming up, but didn’t realize how big it was until the last moment. I almost tried to stop, but instead kept going, catching some good air and landing safely. The trail wound was a bit straighter for a few minutes, with some small climbs and descents. I looked up and saw a huge deer. At first, I didn’t even think she was real, she was huge and standing very stoically and looked statuesque. Then she moved and I realized that she was the real deal. She was pretty different from the deer I usually see at home, much bigger and with grey fur instead of a reddish brown.

One thing that took me a while to get used to at Winona Lake is that it goes near a paved path and a bunch of subdivisions and other signs of civilization. It’s clear that they had a pretty small piece of land and wanted to cram as much trail on it as possible, because the trail loops around in sort of weird ways and you often find yourself going back in the direction from which you came. At first, I took this to mean I was going the wrong way, until I realized the trail was doing a bit of zig-zag action. This also means sometimes you’ll ride right by a section of trail you already rode on. It’s a little disconcerting when you’re used to trails that go somewhere.

I kept riding, and took another one of the difficult trails. I stopped short when I saw a cascade of 3-4 big dropoffs. I wanted to try it, but I didn’t have the nerve. Again, maybe if I hadn’t been riding alone, I would have given it a shot. Alas. I took the easier way and then found myself on the very interesting Field Trail, which is appropriately named. Suddenly, I found myself out of the woods and in an open field with tall grasses growing in it. The trail wound through this field for a while. It was pretty cool, and reminded me a bit of the balds we saw in the mountains. I took the wrong trail at the other end of the field, but corrected my mistake and went flying down a big hill with a banked turn at the bottom of it.

The trail followed a creek for a while, which was really pretty. Then, it crossed a bridge and got twistier on the other side of the creek. There were a couple of difficult trails in this section, including the Caution Trail, which has a lot of extremely sharp turns. There were a number of logs and big roots to jump, some short, steep climbs, and some really fun descents. My memory is a little hazy on this section of trail, but the thing I remember most is all the sharp turns. There was also a fun mounded dirt jump at one point, and a “Black and Blue” big dropoff that I didn’t attempt. The trail followed the creek some more and spit me out at the beginning.

I decided to ride the loop a second time, now that I had a sense of the trail and which technical features to attempt and which to skip. I got a little past the narrow wooden bridge when I noticed my tires making noise. I thought it was just the slightly-crunchy rocks in the soil at first, but I looked down to check my tires. The front was fine. The rear had gone flat. Crap!

Fortunately, I had a pump and patch kit in my Camelbak. I got to work on finding and fixing the leak. I found a small hole in my tire, and a matching one in the inner tube. There was no sign of anything still being stuck in the tire. A couple of runners went by, asking if I needed help. One of them even had a pump! But I had everything I needed, and they continued running. I messed up putting the first patch on, but got it right on my second try. I got anxious and tried to put the first one on before the glue was completely dry. I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes through all of this — I hadn’t noticed them while I was riding, but as soon as I stopped, they attacked.

The second patch took, and I seated the tire and tube and started pumping. My pump worked surprisingly well. I say “surprisingly” because it doesn’t work well at all on my road bike. It probably took a couple hundred pumps, but I think I got my tire up to around 50 psi, which is where I normally run it. I didn’t have a pressure gauge to check.

Once I got moving again, the rest of my ride went very smoothly. I was finally getting used to the loose, rocky, sandy soil and learning how to get better traction. I also did better on the technical features. I enjoyed my second lap a lot more than the first, since I was more familiar with the trail and was able to really let loose a couple of times where I had to be more cautious the first time around.

All things considered, I really enjoyed my ride. The Winona Lake trail was not what I expected — I was hoping for something that would cover more ground, rather than zigzagging across the same small piece of land — and it didn’t even go by the lake. But it was a lot of fun in its own right, I enjoyed the twisty sections, technical features, and the dropoffs I did do. I’m still not sure if I’d want to ride on it for 24 hours (or 12), although that’s still under consideration.

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