Experimental music, photography, and adventures

The Nashville Ninety

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Sarah and I had a wonderful day outdoors on Saturday, going for a drive and stopping to take photos of anything that interested us. We hadn’t gone on a good photography outing for quite some time, and we’ve both missed it. I’ll write more about that later, once I get some of my photos back from being processed.

Having spent Saturday driving around taking photos, what would be a good way to spend a beautiful Sunday? How about riding 90 miles on my bicycle taking photos? Riding the Nashville Ninety had been a goal of mine for some time, and I felt confident that I could do it. But I never took the time to attempt it. Thinking this might be one of my last chances this year to ride 90 miles in relatively comfortable weather, I decided to go for it. Here’s a Bikely map of the route. Don’t forget to go to Show -> Elevation Profile to see the hills.

In addition to completing a goal, this ride would be a good way to test my new Rivendell Roll-y Pol-y tires. I wanted to do a shorter trial run with them first, but I never got a chance. So I set out anyway, hoping that I hadn’t messed anything up when I mounted the new tires, which had been quite difficult.

As soon as I started riding, I could tell I was going to like these tires. They’re wider than my old ones, so I can run them at lower pressure. This gives me better traction and a smooth, plush ride. In theory, the tradeoff is higher rolling resistance, but I didn’t notice any such problem. The fact that these tires are lighter than my old ones probably balances out any rolling resistance concerns. These tires handle great when riding on rough sections of road.

I rode down State Road 446 as I had done a few weeks ago when I cracked my rim riding Dr. T’s Funky Fifty. I went a little further this time to where it intersects with State Road 58. I didn’t take many photos since I had just taken some photos of this stretch recently.

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Going downhill with a great view on 446

I was going down a hill on 446 and saw a big climb ahead of me. Fortunately, I got to turn onto 58 right before the climb! I felt pretty lucky.

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A tough climb that I didn’t have to do. Scale is deceptive — the speck at the bottom of the hill is actually a big truck.

446 can be kind of dull, but 58 was awesome. It’s a narrow, winding road with some flat sections and some hilly sections that goes through some truly beautiful country. There was little traffic, but the wind made things pretty challenging, changing directions randomly and going from still to blustery and back in moments.

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Hills surround me as I ride on the flats

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Approaching a short, steep climb

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Self portrait

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Handlebar bag with map pouch

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I swear I’m not a mouth-breather — except when riding. Check out the reflection in my glasses.

The winds got increasingly weirder to the point where I had a hard time telling what direction they were blowing and how strong they were. I turned 90 degrees and headed toward the town of Norman when I looked at some flags to see if I could figure out what the deal was with the wind. What I saw startled me.

Two flags
Two flags, right across the street from each other — blowing in opposite directions!

I pretty much gave up on trying to understand what was going on with the wind at this point.

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Norman Post Office

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A run-down building of some kind

After a few more flat miles, the route got hillier. There were no monstrous climbs but a number of decent ones. There were much bigger hills all around me but the road managed to avoid climbing the biggest ones. All in all it was a surprisingly flat route for southern Indiana.

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I was glad I didn’t have to climb the huge hill on the right.

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A fun hill on State Road 58

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Hay bales

Suddenly, the road swept up and curved to the right. This was the toughest climb for a while. I saw a sign indicating a cemetery entrance coming up on the left side. The driveway was gravel and steeper still than the road climb. I went ahead and attempted it, and my new tires handled the gravel very well. I was impressed.

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Sweeping climb

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Great cemetery on top of a hill

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My bicycle, with some impressive hills in the distance

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Another shot of the cemetery and the gravel road

I saw a sign on the way out of the cemetery indicating that this was the Kurtz Cemetery. I hadn’t heard of this cemetery before, but I knew I was approaching the town of Kurtz. I couldn’t be far now.

As expected, I reached Kurtz just a few minutes later. Sarah and I had stumbled on Kurtz by car previously in a photography outing. I took some photos of some of the same things we had photographed at that time as I rode past. I had to slow down, because this is the kind of town you’ll miss if you blink as you pass by — even by bicycle. I thought about our trip there together and how much we enjoyed exploring and taking photos.

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The abandoned Kurtz Market

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58 Cafe

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Abandoned house

I was past Kurtz a minute later and on my way to Freetown. The next section of 58 was the most fun, with some good climbs and an incredibly fast, curvy descent where I got to test the cornering abilities of my new tires. I kept my speed conservative, but I could tell the tires would have held very well with a lot more speed. I think these will even do reasonably well in the spring when the roads have a lot of sand left on them from the winter.

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Incredible house on a hill

After a few more miles I turned north on State Road 135. In a few minutes I was in Freetown, and I took the detour suggested by the map to go to the Freetown Grocery store. It was closed, but I got some water from a vending machine in front of the building. A few neighborhood dogs stopped by to say hello. I was a little worried when I saw them approaching, but they were friendly.

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Freetown Post Office

I went back through Freetown and got back on 135. I saw a sign that said 25 miles to Nashville and this drove home the point of just how far I had left to ride (Nashville is a good 25 miles from home). I had been on the road about 2 1/2 hours at this point and still had 50 miles to go.

135 ended up being my favorite part of the whole ride. I spent a long time on it and it took me along flat ground and up into the hills several times. A few times it goes up the side of a hill and the road follows the edge of the hill giving you great views of the valleys below. It also has many twists and turns making it a lot of fun to ride.

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Lawrence County water tower

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Valley alongside the road

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A roller coaster ride
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Meandering climb

It was quite a ways to the next town (Story) and I had a lovely ride through the countryside. This road is becoming one of my favorite parts of this whole area. There’s really very little there. It’s wonderful. I rode by the entrance to a cemetery Sarah and I had found on Saturday. I’m looking forward to seeing how those photos turned out.

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Big house on a hillside

One thing that’s interesting about 135 is that since there are very few things along the road and it’s so hilly and windy, it’s used by a rather eclectic group of people. I saw a lot of motorcycles, and more of them waved to me than have in any other area, sports cars, and classic cars — people who are on the road for the love of the road. Some of them like to go fast and some like to go slow. There are a couple of horse camps nearby, so I also saw lots of trucks hauling horse trailers. These generally move slowly and often encroach upon the other lane (oncoming traffic).

I also saw a couple of cars with mountain bikes on the back, which is not surprising since the Nebo Ridge and Hickory Ridge trails are nearby. I didn’t see anyone else riding a bicycle on the road, although I have seen road bikers along this section of road before. You also see a lot of old people who of course drive slowly. They are usually going, as far as I can tell, to the Story Inn, a small restaurant and bed & breakfast-type place. So you end up with an assortment of motorists, some out for a leisurely drive and some wanting to drive as quickly as possible. This can sometimes lead to tense situations; fortunately, everyone I encountered was courteous.

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Village of Story sign — one of three signs I saw upon entering town. I guess they don’t want you to miss it.

I soon arrived in Story, a town of (last I heard) 26 people that consists pretty much entirely of the Story Inn. I think there’s also an art gallery there and “The Old Mill,” whatever that is. The whole “town” is situated at a single intersection with a stop sign, often with a bunch of horses near the inn. I stopped to rest and have a snack.

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The Story Inn / The Old Mill

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My bicycle in the small park across the street from the inn

I was a little disheartened when I looked at my odometer and realized I still had 40 miles to go. I was getting pretty tired at this point and although I still had plenty of riding in me, I could tell I should have paced myself a little better. A Balance bar and a PowerBar Gel reenergized me. I hate those gel packs, but on a long ride I haven’t found a better way to replenish lost electrolytes, so I use them when needed. I watched some sports cars and motorcycles ride by as I rested. They were pretty cool to see, but very noisy. When I started riding again I smiled at the silence of my bicycle.

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Beautiful, wooded road

I rode a bit and after a while saw a sign saying it was eight miles to Nashville. This made me feel a little better about how I was doing. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy eight miles, but after that I’d be riding on roads I had ridden on before, and I considered the stretch from Nashville to Bloomington to be sort of the home stretch. I picked up the pace a bit and had a blast with some climbs that paid off with great twisty descents. It was more roller coaster riding until I reached State Road 46.

Once I reached 46, I had only three miles to Nashville. This road has a high speed limit (50 or 55) at this point but it does have a shoulder, so I rode on the shoulder. The only other time I had to do that during this ride was a few miles of 446. Once in Nashville, I stopped at a familiar gas station and bought some Gatorade and another energy bar. I sat inside to warm up a bit while I ate the bar and called Sarah to let her know where I was and when I’d be home. It looked like I wouldn’t be late for dinner with my family. I also took a photo of this very amusing sign in the bathroom.

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Hilarious sign in the bathroom

I took a few more minutes to gather my stuff (and more importantly, my thoughts) and started riding again. The climb up Helmsburg Road was harder than I had anticipated. It’s a long, sweeping climb that just doesn’t let up for quite a while.

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Light filtering through the trees along Helmsburg Road

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Weird pavement surface with more incredible light

I was rewarded for my climbing efforts with an incredibly fast descent which unfortunately was broken up by a car stopping in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. I would have had to slow down anyway, though, as there’s a 90-degree turn at the bottom of the hill. It was relatively flat for a while now and I rolled into Helmsburg and got on State Road 45.

The sun was getting pretty low in the sky now and I spent a good portion of the rest of the ride heading straight into the sun. Even with my sunglasses it was really bright and made it difficult to see where I was going. I did OK, though. I was in familiar territory now and getting anxious to get home. My legs just kept on spinning, at this point seemingly without intervention from me.

I took South Shore Drive and took the causeway over Lake Lemon. I really enjoyed it as always. There’s a big climb at the west end of the causeway, but it’s easier than the equivalent climb on 45.

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Riding alongside Lake Lemon

I took it slow on the climb, putting my bicycle in its lowest gear and just spinning until I reached the top. It was tough, but I knew the climbing for the whole ride was basically over once I reached the top. There are some small hills along 45 after that but nothing too hard.

The rest of the ride home is more or less a blur as it was all on familiar roads and I was basically on autopilot. Which is not to say I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing — I was. But sometimes rides on stretches of road where I’ve ridden dozens of times just sort of run together in my head.

As I approached Bloomington, I enjoyed one last descent that curves around and then a brief climb. I rode to my apartment, not quite believing that I had just ridden almost 90 miles. I was gone for about 6 hours with a ride time of about 5:15. I had dreams of doing the Nashville 90 and extending it by about 10 miles to make a century, but I didn’t have time to do that this time around. Someday, I will — or I’ll find a proper century route.

6 Responses to “The Nashville Ninety”

  1. Dan Says:

    That looks like a great ride – with some cool photos. You must have gone past the horse farm I visited last November. (This one)

  2. i, squub Says:

    !

    (Exclamation)

    !

  3. John Says:

    I have had a lingering cold for over a week now. It really puts a crimp in my riding. Working weekends doesn’t help either.

    I really like those quiet country roads. The hills though? Nothing even close to that around here.

  4. John Says:

    RYN. I liked Thanksgving when I was young, but alway over indulged and felt lousey that day as an adult. Too much food “and” drink. If we entertained it was worse, because by the time the sit down was served, I was bloated from chips and dip.

    I have worked every Thanksgiving for the past 15 years or so, then wifey and I leave for a long weekend of shopping in Freeport Me. LLBean et al.

  5. furiousball Says:

    I pushed the pee pee button.

  6. Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » Part I: Bloomington to Jackson-Washington State Forest Says:

    […] had ridden most of this route before, when I rode the Nashville 90 last year, but that was a long time ago, and some of this was new. In fact, I realized shortly before I left […]

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