Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for March, 2008

An unintentionally epic ride

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Sarah and I went to Fort Wayne this weekend to visit her mom. They planned to do some bridesmaid/flower girl dress shopping on Saturday, so I planned a bike ride based on this route to Chain o’ Lakes State Park:

I added in a jaunt to Blue Lake, changed the route a little bit, rode around the state park, and ended up riding over 68 miles instead of the 40-50 I intended. My actual route ended up looking a bit more like this:

It was a ride of fierce headwinds, cool weather, tackling gravel roads on a road bike, a plethora of lakes, horses, cows, and pigs — and heck, even a few hills (surprising, for northern Indiana).

Let me start at the beginning. Since I was riding in an unfamiliar area, I printed the route the best I could, highlighted it as presented online. I made some changes in a pen and wrote in road names since they were hard to read on the printout. I also brought my Indiana Gazetteer and bought a Fort Wayne map once we got there. I really can’t recommend Gazetters highly enough for riding, hiking and other recreational activities. I only wish someone made a smaller one. I poured over the maps for a good 20 minutes or so before I left so I had some idea where I was going.


The ride started deceptively easy. I had to work my way through a high-traffic area (Washington Center and Lima roads) to get away from our hotel, but drivers were courteous. While stopped at a red light in the left turn lane, the woman in the car in front of me even got out of her car to warn me she was about to pull a U-turn. It didn’t affect my riding at all, but it was nice of her to warn me.

After that, I was on lower-traffic roads for a long time. Cook Road was pretty pleasant to ride on;  the speed limit was fairly high, but there were almost no cars. Once I got a little further from town, it also had some pretty nice scenery. The road surface was pretty rough — but it didn’t have many potholes or cracks, just rougher pavement. I rode fast, I had a stiff tailwind out of the east and I was headed due west. Riding on flat land with a tailwind felt fantastic and I hammered it in the big chainring most of this time.

A barn with some funny windows

There were lots of areas that were flooded like this

I did the twine/shellac business to my road bike’s bars last week. I like it.

The next road was humorously named.

After a while, the route I had chose diverged from the one I found online. My idea was a more direct route, so I wasn’t sure why the one I found didn’t go that way. I soon found out: the way I went was gravel. There was no transition, I was just riding along and the pavement suddenly ended, so I didn’t have time to debate whether to ride on it. My road bike did surprisingly well on the gravel road. I was lucky in that it was very smooth and well-packed, for gravel, and didn’t have a lot of large, loose gravel chunks. I was cruising along at 20mph on a gravel road on my road bike and I have to say, it felt great. Maybe I shouldn’t shy away from offroad surfaces so much on my road bike. I was glad to have 28mm tires instead of the 23s or 25s that most roadies run. I hit a loose section and things got sketchy, but it was very brief and soon my traction improved again.

Gravel road

A typical scene along Johnson Road

Taking a break

Random cemetery right by the road

I missed a turn and ended up a little off course. I meandered around a little bit and once I figured out where I was I headed back toward where I needed to be. This took me onto another gravel road, this time straight into the wind. It was pretty grueling trying to stay upright on gravel and fight my way into the wind, but once again I was pleasantly surprised with my bicycle’s performance.

I made my way over to the Blue Lake area, where I had once again modified the route so I could hopefully get a little closer to the lake. This worked but I only got a few glimpses of the lake. I wonder where the main recreation area is there, but I figure there must be one, but I sure didn’t see it.

A glimpse of Blue Lake

I saw a fantastic tree and thought of Sarah and her affinity for solitary trees.

Solitary tree

I soon got a little off course again, but I knew I was headed in the right direction, so I just kept going. To my surprise, once I passed highway 33, the terrain got hillier. Not as hilly as what I’m used to in southern Indiana, but there were more hills than I expected to encounter. They were all middle-ring climbs, and a nice change of pace.

Hills … in northern Indiana?

Before long things got smellier and I started seeing a lot of pigs.


I stopped to photograph this pair and they were pretty interested in me. Often horses or cows will come over to say hi when I stop to take photos; these pigs did the same, waddling in my general direction and munching the whole way.

I finally hit the state park boundary and I was a mile west of where I was supposed to be. I wasn’t sure if the route I looked at took me to the park entrance or just the boundary. I decided to head east to see if there was an entrance there; if not, it’d be a longer trek west, and then north on a busier road. It was very challenging trying to ride due east as the winds were picking up and still coming straight out of the east. I found that there was not, in fact, an entrance on the south end of the park, and headed back to go find the entrance I knew about, on the west side.


I road on the main road for a bit and saw a sign for Norman and Miller lakes (I think) and turned on it. Soon, it turned to gravel. Again it was a fairly smooth surface, but there were numerous potholes, and the whole thing was wet and even snowy/icy in a few spots. I took my time but once again my bicycle handled surprisingly well, even on a downhill section to the lakes.

Another gravel road

This jaunt down a gravel road made the area felt quite remote, even though I still wasn’t far from the highway. I only saw one or two cars in the lot by the water. There were geese and ducks and many other birds.

Birds on one of the lakes. You can see the highway in the background.

My bicycle on the pier

I rested for a few minutes by the water. At this point I started to realize how far beyond my initially-intended scope this ride was going to go. I had ridden 40 miles and I had just started exploring the park, after which I had to ride all the way back. I had brought my Yashica Lynx 5000 film camera and took a few photos with it. I noticed my bike had attained a level of filth normally reserved for my mountain bike.

I rode over to the adjacent lake and looked around there for a few more minutes. I saw some cattails and a number of tree trunks that had no limbs and seemed chopped off pretty high up. I wonder what happened to those trees.

Foreground: cattails, background: weirdly bare tree trunks

My bicycle, on another pier

I knew the climb up the gravel road wouldn’t be much fun, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. When I got to the top I continued exploring the park and found a few other cool spots. Overall I wasn’t super impressed with this state park but it would definitely be better seen by boat. Maybe Sarah and I can go canoeing there sometime, it’d be great for that. Every so often I saw signs reminding me that bicycles were only allowed on the roads, not on the trails. Alas!

Pedestrian bridge

Human-powered vehicles

Another lake

Dear Banjo Brothers: You’re welcome!

I stopped at a picnic area to rest some more and have a snack. I was feeling fairly tired already, and I still had to ride all the way back. I looked at my maps again and decided on a different way back: take highway 33 most of the way back. 33 is a highway but it’s not too busy and there turned out to be a shoulder most of the way. I could always bail onto county roads if it got too busy. so I decided to give it a shot. This also gave me the advantage of not having to ride quite directly into the wind very much, although it was still mostly into the wind. On my way to 33 I saw a few other noteworthy things.

An excellent see-through barn

Bee hives


The ride back was, in a word, brutal. The wind was in the 20-30 mph range and while I wasn’t headed straight into it, I was only on a slight angle. I almost got blown over a few times by wind gusts. At first I had to struggle to maintain 12 mph. As I rode further, the winds picked up more and then I was struggling to go 10 mph. The road curves slightly but any minute change in angle was noticeable, and if it put me facing into the wind it slowed me almost to a stop a few times. Eventually I was stopping every couple of miles to regain the strength in my legs. I stopped in the town of Churubusco, IN at a gas station to get some more water and gatorade, and a snack. It was a well-needed break, even if a few short miles later I was stopping frequently again.

Once I got back to Cook Road, I had a few miles exactly into the wind, and this was the hardest part of my ride.  For a while I actually wondered if I was going to make it, one of few times I’ve felt that way. I never thought I’d be so happy to get on a busy road as I was when I finally reached Lima Road, a 4-6 lane north/south thoroughfare. Most drivers gave me a wide berth. I made it back to the hotel, exhausted. I enjoyed my ride but felt absolutely beat.

The upside to all of this is that I rode pretty well. I wasn’t really prepared for a ride of this length at this point in the season, but I held up well. Maybe I can ramp up to longer rides faster than I realized.

More computer woes

Friday, March 28th, 2008

At Noah‘s suggestion, I ran some tests on my power supply last night. I tried what I’ve dubbed the “paperclip test,” which he described to me as follows:

Take the old power supply, unhook it completely from your computer
(including the 4-pin plug if it has one) and then plug it into the wall.  Hook up a jumper (bent paper clip) between the green wire (there should be only one on the main plug) and any of the black wires.  The power supply fan should fire up.  If it does not, the PS is toast.

The fan did spin up, much to my surprise. Noah also suggested testing the voltage in the wires, but I couldn’t find my multimeter (terrible, I know, I’m turning in my geek card today). Still, it’s a good technique so I’m posting it here.

If it does fire up, use a multi-tester (I know you have one,  you of all people I know must have one) and check the voltage from any of the black wires to all the colored ones.

From ground to any of the yellow wires, you should get about +12VDC.
Ground to red: +5VDC.
White: -5VDC.
Orange: +3.3VDC.

IIRC, ground to purple should be +5VDC even when the green-to-black jumper is unplugged.

I double-checked the voltages on Wikipedia and they’re correct.

I had an extra power supply on hand, but it failed the paperclip test, so I knew it was dead. I bought a new power supply, hoping that would fix it. It didn’t. I disconnected everything from the outside of my computer, took out all the expansion cards, and disconnected all unnecessary cables inside. I tried reseating my RAM, and tried each DIMM independently. Still no go. I figure my motherboard and/or CPU must be shot. Great!

So, I started using my older computer, which I’ve dubbed “Maddog.” Maddog is an older computer I built that runs FreeBSD. It used to be a server appliance prototype, in a small form factor, but over the years most or all of the components have been replaced. But it’ll always be Maddog to me. I digress …

Maddog worked pretty well last night, as always. Maddog has always been rock solid — not fast, but uber-reliable. However, this morning I went to check my e-mail, and I saw that Maddog had rebooted overnight. I logged in and started X.org. After about 20-30 seconds, Maddog spontaneously rebooted. Later, I tried logging in again and the same thing happened.

So now, both of my computers are unusable. I need to act fast, as I have a lot of work I need to do and data I need to get to. Fortunately there’s nothing I need for my job on there, so in that sense I’m OK, but … this aggression will not stand!

I’m starting to suspect a power surge or two may be responsible for these problems, especially since we have had some storms in the past couple of days, but I have both systems plugged into different outlets/surge protectors. And Sarah’s computer is in the same room and appears to be fine, so I’m not sure I’m sold on that explanation. Unfortunately I won’t be able to do any troubleshooting until Sunday at the soonest, as we’ll be in Fort Wayne most of the weekend.

One of those mornings …

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

It’s been one of those mornings. You know the ones. Seemingly everything goes wrong, including small and fundamentally unimportant things, but eventually they build to one giant heap of frustration.

I woke up late and stumbled into the second bedroom that functions as our home office. My computer was turned off and I couldn’t seem to turn it back on. I unplugged the power cord, and suddenly the computer sputtered, lights flashing and fans spinning, for about half a second, then fell silent again. It did this a few more times — with no power source connected! I was more than a little creeped out by this, and frustrated that it wouldn’t work. I messed with it for a few minutes, but ultimately gave up. I hope I’ll be able to fix it later. I used my file server to send an e-mail to work saying I’d be a bit late.

I got ready to ride to work and looked outside. Rain, as predicted. Great. When I went to extract my coffee mug from the dishwasher, I hit it on the underside of the counter where the dishwasher is screwed in, covering the mug with sawdust. I dropped the lid on the floor and it got covered in gunk. This was not going well. I almost forgot about three different items and kept having to go back for them as I continued my struggle toward the door.

Once I exited my apartment, I realized it was wet and foggy, but not actually raining much. Actually it was quite pleasant outside, a nice quiet morning. I paused to admire some buds on the trees in front of my apartment.

Budding trees

As I started riding, I felt better almost immediately. I actually like riding on cool, overcast, foggy days, if I don’t get too wet. There were very few people in sight until I reached campus, which had quite a bit of foot traffic. Some fields and paths off 7th Street approaching Jordan were flooded.


Flowers have been planted on campus

When I got past campus I once again had the roads to myself. I didn’t push myself and savored the ride, knowing soon I’d be mired in work. I wished I could have ridden off into the distance.

Green light, and fog

I did take a slight detour to capture this:

Johnson’s Creamery

Even though it’s no longer a creamery, this is a real Bloomington landmark. All in all, a great ride to work. The ride home promises to be much, much wetter.

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