Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for June, 2008

Mixed media ride

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

This is a tale of a broken frame, pavement, gravel, heat, humidity, wind, flooding, rest stops in a cool, shady creek and by a beautiful lake, failing brakes, a sidewall blowout, a walk of shame, and finally, a beautiful woman saving the day. All that in only about 22 miles of riding, about 9 of those miles on gravel.

I had picked up my commuting bike from the bike shop on Friday. I had it in for a tune-up, and for them to fix the squeaky/stiff steering. Unfortunately, the guy who worked on it told me one of my rear brake pieces had seized, and in his attempts to remove it, the brake boss broke off the frame. He was able to put a bolt in it with a large washer as a spacer, which he said he thought would work. At first glance it seemed OK, and it worked fine during the riding Sarah and I did on Saturday. I don’t think this was his fault — if it broke off that easily, I figure it would have broken eventually anyway. I may need to see if I can find someone to weld a new boss onto the frame. Anyone know if this is possible? It’s a steel bike, so I figure there might be some chance this might work, if I can find someone who knows how to do it.

On Sunday I decided to go on an exploration ride through Yellowwood State forest, a ride with both pavement and gravel terrain. The commuter was the best bike for the task, and this would give me a chance for a proper shakedown ride to see if that brake was going to work. I’ve really been enjoying this bike lately. My road bike wants to go fast, and that’s nice sometimes, but on this bike, it’s difficult to be in a hurry, which encourages me to take my time and stop to smell the proverbial roses. I also like that this bike has platform pedals, so I can wear any shoes I want. In fact, I opted for sandals for this ride, which I loved.

I got off to a later start than I had hoped, leaving home around noon. It was around 90 degrees, with a heat index in the mid-90s and pretty decent winds. A lot of roads in the area were flooded due to the 8+ inches of rain we received, in one storm. Some whole towns were flooded — thankfully, we did not get any flooding near our apartment. Many roads were closed due to the flooding. I tried to avoid roads I had read were closed, but I really wasn’t sure if I would encounter flooding during this ride. I assumed I would, at some point, but I wasn’t sure where that was likely to be.

It was hot outside, but I noticed the wind felt great on my feet. I’ll have to do more riding in sandals — it was a huge improvement over my cycling shoes, which are ventilated, but no ventilation can really compete with feeling the air flow freely over your toes. It’s much cooler. I really took my time, hoping to keep myself from overheating or wearing myself out too early in the ride. I knew that the gravel sections would be pretty difficult. I also looked around more than usual as I rode, trying to scope out potential campsites for future S24O trips. It’s fun to look around and consider where you might camp stealthily, as opposed to renting a campsite.

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Riding east on 45

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Some small rolling hills in farmland

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This hill always feels much harder than it looks, for some reason

I rode through New Unionville, then Unionville, and kept riding. I stopped to take a couple of photos, and a guy rolled up in his car and asked if I had plenty of water. I said “yes,” pointing to my two water bottles in cages, and one more strapped to the rear rack, but he gave me a stern look and said, “I mean a LOT of water.” “I’m fine,” I said. Oddly enough, the guy turned around and drove the other way. I appreciate his concern, but I always take a lot of water, especially when it’s so hot outside.

One advantage of the route I’d chosen was that once I started to approach the state forest, there was quite a bit of shade. This sure was a welcome respite from the heat of the sun.

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Shady section of 45

I soon reached Lanam Ridge Road, which would take me to the gravel roads I’d ride through the state forest proper.

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Lanam Ridge Road goes up to the right

After a brief stint on Lanam Ridge, I turned onto Yellowwood Lake Road, finally hitting gravel. There was quite a bit of debris on the road, presumably from all the rain we’ve gotten. I think there was water running over the road at some point that left the debris.

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Yellowwood Lake Road, with some debris

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Shadow-speckled gravel climb

After a while, I saw an extremely steep and eroded gravel road or driveway going up on my right. I stopped to explore, hiking up since it was too rutted and steep to ride.

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Steep, eroded driveway

I thought I might find a good potential campsite here, but as I crested the hill, I saw a trailer. I couldn’t tell whether it was inhabited, but I didn’t go too close in case it was. It’s pretty difficult to tell what’s private property and what isn’t, in the state forest areas; it’s a strange and random combination of public and private land.

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Trailer at the top of the hill

I went back down the hill and started riding again. For several miles I mostly got to ride downhill. I kept my speed fairly low, though, as my slick tires have limited stopping power on gravel, and there was a fair amount of debris strewn across the road at times. Still, I had a fun, fast, long descent down from the ridge, losing about 250 feet of elevation over the course of about three miles.

The road followed Jackson Creek for a while, which had a lot of water in it. The sound of the rushing water drew me to stop by a waterfall to take a break. I waded into the water, took off my helmet and splashed water on my face. The cool water ran clear and felt incredibly refreshing, and I spent a few minutes cooling off by the waterfall.

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Jackson Creek follows Yellowwood Lake Rd.

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Waterfall

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Another advantage to riding in sandals

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My bicycle by the creek

After this break, I pressed on. I encountered a few places with moderate flooding, but so far all the water I encountered was quite shallow and I was able to ride through it.

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Water covers the road

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My wheel in the mud

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More mild flooding

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Someone’s driveway

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Entering the state forest (I thought I was already there … again, it can be hard to tell)

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Small cemetery

There were a few climbs short, but mostly I was still going downhill. I knew riding back would be a lot harder, although I was planning to ride back on a different road, so it was hard to know how different it would be. Regardless, I knew I’d pay for all this relatively easy riding — although it really wasn’t that easy. I rode past trailheads for several horse trails (I really wish they allowed bicycles on them) and stopped to explore some kind of old logging road on foot. I didn’t stray too far from the road, but I think you could pitch a tent in a place like this without anyone finding you.

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Stopping by the logging road

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Old logging road

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More logging road, and a few logs

Before long, I reached Yellowwood Lake, one of my favorite lakes in this area. I stopped near the Jackson Creek trailhead to take a couple of photos of the lake.

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Yellowwood Lake

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Me, on a small pier jutting out into the lake

I also saw a campground I always forget is there and rode over to explore it. It’s tent camping only, and you can’t park right at your campsite. However there are sites right on the lake, and it’s quite beautiful. If you got there early enough to get one of the better sites, it would be a fantastic place to camp.

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View from a campsite

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Campsite

I rode on, figuring I’d take a break over by the shelter where Sarah and I will be getting married in September. On my way there I saw two barrels, one on each side of the road, with caution tape on them. The sides of the road had eroded and fallen away.

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Trees

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Road erosion

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World’s largest pothole

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The shelter where our wedding will be

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Resting by a picnic table

I was going to call Sarah so I could talk to her from this spot that is going to have such significance in our lives, but I couldn’t get a signal on my cell phone. I also wanted to let her know my 2-3-hour estimate for this ride was off. I had already been riding/exploring for two hours, and I was only about halfway done. Whoops.

I hit pavement for a mile or two, and the riding got so much easier. I saw a lot of flooded fields.

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Flooded fields, with a really cool split log fence

As I approached Green Valley Road/Dubois Ridge Road (pronounced by the locals as “duh-boys”), I saw that the road was under water. A couple of pickup trucks drove through it, just barely making it through; one was a DNR truck. If I had been driving my car, I almost certainly would not have been able to make it through here.

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Flooding

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DNR truck driving through the

After the trucks passed, I rode through the water, which was fairly deep but stayed below bottom bracket level. My rear derailleur got submerged, though. I imagine that’s not good for it. After getting past this obstacle, I was on dry land but saw more flooding ahead, and it looked deeper. I looked at the bridge on the road off to the right and saw that the water level was almost exactly even with the top of the bridge, and had obviously been covering it earlier. Normally, the water is several feet lower than the bridge.

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Bridge, almost submerged

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The old bridge, which still stands right next to the new one, was a lot higher, but it is falling apart

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Looking across the bridge — normally there is no water there whatsoever

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More flooded fields

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The flooding ahead of me — I was taking the road to the left

I decided to try riding through the water here, even though it looked a bit deeper. It got almost up to my bottom bracket, so I got off the bike and carried it through the water. The water came about up to my knees. Once again, I was really glad to have the sandals, rather than soaking my cycling shoes.

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I waded through this part, then had quite a climb ahead
Once on dry land again, I started climbing up Dubois Ridge Road. There was quite a bit of climbing ahead of me, but I took my time and spun up the hill in a low gear. I stopped a guy headed the other way in a pickup to let him know about the flooding ahead. A couple other vehicles went by, but I wasn’t able to get their attention. I hope they didn’t end up stuck in the water. At some point, my rear brake, the one that the shop had done the hack fix on, started making weird noises, and I noticed it wasn’t hitting the rim at the correct angle. The brake arm felt a bit loose. It also lost a lot of stopping power, but since I was going uphill it really wasn’t a problem. I saw a lot more trailheads, logging roads and some potential campsites along Dubois Ridge Road.

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Long, gradual gravel road climb

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More climbing

I had just figured that I must be almost back to Lanam Ridge Road (and pavement) when I heard a loud BANG!!! sound. Dismayed, I knew it must have been my rear tire. I stopped and looked and sure enough, there was a big tear in the sidewall, obviously caused by the brake pad rubbing the tire. I surmised that there was no way I could patch this hole and after some contemplation, I decided I needed to call Sarah to come pick me up. I carry patch kits and extra tubes, but not extra tires. My cell phone had no signal, so I hiked until I got a signal, which thankfully was probably only about half a mile. I told her how to get to where I was and that I would meet her on Lanam Ridge Road or 45, however far I could make it on foot by the time she arrived. I hiked maybe another half mile, mostly uphill, before I hit Lanam Ridge Road.

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Hiking uphill with my bikeĀ 

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Interesting gate on Dubois Ridge Road

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Torn sidewall

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Reaching Lanam Ridge

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Interesting hillside

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Pushing my bike. Note that my GPS, which had not worked the whole trip, now started working.

I walked along Lanam Ridge for a while, which has rolling hills. After a while, Sarah showed up to save the day and she sure was a sight for sore eyes. Smart girl that she is, she brought a bunch of food, water, and Powerade. I considered it fortuitous timing that she had just gotten her driver’s license the day before. I was frustrated and a bit sad that my trusty old mountain bike seemed to be on its last legs, but still in a good mood — I had a great ride, and I got to spend the rest of the day with Sarah. What a day!

Bike update: last night I took the bike back to the shop and they tried another possible fix for the brake, but if this doesn’t work basically there’s nothing that can be done, unless I can find someone to braze on a new brake boss, and am willing to pay for that. I don’t know how much it’d cost, but I bet it wouldn’t be cheap. I did ride the bike to work today, and it was fine, but it may be relegated to around town rides for the time being, and I’ll probably be forced to retire this bike soon. Sad, as I’ve had it for since the mid-90s.

A very full weekend

Monday, June 9th, 2008

We had a very full weekend. Sarah got her driver’s license on Saturday. She was nervous about her driving test, but she got a perfect score. I’m very proud of her, but not at all surprised she aced the test. We’ve practiced driving a lot lately, she’s very good at it, and she was prepared for the test. After that, we went and visited with my family for a while. My mom had pulled out some boxes of stuff I left at her house, and we looked through the contents, which brought back a lot of memories. Among other things were some photos of me from my track racing days back in elementary school, and other bike-related shots. Hopefully I can scan and post some of them soon.

We also finally got Sarah a DSLR camera, a Nikon D40. We had been saving for a while, and it was time. So far, it looks to be a great camera.

In celebration of Sarah’s status as a new driver, we went for an outing on our bikes. It sounds backwards, but it was a great way to celebrate, and I had made her promise we’d go for a ride once she got her license. We spent a lot of time practicing driving and hadn’t ridden together all year. So, we headed out to drop off some books she wanted to donate at the library, and then went to dinner.


Sarah on the bike path


Downtown

We decided to go to Crazy Horse for dinner, a pub with good food and beer selections.


Our bikes

They had Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA, one of our favorite IPAs, so we ordered a pitcher.


Dogfish Head


 
Crazy Horse


Sarah’s pasta dish and my buffalo chicken sandwich

After dinner, we saw a few more bikes outside, a touring bike and another bike with a child seat extension thing on the back, and one or two others. They were pretty well loaded, might have been on tour or something like that. We headed home. It was rather hot outside, but Sarah was a good sport about it.


Sarah


Fountain


Handlebars

There was quite a bit of debris on the bike path and in some parts of the road from all the crazy rain and flooding we’ve had. We got around 8″ of rain in a 24-hour period. The manhole cover was ajar. We fixed it.

 
Fixing the manhole cover

We had a great time. Hopefully we can have more dates by bicycle. Sarah rode better than the last time we went out on our bikes, even though it’s been so long since she rode. We had a great time together, and went out again later so she could test her new camera. I took some shots too … more on that later.

Memorial Day weekend camping, canoing, hiking

Friday, June 6th, 2008

On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we went camping at Jackson-Washington State Forest. We’ve been camping there before and in fact, is where we got engaged.

After we arrived, we set up camp. It was late afternoon, and this place was a lot busier than we had ever seen it. Not surprising, since it was a holiday weekend, but there were tons of campers (unusual) and a lot of loud dogs and kids. A lot of the kids were riding bikes around the parking lot, which was good to see, but they weren’t being very safe about it.


Our tent (the camper is our neighbors)


My hiking boots (photo inspired in part by Mr Macrum’s “Leather Friends” post)

After we pitched the tent, we decided to go for a hike on one of the shorter/easier trails. I think the trail we did was trail 6, about two miles long. We walked to the trailhead.

 
They drained the lake for … well, some reason


Bridge

There was something in the air, a mystical atmosphere from being back in the lush forest with the sun low in the sky, light filtering through the trees.


Glowing leaves


The fog is really lens flare from a cheap filter, but it turned out to be a nice atmospheric shot


Me

The trail was fairly flat and wound through the woods gently. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but it was great to be outdoors together and enjoying the scenery.


Ferns

Soon, we came to a clearing. This was an interpretive trail and we had a pamphlet describing some of the features, but after reading a couple of things we simply ignored it. Most of what we read wasn’t too interesting. We did look up the explanation of the clearing, and apparently they do some testing with cross-pollinating various species of certain trees here.


Clearing


Rays of light


Rob, looking very dramatic


Tree, moss, groundcover

After a while, we came to a lake, the name of which I can’t remember. The sun was reflecting off the water, at times it was a bit blinding but overall we had a stunning view of the lake. As soon as Rob saw the lake, he ran down the steep hill and jumped in the water. He ran back up immediately, and of course got us wet.


Lake

I spent more time looking at Sarah though … she was flattering the light.


Sarah


Us … the focus isn’t how I intended but it ended up being an interesting shot.

The trail took us across a boardwalk for a while, which I tend to have mixed feelings about. I prefer more natural trails, but on the other hand the boardwalk lets you walk across a wetland. In this case, it was very cool.


Boardwalk


Hills, lake, marsh


Rob and me

Before long, we came across the remains of a house or some other building. The trail went right through it. The walls had partially crumbled, and parts of what remained were covered in thick moss and vines. This added to the mystical atmosphere that the whole hike had, and we spent a few minutes here taking photographs. None of them really seem to do it justice.


Mossy wall


Sarah

There was a staircase leading us out through the other side of the house.


Stairs

As we continued hiking, we saw remains of other houses, none as cool as what we had just seen, but interesting nonetheless. An entire chimney still stands where the rest of one house is mostly gone.
 

Chimney

The trail ended shortly after this, and it was getting fairly dark. We should really do more hikes late in the day like this one, it was truly fantastic. We really enjoyed this trail, as it had a variety of scenery, especially for such a short trail.


Returning to the campground

We got back to the campground and found it was still pretty noisy, maybe moreso. The campground at Jackson-Washington State Forest has “primitive” campsites (no electricity). Normally, this keeps things quiet, but in this case a number of people had turned on generators attached to their campers! I was pretty stunned at this, and it was pretty annoying to have what is normally such a quiet, peaceful event punctuated by generators, but we were able to tune them out pretty well after a while.

I built a fire, which always seems to take longer than I think it’s going to take, and we cooked burgers over the fire. They turned out pretty well, and we had a great evening being together, eating burgers and s’mores, and generally goofing around.


Some goodies


Cooking burgers


Sarah


Tending the fire
 
The next morning, I went for a bicycle ride, which I’ve already written about here. After that, we went canoing at Starve Hollow Lake. We took Rob, as we’ve done in the past, and we all enjoyed ourselves. Rob kept shifting his weight, making it difficult for us to keep the boat steady. Eventually he laid down. He is so lazy! We got a good, close look at a Great Blue Heron and saw some other wildlife as well. A great end to a wonderful trip. Here are a few photos from our canoing outing.


Hills


Great Blue Heron


Lilly pads


Me


Rob, lounging

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